The doors of Sheffield Cathedral are opening to a new era as its £4.3m restoration nears completion.
All the finishing touches will not have been added until the summer, but already the congregation has a brighter, warmer, more comfortable and more efficient building.
However, one of the key aims is to encourage a lot more people to use the grade I listed church, especially to learn about its heritage and its place in the history of Sheffield. One of the early focalpoints will marking the centenary of the start of the First World War.
A programme of concerts and other events will be drawn up. Some performances are due to be held there as part of the Tramlines music festival in July.
“This is a year of experimenting to find out what works in the new space,” said the dean, the Very Rev Peter Bradley, who has overseen the redevelopment.
“We are looking to double the number of visitors over the next two years from 50,000 to 100,000 a year. In particular, we are working with local schools. We hope young people will visit at least once during their school career.”
The congregation, which has been using side chapels during the upheaval, returned to the nave on Easter Sunday when there was a turnout of 750.
Among the more immediate impressions are the new entrance and the lighting.
“The lighting in the past was terrible,” said Mr Bradley. “It made the interior look dark and cold.
“We have got amazing new lighting - although learning how to use it is quite complicated! It makes the building look a lot lighter, warmer and bigger.”
All the changes are expected to be completed over the next few months.
“We hope that by mid-June it should be more or less as it should be.”
The end of the project and the centenary of the diocese will be celebrated in October. The Archbishop of York, the Rt Rev John Sentamu, is due to visit on November 23.
All the money has been secured for the work, including hefty donations from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Church Burgesses Trust.
Apart from the “nasty surprise” that the pillars in the nave had no foundations, Mr Bradley said the renovation programme, first mooted 25 years ago, had gone relatively smoothly, largely on time and on budget.
But it has not been without its stresses and strains.
His conclusion: “Never, never do major work in a Cathedral if you want to sleep! For 18 months you don’t quite sleep because of the worryng - but here we are!”