Many of us see Newcastle’s awe-inspiring Lantern Tower every day, but probably think very little about its place in the city’s history or the people associated with it.

A new documentary short will premiere at Newcastle Cathedral on Thursday 2 December at 6.30 p.m., shedding new light on this important medieval structure.

Added to the parish church of St. Nicholas (as the cathedral was then known) in 1448, the 60-foot spire is crowned by a lighthouse that has been lit for hundreds of years and used as a navigation point for sailors sailing up the River Tyne.

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Writing in 1827, historian Eneas Mackenzie described it as “one of the noblest and most admired structures that adorn our island.”

The first of its kind in Britain, the tower would inspire the famous High Kirk of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.

The Newcastle Tower was largely funded by two medieval benefactors: husband and wife Robert and Agnes Rhodes, who also donated money to other Tyneside churches and charities.

Their equal status in society is reflected in the fact that, to this day, their two coats of arms decorate the medieval baptismal font of the cathedral.

Robert’s arms feature a greyhound running atop three golden rings, while Agnes’ family is represented by a bird known as the red-billed chough or cornish cough.



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The limestone baptismal font stands directly under the bell and the boss of the ceiling of a bird, around which is engraved the inscription “Orate pro anima Roberti of Rhodes” – which translates to “Pray for the soul of Robert Rhodes “.

The stained glass windows, chantries and bells of Saint Nicholas were designed to make it the iconic church of a prosperous city.

In accordance with this, four golden statues adorn the exterior of the tower: Eve to the northeast, Adam with the apple to the northwest, Aaron dressed as a bishop to the southwest, and David with a harp to the southeast.

The tower later bears more humble signs of its makers and visitors, from stonemasonry marks to historic graffiti possibly made by builders, bell ringers or choir singers.



Newcastle Cathedral, looking north towards St James' Park - from the new film about the cathedral's historic lantern tower
Newcastle Cathedral, looking north towards St James’ Park – from the new film about the cathedral’s historic lantern tower

Many of these details, along with the jaw-dropping aerial views from the tower, will be featured in the Lantern Tower documentary which airs this Thursday.

The screening will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Chris Thompson, director of Media Borne, and local guide Alex Iles, who presents the film.

Alina Trewhitt, Head of Learning and Activities at Newcastle Cathedral, said: “We set out to capture the mysteries, the historical stories and the sheer beauty of the Lantern Tower – and we believe the film does will not disappoint you.

“We plan to offer the film as a ‘virtual’ alternative to the Lantern Tower tours, which we hope to offer in early 2022.”

Tickets for the Lantern Tower film premiere, which will take place on Thursday 2nd December at 6.30pm, are available on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis, with a minimum price of £ 1. Participants can pay on site or reserve their tickets in advance: lantern towerpremiere.eventbrite.co.uk

To plan your visit to Newcastle Cathedral, check out their website: newcastlecathedral.org.uk

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