There are two cathedrals in Essex, the Anglican Chelmsford Cathedral, and the Roman Catholic Brentwood Cathedral. Until very recently I hadn’t managed to visit either of them, which is a shame, because I love cathedrals and churches, and have visited many over the years.
I visited Chelmsford Cathedral on a cold grey day at the beginning of February, and I’m so pleased that I’ve finally been, because it may be small, but it’s perfectly formed.
The cathedral is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, St Peter and St Cedd. It was originally a parish church, and became a cathedral in 1914 when the Diocese of Chelmsford was created. So in the long history of the Church of England at just over a hundred years old it’s a relatively new cathedral, which is just how it feels, new and light and bright. A young cathedral, in England’s newest city.
It’s a small cathedral, so there are few side chapels and alters, but that encourages you to stand still and take in your surroundings rather than wander around wondering whats around the next corner, worrying about what you might be missing.
Your eyes are drawn upwards to the beautifully painted ceiling, the stained glass windows, and then along the aisle to the altar, covered on this visit by an altar-cloth depicting the journey of St. Cedd in 654, from Lindisfarne to St. Peter’s Chapel in Bradwell and then to West Tilbury. The embroidery is a modern design, and so in keeping with the architecture and atmosphere of the cathedral.
Over the past few years, the cathedral has commissioned some strikingly beautiful pieces of art, which explore Christianity and the Anglican Church. I know very little about church art, so recommend that you have a look at the art page of the cathedral’s website. However, I was struck by the two curved black pulpits with gold decoration, the Tree of Life by Mark Cazalet, and a very simple shallow font.
On a grey day in the middle of winter when spring still seems so far away, this visit lifted my spirits. It’s nearly time to forget the cold days of winter and look forward to the light days of spring
So that’s one Essex cathedral visited, I’m going to start planning a visit to Brentwood Cathedral now. Maybe I’ll combine it with a visit to the Secret Nuclear Bunker – which would be a very strange combination of places to visit!