Cathedrals (and churches) have historically been regarded as places of refuge, calm and contemplation. As such I believe that they should be accessible to all – places we can pause to think, suck up history and enjoy the calm. So why are some cathedrals slapping on whacking great admission charges?
Today I’m looking at a few of the Cathedrals that charge admission fees and others that don’t, looking at their reasoning behind their decisions.
I love the tranquillity of cathedrals, their amazing history and architecture and often stunning stained glass windows, and have visited a fair few.
My local cathedral, Rochester, Kent, does not charge admission and states on its website that it is “committed to free entry”, which I believe is the correct stance. If you’d like an audio tour it costs just £1 each, and whilst donations are welcome, there is no obligation to pay to enter.
In contrast, my next nearest cathedral, Canterbury, charges £9.50 for adults and £6.50 for under 18s, unless you are attending a service. I used to like to ‘pop in’ when in the area to light a candle (giving a donation) and pause for a bit, but with current charges, it’s not longer feasible to do this on a regular basis.
I love Chichester Cathedral, where admission is free, with a statement on their website declaring that they “do not charge as we believe this beautiful building should be available for all” I quite agree. It’s a great building, manned by some friendly volunteers and well worth a visit.
Meanwhile a recent visit to Norwich Cathedral proved a bit odd. On the website it clearly states that there is no admission charge, although donations are welcome. This statement was repeated by a lovely lady in the atrium on our arrival. However, as we entered the main cathedral, we were confronted with a prominent sign declaring a ‘suggested donation’ of £5 per person and treated to an icy stare from an individual behind a counter, defying us to pass without paying. Although we gave a donation, it was a sum that we felt reflected the extremely short visit that we were able to make that day.
Finally, if you don’t mind paying a hefty admission fee, then take a trip to York Minster. Charging a whopping £14 (yes that is £14) per adult to visit the Minster and Tower (£9 for Minster only), it could prove an expensive day if there are a few of you. The York Minster website explains that the cathedral costs “£20,000 per day to run”. Are they serious? However, the website also says that it’s free to enter to light a candle, although I don’t know how this works in practice, and admission is free to York residents, so it’s only visitors to York that get ‘stung’.
I realise that as historic buildings, cathedrals require a certain amount of upkeep and maintenance, but there are alternative ways to raise funds without introducing a hefty admission charge, as many of the free ones demonstrate. If I visit a ‘free’ cathedral I always make a donation and am sure many others do too. Many cathedrals have tearooms and shops creating income, and I consider certain ‘paid for’ events acceptable.
I am certainly far less likely to visit a cathedral that demands a set charge, which means that they get no funds from myself, or like-minded people, whereas if I could just choose to donate, I would visit and do just that. Cathedrals really should be usable by all, whether you can pay to go in or not.
What do you think? firstname.lastname@example.org