Peterborough Cathedral hosts magnificent photographic ‘Portraits’ of all 42 English Anglican Cathedrals by the late Magnum Photographer Peter Marlow

May 13, 2024

Image credits: Peter Marlow, Peterborough Cathedral, 2010 © Peter Marlow Foundation / Magnum Photos


Peter Marlow: The English Cathedral

Exhibition Dates: 14 May – 13 June 2024


Opening 14 years to the day since the late Magnum photographer, Peter Marlow photographed it, Peterborough Cathedral, UK, one of the finest Norman cathedrals in Europe, will host the next stage in the ambitious tour of Peter Marlow: The English Cathedral. This free and exceptional photographic exhibition chronicles the naves of all 42 of England’s Anglican cathedrals in natural light with any modern artificial light turned off and is on show from 14 May – 13 June 2024.

Organised by the Peter Marlow Foundation, the charity set up to continue Peter’s legacy, the aim is that this ethereal collection of images will exhibit at each of the 42 cathedrals he visited on his photographic pilgrimage across England. The exhibition at Peterborough Cathedral will be on display in the Presbytery during normal cathedral opening hours. The Cathedral website has details of when the site is closed for services and private events –

Founded as a monastic community in 654 AD, Peterborough Cathedral became one of the most significant medieval abbeys in the country, the burial place of two notable historic queens (Henry VIII’s first wife, Katharine of Aragon, and their daughter Mary, Queen of Scots) and the scene of Civil War upheavals. Its beautiful painted nave ceiling dating from the 13th century, shown clearly in Peter’s photographic portrait of the cathedral, is the largest painted ceiling of its age in Europe. Comprising a series of 57 detailed lozenge shapes, it depicts a range of figures and scenes including saints, kings, bishops or archbishops, representations of the Liberal Arts (music, geometry, logic, grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic and astronomy), as well as an intriguing study of a monkey talking to an owl while riding backwards on a goat.

In hosting the exhibition, Peter Marlow: The English Cathedral, Peterborough Cathedral invites its visitors to embark on a visual journey through the lens of Peter Marlow, capturing the essence of the Cathedral and its Gothic architecture in a play of natural light with all modern artificial lighting turned off. Peter’s portrayal of the cathedral evocatively transports the viewer back to the site’s medieval roots by inviting contemplation of its dramatic interior.

The Very Reverend Chris Dalliston, Dean of Peterborough, says of the exhibition; “We are delighted to be showcasing the exquisite exhibition by the late Peter Marlow, featuring 42 photographs of all Anglican Cathedral Naves in England. These timeless images captured beautifully in natural light, not only celebrate the architectural grandeur of our sacred spaces but also offer a profound reflection on the relationship between light and spirituality. May this exhibition serve as a beacon of inspiration for fellow photographers and visitors alike, inviting them to explore and interpret the beauty that surrounds us with reverence and creativity.


Peter Marlow (b. UK, 1952 – 2016) was commissioned in 2008 by Royal Mail on the 300th year anniversary of the completion of St Paul’s Cathedral to photograph six Anglican Cathedrals that were issued as commemorative stamps. So taken was he by these initial magnificent interiors that he set out to photograph all 42, guided over the next three years by a copy of English Cathedrals (1989) by Edwin Smith and Olive Cook and a pack of Anglican Cathedrals of England Top Trumps Cards. “What I thought was going to be incredibly simple became intricate, complicated, and utterly absorbing.

The journey was memorable and wonderfully hypnotic, a kind of reflective pilgrimage. My cathedral days involved hours of driving and thinking, with my reference Polaroids drying in the sun on the dashboard. England passed by.” Peter Marlow, The English Cathedral.

The images appear deceptively simple in their composition and technical set-up. It was after much experimentation that Peter developed the perfect strategy to document these huge interior spaces and to highlight the many varied architectural nuances between the buildings. Shooting on large format film using only natural light, he set up in the same position at all but one of the cathedrals – looking east towards the nave and altar as the dawn light streamed through the main window. By ensuring all artificial lighting was turned off, a rarity in many of these buildings whose lights remain on constantly, he captured the cathedrals emerging from the darkness as if suspended in time and removed from the modern age.

This end result can be regarded as a contemporary update to the long tradition of church photography in England, namely Frederik Evans’ late 19th century imagery and Edwin Smith’s mid-20th century work. Peter’s remarkable photographs bring into sharp relief the full splendour of the interiors of some of England’s most magnificent buildings, great symbols of spiritual and architectural power. “When immersed in Peter’s photographs we are metaphorically in some kind of contemplative enclosure, if not a sanctuary: one that confronts us with our own sense of being. The forms captured here are simultaneously concrete and abstract: containers of history, light and, above all, space. Despite of, and in parallel with, the undeniable structure of the architectural edifice, Peter captures the intangible essence of all form that is generated by creative force: the enduring mystery of space within space.” Martin Barnes, The English Cathedral.

When he photographed the 42 Anglican cathedrals for the series, Peter took extensive time and preparation prior to and during the process in capturing the final photograph displayed here in the exhibition. Part of this process was the use of Fujifilm FP 100 Instant film to test the view and the exposure of each shot. In recognition of this Fujifilm has supplied instax cameras and film at the exhibitions on the tour. Visitors are asked to take photographs of the exhibition in-situ at Peterborough Cathedral and the visitors it attracts, utilising the example photographs by some of Peter’s fellow Magnum photographers, Elliott Erwitt, David Seymour (Chim), Chris Steele-Perkins, Stuart Franklin and David Hurn.


These instant photographs will create an interactive ever-changing display that will be shared as part of the exhibition but also on the social media channels and websites of Peterborough Cathedral and the Peter Marlow Foundation to create a contemporary public response to the works. Having these instant images allowed for an immediate assessment of the composition as well as creating an additional accompanying set of photographs. For each hosting cathedral, Peter Marlow Foundation will choose a winner from those visitors who have contributed a photograph. This person will be awarded an Estate Stamped Fine Print of a cathedral photograph of their choice. A sold-out monograph of Peter Marlow’s The English Cathedral was published by Merrell in 2012 with a second edition in 2015. Featuring texts by Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) London, and John Goodall, architectural editor of Country Life magazine, it also includes Peter’s own account of his ‘cathedral days’ as well as his technical commentary of how he achieved these intensely detailed images. The initiation of The English Cathedral tour was generously funded by the Victoria and Albert Museum and their Photographs Acquisition Group. A full set of the prints are held in the V&A’s permanent collection.

Following the exhibition at Peterborough Cathedral, Peter Marlow: The English Cathedral will show in
2024 at the following cathedrals:
• DERBY CATHEDRAL: 23 July – 1 September 2024 (21/42 cathedrals – midway point of the tour)
• CHESTER CATHEDRAL: 10 September – 1 October 2024 (22/42 cathedrals)
• WORCESTER CATHEDRAL: 8 October – 17 November 2024 (23/42 cathedrals)

Peter Marlow: The English Cathedral has previously been hosted by Coventry Cathedral in 2016; Ely Cathedral in 2017; Portsmouth and Blackburn in 2019; Carlisle, Winchester, Ripon, Southwell, Bradford, St Albans, and St Paul’s in 2022; Hereford, Newcastle; St Edmundsbury; Wakefield; Lincoln; and Wells in 2023; and Manchester and Rochester Cathedral so far in 2024. Many more of the cathedrals featured in the series are lined up for the years to come.

For more information about ‘The English Cathedral’ tour and the Peter Marlow Foundation contact:
Sam Trenerry / +44 (0)7780 991 811