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North Transept: Advent Doors 2018

Written by Emily Essex, posted on Thursday, December 13, 2018

What makes a door remarkable? Well, in some cases, it's what you find when you open it. One of the least impressive doors in the Cathedral, the North Transept door, is distinctly lacking in grandeur. Most people wouldn't notice it, tucked back into the wall as it is. And even if you do see it lurking there you might not think it very important.

North transept door open, revealing the start of the sprial staircase up to the clerestoryBut what makes this particular door interesting is not so much the doorway itself, but what lies behind it: a spiral staircase which leads up to the clerestory. That is to say, the walkway high above the main body of the Cathedral.

From that vantage point, you can see the whole Cathedral laid out before you in full splendour. It’s an impressive sight. In a larger building this walkway would be wide enough to allow people to walk along it. But Christ Church is a little less expansive, and our clerestory would have been largely decorative in its original intention.

The name ‘clerestory’ comes from the Latin word ‘clarus’, meaning clear or bright. It is so named because of the large windows it runs past: the medieval equivalent of a spotlight to illuminate an otherwise gloomy stone building.

But times change, and we’ve gone electric! These days the clerestory is primarily used for maintenance: it allows our Clerk of Works team to access the many lights that illuminate our Cathedral and keep our services and events running even when the sun goes down.

It’s not a place you’d ever usually get to see and it’s not a place that often gets a dusting! But although this very functional space might not be the most glamourous, it is vital in maintaining the worshipping life of this wonderful building.

And whatever the view along the clerestory, the view from it is stunning.

An unimpressive walkway behind a seemingly insignificant door. Always worth remembering that treasure can be found in the most unexpected places…

We have this treasure in clay jars. (2 Corinthians 4.7)