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Church buildings top visitor list again

St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral are again among the top visitor attractions in the UK, according to the latest statistics from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (AVLA).

The 4,500,000 visitors to those three famous churches are only part of the numbers visiting more than 16,000 Church of England buildings across England, many of whose figures are not included in AVLA figures.

York Minster attracts more than 490,000 visitors annually, while Durham Cathedral welcomes 600,000 visitors each year and Bath Abbey alone would make the top 50 attractions, welcoming 420,000 visitors a year.

Cathedrals are at the forefront of worshipping churches that generate at least £350 million a year towards the tourism economy. The Association of English Cathedrals and English Heritage have estimated that visitors to cathedrals alone generate £91 million in spend and directly support 2,800 jobs.

“The Church of England’s 12,500 listed cathedrals and church buildings comprise unparalleled glories and a history of architecture,” said Janet Gough, Director of Church and Cathedral Buildings for the Church of England.

“They tell stories of kings, battles and wars, of brave men and women and of everyday life. These church buildings also contain a vast array of treasures from medieval wall paintings to original copies of the Magna Carta to beautifully crafted monuments and stained glass windows.

“Worship and mission is the primary concern of the Church of England. Its historic and contemporary churches are in regular use for worship and their positive use as centres for the community, for visiting and as a silent presence to witness to faith are all part of its worship and mission.”

Approximately 11.3 million people - more than a quarter (27%) of England’s adult population - say that they have been to a Church of England cathedral in the last 12 months, according to the Theos think-tank (Spiritual Capital, September 2012).These figures exclude visitors and tourists from overseas who visit Church buildings.

Successive surveys* since 2000 have shown that 85% of people in Britain visit a church building in any one year for many reasons. These include services of worship, tourist visits, weddings, funerals, school services, concerts and special events. Educational events, alone, in CofE churches and cathedrals attract up to 300,000 visits a year.

*Source: Religious Behaviour and Attitudes Survey run by the Opinions Research Bureau in 2009 and 2011