For over 1300 years people have been coming to worship and pray at Ripon. The Cathedral building itself is part of this continuing act of worship, begun in the C7th when Saint Wilfrid built one of England’s first stone churches on this site, and still renewed ever 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 this site. 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 C7th chapel rests complete beneath the later grandeur of Archbishop Roger de Pont l’Evêque’s C12th minster.
A second minster – built to minister the love of God to the local community – soon arose at Ripon, but it too perished – 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. The nave was widened and the central tower partially rebuilt. Ripon Cathedral’s exquisite misericords were carved about this time. 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.
Music is an integral part of the cathedral's life in the twenty first century. Ripon Cathedral is lucky to possess an outstanding nineteenth-century organ, two talented organists and a flourishing choir school. When its own choir is not in residence, visiting choirs sing choral services.
Sacred space, Heritage site
Every day, 07.30-18.30
The Dean & Chapter invites schools to use the Cathedral as an educational resource for National Curriculum subjects and Religious Education. ‘Hands-on’ experiences available for pupils and teachers. Structured workshop sessions developed and led by experienced educationalists.
Architecture, Music, Religion
Key artists and exhibits
Angels and Dragon Trail
In order to make a visit to Ripon Cathedral more exciting for children, a group of volunteers have designed an Angels and Dragon Trail which is available free of charge at the Welcome Desk. This family trail leaflet is suitable for children up to 7 years of age.
How to obtain
Available free on request at the Welcome Desk.
Griff the Gargoyle Trail
This leaflet suggests a trail for families and children aged 7 - 14 to follow. Spot Griff around the Cathedral and see if you can find his friends, then take the leaflet home and complete the challenges on the other side of the trail map.
How to obtain
The leaflet is available in the Cathedral Gift Shop for 50 pence.