Date of Construction: 1072
Dates of Failure: 1141, 1185, 1237, 1549
Number of Casualties: Unknown
Construction on the Lincoln Cathedral first began in 1072 [a]. This magnificent structure still stands today; however, its appearance has changed throughout years as a result of several structural failures requiring portions of the cathedral to be rebuilt.
It was severely damaged by fire in 1141, and by an earthquake in 1185. The cathedral was soon after reconstructed in the Gothic style. Due to the “experimental nature of Gothic architecture” structural problems occurred, leading to the collapse of the central tower shortly thereafter in 1237 [a]. The tower collapsed during a sermon burying part of the congregation. The tower was once again rebuilt and raised to its present height.
Between 1307 and 1311, a spire was added to the tower making the cathedral the tallest structure in the world [Image 1], surpassing the pyramids at Giza which had held the record for thousands of years. The lead encased spire eventually became vulnerable due to rotting, and in 1549 collapsed under high winds during a severe storm [b,c]. It has also been speculated that the connection between the masonry tower and the wood spire had become weak [d]. The spire was never rebuilt.
Later, the spires topping the two smaller towers were removed [Image 2] after their weight and poor foundations threatened the collapse of the towers [d,e]. Because the original central tower and the two smaller towers date back to the same renovation period, it is possible that the failure of the central tower in 1237 was also due to an overload of weight and a poor foundation. However, it seems that no in depth investigation was ever made in order to determine the exact causes of these failures, or at least investigations that were recorded and preserved.