Travel

High price to see English holy sites

Visitors to Westminster Abbey can expect to pay more than $30 to experience the 1000-year-old building, while visitors to York Minster will have to pay $17.50.
Visitors to Westminster Abbey can expect to pay more than $30 to experience the 1000-year-old building, while visitors to York Minster will have to pay $17.50. Supplied

CENTURIES-OLD, oozing with history and treasure, the abbeys, cathedrals and churches of England are on the must-see list for millions of visitors.

In northern England, York Minster is a dazzling jewel of Gothic architecture, a breath-catching profusion of pinnacles and gargoyles.

In Sir Christopher Wren's St Paul's Cathedral - the fifth cathedral to stand on the site since 604 - the spiritual heart of London beats within a 17th-century marvel of stone, marble and glass.

Westminster Abbey, where Prince William and Kate Middleton exchanged vows, is the resting place of Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton and scores of other greats. Writers are commemorated in Poet's Corner.

But entering these hallowed places outside of religious services comes at a price. The Gothic experience of York will cost you an entrance fee of £9 ($17.50). Go through the Great West Door of St Paul's and be sure you have £14.50 to hand. Plunge into the world of Westminster Abbey, and you will have to fork over a whopping £16.

Is this a charge to pray? An enforced donation towards upkeep? Or a user-pays fee, similar to charges applied by museums and art galleries?

The first such fees began to appear a decade or so ago, on a small and modest scale, but are now quite common - and several times higher than before.

And the storm they stirred won't still. Some critics say an entrance fee destroys individual worship and contemplation. Others even liken entry-chargers to the avaricious money-lenders that Jesus cast from the Temple.

The controversy has been stirred anew by a veteran religious writer, William Oddie, who issued a call for visitors to refuse to pay to enter York Minster.

"This is the house of God: and to charge money for entrance to it is tantamount to simony, one definition of which is 'trafficking for money in spiritual things'," Oddie wrote in the weekly British newspaper the Catholic Herald in July.

More than 150 people wrote to the paper in response, many of them echoing his outrage.

Churches who charge the fees say that those seeking genuinely to pray rather than sightsee can come in for free. But one Anglican priest said that he had had a nightmare in trying to invoke this right: "It was even suggested I was pretending to be a priest to get in."

Oddie told the Herald he wasn't surprised by the sharp reaction: "There's quite a lot of strong feeling on this subject."

The churches themselves say they only introduced the fees after voluntary donations failed to work.

"We rely on the income generated by tourism to allow the building to continue to function as a centre for Christian worship, as well as to cover general maintenance and repair work," Hannah Talbot of St Paul's said by email.

York Minster says it needs at least £20,000 a day for maintenance and, even though it lures millions of tourists to the city each year, it receives not a penny in state subsidy. Added to that is its intangible value as an artistic resource.

In continental Europe, places of worship are almost invariably free of charge.

"We spent a wonderfully peaceful half hour in Notre-Dame," an American woman who lives in London said of a Paris visit with her 83-year-old mother.

"We simply sat and listened to the singing by the choir. I doubt we would have paid to enter."

>> More travel stories

Topics:  england travel travelling



UPDATE: Cause for fallen power lines a mystery

Workers repair a power line at Swan Creek that fell across teh pacific HIghway briefly blocking both lanes.

Local residents affected by power outage

Police investigate brawl at local rugby league game

A 17-year-old was removed from the ground and police are speaking to witnesses.

Police investigate alleged on-field brawl at footy game

Backward glance leads to reunion 51 years in the making

ACROSS THE YEARS: The story of Paul Commerford helping save a woman from a cow   50 years ago helped the two reunite after it came up in Backward Glances.

Pair reunited after heroics 51 years ago

Local Partners

Concert death toll revised up to 22, tour suspended

TWENTY-TWO people have been killed and at least 59 people have been injured following a terror attack in Manchester

Casual Keanu says fame is ‘cool’

Keanu Reeves in a scene from the movie John Wick: Chapter 2.

NOBODY expected much of John Wick when it was released in 2014.

Hemingway unearth another dimension to Yamba stage

UNIQUE SOUND: Hemingway will be at Yamba's Pacific Hotel next Saturday night.

Brothers' "do or die” pact to make a career out of the music

Ariana Grande breaks her silence after fatal blast

According to reports quoting witnesses, a mass emergency evacuation was prompted after explosions were heard at the end of US singer Ariana Grande's concert in the arena.

The entertainment industry is in shock after attack on concert

Maclean High brings the colour to blonde production

Saskia Ramsey is fabulous in her role of Elle in a scene from rehearsals for Maclean High's production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.

Maclean High puts on high energy show

Pitch Perfect star suing Woman’s Day over ‘liar’ articles

Actor Rebel Wilson outside court on Friday.

REBEL Wilson's career destroyed by grubby campaign, court hears.

Love, lies and leading ladies in extraordinary free concert

DOUBLE ACT: Catherine Britt and Amber Lawrence are touring together.

Award-winning female country artists team up to tour latest music

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

WATCH: Take a tour of a tradie's dream home

5a Bruce Hiskens Court, Norman Gardens, going for $720,000. INSET: Lea Taylor.

Huge block with potential for anything

REVEALED: Where it's cheaper to pay off a mortgage than rent

6/190 Ewing Rd, Woodridge, is listed for offers $215,000. Picture: realestate.com.au

Brisbane suburbs where it is cheaper to buy than rent

The hardest place in the state to find a rental property

RENTAL SHORTAGE: Richmond River, Ballina Bar Emigrant Creek Pacific Highway Teven Interchange. Photo Jay Cronan / The Northern Star

Not enough supply to meet insatiable demand

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!