Helter Skelter opens in Norwich Cathedral

The cathedral hopes that the helter skelter will open up conversations about faith(Photo: Norwich Cathedral)

The Dean of Norwich was the first down the new - and rather controversial - helter skelter installed inside Norwich Cathedral.

The giant spiral slide, more commonly seen in fairgrounds than inside ancient cathedrals, rises 50ft and costs £2 a go. 

It was constructed earlier in the week in the west end of the nave as part of the cathedral's Seeing It Differently project, which aims to give people the chance to experience the cathedral in an entirely new way and open up conversations about faith.

The cathedral has billed it as a "helter skelter ride like no other" offering visitors "unique views" of the building - completed in 1145 - and its famous medieval roof bosses.

The Rev Canon Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care, said he was inspired to create the project after a visit to see the Sistine Chapel and its magnificent ceiling. 

The Dean of Norwich was the first down

While there, he came to the conclusion that the ceiling in Norwich Cathedral "with its amazing roof bosses, is every bit as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel".

"It is just so high up it is difficult to appreciate," he said.  

A ferris wheel to bring people closer to the roof bosses was ruled out, as was a scaffold, before the idea of a helter skelter was settled upon. 

Reflecting on the idea, he said: "Could the playful presence of a helter skelter help to open up conversations about the building, help open up conversations about God?

The helter skelter inside the nave of Norwich Cathedral stands at 50ft tall(Photo: Norwich Cathedral)

"This unexpected presence in the cathedral would act as a draw. Climbing to its top, the visitor will literally see the cathedral differently. They will also come closer to the roof bosses and to the story they tell, the story of salvation."

Reactions on social media were mixed. The Dean of Derby, Stephen Hance, tweeted: "Looks great fun!" 

More critical responses made references to Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers. Some claimed it was an occult symbol. 

Sarah Crossland, Churches Tourism Manager at the National Churches Trust, tweeted: "Repeatedly saying that a Helter Skelter is an occult symbol doesn't make it one. Church people have fun too, I know shock horror right? Kids are kids, let them enjoy the slide for what it is, a slide. With an amazing view!" 

In comments to The Telegraph, Dr Gavin Ashenden, former chaplain to the Queen, accused the cathedral of making a "mockery" of God.

"Instead of allowing a cathedral to act as a bridge between people and God's presence, instead it obscures it by offering to entertain and divert people," he said. 

READ MORE: Crazy golf in cathedrals: a tool for mission or compromising the sacred?