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This review is of Ripon Cathedral, situated in the city of Ripon. The building is an old one, but the diocese which made this building a cathedral wasn't created until 1836.
There has been a building on the site since before 700AD, but the current Cathedral is the fourth which has been built on the site, each more impressive in size than the previous. The third building was built following William the Conqueror's army destroyed the second. The building was added to during the following centuries, although some work was never completed due to Henry VIII's dissolution of religious buildings following the reformation.
The cathedral is one of the smallest in the country, and it doesn't have the large dominating spire or huge size of some others, but this doesn't make the building any less exciting or any less worth visiting.
Despite all of the work which has been done to the cathedral over the centuries, you can still see the original crypt of the first building on this site, which was constructed in 672AD. You can still visit this small crypt by going down a few steps, and it's definitely worth looking at.
Also worth seeing are the cathedral's large number of gargoyles and grotesques, which although they look the same are different because the former are used as water spouts and the latter are just for decoration. There are a range of stone and wooden versions of these throughout the building.
There is no charge to enter the cathedral, which I always think is the right thing to do. You are encouraged however, but not pressurised, to make a donation to help with the expensive upkeep of the building. The disabled and the less mobile can visit most of the cathedral, with only a small few sections such as the crypt being inaccessible.
The volunteers at the cathedral are very helpful and welcoming. They are around the building and can offer information and help, and there is also a leaflet available which gives an introduction to the cathedral and its history.
There is car parking available nearby, and also a cemetery and cathedral close situated by the building itself. There is also a small shop by the West Door which has a range of souvenirs, some of which are suitable for children. Children generally are likely to be interested in the size of the building, looking at the crypt, but might find that they get a little bored before the adults with them.
You can find out more about the cathedral on their web-site, which can be found at http://www.riponcathedral.org.uk/. This contains some more information on the history of the building and also news about any current events and the times of any current church services.
In summary, this is a beautiful cathedral with a wonderful history. It's definitely worth a visit, there is no compulsory charge and the helpfulness of the volunteers and the beauty of the building mean that you're unlikely to be disappointed if you visit.
On a recent short break in Ripon, and having a liking for cathedrals as I do, I took the time to visit Ripon Cathedral with my partner.
Located just five minutes walk from the market square area of Ripon town centre, the cathedral is very easy to reach. There is also a car park a couple of minutes walk from the cathedral.
Ripon Cathedral is unusual in that, in common with only one other Cathedral in the country, it also functions as a Parish Church.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The Cathedral building itself began in the 7th century when St Wilfrid built one of England's first stone churches on the site.
St Wilfrid was educated at Lindisfarne and then travelled to Rome in 652. On his return, he became abbot of a Benedictine monastery and built a church in Ripon. The crypt of the church is the oldest existing Saxon crypt in England, and forms part of the Cathedral you see today, resting beneath Archbishop Roger de Pont l'Evêque's 12th century minster. Today's church is in fact the fourth to have stood on this site.
The remainder of St Wilfrid's church was destroyed by the English King in AD948.
A second minster was built at Ripon, but it too perished - this time in 1069 at the hands of William the Conqueror.
Thomas of Bayeux, first Norman Archbishop of York, then instigated the construction of a third church, but building had to be postponed due to the outbreak of the War of the Roses.
In 1547, before all the work was finished, Edward VI dissolved Ripon's college of canons. All revenues were appropriated by the Crown and the tower never received its last Perpendicular arches. It was not until 1604 that James I issued his Charter of Restoration.
The minster finally became a cathedral (the church where the Bishop has his cathedra or throne) in 1836, the focal point of the newly created Diocese of Ripon - the first to be established since the Reformation.
Ripon has been place of pilgrimage for St Wilfrid for hundreds of years and remains so today.
VISITING THE CATHEDRAL
From the outside the cathedral is quite breathtaking, in particular the West Front. It is possible to drive right past it on the road outside, but standing across the road on the tree-lined pathway leading to the cathedral entrance, it appears very quiet, standing majestically over Ripon centre.
Entrance to the cathedral is free, although you are invited to make a donation towards the upkeep of the building. Several collection boxes are placed inside. The cathedral receives no state aid other than grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund etc. It costs over £800,000 each year just to run the Cathedral and at present it needs re-wiring quite urgently. The South Nave Aisle needs a new roof and a comprehensive fire detection system needs to be installed. Therefore, the cathedral relies heavily upon donations and the generosity of the public.
It really is beautiful inside and we wandered around freely. From the centre of the Nave, looking towards the entrance there are two rows of orderly gothic windows which date back to 1220 and look stunning. We were advised to turn around by a Cathedral guide and look towards the Altar where you see a lop-sided effect with columns of various heights. It looks quite quirky!
We also noticed the far seat looking towards the Altar from the choir stalls, which depicts a griffon chasing a rabbit, with another rabbit hiding down a hole. We were told by the guide that this is believed to have inspired Lewis Carroll to write Alice In Wonderland, and that Lewis Carroll's father was a Canon there from 1852 - 1868.
In the balcony below the organ there is a hand which was once used to conduct the choir, although no longer used, it still works!
Another thing to look out for are carvings of mice in the pews. The wood carver who carved some of the pews, left his mark on the carvings in the form of a little mouse.
Just before the choir stalls there are two tombs, which are known as the Markenfield Tombs. They are the remaining tombs of members of the Markenfield family who lived at Markenfield Hall near Ripon and took part in the Rising of the North in 1569 after which the Hall was confiscated by the Crown.
I especially enjoyed seeing the Crypt, the only remainder of the original church. You go down some stone steps to a small underground area. There were some children there during our visit who found it fascinating!
Visitors are also welcome to join the congregration for any of the services held at the Cathedral each day, or you can visit at 5.30pm to hear the choir sing Evensong.
I mentioned a Cathedral guide earlier. These guides are very happy to talk to the visitors, answer any questions you may have and are an invaluable source of information. Alternatively, there are guide books, vitual tour CD's and brochures available in the cathedral shop. Also on sale are recordings of the music of the Cathedral Choirs specialist foods, cosmetics and jewellery. Plans are in hand to also make the cathedral merchandise available online in the near future.
I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Ripon Cathedral and can recommend a visit if ever you are in Ripon and especially if you love Cathedrals as I do. You won't be disappointed!