The cathedral was started in 1096 and constructed out of flint and mortar and faced with a cream coloured Caen limestone. A Saxon settlement and two churches were demolished to make room for the buildings. The building was finished in 1145 and had the fine Norman tower, that we see today, topped with a wooden spire covered with lead. Several periods of damage caused rebuilding to the nave and spire but after many years the building was much as we see it now, from the final erection of the stone spire in 1480.
The large cloister has over 1,000 bosses including several hundred carved and ornately painted ones. The buildings are on the lowest part of the Norwich river plain and surrounded on three sides by hills and an area of scrubland, Mousehold heath, to the fourth and North direction. This means that the Cathedral could be seen from just about any location in the city.
The structure of the cathedral is primarily in the Norman style, having been constructed at the behest of Bishop Herbert de Losinga, and retains the greater part of its original stone structure. Building started in 1096 and the cathedral was completed in 1145. It was built from flint and mortar and faced with cream coloured Caen limestone. A Saxon settlement and two churches were demolished to make room for the buildings and a canal cut to allow access for the boats bringing the stone and building materials which were taken up the Wensum and unloaded at Pulls Ferry, Norwich. It was damaged after riots in 1270, which resulted in the city paying heavy fines levied by Henry III, rebuilt by 1278 and re–consecrated by Edward I. It has the finest Norman tower in England with the original spire being made of wood and covered with lead. The spire was blown down by a hurricane in 1362 and was replaced.
A large cloister with over 1,000 bosses was started in 1297 and finally finished in 1430 after black death had plagued the city. The building was vaulted between 1416 and 1472 in a spectacular manner with hundreds of ornately carved, painted and gilded bosses. In 1463 the spire was struck by lightning and caused a fire to rage through the nave which was so intense it turned some of the creamy Caen limestone a pink colour. The Bishop of Norwich, James Goldwell, built the stone spire in 1480 which is still in place today with flying buttresses later added to help support the roofs of the building.
The total length of the building is 461 feet (140 m). Significant alterations from later periods include the 315 foot (96 m) spire and a two-storey cloister, the only such in England, as well as the vaults of the nave and chancel. Standing at 315 feet, the cathedral's spire is the second tallest in England, and dominates the city skyline — only the spire of Salisbury Cathedral is higher at 404 feet. Along with Salisbury and Ely the cathedral lacks a ring of bells which makes them the only three English cathedrals without them. One of the best views of the cathedral spire is from St. James's Hill on Mousehold Heath.
The bosses of the vault number over 1,000. Each is decorated with a theological image and have been described as without parallel in the Christian world. The nave vault shows the history of the world from the creation; the cloister includes series showing the life of Christ and the Apocalypse.