Thursday, 21 March 2013

Cathedral Charges

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?

1 comment:

  1. Hi SJ.

    This is an interesting post - thank you.
    From my own point of view, I'm not religious, but am very interested in the history and architecture, and am more than happy to pay entry to the custodians as I'm basically being a tourist.

    I'm not sure if it's still done, but in many places it used to be the custom to give free entrance but then charge for a photography permit - effectively only charging tourists for entry.