The religious community in Ripon was started by St. Cuthbert around 650 CE. The land was given to St. Cuthbert by the sub-king of Northumbria, Alhfrith. Around 660 Alhfrith transferred the land to St. Wilfried who built a crypt and started a Benedictine Rule there. The crypt was destroyed by the Danes in 948, though was rebuilt by later centuries. After the Norman Conquest, Ripon changed from a minister church to a secular group of seven canons that governed the region. The canons were called ‘Riponshire’ and the area attracted many pilgrims. Dust from the church was said to cure cattle and farmers brought their plows to be blessed by the church officials.
In the 12th century Roger de Pont L’Eveque, the Archbishop of York, started to design cathedral architecture to be built around the crypt in Ripon. Throughout the years raids and faulty architecture lead to collapses and a constant rebuilding of the cathedral. The constant rebuilding, in turn, lead to a variety of architecture styles seen in the cathedral today. For example, the Great East Window, shown below, is in the Decorated Style. The Great Window also contains a smaller Rose window seen at the top of the window.
The original Norman arches are seen in the North and West side of the cathedral, while the new Gothic style arches are seen on the East and South side of the cathedral. Inside, the nave is built in the perpendicular style by Christopher Scune from 1502 to 1521. Other treasures found inside the cathedral include the Ripon Jewel. This medieval artifact was found during a renovation of the Cathedral in 1976. The Jewel is believed to have been used on a reliquary box or on a jeweled Gospel book cover. There is an image of the Ripon Jewel in the left most picture below.
The series of pictures above also shows some misericords, the underside of a fold-up seat, that were found in the Cathedral during a renovation. These misericords were designed by William Bromflet between 1489 and 1494, and display biblical and mythological scenes. Alice in Wonderland was said to be inspired by these misericords when Lewis Carroll, the author, visited the Cathedral as a child.
During the Reformation several of the stained glass windows in the Cathedral were destroyed, though some originals remain today. The Cathedral was also renamed as a parish church and rights were taken away from the church officials. The title of Cathedral was restored in 1836 when the diocese of Ripon was created and in 1999 the Bishop of the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds moved his headquarters to Ripon making the Ripon Cathedral a true ‘bishop’s seat.’
Today the Cathedral is going through constant updates and renovations, including, an installation of glass and bronze doors in 2012. The staff also work to extend the hospitality of St. Wilfred, the man who built the crypt that founded the Cathedral all those years ago.
Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you can walk away sufficiently enlightened about the rich history and architecture of Ripon Cathedral.
*Information found through the DVD, English Cathedrals & Monasteries Through the Centuries. Images found off Google.