History of the Cathedral

Evolution of the Cathedral Film of Ripon Cathedral

Ripon's history is founded in the Church. In the 650s a group of Celtic monks was granted land equivalent to 30 or 40 farms by the prince of Northumbria to support a new monastery which probably stood to the north east of the present Cathedral. A monastery was founded by Abbot Eata of Melrose in 657AD and the guest-master became the famous Saint Cuthbert.

Differences between the Celtic and Catholic traditions of the church came to a head at the Synod of Whitby in 664 where Saint Wilfrid argued and won the case for the supremacy of the Roman over the Celtic Church. Cuthbert acquiesced with the Synod's decision, and adopted Roman rule. He was sent to the Priory of Lindisfarne to ease the transition to Roman tradition in that house.

In 665 St Wilfrid was consecrated Bishop of Northumbria, with his seat at York. He offended many people and was soon deposed to be re-instated in 669. The next ten years saw the rise of his great abbey churches at Ripon and Hexham and the restoration of his cathedral at York. Wilfrid had seen wonderful buildings during a journey to Rome and brought craftsmen to build one of the most impressive churches west of the Alps, dedicated about 672, but he was banished, vindicated, imprisoned, exiled, banished again, dispossessed and eventually, at the synod of the River Nidd (704/5), restored. The crypt survives as the older of only two places in the country where one can stand within walls and roofs built during the first century of English Christianity.

The monastery church was adorned with the most magnificent craftsmanship of the age, including an illuminated copy of the gospels written in gold on purple parchment and set with precious gems. Recently the Ripon Jewel (as shown in this picture) has been dated to approximately the same period. At Ripon Wilfrid established a school to teach the singing of Benedictine chant.

Soon after, the Vikings lead by Eric Bloodaxe took over the areas around York, and in 948, the English King, Eadred moved north to remove this invaders destroying Ripon Cathedral in the process. Little is known of the history of the Cathedral until around 1180 when Archbishop Roger initiated a Norman church on the site. Building work continued and was modified and completed in around 1260 by Archbishop Walter de Grey.

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