My favourite feature of Ripon Cathedral is the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. It was installed in 1970 and the striking screen was designed by Leslie Durbin, a jeweller who was commissioned to design the rear of the first pound coins and the Stalingrad Sword that was presented to Stalin by Churchill at the end of the Second World War.
The striking design of the screen shows the flames of the Holy Spirit that the New Testament says descended on the disciples. We read that the disciples were urged to go out into the world and spread the words of Jesus.
During some of our evening tours I like to start with the group sitting in the chapel having walked up the aisle in silence past the Chapter House. I then ask for individuals responses to the space they find themselves in at the start of their tour. We have some definite ‘ Marmite’ experiences from people who consider that the screen is unattractive and emphatically not appropriate for such an ancient Cathedral. Others are happy to react more positively and immediately want to share powerful thoughts about the experience.
If it seems appropriate I introduce the idea that the art work depicts a major event in the development of the worldwide Christian church. If the disciples had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and had not obeyed the instruction to go out into the world to spread the Word then we would not be in this dramatic building, and others like it, and the work of Jesus might well have been lost to the world. At this point it seems appropriate to move on with our tour and stand in the wonderful Quire, before the high Altar which is a symbol of the Christian worship that evolved from the experience of the disciples and generations of people of faith.
We explore the fact that worship has been maintained in this space for over one thousand years and I tell the group about the daily pattern of worship that takes place in this space to this very day. I try to emphasise that this building is more than a significant piece of architecture filled with interesting artefacts.
I feel that this approach to the tour on offer to the general public and specialist group’s emphasises the spiritual nature of the building and the importance of it being an important place for a variety of forms of worship and celebrations without any attempt at proselytising on my part.
Andrew Burns April 2020