Was Salisbury Cathedral's location really chosen by an arrow?

Was Salisbury Cathedral's location really chosen by an arrow?

Published by Faye Tryhorn at 6:04am 20th February 2020.

3 minute read

TV archaeologist and city resident Phil Harding has been clarifying the rumour once and for all.

He's told Spire FM his theory about that age old story of a flying arrow from the top of Old Sarum Castle landing at the site of the 'new' Cathedral, in what's now the city centre: 

So there we have it - he says it's DEFINITELY didn't happen! 

Sarum Lights at Salisbury Cathedral
The story of the 'city on the move' is being projected onto the side of the 'new' Cathedral this week


Phil's expert knowledge suggests that the real reason behind the move was due to a number of factors.

They included that Old Sarum is a windy and isolated at the top of a hill, with little access to fresh water and that the building was starting to fall into disrepair.

Meanwhile, other cities started to construct elaborate and 'modern' cathedrals and Salisbury's then Bishop Richard Poore wanted to follow suit.

It's also believed that the church was having some 'neighbourly disputes' with the nearby garrisons, and so chose to relocate.

Old Sarum Castle as it is now (picture from English Heritage)


Salisbury Cathedral, as it is today, was built in 1220 - and eight centuries on, that anniversary is being celebrated.

Events for Salisbury 2020 are planned throughout the year, starting with Sarum Lights, which tells the story through an immersive light and sound show in and outside the Cathedral. 

Sarum Lights at Salisbury Cathedral
Many of the events during Salisbury 2020 will centre on Salisbury Cathedral

Phil Harding says the anniversary is important for the city, and we should all be getting involved in those celebrations: 

"It does only happen every 100 years, so make the most of it while you can! We've got a lot to be proud of in Salisbury, it is a great city. We've got the finest cathedral in Christendom! Somebody said to me 'what does Salisbury Cathedral mean to you?' and I said 'it means home'."

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