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Unusual installations in Church of England cathedrals

By Cian Molloy - 10 August, 2019

The helter-skelter at Norwich Cathedral.

What is the weirdest thing that you have ever seen in a church or cathedral?

On the other side of the Irish Sea, two Church of England cathedrals have added some unusual installations to their décor.

Last month, Rochester Cathedral in Kent installed a nine-hole crazy golf course in its nave, with each hole in the course featuring a different bridge as an obstacle to be negotiated. The Cathedral chapter said it hopes that visitors will not only learn about faith while visiting the building, but that they will also learn about “building emotional and physical bridges”.

The Rochester Cathedral crazy-golf course was developed and paid for by the Rochester Bridge Trust. It includes models of a bridge that the Romans built to cross the Medway at Rochester and a model of the Queen Elizabeth II bridge that crosses the Thames at Dartford.

Formally known as the Cathedral of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Rochester Cathedral can trace its foundation back to 604 and the evangelical work of Justus, a disciple of St Augustine of Canterbury, the Apostle of England.

The Cathedral’s current canon for mission and growth, the Rev Rachel Phillips, said: “For over 1,400 years, Rochester Cathedral has been a centre of learning for the community. By temporarily installing an educational adventure golf course we aim to continue that mission, giving people the opportunity to learn while they take part in a fun activity, in what for many might be a previously un-visited building.

“The course forms the centre-piece of a ‘Building Bridges’ theme running through the summer. As well as the physical bridge which has stood over the River Medway since Roman times, the invisible but equally historic links between the Cathedral and the surrounding community are also bridges of a kind.

“We hope that, while playing adventure golf, visitors will reflect on the bridges that need to be built in their own lives and in our world today.”

Now Norwich Cathedral has followed suit with a novelty of its own: a helter-skelter in front of the main altar. The aim of the 50ft high fairground ride is to give visitors to the Cathedral a better view of its decorative ceiling.

Dating back to the 12th century, the Cathedral of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in Norwich is one of the finest and largest church buildings in England, with the country’s second-largest cloister and second tallest spire.

Canon Rev Andy Bryan said the idea for installing the helter-skelter came to him while admiring the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Not everyone is happy with these additions. According to the BBC, the Rev Gavin Ashenden, a former chaplain to the Queen, described the helter-skelter as “a mistake”.

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