Carlisle Cathedral

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Things to do


Date of travel

June, 2017

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Entry is through the double south door in the south transept with its bands of flowers and foliage carving and carved capitals.

The nave is very short compared to the rest of the church as only two bays of the original nave survive with their sturdy round columns and arches. Above are typical round topped Norman windows. The nave is now the Regimental Chapel of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and their old standards dating back to 1745 hang from the walls.

The Norman crossing arches survive which lead into the side aisles. The damage to the stonework caused by the weight of the original Norman tower can be seen quite clearly. The North arch is definitely wonky.

In the north transept opposite the main door into the Cathedral is St Wilfred’s Chapel. The highlight here is the “Brougham Triptych”: above the altar which was carved in Antwerp in about 1515 and has scenes of the passion of Christ. Unfortunately it was wrapped in polythene on my visit.

The late C19th carved stone font is under the crossing and has three dark bronze statues round the base. The figures are the Virgin and child, St John the Baptist and St Philip.

The choir and presbytery have a very different feel to the Norman nave and are Gothic in style with multicolumn pillars with pointed arches with bands of dog tooth carving. The pillars have narrow capitals carved with vegetation and the Labours of the months.

The choir stalls are late C14th, one for each of the honorary canons and have beautifully carved hoods and misericords. They are also unique as they still have the original painted panels on the back dating from around 1485. Those facing the south aisle are protected from sunlight by a curtain and show pictures of the life of St Augustine of Hippo. During the Reformation, the paintings were defaced and covered with lime wash. This was removed in 1778 and have been cleaned and conserved since then. The stalls facing the north aisle have paintings of the life of St Cuthbert (nearest the altar), the Twelve apostles and the story of St Anthony.

The lovely barrel vaulted ceiling dates from 1400 and was rebuilt after the fire. It was restored in the mid C19th when it was painted with a blue starry sky and repainted in 1970.

The high altar has a lovely gilded canopy. Behind it is the great east window with its C14th tracery. At the top is some of the original medieval stained glass which escaped destruction by the Puritans. The rest of the glass is C19th and depicts the life of Christ.

Behind the high altar is the tomb of Samuel Waldegrave (1817-68) who was Bishop of Carlisle from 1860 to his death. Near his tomb is a replica of a sword supposedly belonging to Hugh de Morville, one of the knights who killed Thomas Becket. The original was kept in Carlisle Cathedral but disappeared during the Reformation.

The Treasury is at the back of the north aisle and contains a display of treasures from the cathedral and surrounding area. This includes examples of church plate and chalices. There are examples of medieval roof bosses, including a green man. There is a beautiful carving of Mary with the dead body of Christ, dating from around 1500. There is also a carved figure from the Brougham Triptych in the north transept, described as ‘surplus to design’. The simple lines of the late C15th wood carving of an Augustinian canon look a lot more modern.

Carlisle Cathedral is a vey attractive building. I love the wonky Norman arches – a reminder of the pressures exerted on the building by the tower. The blue chancel ceiling is wonderful and as for the painted panels at the back of the choir stalls… It is definitely worth visiting.

There are lots more pictures “here.”:


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