A fallen angel at Ripon Cathedral has prompted the undertaking of a £100,000 project to preserve medieval carvings which draw thousands of visitors a year.
Years of dust and general wear and tear have taken their toll on these remarkable works – which are of national significance.
One angel, who fell not from heaven but from the canopy directly above the stalls where our lay clerks (adult singers) sit, will need to be replaced whilst the rest of the heavenly host need a good clean.
Restoring Fallen Angels is a project which will see the preservation of some 70 angels residing in the medieval quire as well as work to restore the canopies above the choir stalls to their former splendour.
In addition the misericords (the tiny seats with ornate engravings underneath upon which the choir and clergy perch) also need to be mended. One such carving – in the Mayor’s Stall – is said to have inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Carroll’s father was a canon at the cathedral and the carving depicts a rabbit going down the rabbit hole.
The word misericord derives from latin word for pity – these ledges were used by monks who would otherwise have had to stand during lengthy services.
Ripon Cathedral’s Director of Operations Julia Barker said: “The carvings are so significant -we need to take care of them properly. This work will enable us to discover a lot more about them and how we can look after them so that they can be enjoyed by future generations.”
The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson added: “I am very grateful to those who have provided the funds to make this crucial conservation project possible. Angels often attract interest. Recently it was revealed that even some atheists believe in angels! Angels are actually God’s messengers, as Mary and Joseph both knew well from the time of Jesus’ birth. This project might just prompt us to consider what God is asking his angels to communicate to our society today.”
The conservator has spent the past few weeks testing different methods of cleaning including laser cleaning – the aim is to remove the dust whilst leaving the finishes untouched.
This painstaking process will pave the way for two months of work in the autumn when fallen angels will be restored, misericords mended and canopies cleaned. Restoring Fallen Angels is being carried out thanks to funding from the Headley Trust and the Harrogate based Charles and Elsie Sykes Trust along with continued fundraising.