The chunky twin towers of the great west front of Ripon Cathedral give it the appearance of a big friendly church, honey coloured by the sun. It dominates this little Yorkshire town where a minster church has stood since the mid-7th century. In AD 672, after his grand tour of Europe, St. Wilfred built one of the first stone churches in Saxon England on this site. Amazingly the tiny crypt of this building still survives beneath the tower crossing. A replica of Christ's tomb, it is the oldest complete Saxon crypt in the country - and you can even go down into it and have a look!
The present Ripon Cathedral displays architectural features from across the range of the medieval period, though it is largely Norman transitional (choir & transepts) and Perpendicular (nave). It once had three spires. The central one fell in 1660 and the others were removed not long afterward. It was the home of Augustinian Canons until they were removed in 1547. It did not receive Cathedral status until 1836.
Ripon houses many treasures and is an excellent place for spotting local Northern saints, but it is perhaps best known for the detailed carving of its choir stalls. Created by a local townsman between 1489 & 91, they are the most exquisite - and amusing - examples of this medieval craft. Look out for the particularly well proportioned elephant and the griffin & rabbit misericord which inspired Lewis Caroll.
The cathedral is a regular place of worship owned by the Church of England. A donation is requested upon entry.
Next Stop: Jervaulx Abbey