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155 Salisbury Cathedral - Chorister Bishop 2016 _ photo by Ash Mills
07/12/2016

New chorister bishop

The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, stepped down during Evensong and 13-year-old Beatrice Fisher from Year 8 took his place during Salisbury Cathedral's annual Chorister Bishop’s ceremony held on the nearest Sunday to St Nicholas Day (6 December). Beatrice is only the second girl Chorister Bishop in the Cathedral’s lifetime.

The ceremony harks back to the Middle Ages when the Boy Bishop held sway from St Nicholas Day until Holy Innocents Day at the end of December, empowered to make decisions on the disposal of benefices (or church appointments) that fell vacant within this period, as well as presiding over all services. The practice continued right up until the reign of Henry VIII, who put a stop to it declaring it a distraction from proper church business. His daughter Mary I brought it back, only for her successor Elizabeth I to banish the Boy Bishops once again. It was revived in its present form during the 1980s.

In keeping with tradition, during the service Bishop Nicholas sits bareheaded in the sanctuary whilst Beatrice, bedecked in her robes and mitre, wearing her ring and carrying her staff, leads the prayers, receives the collection, delivers a sermon she has written herself and gives the final responses.

The symbolic exchange of power takes place during the Magnificat as the words “He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek” are sung. The service is a reminder to the church and clergy that they must always consider those that are ‘humble and meek’, particularly children.

Photo by Ash Mills

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