Chester Cathedral seeks to become a beacon of light and hope for the city and beyond, as its annual Christmas Tree Festival opens this week, and gleams with shimmering stars.


Despite all that 2020 has been, the team at Chester Cathedral are resolute to celebrate the Christmas season in style, as their famous Christmas Tree Festival returns, 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 businesses in the city, the pandemic has had a severe effect on the 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 – over £100,000 and leaves it financially insecure as it moves into 2021.

The Dean of Chester, the Very Revd 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 – 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. 

Meanwhile, 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 out and contemplate what we have been through and to think about loved ones.

A reflective memorial to the pandemic, the installation is made up of 5,000 steel leaves with the word HOPE written upon, 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, that which has transpired.  However, the leaf is not only emblematic of the past but also hope for the future and the shape of a sycamore maple leaf has been chosen because it symbolises, strength, protection, eternity as well as clarity.

Both installations are a part of the Cathedral’s Christmas Tree Festival which opens on Thursday 3 December until Sunday 3 January 2021.

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Chester Cathedral is many things to many people: a vibrant community of worship, an ancient abbey, an archaeological treasure, a cultural hub, a centre of musical excellence, a unique blend of modern and medieval history.

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