Carlisle Priory was founded in 1122, by King Henry I, replacing earlier buildings on the site. Ten years later the king created the diocese of Carlisle, and the priory church became the Cathedral.
The building is constructed of red sandstone. Large scale restoration was carried out in 1853-7. The present structure has lost the greater part of its original nave, destroyed by the Scots in the 17th century.
The great East Window is one of the most distinctive features, and dominates the Choir and timber barrel vault. The intricate masonry was designed by Ivo de Raughton – the leading architect of decorative tracery in the North of England, who lived a few miles south of Carlisle. The upper windows are 14th Century. The lower nine lights which replace the medieval windows removed at the time of the Civil War, are by John Hardman of Birmingham. They date from 1861, and represent scenes from the life of Christ. Several other windows are also by Hardman, including the West window, and the North window in St Wilfred’s Chapel.
Many other things in the Cathedral are well worth studying, all described in a colour guide booklet. These include the carved oak misericords underneath the seats in the choir stalls, the decorative carved woodwork, the Bishop’s Throne by George Street (1880), the stone carvings on the capitals around the Choir which depict the Labours of the Month, the Brougham Triptych carved in Antwerp in 1510, the ceiling by Owen Jones (1856), a sculpture of the ‘Blessed Virgin and Child’ by Josefina de Vasconcellos (1990) in the nave, and an underground exhibition in the treasury. There are three other sculptures by Josefina de Vasconcellos in the fratry.
The Policeman gargoyle at the cathedral is of PC George Russell. He was shot and fatally injured at Oxenholme railway station on 10 February 1965. He and other officers were involved in a stand-off at the station with a suspected car thief, who was also in possession of a stolen gun. He is buried in Carlisle. On 21st June 2007 a plaque was was unveiled in his honour at Oxenholme station.
Within the Cathedral grounds are various other buildings of interest, including the Deanery, with its 14th century Prior’s Tower, which contains a fine painted 16th Century heraldic ceiling.
There is a gift shop in the Cathedral, which is a member of the ‘Made in Cumbria’ scheme. In an adjoining building, the undercroft of the fratry, is the ‘Prior’s Kitchen’ serving teas, coffee and hot and cold lunches.
See lot more photos of Carlisle Cathedral by Jan Fialkowski here.
Castle St, Carlisle, CA3 8TZ. Tel 01228 548151
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