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Rochester Cathedral & Castle, Kent - Framed Picture - 11" x 14"


Rochester Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, is an English church of Norman architecture in Rochester.

The church is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rochester in the Church of England and the seat of the Bishop of Rochester, the second oldest bishopric in England after that of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Rochester diocese was founded by Justus, one of the missionaries who accompanied Augustine of Canterbury to convert the pagan southern English to Christianity in the early 7th century. As the first Bishop of Rochester, Justus was granted permission by King Æthelberht of Kent to establish a church dedicated to Andrew the Apostle on the site of the present cathedral. The cathedral was to be served by a college of secular priests and was endowed with land near the city called Priestfields.

The original cathedral was 42 feet high and 28 feet wide. Credit for the construction of the building goes to King Ethelbert rather than St Justus.

In 644 Ithamar, the first English-born bishop, was consecrated at the cathedral. Ithamar consecrated Deusdedit as the first Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury on 26 March 655.

The cathedral suffered much from the ravaging of Kent by King Æthelred of Mercia in 676. So great was the damage that Putta retired from the diocese and his appointed successor, Cwichelm, gave up the see "because of its poverty".

In 762, the local overlord, Sigerd, granted land to the bishop, as did his successor Egbert. The charter is notable as it is confirmed by Offa of Mercia as overlord of the local kingdom.

Following the invasion of 1066, William the Conqueror granted the cathedral and its estates to his half-brother, Odo of Bayeux. Odo misappropriated the resources and reduced the cathedral to near-destitution. The building itself was ancient and decayed. During the episcopate of Siward (1058–1075) it was served by four or five canons "living in squalor and poverty". One of the canons became vicar of Chatham and raised sufficient money to make a gift to the cathedral for the soul and burial of his wife, Godgifu.

Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, amongst others, brought Odo to account at the trial of Penenden Heath c. 1072. Following Odo's final fall, Gundulf was appointed as the first Norman bishop of Rochester in 1077. The cathedral and its lands were restored to the bishop.

Gundulf's first undertaking in the construction of the new cathedral seems to have been the construction of the tower which today bears his name. In about 1080 he began construction of a new cathedral to replace Justus' church.

During the episcopates of Ernulf (1115–1124) and John (I) (1125–1137) the cathedral was completed. Finally John translated the body of Ithamar from the old Saxon cathedral to the new Norman one, the whole being dedicated in 1130 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by 13 bishops in the presence of Henry I, but the occasion was marred by a great fire which nearly destroyed the whole city and damaged the new cathedral.

From about 1190, Gilbert de Glanville (bishop 1185–1214) commenced the rebuilding of the east end and the replacement on the monastic buildings. The north quire transept may have been sufficiently advanced to allow the burial of St William of Perth in 1201. It was then looted in 1215 by the forces of King John during siege of Rochester Castle.

The shrines of Ss Paulinus and William of Perth, along with the relics of St Ithamar, drew pilgrims to the cathedral. Their offerings were so great that both the work mentioned above and the ensuing work could be funded.

The cathedral was desecrated in 1264 by the troops of Simon de Montfort, during sieges of the city and castle. It is recorded that armed knights rode into the church and dragged away some refugees. Gold and silver were stolen and documents destroyed. Some of the monastic buildings were turned into stables. Just over a year later De Montfort fell at the Battle of Evesham to the forces of Edward I. Later, in 1300, Edward passed through Rochester on his way to Canterbury and is recorded as having given seven shillings at the shrine of St William, and the same again the following day. During his return he again visited the cathedral and gave a further seven shillings at each of the shrines of Ss Paulinus and Ithamar.

Rochester Castle stands on the east bank of the River Medway in Rochester. The 12th-century keep or stone tower, which is the castle's most prominent feature, is one of the best preserved in England or France.

Rochester served as a strategically important royal castle. During the late medieval period it helped protect England's south-east coast from invasion. The first castle at Rochester was founded in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest. It was given to Bishop Odo. During the Rebellion of 1088 over the succession to the English throne, Odo supported Robert Curthose, the Conqueror's eldest son, against William Rufus. It was during this conflict that the castle first saw military action; the city and castle were besieged after Odo made Rochester a headquarters for the rebellion. After the garrison capitulated, this first castle was abandoned.

Between 1087 and 1089, Rufus asked Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, to build a new stone castle at Rochester. He established the current extent of the castle. Though much altered through the centuries, some parts of Gundulf's work survive. In 1127 King Henry I granted the castle to the Archbishop of Canterbury in perpetuity. William de Corbeil built the massive keep that still dominates the castle today. Throughout the 12th century the castle remained in the custody of the archbishops.

During the First Barons' War, baronial forces captured the castle from Archbishop Stephen Langton and held it against the king, who then besieged it. After resisting for just over seven weeks, the garrison surrendered. Although the castle had been greatly damaged, with breaches in the outer walls and one corner of the keep collapsed, it was hunger that eventually forced the defenders' hand. The castle did not stay under John's control for long: in 1216 it was captured by the French Prince Louis, who was the new leader of the baronial faction. John died and was succeeded by his son King Henry III in 1216; the next year, the war ended and the castle was taken under direct royal control.

Rochester was besieged for the third time in 1264 during the Second Barons' War. The castle's royal constable, Roger de Leybourne, held Rochester in support of Henry III. Rebel armies led by Simon de Montfort and Gilbert de Clare entered the city and set about trying to capture the castle. Again the castle's defenders resisted, though this time with a different outcome. After a week, the rebel armies raised the siege in the face of relief from Henry himself. Although the garrison did not surrender, the castle suffered extensive damage that was not repaired until the following century.

The castle saw military action for the last time in 1381 when it was captured and ransacked during the Peasants' Revolt.

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