Cathedrals are getting ready to join their European counterparts – including Notre Dame for the first time since it was devastated by fire – and open their doors after hours.
They will open to welcome visitors of all ages to see and experience their historic, sacred spaces in a new light for the Cathedrals At Night campaign.
Here, visitors can join in Eurovision with a live screening, discover secret chambers and rarely-seen treasures, join in a lantern procession, build a cathedral out of Lego, hear the lay clerks sing plainsong, enjoy meditative music, prayer stations, or walk a labyrinth.
Cathedrals at Night 2023. What will you Discover?
This Saturday (May 13) sees a number of English cathedrals, St Davids Cathedral from the Church in Wales and, for the first time, St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick open their doors after hours.
Portsmouth Cathedral is live screening Eurovision this Saturday for a very special Cathedrals At Night event. Visitors can join in the fun of Eurovision either by watching the show or through a Eurovision themed interactive quiz. The cathedral will be open from 7pm until midnight, with the Eurovision screening starting at 8pm. Visitors can dress up in their best Eurovision outfit and come for the whole show, which will be up on the big screen to watch, or simply pop in. Refreshments will be available for purchase, with a portion of the profits to be donated to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.
Find out more here.
Chichester Cathedral is sharing its secret spaces in a free flow “Secret Spaces” experience. Visitors can join the librarians in the Library at the top of 40 spiral stairs and explore an early collection of books including an early edition of Chaucer and a book containing the signature of John Donne or find the Seffrid Guild in the Canons Vestry and enjoy a rare look at intricate vestments. Other secret spaces include the hidden chamber in Chichester’s 15th century Chapter House, now a Song School for the Choir, and there’s the opportunity to get a glimpse into the organ loft via a video link as the organists perform throughout the event. Chichester’s Cathedral At Night event will close with Compline service by candlelight in the Lady Chapel.
Visitors to Hereford Cathedral’s Cathedral At Night event can discover its Mappa Mundi and Chained Library for free, there are special evening guided tours, there’s Lego building, a performance on its famous Father Willis organ and time to reflect in the calm of their crypt lit completely by candles.
Find out more here.
Southwark Cathedral will be open from 6.30-9pm and is encouraging visitors to stay for as little or as long as they want. The evening will open with the Lay-Clerks singing plainsong, there will be a performance of the atmospheric Piéces de Fantaisie by Louis Vierne on the Cathedral organ given by our Sub-Organist and Assistant Director of Music, Simon Hogan. Visitors will also be able to walk their Labyrinth and enjoy space for meditation, prayer or just soak up the atmosphere of the Cathedral as it moves from daylight to dusk.
There is an Eventbrite page set up, but people are very welcome to drop in.
Visitors can explore Durham Cathedraltoo as it opens its doors for a special evening event. There are tower tours for visitors to climb the 325 steps to see the lights of the city, or learn more about the treasures of St Cuthbert with free entry to the Durham Cathedral Museum.
There is a small charge for some of the specialist tours. Find out more here.
St Davids in Wales will start their Cathedrals At Night with the Community Choir singing Songs For The Evening, there is a special exhibition telling the story of St David, a chance to see unique books in the library, guided visits to the Treasury, visitors can make their own lantern and join in the lantern procession as it draws dark, and the evening will end at 10.30pm with a candlelit service of Compline.
And for the first time, St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick is taking part in Cathedrals At night and will start at 4pm with a special concert, this will be followed by self-guided tours, a talk revealing some of the secrets of the cathedral, an organ recital and the evening will close with a service of Compline by candlelight.
Read more about it here.
The night before, Friday 12 May, St Paul’s Cathedral will host its Cathedral At Night Event inviting visitors to experience its rich spiritual heritage and experience Compline at 8.30pm, a service of quietness and reflection before rest at the end of the day.
Entry is free of charge but please note that access will be to the main Cathedral Floor only, with no access to the Galleries, Triforium or Crypt.
More details here.
Co-ordinated by the Association of English Cathedrals (AEC) for 2020 Year of Cathedrals, Year of Pilgrimage, Cathedrals at Night is the first nationwide project that brings together the 42 Church of England cathedrals, Westminster Abbey, Cathedral Isle of Man, and St Davids and St Asaph from the Church in Wales, around a single, simple campaign.
Cathedrals at Night is an opportunity for cathedrals to reach new audiences and re-engage with those more familiar with cathedral life, by offering a mix of cultural, heritage and spiritual activities some of which will go on until late – and all of them are free.
There will be space available in all the cathedrals for quiet prayer, reflection or simply just to be in these sacred spaces. Some will offer short services, and many will have chaplains available if people want to talk.
The aim is that people who would not normally come into a cathedral will visit and find welcome and an opportunity to explore and understand what a cathedral is and does, and that those more familiar with cathedrals will experience them in a new way.
The concept has been used very successfully in European cathedrals which first launched in 2008 and open on the second Saturday in May every year. It is hoped Cathedrals at Night will become a regular fixture here too.
This year, seven cathedrals – Chichester, Durham, Hereford, Portsmouth, Southwark, St Davids in Wales (The Church in Wales) and St Mary’s in Limerick (Church of Ireland) are opening on May 13 – to chime with our European neighbours including Notre Dame, Lille, Grasse, Bayeux and Strasbourg.
St Paul’s Cathedral will open this Friday (May 12) while other English cathedrals have plans to host Cathedral At Night events at other dates throughout the year.