Ripon Cathedral - 1300 Years of Worship and History
Visit the official Ripon Cathedral website.
The Cathedral building itself is part of this continuing act of worship, begun in the 7th century when Saint Wilfrid built one of England's first stone churches on this site, and still renewed every day. Within the nave and choir, you can see the evidence of 800 years in which master craftsmen have expressed their faith in wood and stone.
Today's church is in fact the fourth to have stood on the site although the original Saxon crypt, famed as the earliest complete Saxon crypt north of the Alps, has survived virtually intact. Saint Wilfrid brought stonemasons, plasterers and glaziers from France and Italy to build his great basilica in AD 672.
A contemporary account by Eddius Stephanus tells us:
'In Ripon, Saint Wilfrid built and completed from the foundations to the roof a church of dressed stone, supported by various columns and side-aisles to a great height and many windows, arched vaults and a winding cloister.' Devastated by the English king in AD 948 as a warning to the Archbishop of York, only the crypt of Wilfrid's church survived but today this tiny 7th century chapel rests complete beneath the later grandeur of Archbishop Roger de Pont l 12th century minster.
A second minster, built to minister the love of God to the local community, soon arose at Ripon, but it too perished at 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, traces of which were incorporated into the later chapter house of Roger's minster.
The exceptional Early English west front was added in 1220, its twin towers originally crowned with wooden spires and lead. Major rebuilding had to be postponed due to the outbreak of the War of the Roses but commenced after the accession of Henry VII and the restoration of peace in 1485. In addition to the crypt, Ripon Cathedral hosts many other interesting features including the 15th-century misericords, a pulpit in Art Nouveau style, and the 1300-year-old Ripon Jewel, a tiny gold roundel inlaid with gemstones. But in 1547, before this 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. The Ripon Jewel was found close to the Cathedral in 1976. It is a small gold roundel inlaid with gems and about one inch in diameter. The design suggests it dates from the Church's earliest days, perhaps made to adorn a casket or cross on the orders of St Wilfrid himself.
The Cathedral is foremost a holy place for prayer and worship. It remains a vibrant and historic centre of the local community, playing host to many recitals, concerts and events throughout the year