Carlisle Cathedral celebrates its 900th anniversary with a year of special events

Visitors are invited to take time to gaze at the stars on the ceiling of Carlisle Cathedral as part of its 900th anniversary celebrations. Photo: Johnny Becker

Visitors are urged to take time out to gaze at the stars – as a major program of events kicks off today to celebrate the 900th anniversary of Carlisle Cathedral.

The Rest Under the Stars event this summer will see part of the cathedral transformed into a resting place where people can relax on deckchairs to admire the stars on its world-famous painted ceiling.

Headphones with specially created soundscapes will add to the restful atmosphere of the event, which is part of a year-long celebration in 2022 to mark 900 years since the founding of Carlisle Cathedral.

The program of worship, events, lectures, concerts and exhibitions is themed Journey and Rest to reflect the Cathedral’s role as a resting place in the turbulent history of Carlisle and the Border Region .

Highlights include a talk by Cumbrian broadcaster and author Melvyn Bragg on March 18; a summer music season celebrating the history and musical life of the cathedral; a series of exhibitions, launched with a collection of images of English cathedrals by renowned photographer Peter Marlow (January 29 to February 27); and projects involving schools and communities across Cumbria.

Worship is at the heart of the celebrations, with the Archbishop of York, the Right Reverend and Right Honorable Stephen Cottrell, taking part in the Cathedral Trinity Sunday service on June 12, and former canons and deans of Carlisle returning as visiting preachers throughout the year. .

Reverend Canon Dr Benjamin Carter, who is Director of Canon at Carlisle Cathedral, said: “The past two years have been a time of enormous challenges for everyone.

“Our 900th anniversary program of events aims to provide people with the opportunity to rest from the bustle of everyday life, which the cathedral has provided to Carlisle and its diocese throughout its history.

“We work with several charities and organizations throughout the year to create a year to remember. For the installation Rest Under the Stars, the local arts charity, Prism Arts,

help us transform part of the cathedral into a place of rest and relaxation where people can leave everyday life behind.

Canon Carter said the cathedral was an integral part of the region’s heritage, providing a place of rest over the centuries that continues today.

“For 900 years Carlisle Cathedral has continued to serve faithfully the diocese, the city and the county,” he said.

“It has acted as a place of rest throughout its history, welcoming and sheltering visitors, travelers and pilgrims, and, as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, the program of events, activities and pledge to mark this special anniversary will allow people to be part of this continuing life of travel and rest in different ways.

As part of the 900th anniversary celebrations, Church of England schools in the Diocese of Carlisle are invited to join in an art project to create a maze of schools, which will be installed in Fratry Hall, while Cumbria University students create an exhibition exploring the theme of Travel and Rest through the heritage of the Cathedral.

Melvyn Bragg, Lord Bragg of Wigton, will give a lecture in the cathedral on the influence of William Tyndale’s groundbreaking translation of the Bible on modern English, with Choral Evensong and an aperitif in Fratry Hall held before the event.

The anniversary program also includes events coinciding with the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 festival, which also takes place in 2022.

Carlisle Cathedral was founded by King Henry I as an Augustinian priory in 1122 and became the cathedral church of the new Diocese of Carlisle in 1133.

The golden stars painted on the blue ceiling of the cathedral date from the 19th century and have become a world famous feature.

The lead sponsor of the Carlisle Cathedral 900th Anniversary program is Carlisle-based estate agent Hayward Tod.

Many of the program’s events are supported by grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Friends of Carlisle Cathedral.

They will take place in and around the Cathedral, notably at Fratry which reopened in 2020 following a major restoration project of the old medieval refectory including a new café extension.

For the full schedule of events and to book tickets, visit

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