The designs of ten talented schoolchildren from our region have been chosen to go through to the final of a competition to create two new gargoyles for Ripon Cathedral.
More than a thousand schoolchildren from across North Yorkshire submitted entries for the competition, which is being run as part of a project of repairs currently being undertaken in the north east corner of the cathedral – where worn out stonework and crumbling gargoyles are being replaced.
Cathedral Architect Oliver Caroe and two expert stone carvers were amongst the judges. “We’ve had an age range from about four to 13 and there are some really extraordinary, skilful drawings,” said Mr Caroe, “the amount of creative talent is immense.”
Gargoyles were traditionally used to help ward off evil spirits and show that within the church you were protected from evil. The vital work to replace the figures and other historic stonework is being funded by the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund.
Mr Caroe explained: “There are two key criteria, firstly the design has to be something that can be realised in stone – so you can’t have long arms sticking out or they will fall off! You have to have a nice compact design that can be carved. Secondly, one has to have features that are grotesque – gargoyles are about frightening people so some of those things have to be there is the design. There’s a more difficult criteria though, in that we want designs that are in the spirit and character of the existing gargoyles on the cathedral and for some that will disappoint – no Daleks, no Dr Whos, no Yodas – that sort of thing won’t work here.”
The top ten designs are currently on display at Ripon Cathedral and members of the public are now invited to come along and cast their vote. The winning children will work with the architect and stone carvers to see their ideas brought to fruition – taking their place on the cathedral for centuries to come.
“This is going to create a set of memories for children which will stay with them for ever,” said Mr Caroe, “not just them but their children and possibly their grandchildren will be introduced to the idea of the brilliant material stuff of cathedrals because they will always be pointing up saying: “My grandad designed that!” That is a legacy that you can’t buy – that’s really, really wonderful.”
The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson said: “It’s a fascinating project – it’s engaged with over a thousand young people across the region. It’s an odd project in some ways – here we are in the 21st Century asking young people to design a gargoyle in a medieval style.
“The great thing about gargoyles is that in a sense they were a warning of the power of evil and the ways in which evil could spoil life on planet Earth and that’s still the case in the 21st Century.
“My hope, however, is that the children create a design which is full of excitement and amusement and which engages people looking at the gargoyles for centuries to come – but which still retains something of the original old purpose – to warn against those forces that would work against God.”
The top ten designs are currently on display in the north transept of Ripon Cathedral and voting will take place until May 21 with the winners announced on May 22.
If you want to find out more about the judging process check out Ripon Cathedral’s Facebook page at facebook.com/cathedralripon.