This project aims to create completely new, poetically rich, solidarity building rituals for contemporary society. These rituals will take the Faerie Queene’s first book of ‘Holiness’ as their point of departure and will be premised on an analogy between Spenser’s questing Redcross Knight and any and all vulnerable, assailed, but would-be faithful spiritual seekers in our world today. What we aim to make are rites for communal dedication to ultimate beauty, meaning and value. The challenge will be to make liturgy that is powerful enough to transform participants, intense enough to appeal to individual passions and liberal enough for anyone to join in.

This part of the project is led by Ewan Fernie in collaboration with Andrew Shanks. Its specific task is to devise two separate liturgical events for St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle and for Manchester Cathedral. In this, it will test and explore the relationship between a diverse and changing English society and the religious and poetic traditions it inheritsin an effort to forge new poetic and religious possibilities for the cultural present and future.


St George's Chapel has been chosen because its associations with the monarchy, the established church and the patron saint of Englishness make it the ideal place to investigate the continued relevance of a specifically Anglican inheritance, all the more so because its sister institution, St George’s House, is devoted to inter-faith dialogue, the widest consideration of ethical issues and the reappraisal of historical religious texts.

Manchester Cathedral has been chosen for its very different demographic and mission. Canon Theologian, Andrew Shanks, welcomes the demise of religious respectability in Britain as clearing the way for the church to bear witness to truth more purely. He conceives of truth as an open and dynamic conversation, advocates ‘shaken poetry’ as a source of spiritual and liturgical renewal and seeks to involve everyone within and beyond the comfortable pale of Anglicanism. In addition, Manchester Cathedral is the promoter of an annual religious poetry prize and aspires to become ‘The Poetry Cathedral’ in this country.


Fernie and Shanks will work on ‘The Faerie Queene Liturgy Project’ with two major poets: Jo Shapcott (winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, the National Poetry Prize (twice) and the Forward Poetry Prize); and the eminent religious poet Michael Symmons Roberts (winner of the Whitbread Poetry Award). We are also excited to announce that Andrew Motion will provide a new poem which imagines a contemporary St George for the beginning fo the liturgy.

Liturgical Commissions

Fernie and Shanks will also consult and workshop their developing liturgies for Windsor and Manchester with two broader liturgical commissions including artists, scholars and theologians. They will meet with each group on three occasions from April 2010 (April/July/January). With Shapcott’s and Symmons Roberts’ advice, they will develop distinctive texts with each group, as a way of exploring different and common liturgical needs and possibilities. They will prepare a working draft after the first meeting, to be revised after group feedback.

Windsor Group

The Windsor group will meet at St Georges House and Royal Holloway. It includes: Ewan Fernie (Principle Investigator and Leader of 'The Faerie Queene Liturgy Project'); Andrew Shanks (Co-leader (with Ewan Fernie) of 'The Faerie Queene Liturgy Project' and Canon Theologian at Manchester Cathedral); Jo Shapcott (Co-investigator and Project Poet); Michael Symmons Roberts (Project Poet); Sarah Apetrei (Postdoctoral Fellow in Theology, Keble College, Oxford and expert in early modern female spirituality); David Fuller (Emeritus Professor of English, Durham, former University Orator and co-author of Signs of Grace); Graham Holderness (Professor of English, Hertfordshire, poet, novelist, and critic of early modern/religious literature); Kevin Morris (Vicar of St Michaels and All Angels, Chiswick); Andrew Taylor (University Chaplain 1997-2003, arts administrator, parish priest); Salley Vickers (novelist and advisor to the Liturgical Commission of the Church of England); Monawar Hussain (Muslim Tutor at Eton College); Ben Quash ( Professor of Christianity and the Arts, King’s College, London and formerly Academic Convenor of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme), and David Ruiter ( Professor and Chair of the English Department at the University of Texas, El Paso).

To view the write-up from the first Windsor Group meeting, please click here.
To view the write-up from the second Windsor Group meeting, please click here.

Manchester Group

The Manchester group will meet at the Cathedral. It includes: Andrew Shanks (Co-leader (with Ewan Fernie) of 'The Faerie Queene Liturgy Project' and Canon Theologian at Manchester Cathedral); Jo Shapcott (Co-investigator and Project Poet); Michael Symmons Roberts (Project Poet); Pam Elliott (Cathedral Education Officer who runs a local young people's religious poetry competition); Michael Powell (Librarian of Chethams Library); Albert Radcliffe (former Canon, composes a cycle of poems for a Good Friday meditation service at the Cathedral each year); Michael Schmidt (Professor of Poetry at Glasgow University, founder and managing director of Carcanet Press).

To view the write-up from the first Manchester Group meeting, please click here.
To view the write-up from the second Manchester Group meeting, please click here.


We are very proud to announce that the project now involves new music as well as new poetry. Thanks to the generosity of LCACE, the PRS Foundation for Music, the Arts Council, and the English Department and Annual Fund at Royal Holloway, we have been able to commission the composer Tim Garland to compose new music, including four original ‘Faerie Queene Canticles’, for jazz trio Acoustic Triangle and the Royal Holloway College Choir.


The project will culminate in widely-publicised and ecumenical liturgical events in St George’s Chapel and Manchester Cathedral.

  • The St George’s Chapel event will be held on Thursday 17th March 2011 at 7pm in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and will form part of the Windsor Spring Festival 2011 (11th - 14th March). Our apologies, but contrary to previous advertisement, this event will NOT now feature Andrew Motion.

  • The service in Manchester Cathedral event on Sunday May the 8th 2011 at 5.30pm will be preceded by a procession, through the city streets, with two Catalan-style ‘gegants’, giant puppet figures, representing Spenserian figures, St. George and the Dragon. These will be made by artists working with clients from the Booth Centre for the Homeless, based at the Cathedral; the project has been supported by two grants, from Awards for All and from the Church Urban Fund.

    Inaugural Meeting of The Faerie Queene Liturgy Project

    A recording of the inaugural meeting of The Faerie Queene Liturgy Project in St George's House, Windsor Castle is now available HERE.  Members of the Project were asked to share impressions of the aesthetic and spiritual possibilities of Spenser’s Book 1, the quest for holiness, for contemporary society and religion.  Ewan Fernie, Jo Shapcott, Michael Symmons Roberts and Andrew Shanks will now work with these reactions in drafting their new text inspired by The Faerie Queene which will form the basis of the high-profile events in Windsor Castle and Manchester Cathedral with which the project culminates.