Ripon Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Britain, with it’s Saxon crypt, dedicated in 672 AD. The above ground structure is a delight and as with most British Cathedrals is an exercise in architectural style. We visited last weekend and were lucky to see the sun shining through the array of stained glass.
Dedicated to St Wilfred, Ripon has a number of highlights. Firstly comes the wonderful facade of the west end. This is functional and straightforward and a splendid exercise in unity. Its beautiful lancet windows are a fine example of Early English gothic from the thirteenth century, but without the ornate fuss of Lincoln and Salisbury.
There are earlier works from the twelfth century around the tower, transepts and ends of the nave. Here lies one of Ripon’s distinctive features; the mismatched arches. The tower collapsed in 1450 and the rebuilding was delayed during the War of the Roses. The Nave was rebuilt in the perpendicular style in the sixteenth century and the transitions were never completed. The arches at the ends of the nave act as an earlier attempt to rebuild.
To complete the history of English medieval architecture the Quire is a mismatch of the perpendicular and the earlier decorated gothic. The quire also has a finely carved wooden choir and set of misericords, seats for the clergy to rest during the longer passages of the service!
Ripon’s final distinctive feature is the crossing screen; the opening to the quire. A set of statures of kings, prophets and saints adorns the entrance and was restored in the twentieth century with new works and repainted to resemble the original. While these works are recent the depiction of the Holy Trinity in the centre is original from the 14th century.
The stained glass fills all the windows. There is very little medieval glass remaining and what there is has been combined into fragment windows. However there are many fine monuments to the nineteenth and twentieth century patrons including the ten lancets of the Great West Window, constructed by Burlison and Grylis in the 1880s and the wonderful hanging glass of the Emerson Memorial of 2005.
A cathedral is never complete and the Dean and Chapter of Ripon are launching into a new project to update the facilities for the twenty first century. Wishing them the best of luck with financing and completing these works.
A Wing and a Prayer. Ripon is ‘quiet’ when compared with its larger neighbours such as York and Durham, but more than worth going out of your way to visit, Do go now and see the ten thousand angels in the roof of the nave made by 300 local schoolchildren.