Cathedral - minster

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Both the words cathedral and minster apply to certain large churches, but the two words have different meanings and are not usually interchangeable.

  • A cathedral is a large church which is the main church of a diocese, i.e., an area which constitutes the area of authority of a bishop. The cathedral contains the bishop's official throne (cathedra in Latin).
  • The word minster is applied to certain large churches and cathedrals. The word is used because the church or cathedral was originally connected to a monastery, the English word minster coming from the Latin monasterium, which means 'monastery'.
    • In 2017, the Diocese of York said "The status of minster is an honorific title bestowed on major churches of regional significance in the Church of England to "reflect their importance and contribution to the local communities they serve".
  • In fact the word minster is used of only a very small number of cathedrals and churches.
    • Of the English cathedrals only York is always referred to as York Minster (and never as York Cathedral), while Ripon Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral, and Southwell Cathedral are sometimes referred to as Minsters, as is Lichfield Cathedral very occasionally. Of the English (non-cathedral) churches only three are always referred to as Minsters, namely, Beverley Minster, Howden Minster, and Wimborne Minster. There are also compound names, like Westminster, the area where British government is based (named after Westminster Abbey, the great church of a former monastery), Axminster and Kidderminster.
    • A few relics of the original missions to England have left small churches which were served by small monastic communities of missionary monks, such as St Gregory's Minster in Kirkdale near Kirkbymoorside, an Anglo-Saxon church; Stonegrave Minster in Ryedale, which also contains Anglo-Saxon masonry; Howden Minster; and Hemingbrough Minster, near Selby.
    • In the twentieth century, a small number of churches, such as Sts Thomas, Newport in the Isle of Wight, St James, Grimsby (now Grimsby Minster) and St. Peter ad Vincula, Stoke (Stoke Minster) became known as minsters, as an honorific title in recognition of their importance.
    • In 2017 the church in the centre of Hull previously known as Holy Trinity was honoured with the title of Hull Minster. It does not appear to have been a monastic foundation.