With a history dating back 1,350 years – an anniversary being celebrated this year – Ripon Cathedral has an undeniable architectural importance.
But the role it plays across today’s society is just as important as the building’s place in history.
The crypt, dedicated in the year 672 remains intact, and although the rest of the building has been rebuilt through the centuries, the west front, dating to the 13th century, is regarded as one of the finest surviving examples of early English architecture, meaning the building is nothing short of impressive.
Impressive as that is, the role of the cathedral to the city of Ripon and wider society across North Yorkshire is far more than just a physical presence.
It fulfils multiple roles, from a parish function of worship with funerals, marriages and christenings, to a regional role as a cathedral for the Diocese of Leeds, taking in West Yorkshire as well as a substantial part of North Yorkshire.
However, a role which helps to set the cathedral apart is the part it plays across a wide cross-section of society, helping to bring together different elements and organisations ultimately to improve lives and offer help.
The Dean of Ripon, the Very Reverend John Dobson, said the Cathedral Rural Forum was set up around four years ago to help to reflect the rural location of Ripon and the surrounding area and to address the area’s needs.
The Forum includes North Yorkshire County Council as well as other influential bodies in the area, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks. A key asset, said the dean, was that it brought “key players in to conversations which were not really being had anywhere else.
“We discovered when we brought people together, they really valued the different engagement. We have had a number of seminars, on hill farming and its challenges, rural mental health and rural housing.
“That connects with the work of the Rural Commission; I was delighted to accept the opportunity to chair the Rural Commission,” he said.
That was made up of eight commissioners who spent two years taking an in-depth look at various aspects of the county and how challenges in areas like the economy, education, transport and the environment could be addressed.
Their work was launched at last year’s Great Yorkshire Show and revealed that the county really needs an extra 45,000 residents in the 25 to 45 age group, if it is to achieve a similar balance to other parts of the county.
It made recommendations such as building at least five new homes in each parish over the next 10 years, to help to provide an increased population, but one spread across all areas rather than focused on small development areas.
“On the whole, right across the board, organisations across the region were very supportive of what we were saying,” said the dean.
“North Yorkshire County Council took on our recommendation to have an advisory panel with real expertise to help steer the ongoing work.”
More locally in the Ripon district, the cathedral’s influence remains important: “We really enjoy working in partnerships with people in the city,” he said.
That has involved working towards making Ripon a City of Sanctuary and again with the education sector to help to create Schools of Sanctuary. The cathedral also works to support the work of the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Johanna Ropner.
Back into the spring of 2022, the cathedral’s heritage as a centre for music is now being rekindled by a new Director of Music, Dr Ronny Krippner, who is currently recruiting new choristers (boys and girls) from across the region, taking the cathedral choir to new heights.
April’s launch of its 1,350th anniversary celebrations will also reflect the cathedral’s wider role in the community, with a jazz band bringing some musical variety to a weekend of activities, which will be rounded off with a beer festival.
The weekend of activities runs from April 28, with more details available on the Ripon Cathedral website.