Thanks to Elsa van der Zee and Jerry Sampson for leading a fascinating tour of the Cathedral on 11th August for our project volunteers. We were particularly interested to learn of the links with St Cuthbert’s and the examples of the work of masons in both places.
Hearing about the iconoclastic zeal of Bishop William Barlow (1548-1553) gave the historical context for the destruction of the reredos in the Lady Chapel in the Cathedral and possibly in the north transept at St Cuthbert’s. Bishop Stillington’s Lady Chapel by the cloister (built in 1488) was blown up in 1552 after being emptied of anything removable. Was it good fortune or well practiced demolition experts that saved the Cathedral? The Saxon font had a less dramatic story but one that illustrated that people have always wanted to move with the times and keep up with the current fashion. Jerry pointed out the cuts in semi circular arches surrounding the font done in an effort to match the ‘modern’ Gothic design of the Cathedral. Looking at the canopy of honour over Bishop Bekynton’s grave gave us a glimpse of what the canopy may have been like over the reredos at St Cuthbert’s.
We ended the tour gazing at the glorious west front and its medieval heroes, saints and naked people climbing out of their coffins. No last judgement , no devils dragging folk down to hell, no condemnation in this Cathedral. For as Jerry said, this a place of resurrection and hope.
Patsy Barrow, Volunteer Coordinator