Salisbury Cathedral installs 32ft Christmas tree in preparation for Advent

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Kerry Swain

Salisbury Cathedral has installed a 32ft high Christmas tree and a new nativity scene as Advent arrives.

The cathedral re-opens on Thursday 3 December and, although social distancing will limit the number of visitors, the spirit and message of Christmas remain as strong as ever.

It took an estimated 32 years to grow this Norway Spruce in Longleat Forest - a new tree will be planted in its place. Credit: ITV News Meridian

It took an estimated 32 years to grow the Norway Spruce in Longleat Forest, and so a new tree will be planted in its place. It weighs about half a ton.

Mary White has been helping with the tree for more than 30 years.

She says: "Just to represent the light of Christ which is why it's all white lights and just glass so that's really its function, it's not there as a gaudy Christmas tree like you'll find out in the high street or at the entrance."

The nativity scene contains from families faces from around the cathedral. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Nativity scenes are usually three dimensional, but the cathedral's one has been printed on silky fabric so you can see through it from either end of the cathedral.

Included in the scene are some familiar faces from around the cathedral.

Jacquiline Creswell, the Visual arts advisor & curator, says: "Baby Jesus' daddy sings in the choir and they live in the close. I saw these beautiful Renaissance paintings of the nativity, I thought there's an idea but to take it one step further I thought it would be really lovely if we could incorporate members of our community. We've got volunteers in it, we have people who I work with in the events department and stonemasons, I've got the clerk of works in it."

Salisbury Cathedral lost thousands of visitors during lockdowns and up to £2m pounds in revenue. An appeal has been launched, while the number of people allowed to visit and join services is still restricted so Christmas will be online.

Very Rev Nicholas Papadopulos, the Dean of Salisbury Credit: ITV News Meridian

Very Rev Nicholas Papadopulos, the Dean of Salisbury says: "We will be live streaming all of our principal services from this building and that means that 4,500 may seem like peanuts compared with those who can worship with us this year."

This has been one of the strangest times in Salisbury Cathedral's 800-year history, but the Christmas message hasn't changed.