Chester Cathedral is seeking to become a beacon of light and hope, for the city and beyond, as its annual Christmas Tree Festival opens this week.
Despite all the challenges 2020 has thrown at us, the team at Chester Cathedral are resolute in putting on their annual celebration of magnificent Christmas decorations.
The Christmas Tree Festival is returning with over 40 trees decorated by schools, local businesses and charities. To ensure social distancing, the trees will be spread across the entire building.
Like many organisations, the pandemic has had a severe effect on Chester Cathedral’s finances.
Despite restructuring to survive the first lockdown, the November lockdown has cost the charity – which is independent of the Church of England – more than £100,000 and leaves it financially insecure as it moves into 2021.
The dean of Chester, the V Rev Dr Tim Stratford notes: “This year has been very hard for the cathedral community, however, we felt very strongly that we had to bring joy and hope to the people of Chester and beyond.
“We have, therefore, invested in two beautiful and emotional installations that become a part of our Christmas Tree Festival this year.
“This has resulted in us charging a nominal £2.50 per adult – children remain free of charge.
“It’s a very small fee to be able to enjoy a wonderful event, and help your cathedral remain at the heart of your city.”
Starry Starry Night
Starry Starry Night – an installation by sculptor Peter Walker – is designed as a stunning visual interpretation of the star of Bethlehem.
The installation depicts a constellation of stars that are individually suspended from hundreds of gold and silver ribbons, creating a beautiful and moving installation within the crossing of the cathedral.
Starry Starry Night symbolises the night sky with the one star, the star of Bethlehem, suspended in the centre of the installation as a symbol of hope and light for all to see.
The Leaves of the Tree
The Leaves of the Tree, also from Peter Walker, is a nationally touring art installation designed to provide people with an opportunity to personally reflect on the coronavirus pandemic.
It has been designed to honour those who have passed away during the pandemic, but also to allow everyone to take a moment to contemplate what we have been through and to think about loved ones.
Established as a reflective memorial, the installation is made up of 5,000 steel leaves with the word HOPE written on them, laid out on the floor of the cathedral’s Chapter House, creating a beautiful impression of autumn leaves fallen from the trees.
Appearing as though naturally scattered by the wind, the leaves symbolise the past.
However, the leaf is also emblematic of hope for the future. The shape of a maple leaf has been chosen because it symbolises, strength, protection, eternity as well as clarity.
Both installations are a part of Chester Cathedral’s Christmas Tree Festival which is open until Sunday 3rd January 2021.