Ripon Cathedral

It can a long, tedious drive back home from the North east. I didn’t fancy the chaos of the M62 after a bad, traffic jammed journey the previous Friday, so we decided we’d drive back across the Pennines on the A59 via Harrogate and Skipton. Not a fast route but likely to be more pleasant than the alternative. We also decided to break the journey so stopped at Ripon, somewhere we’ve never visited before. It’s quite a small town, and the major attraction, besides nearby Fountains Abbey, is the Cathedral.

There’s been a church on the site since the 7th Century, originally a wooden structure, which was replaced by a stone building in 672, one of the earliest stone buildings erected in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. It’s been twice destroyed (first by the Vikings and then by the Normans) and rebuilt. It’s been modified many times over the years, resulting in the building we see today. Like many of the old Cathedrals it incorporates several different styles of architecture, mainly Gothic but with some traces of Romanesque style. There’s even a remnant of the first stone church – the crypt.

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The west front is a very impressive example of the early English Gothic style, with it’s lancet windows

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Entry was free although you are supposed to buy a pass, costing £3, to take photos. I stumped up but there were plenty of people snapping away who clearly hadn’t.

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Looking at the lancet windows from inside the building

The first thing we noticed on entering the Cathedral was the installation suspended high up in the ceiling

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The Cathedral’s website tells us

Since May, 10,000 origami angels have been made by 100 volunteers and 300 school pupils, who have helped to create an inspiring host of angels in the nave of Ripon Cathedral. Each angel represents a dedication made during the COVID-19 pandemic to key workers and loved ones. Our volunteers range from 3 – 90 years old and are located across the region.

Cathedral website

The Nave was in a later Perpendicular Gothic style

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This is the old 15th Century stone font

I liked the impressive Arts and Crafts style pulpit, made by Henry Wilson in 1913 a.

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At the end of the nave, we descended down these narrow stone steps into the crypt

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This is the only remaining part of the original stone building and would hold the “holy relics” which are so important in the Catholic Church. It’s a tiny space and was only reopened recently, entry having been stopped during the height of the Covid crisis.

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The transept is one of the oldest parts of the main building, with elements of both Gothic and, with the rounded windows, the earlier Romanesque or Norman style.

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The highly decorative roode screen leads to the Quire (or Choir – take your pick as to the spelling!). The stone screen is medieval, but the stautes of Kings, bishops and saints are Victorian

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There’s a massive stained glass Great East Window – an example of Decorated Gothic – at the end of the Quire, behind the high altar. The glass is Victorian – the original glass was destroyed by Puritans during the Civil War.

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Looking back down the Quire (the light made it difficult to get a decent photo

The misericords on the choir seats were carved between 1489 and 1494 and depict various mythical figures. It is alleged that some of the figures influenced and inspired Lewis Carroll who visited the Cathedral (interesting as we were returning from Whitburn where there definitely is a Lewis Carroll connection.)

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The same workers also carved the misericords at Beverley Minster and Manchester Cathedral.

The massive spaces of the Nave and Quire in cathedrals can be overwhelming and I often find the smaller, more initmate, side chapels the most interesting. The Chapel of the Holy Spirit is on the south side of the quire and has a modern look. The striking screen, meant to resemble lightning bolts, screen was designed by Leslie Durbin, a jeweller who designed the rear of the first pound coins and the Stalingrad Sword that was presented to Stalin by Churchill at the end of the Second World War.

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The altar frontals were designed by the (female) textiles expert Theo Moorman
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St peter’s Chapel, on the other side of the Quire, has a more traditional look

The altar is made of a reused font, possibly dating back to the medieval period. The painting behind the altar is a reproduction of a work by Reubens.

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The Chapel of Justice and Peace is located at the west end of the church, to thee north of the entrance

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Behind the altar are words of the poet Wilfred Owen, who spent his last birthday here in 1918, words that speak of tragedy and loss through war.

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It’s been a while since I’ve indulged my interst in art and architecture, so it was good to have the opportunity to visit this excellent example of a grand Gothic church. We spent a good hour looking round but had to hit the road. I’ll have to find time to take another look sometime, perhaps combined with a visit to Fountain’s Abbey. I’ve not been there for a while. And I do have coneections with Ripon – my family history research suggests I have a family connection – but I don’t shout that out, it’s hard to accept I might have some Yorkshire genes 😬

5 thoughts on “Ripon Cathedral

  1. That was really a very interesting church..had a bit of everything. Sometimes it’s hard to see it “all” and just relax in all the centuries of art and architecture, meaning there’s something more to look at and it pulls you in another direction. It’s a museum as well.

    • It’s an impressive building – we have plenty others around our older cities over here as I’m sure you know! A medieval cathedral is always worth a visit, even for a non-believer like me.

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