Landmarks: Lincoln Cathedral

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The Cathedral here in Lincoln was once used by Pevsner as a definition of architecture as opposed to mere building and, according to Ruskin, it is worth more than any two other cathedrals. To enter the Cathedral at any time, as a tourist or to attend a service is a powerful enough experience, but I know of nothing stronger than to stand alone in the building and revel in its architectural impact. The intense quality and elegance of its form and detail express today what Dean Inge described as 'a revelation of the mind and character of the Creator through the sublimity and wisdom of the creation'.

In secular contrast, the 400,000 annual visitors to the Cathedral are easily exceeded in a matter of four days as an armada of coaches heads for the Lincoln Christmas market in late December. This noisy, cheerful celebration floods uphill Lincoln with mulled wine, German sausage and market stalls, washing right up to the west front of the Cathedral and highlighting the stark contrast between the spiritual permanence of the Cathedral and the secular transience of the market.

Although the resident Canons of the Cathedral will always complain about the enthusiasm of the people for the delights of the market and the dwindling enthusiasm shown towards the spiritual rewards of the great Cathedral, it was the medieval builders themselves that intended this contrast in juxtaposing the two styles in this way. At the moment, future expression is in the hands of the conservator, so whilst I cannot possibly comment on the lack of contemporary Cathedrals, I have my eye on some bargains for next Christmas.

John Baily is a partner with Ferrey Mennim Baily and surveyor to the Fabric at Lincoln Cathedral

(Photograph omitted)