Held over Advent weekend, the service now takes place over three evenings, with the final service being held on Advent Sunday. It is a highlight of the liturgical year and very popular. Over 1,700 worshippers queue for hours to see the stunning visual spectacle.
The evening is very dramatic. Once everyone is seated, the silent cathedral is plunged into total darkness for about a minute. The darkness is then broken by a single flame coming from the Advent Candle positioned at the spire crossing.
The choir, conducted by David Halls, then sings the Advent Responsory and two processions bearing candles move from the back of the building towards the Advent Candle.
Readings and carols are heard before the procession moves on again to the Trinity Chapel, the spire crossing and the presbytery.
Throughout the service, Taperers light ever more candles until the whole interior of the building is bathed in the light of 1300 flickering flames.
The Precentor says: “give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us an armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life.”
The service culminates with a single procession moving the entire length of the building. This beautiful and atmospheric scene takes about 4 minutes and ends with them exiting the cathedral to the sound of the organ playing Fantasia and Fuge in G minor by J S Bach.
It’s a sight not to be missed.