Bristol Cathedral

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

June, 2021

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Having visited “York Minster”: and “Canterbury Cathedral”: on previous city breaks, we wanted to visit “Bristol Cathedral”: Walking past it, we had seen a sign for the daily services which included Morning Prayer at 9.30am, Lunchtime Eucharist 12.30pm and Choral Evensong at 5.15pm. We decided Evensong fitted in best with our sightseeing programme.

It would have been a small congregation of about 20, but it was a special service with various members of the local Canonbury. The service, with the lovely choir doing all the singing, lasted around 45 minutes so we returned the following day for a more in-depth look around.

Surprisingly entrance was free, although donations were encouraged either by a traditional jar for cash or via a “tap of your card” machine. Mary, a volunteer who greeted us, gave us a brief history of the Cathedral, presented us with a map and brochure and asked if were happy to just wander, which of course we were.
Originally an Augustine Abbey, dissolved during the Henry VIII reformation, part of the original abbey became a Cathedral in 1542. We had seen the relatively modern stained-glass windows in the North Nave Aisle depicting the contribution of the various civilian forces during World War 2 which had been produced following the damage caused to the original windows. One of a nurse, had a small boy in a red dressing gown by her side, and according to Mary, during the Blitz, he’d hidden under his bed and everyone thought he’d died until he reappeared unscathed the next day. She told us he is said to be still alive and living in Bristol. She didn’t know if it was true, but it made a good anecdote for guides.

As well as traditional windows, in the South Choir Aisle was a more modern and colourful window erected in 1965, which we read was an abstract image portraying the Holy Spirit.

One of the most interesting parts for me was the long Cloister with eye level stained-glass windows, something you only usually see at high level. It was more atmospheric as a soprano was belting out scales from the nearby song room. At the end of the corridor was the café with both indoor seating and an outdoor terrace which led onto stunning gardens, planted with a huge array of colourful plants and a cross shaped into a hedge. There were lots of seats dedicated to a range of people, and it was a very calming and pleasant place for reflection.

We visited the toilets, where, in the ladies, I spotted a poster saying the toilets were twinned with one in Uganda as part of a toilet twinning “project”: which brings toilet transformation to some of the poorest places on the planet.

Helen Jackson

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