The Cathedral Church of St Nicholas is a Church of England cathedral in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It is the seat of theBishop of Newcastle and is the mother church of the Diocese of Newcastle, the most northerly diocese of the Anglican Church in England, which reaches from the River Tyne as far north as Berwick-upon-Tweed and as far west as Alston in Cumbria.
Founded in 1091 during the same period as the nearby castle, the Norman church was destroyed by fire in 1216 and the current building was completed in 1350, so is mostly of the Perpendicular style of the 14th century. Its tower is noted for its 15th-century lantern spire. Heavily restored in 1777, the building was raised to cathedral status in 1882, when it became known as the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas.
The cathedral is named after St Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors and boats. This may reflect the cathedral's position on the northern heights above the River Tyne. It was originally a parish church, built in 1091. It was built close to the line of Hadrian's Wall through Newcastle, which may have passed through the churchyard, but unfortunately the exact location of its line through the very centre of the city is currently lost. Close to the south of the cathedral is Newcastle Castle, which gave the city its name, and which was itself built on the site of the Hadrian's Wall fort of Pons Aelius. The Norman church was destroyed by fire in 1216 and the present structure was completed in 1350.
In the mid-19th century Newcastle experienced a huge increase in its population, leading to the construction of over 20 new churches in the suburbs. As Newcastle continued to grow, so did its need for a diocese separate from Durham, and so in 1882 the Diocese of Newcastle was formed, with St Nicholas’s as its cathedral. With this, Newcastle was designated a City in the same year.
The cathedral is notable for its unusual lantern spire, which was constructed in 1448. For hundreds of years, it was a main navigation point for ships using the River Tyne. At its base the tower measures 36 ft 9 in (11.20 m) by 35 ft (11 m) and it is 196 ft 6 in (59.89 m) from the base to the top of the steeple.
On each corner of the lantern are gilded statues, of Adam eating the apple, Eve holding out the apple, Aaron is dressed as a Bishop, and David holds a harp. Following work on the street in the 1860s the tower was found to be cracking and tilting, so two porches were added to buttress the structure. Since then the tower has settled and the ornate wooden font cover, which is suspended from the tower inside, does not hang in line with the font.
The interior of the church was badly damaged by Scottish invaders during their brief occupation of the city in 1640, and in 1644, during a nine-week siege, Scottish invaders threatened to bombard the lantern tower, but were deterred when the mayor Sir John Marley put his Scottish prisoners in it.
The tower contains a complete ring of twelve bells, the tenor bell which weighs almost two tons, plus three 15th-century bells, one of which, "St Nicholas", is rung for daily services. The addition of a second treble bell (named "Gabriel") in 1999 has made it possible to ring a lighter peal of ten bells.
Newcastle Cathedral is the second tallest religious building in Newcastle and the sixth tallest structure in the city overall.