St Wilfrid founds the church of St Peter in Ripon
In the mid-seventh century, St Wilfrid, then abbot of the monastery at Ripon, took the bold step of building a stone basilica with a crypt, so bringing to the kingdom of Northumbria a style of building that he had seen in Rome. The church above-ground has been rebuilt more than once on a grander plan than Wilfrid’s, but his crypt survives intact and has been a very special place for more than 1300 years. It is a national treasure and makes Ripon unique since it is the oldest structure of any English cathedral.
St Wilfrid Dies
St Wilfrid, who built the stone church at Ripon, with its still-surviving crypt, died in 710. Only four years later, an account of his life was written by a monk, known to us as Stephen of Ripon. He tells us that this was the first church to be built by Wilfrid, and that the church and its monastic community remained the favourite of all of his foundations.
Wilfrid’s Church destroyed by Eadred
Destruction of second church during Harrying of the North
Third church built by Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux
Present church built by Archbishop Roger de Pont l’Eveque
Roger de Pont l’Évêque, Archbishop of York 1154-81, set about building a magnificent new church over Wilfrid’s crypt in order to promote pilgrimages to his tomb.
Collapse of part of central tower
Choir stalls carved
Ripon is famed for its misericords, dating from between c.1489 and 1494. Remarkably, despite the severe damage of the Civil War, when the medieval glass was destroyed, the misericords survived intact. Three hands can be detected in these masterpieces of the carvers’ art, and very unusually, for a period when carvers are commonly anonymous, it has been possible to determine that they were created by the workshop of the Bromflet family, known in the Ripon historical record along with other named local carvers from around this date. With characters in the dress of the time, they present moralistic scenes, mythological creatures, and some biblical and doctrinal episodes, with extraordinary vigour and power.
Widening of the nave
Damage by Parliamentary troops
Collapse of central spire
Ripon Minster becomes Ripon Cathedral
Ripon Minster continued as a collegiate church, as established by the 1604 charter of James I, until the nineteenth century, when the first new diocese to be established in England in the post-Reformation period was formed, with Ripon as its cathedral.