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Slype Door: Advent Doors 2018

Written by Sarah Meyrick, posted on Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Slype door in the CathedralDOOR 15
What on earth's a Slype when it's at home...? It sounds very Harry Potter, doesn't it?

Wikipedia tells us Slype is not be confused with Skype. Hmm. Helpful. In fact, it’s one of those niche terms specific to ecclesiastical architecture. A variation on the word ‘slip’, the word means a narrow passage. And in particular, the sort of covered walk-way often found in monasteries or cathedrals connecting the main body of the church to the Chapter House.

And that’s exactly what our Slype is. A not-quite-secret passage, only ever used by the choir, clergy or other members of the team. A way in and out of our Cathedral from the marvellous medieval cloister that once formed the heart of the original Priory.

The wrought iron on the gate features the arms of the Liddell family. Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church from 1855 to 1891, was the father of the more famous Alice. But this gate is associated with one of his other daughters, Edith, who died in her early 20s and is buried in a garden behind the Slype. Edith’s death affected the family so badly that, once the funeral was over, they never mentioned her name again. The gate was commissioned in her memory.

That sad story aside, we chose this door because of the ironwork (and because we like the name), rather than what’s behind it. In fact, we’d really rather not reveal the contents. Which is why we’re showing you the highly decorative wooden door that leads into the Cathedral instead. We could pretend that that’s because we like to retain an air of mystery in the Cathedral….but mainly it’s because, in all honesty, it’s a bit of a muddle inside.

The Slype tends to be used as a store room for all sorts of useful items. Choir robes. Music. Spare lightbulbs. Broken chairs. It smells of old plimsolls. You know the type of thing. It has all the grandeur of a cupboard under the stairs.

We’ve probably all got some kind of Slype in our homes; maybe in our lives, too. But of course it’s through this unprepossessing passageway that our wonderful Cathedral Choir emerges into the Cathedral each day. They come through the door, and pause for a fleeting moment of prayer, before processing to the choir stalls and lifting their voices heavenwards. Appearances aren’t everything, after all.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7.14)