Ripon Cathedral reveals programme of events to celebrate 1,350th anniversary
Last updated Mar 9, 2022

Ripon Cathedral is to celebrate the life and legacy of Wilfrid, its founding father, in a series of events marking its 1,350th anniversary.

The cathedral today revealed details of the programme, which include a sound and light show about Wilfrid’s life and an initiative to suspend stars from the nave.

Four artists will transform the cathedral’s Anglo Saxon crypt – the last remains of the church Wilfrid founded on the site and the oldest surviving building in any English Cathedral.

In addition, there will be arts, crafts, music, lectures, worship, pilgrimage opportunities, flower displays and the traditional St Wilfrid’s Day procession through the city.

The cathedral flooded the west front with words from the war poet, Wilfred Owen, and lit up in red to mark the centenary of the Armistice in 2018.

The cathedral has staged numerous art events before.

During lockdown it suspended tens of thousands of paper angels in the nave.

Now, in its anniversary year, it has lined-up a series of Wilfrid-themed initiatives.

Miracle maker

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Revd John Dobson said:

“Ripon Cathedral is here because Wilfrid was here. His life and legacy is written in these stones.  He was a miracle maker, a pioneer, a leader and a force to be reckoned with.

“He converted a pagan England and brought something of the beauty of Rome to these shores.

“In this, our anniversary year, we are committed to telling his story afresh, by breathing new life into our history and our heritage and sharing his love for beauty and the arts while ensuring worship is at the heart of all that we do, as Wilfrid, our forefather did before us.”

Tickets have just gone on sale for the anniversary launch weekend, which will take place over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

It will start on April 28 with dancing in the nave to a local jazz and swing band, a beer festival, a pilgrimage from Bradford Cathedral, and a sound and light show finale that promises to recreate Wilfrid’s miracles — including that of a lunar rainbow said to have appeared to the monks of Ripon Monastery one year after his death in 709 AD.

Ripon Bible

Other headline events throughout the year include the premiere of new digital projections from the little-known Ripon Bible.

Currently held in the special collection of the Brotherton Library at Leeds University, this illuminated document in its rich blues, golds and purples is believed to have been created by scholars in Oxford.

Pages from it have been recreated in sound and light and will be projected across the interior of the cathedral, offering visitors the chance to see it for the first time.

Ripon Cathedral

There will also be lectures from historians Tom Holland and Max Adams; a series of tours taking visitors behind the scenes, an organ festival featuring an animation created for piano and organ to tell Wilfrid’s story, while four artists, including Sara Shamma, will transform Ripon’s ancient Anglo-Saxon crypt with specially commissioned works in paint, words, tapestry, and a new light and soundscape.

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Jo Bussey, director of development, said:

“We are super excited to bring to life Ripon Cathedral’s rich heritage and history in such exciting and unique ways.

“There’s something for everyone, young and old, art buffs, historians, even pizza, and cake lovers.

Who was St Wilfrid?

Wilfrid was born into a noble Northumbrian family.

A patron of the arts, he studied at Lindisfarne before embracing the Roman ways, was deposed on more than one occasion, and yet helped to unite England behind a single Christian tradition.

It is said he was born in flames, survived shipwrecks and exile and his jailers could not keep him chained.

He was a healer, he kept people from hunger by teaching them to fish, and the moon and stars shone so bright for him that a lunar rainbow appeared on the anniversary of his death.

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