There are lots of opportunities for learning at Birmingham Cathedral.
Whether you want to improve your own knowledge, or organise an educational visit for your school, college or university, there are plenty of resources to support you.
Sessions for schools
Due to conservation work currently taking place for our Divine Beauty Project, we are unfortunately unable to accommodate schools visits in the cathedral until further notice.
Please feel free to utilise our range of resources to help pupils and young people learn more about our beautiful cathedral!
Supported by a generous grant from Westhill Endowment Trust, The Arts Society Birmingham has collaborated with six different places of worship, Birmingham Faith Leaders and other organisations to produce resources designed to enhance a school visit, or to support a virtual visit. Please feel free to utilise our downloadable resources and videos below.
Birmingham Cathedral faith visit handout
Birmingham Cathedral faith visit quiz
Hearts and sounds trail – A beautifully illustrated guide to our cathedral and surrounding churchyard.
Candles in the cathedral – A learning resource suitable for Key Stage 1
Illustrated guides and arts-related activities
These arts-related cross-curricular activities are designed to provide background information for teachers and to complement the RE curriculum for Key Stages 2 and 3.
They provide opportunities to explore the arts in places of worship and to help children to be more curious and reflective. They are deliberately not listed as relevant to a particular religion so that similarities as well as differences between religions may be appreciated.
The activities are grouped in three colour-coded sections:
Imagery and Symbols of Sacred Spaces
Building Bridges with Communities
An introduction to Birmingham Cathedral
The cathedral and it’s community
Introduction to the Faith Visits project
Divine Beauty resources for schools
- Divine Beauty make a leaflet (younger children)
- Divine Beauty make a leaflet (older children)
- Divine Beauty – The Last Judgement colouring sheet
- Divine Beauty – a Christian reflection on the window
- A brief history of Birmingham Cathedral St Philip’s – COMING SOON
- Divine Beauty – The commissioning of the windows role play script
- Divine Beauty – how the windows were made – COMING SOON
- Divine Beauty – who were Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris? – COMING SOON
- Divine Beauty – who was Emma Villers-Wilkes? – COMING SOON
Nativity trail – An illustrated guide telling the story of Christmas, in the context of our stained-glass windows
Explore Birmingham Cathedral
A brief history
Birmingham Cathedral is the third smallest cathedral in the UK. It has an intriguing history that has brought us the beautiful building we have today.
In 1660 the population of Birmingham was around 6000 people, which rose to around 15,000 by the 1700s. This rapid growth of the town meant the existing parish church of St Martins was no longer adequate. Elizabeth Phillips gave the land on which a new parish church was built, and unusually as a compliment to the family, the church was named St Philips.
The parish church of St Philip’s was consecrated on the 4 October 1715. The building is a rare and fine example of elegant English Baroque architecture, and includes dome, volutes (scrolls), giant pilasters, oval windows, rusticated stonework and a balustrade with decorative urns.
In 1725, donations from the King enabled the construction of a tower, which incorporated a gilded cross, weather vane and orb. The weather vane includes a boar’s head, which is part of the Gough family crest. Richard Gough was the man responsible for securing the money needed for the tower’s completion.
Birmingham born pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones designed four stained-glass windows for St Philip’s, depicted scenes from the life of Christ. Our Divine Beauty Project pages provide more information on the windows, their creator and their restoration.
Our organ by Schwarbrick was originally positioned in a West end gallery. It is larger and more modern than when it was first installed. The most recent major changes were made by Nicholsons in 1993. For more information see the National Pipe Organ Register
Originally there were three galleries, rows of double sided pews and a triple decker pulpit. The third gallery was located across the west end of the nave, along with the organ, and was originally used by the choir. The original altar rail is no longer used as such, but can still be seen in the cathedral today.
The church that became a cathedral
The new Diocese of Birmingham was created in 1905, with Charles Gore as the first Bishop of Birmingham,. Gore decided to use an existing church as seat of the Bishop, and update St Philip’s with canon’s stalls and electric lighting to enable it’s use as a the new cathedral.
Removal of the four stained-glass windows in 1939 kept them safe in a Welsh slate mine during the Second World War, courtesy of the Civic Society. The foresight was remarkable as the cathedral suffered considerable damage caused by an incendiary bomb dropped in October 1940. By 1948 the building had been restored and rededicated.
The altar was re-ordered in the 1980’s, along with the installation of an underground meeting room and song school in the crypt. The churchyard was renovated in 2000, included new railings and paving. In 2014/15 stone repairs, new lighting and interior paintwork was completed.
Changes to Cathedral Square
There are thought to be around 60,000 burials in the Cathedral churchyard. However, only a few people could afford the luxury of a headstone when burials were commonplace in the churchyard. Today, only around 100 monuments can still be seen.
The churchyard closed to further burials in 1858, due to very poor conditions and a potential threat to public health. There are about 100 monuments visible today, and headstones are only very occasionally added to mark a person or event of significance. Most notably, a memorial to the 21 people who died in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings was erected in 1995.
The graves reveal the variety of professions that would be expected in a rapidly expanding town of the 18th and 19th centuries including surgeons, lawyers and craftsmen but also, reflecting the particular trades of this city, gun makers, and artists.
To find out about more of the incredible heritage that Birmingham has to offer visit Birmingham Heritage Forum.
All our Divine Beauty resources and materials are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.