The cathedral, situated in the centre of Wakefield on a hill on Kirkgate, is built on the site of a Saxon church, evidence of which was uncovered in 1900 when extensions to the east end were made. A church in Wakefield is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086. In 1090 William II gave the church and land in Wakefield to Lewes Priory in Sussex and shortly after that a Norman church was built.
The Norman church was rebuilt in 1329, and apart from the tower and spire, rebuilt and enlarged in 1469. The church was reconstructed and altered at various times and its spire, damaged in a violent gale, was renewed in 1823. Up to the 16th century the church was known by the Anglo Saxon All Hallows and after the Reformation changed to All Saints. All Saints Church was largely rebuilt in the early 15th century and, after years of neglect in the 18th century, owes its current late medieval appearance to a Victorian restoration by Sir George Gilbert Scott and his son John Oldrid Scott between 1858 and 1874. In 1888, the Diocese of Wakefield was created and All Saints Church became the cathedral of the diocese. It still serves as a parish church, meaning that until 2000 the head of the chapter of canons was called the provost, rather than the dean. The Treacy Hall built in memory of Bishop Eric Treacy was completed in 1982. In January 2000 a parish boundary change brought the chantry chapel, on Wakefield Bridge, into the care of the cathedral.
The cathedral walls are clad in sandstone. On the south wall is a porch, with a wrought iron gate and a sundial over the door arch. The wall of the north aisle is the oldest part of the church dating from about 1150. The nave piers date from the 12th and 13th centuries and the arcade and chancel arches date from the 14th century. The late 15th-century chancel now serves as the choir. The nave's original stone vaulted roof has been replaced with wood. The 15th-century wooden ceilings over the nave and aisles have carved bosses.
The current chancel, a trancept and St Mark's Chapel were built at the east end in 1904 to designs by John Loughborough Pearson and completed by his son, Frank L Pearson. The 20th-century chancel has a stone vaulted roof.
The cathedral's large four-stage west tower has angle buttresses and a very tall crocketed spire behind an embattled parapet with crocketed corner pinnacles and at 247 feet (75m) tall, is the highest spire in Yorkshire.
None of the medieval stained glass survives and most of the cathedral's glass was made by Charles Eamer Kempe who created many windows over 50 years. His windows are reminiscent in colour of those of the late Middle Ages, darker on the north wall with Old Testament themes and lighter on the south side where he placed New Testament figures.
The cathedral has a 17th-century rood screen and above it a rood by Ninian Comper, completed in 1950. The font dates from the mid 17th-century and the pulpit from 1708. Eleven of the 15th-century choir stalls, the gift of Sir Thomas Savile, have misericords and other carvings including a green man and mythical beasts.
The reredos is the work of John Oldrid Scott and possibly incorporates earlier works while the high altar is by Frank Pearson. Some furniture in St Mark's Chapel is by Robert Thompson, the 'Mouseman'. The cathedral has a fine collection of church plate. A monument to Sir Lyon Pilkington dates from about 1700 and other memorial tablets are from the 18th and early 19th centuries.