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Flower Festival at Chichester Cathedral

by Patrick and Moira Allen

Every other year, for the past fourteen years, the cold stones of Chichester's 800-year-old cathedral come to life with a dazzling profusion of blooming colour: The Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival. Groups, guilds and individuals vie with one another to produce the most spectacular display, decking chapels, tombs and chantries with vivid bouquets and carefully planned arrangements. In the RAF chapel, for example, flowers are arranged to depict propeller blades, while in the newly refurbished St. John chapel, an artful pile of blossom-decked timbers depicts the collapse of the cathedral spire in 1861. Some exhibits (like the spire) reflect the history of the church, while others take on more spiritual themes, such as the bouquets symbolizing "repentance and forgiveness" at the pulpit. Still others honor the temporal sphere: In the Lady Chapel, bouquets represent different parts of the world, and (where possible) incorporate flowers from those regions. But most dramatic are the contrasts: The vivid hues of flowers against the natural tones of stone and wood; the juxtaposition of ephemeral blossoms that will fade within days against stones hewn centuries ago and that may stand for centuries to come. Yet even here it's difficult to say which is the most eternal: The hewn stones, which may in time collapse (like that unfortunate spire), or the flowers themselves, which, though short-lived, were blooming before the cathedral was built and will continue to bloom long after it is gone. What better way to express the mystery of rebirth and eternal life?

Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

"A market for the poor"
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

A carpet of colour spills from the "Chagall window"
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

Flowers adorn the statue of St. Richard, the cathedral's founder.
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

The church as it appeared before the collapse of the original spire.
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

A dove perches upon the "collapsed" spire.
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

A child's Christmas tea-party.
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

"Christening," from the "Celebrations of Life" display.
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

"Wedding," from "Celebrations of Life."
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

The wedding cake looks good enough to eat!
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

"Funeral," from "Celebrations of Life."
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

Propeller blade from the RAF Chapel display.
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

Exotic blooms represent the Pacific Islands.
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

A lavish display of gold garlands an interior doorway....
Chichester Cathedral Flower Festival

While real fruits and vegies garland the door leading to the food tent.
For more information on Chichester Cathedral, visit http://www.chichestercathedral.org.uk


Moira Allen has been writing and editing professionally for more than 30 years. She is the author of seven books and several hundred articles. She has been a lifelong Anglophile, and recently achieved her dream of living in England, spending nearly a year and a half in the history town of Hastings. Allen also hosts the Victorian history site VictorianVoices.net, a topical archive of thousands of articles from British and American Victorian periodicals. Allen currently resides in Maryland with her husband Patrick.
Photos © 2008 by Patrick and Moira Allen

 

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For information on reprinting articles or photos on this site, please contact Moira Allen, Editor