Cathedral Builds 55-Foot Indoor Slide Allowing Visitors to See Medieval-Era Architecture

The Norwich Cathedral in Norfolk, England found an intriguing way to celebrate its medieval-era architecture—a 55-foot tall indoor slide, allowing visitors to get a close look at the decorations on the ceiling.

A ride on the massive slide—also known as a helter skelter—costs £2, and riders will be able to get a close look at the cathedral's famous medieval roof bosses. The roof bosses are carved stone decorations that tell stories from the Bible. The Norwich Cathedral has the largest collection of such bosses in the world.

The helter skelter was installed as part of the cathedral's "Seeing It Differently" event, which runs from August 8 to 18. Rev. Canon Andy Bryant, the person behind the event, said that though the slide is fun, it has serious intent.

norwich cathedral helter skelter
An artist's rendition of the Norwich Cathedral's helter skelter. Annette Hudson/Paul Hurst/Irvin Leisure/Norwich Cathedral

"Along with experiencing all the other 'Seeing It Differently' installations, we hope that climbing 40ft above the nave floor on the helter skelter will help people gain a new perspective on this ancient building and also appreciate the importance of seeing things differently—this building, ourselves and our faith," Bryant told Network Norwich.

Bryant was inspired by his visit to Rome's Sistine Chapel. Awestruck by Michelangelo's ceiling, he started thinking of ways to allow people to see his own cathedral's magnificent artwork. He says his first thought was a Ferris wheel, though that was impossible.

"I had the slightly risky thought of 'I know this is amazing, but actually the ceiling at Norwich Cathedral is every bit as wonderful'," he told The Irish News. "We have one of the greatest collections of medieval roof bosses anywhere in northern Europe. The trouble is they are so high up that most people never get a chance to really appreciate them."

Bryant said that while not everyone was on board with his idea, once he explained his reasoning, most agreed with him.

"The cathedral is about the whole of life," he said. "We celebrate very solemn things here, we have some very heartbreaking things that happen here, isn't it also appropriate to celebrate another aspect of life which is fun and our enjoyment."

The Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev. Jane Hedges sees the helter skelter as an opportunity to attract new visitors.

norwich cathedral roof boss
One of the many medieval roof bosses at the Norwich Cathedral. The cathedral has the largest collection of roof bosses in the world. Getty

"The amazing Medieval roof bosses tell the complete story of salvation from creation to the fall, the Old Testament, then the birth of Jesus and his death and resurrection. So it is a great opportunity for us to engage people with the stories of the Bible and then to get people to see how those stories might impact on their lives and how they might see life differently," she told Network Norwich. "Hopefully it will bring people into the cathedral who would not otherwise have dreamt of crossing our threshold."

The massive slide is not the only unconventional approach Norwich Cathedral is taking to attract new visitors. Next summer, Hedges hopes to bring Dippy the Dinosaur, a diplodocus skeleton at the National History Museum, to the cathedral.

"Dippy will be an amazing opportunity for us to engage with the science community and address some of the really big issues that face the human race as we look to the future," Hedges said. "Also for breaking down those barriers where people think science and faith clash. But they do not clash at all and by embracing science we can really show that our faith is relevant to everything and makes a difference to everything."

Cathedral Builds 55-Foot Indoor Slide Allowing Visitors to See Medieval-Era Architecture | Culture