The disciples once said to Jesus, “Where do you live?” He replied, “Come and see!” No more is recorded about what they found as the message of the gospel is about who they found: a simple invitation leading to a life-changing experience.
Visiting the Cathedral Church of St Marie is not quite in the same league but it is guaranteed to provide some surprises (writes Gerry Burke, one of the volunteer guides). The story of the Cathedral places it at the heart of Catholicism in England. It was opened as a parish church in 1850, the middle of the century which saw the gradual emergence of the Catholic Church into public life and then its phenomenal growth due to population expansion and substantial immigration. This is reflected in the building:
- the capturing of a link with the ancient faith in its neo-Gothic design and the precious alabaster images dating from pre-Reformation times;
- the stained-glass windows with stories to tell about the history of salvation and the history of our diocese;
- the number of times the place has been taken apart inside and put back together again, proving it’s not a museum but a place for people and their life of faith.
And where else in the country can you find (it is said) nearly two hundred images of angels? Or the body of a priest once trundled through the streets in dead of night?
All this, and much more, is revealed during the organised tours which are easily booked through the Cathedral office. Since the refurbishment and re-opening of the Cathedral in 2012 there has been a great interest by various groups in visiting St Marie’s. Most of these have been from other Christian Churches or secular organisations rather than Catholic parishes or societies.
The volunteer guides would really like to be able to welcome more people from the parishes of the diocese. They are keen to encourage all sorts of groups, for example:
- A complete parish coach trip
- A parish UCM or similar parish society
- An ecumenical group from several local churches
- A small group of friends (maybe on a shopping or sightseeing trip)
- Other local societies to which a parishioner might belong
- Combinations of all the above!
The guides are happy to welcome any number from two to twenty (or even a few more).
The tours are free (though groups often make a donation to the Cathedral). They are held on Wednesday afternoon (apart from around Christmas and Easter), starting at 2.30pm and lasting about an hour. They need to be booked in advance. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: 0114 272 2522.