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Cathedral celebrates 800th anniversary despite lockdown

by Michael Ford last modified 01 May, 2020 10:36 PM

On the 28th of April 1220 the first foundation stone of what was to be the new Salisbury Cathedral was laid and 800 years later, despite coronavirus our Cathedral has been celebrating this special anniversary.

While the present lockdown had put pay to many of the planned celebrations, the largest ever contemporary art exhibition held at the Cathedral has still be put in place and can be accessed virtually, and the anniversary itself was celebrated with a special online Service of Thanksgiving.

Bishop Nicholas will also be leading a broadcast service that marks the 800th anniversary on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday morning. (click here)

Tuesday's Thanksgiving Service (click here) included a dramatised account of the move from Old Sarum and the foundation of the new Cathedral with the cathedral choristers narrating the story and a "guest appearance" from Bishop Nicholas playing Osmund, the first Bishop of Sarum.

The dramatisation by the Cathedral choristers, which was recorded in their homes, was taken from material held in the Cathedral archive and told how Bishop Richard Poore and the Chapter made a decision in 1218 to relocate the Cathedral from its former site at Old Sarum and build a new one in its current location - New Sarum.

The choristers told of how the site at Old Sarum was too exposed, those worshipping complaining they could not hear themselves above the noise of the wind, and that they had to get their water from the castle.

The choristers also reminded listeners of the Legend of the Arrow. How an archer, based at Old Sarum, decided where to build the Cathedral by shooting an arrow down into the valley. The arrow hit a deer, and legend has it the deer came to rest where the present Cathedral stands.

The move onto the plain brought water and calm in abundance and gave birth to the city of Salisbury, which grew up around the Cathedral and its close.

Undaunted by the challenge of marking such a significant day virtually, the liturgy and music team led by Canon Anna Macham, Canon Precentor of Salisbury Cathedral created the online service that included The Gospel reading used for the original feast day of St Vitalis of Milan which, according to the Register of St Osmund that is held in the Cathedral archive was the day the foundation stone was laid.

The choristers also provided the hymns for the service, each recording their parts separately at home.

Canon Anna said:

"Many thanks to Salisbury Cathedral School’s headmaster Clive Marriot, and teacher Jake Reynolds, for helping make this happen.

"We will be celebrating the anniversary more fully later in the year when the Cathedral is open again for public worship, but for the time being we have brought the Cathedral to you in this celebratory service, in which we give thanks for the many blessings of this beautiful building, built to the glory of God, over the centuries."

Bishop Nicholas also recorded a blessing to end the special service.

While some of the pieces in the Spirit and Endeavour Exhibition are outside, like the amazing Stairway by Danny Lane, that has water cascading down a glass staircase that looks like it is heading for heaven, those placed inside the Cathedral can be viewed through a virtual art tour. More on the exhibition here.

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