The near-legendary founder of this cathedral was Etheldreda, the wife of a Northumbrian king who established a monastery on the spot in 673. The present structure dates from 1081. Visible for miles around, the landmark octagonal lantern is the crowning glory of the cathedral. Erected in 1322 following the collapse of the old tower, it represents a remarkable engineering achievement. Four hundred tons of lead and wood hang in space, held there by timbers reaching to the eight pillars.
You enter the cathedral through the Galilee West Door, a good example of the Early English style of architecture. The lantern tower and the Octagon are the most notable features inside, but visit the Lady Chapel, too. Although its decor has deteriorated over the centuries, it's still a handsome example of the Perpendicular style, having been completed in the mid-14th century. The entry fee goes to help preserve the cathedral. Monday through Saturday, guided tours gather at 11:15am and 2:15pm in the off-season; in the summer, tours occur throughout the day.
At the Brass Rubbing Centre, a large selection of replica brass is available for you to rub. These can produce remarkable results for wall hangings or special gifts. It's open year-round in the North Aisle, outside the Cathedral Shop.