Saturday, 4 May 2013

Ely Cathedral - Views Most People Miss

Ely Cathedral, for many the focal point of the city of Ely, in the County of Cambridgeshire in England, was started by Abbot Simeon in 1083 and has had many additions to the layout over the years,  the last addition being in 1839 when a painted wooden ceiling was added to the nave under George Peacock.  Since then various restoration projects have been carried out to maintain this splendid building which is affectionately known as the "Ship Of The Fen's" as it can be seen floating on the horizon from most parts of the fens.

I managed to capture the Cathedral in silhouette with this spectacular golden back drop on a lovely June evening in 2011.

This year 2013, I was fortunate to be able to return to the cathedral in daylight and have a good look around the outside, as there has been quite a lot of restoration work since I was last able to spend time here.  Armed with a new telephoto lens, I wanted to concentrate on the areas that are often missed by the casual passer by as they are up high, details not seen clearly with the naked eye.  I was amazed at how much detail you miss at first glance, but the more you look the more you see.

We entered the ground of the cathedral via the gateway from the High Street, next door to the Cathedral shop and made our way round the cathedral in a clockwise direction.  You can see the roof to the Cathedral's Nave looming over the ancient three storey buildings along the High Street.

This first two photographs show part of the Lady Chapel, in honour of the Virgin Mary, chapels of this type were added to many churches and cathedrals, but this one at Ely is by far one of the largest attached to a British cathedral.  The foundations of this chapel were laid in 1321 and was completed in 1349.  

Here we can see the two levels of tower shapes that make up the decoration of the Octagon and Latern built in the 14th Century in the contemporary Gothic Style.  The lantern is constructed of timber and covered in lead.

We are now looking at part of the East Window installed during the Victorian restoration in the 1800's.  The designs in the glass tells the story of Jesus.  The main part of the window, shown in the bottom picture, depicts his birth, ministry and the last week of his life.  The middle part of the window, shown at the bottom of this next picture, depicts the resurrection, the ascension and Christ in glory.

Here we can see where parts of the cathedral are missing.  Originally the tower shapes on either side of the East Window would have been mirror images, however today parts of the right hand side tower is missing.

We are now looking at part of the row of thinner towers that run along the top of the Nave, which is part of the Norman phase of the construction.  We are now moving round to the west side of the cathedral.

Even the smallest of windows along this side is lined with decorative carving.  We also get to see some of the first signs of some of the more recent restoration work that has been carried out.  You can see where some of the carved bow like features have been replace with replicas to give you a sense of what they would have looked like before being weathered.  I like the way they have replaced just one or two, so that you can see the full design, without hiding the fact that they are modern replicas.

We are also now coming into the area of the Gargoyles.  As part of architecture, Gargoyles are usually carved of granite, with a spout incorporated into them, usually through an open mouth, to transport water from a roof and away from the side of the building preventing the rainwater from running down the masonry walls and eroding the morter.  Gargoyles were said to frighten off and protect those that it guards from any evil or harmful spirits.

This one looks a bit like a monk.

You get to see just how much weathering the cathedral has to contend with is this picture, the bottom gargoyle is barely recognisable.

That's a mischievous look.

I was amazed at how many you find as you start to look up, again some are the originals and some have been replaced with modern replicas, but again, because they have not hidden the fact that they are replicas it works, and some of them do give you a good giggle.

Grotesque is a similar sculpture without the waterspout and is purely ornamental.

Just look at the muscles on this chap!

Well, what can I say!

Well, I think that is enough gargoyles and grotesque for one day.

There are many, many windows along the Nave, here is a picture of just one of them, the colours even from this side look impressive.

We are now looking at part of the West Tower with one of the clocks that adorn each of the four faces of the tower.

I had to smile at this shot, even Ely Cathedral is not immune to having a satellite dish.

This is quite an unusual looking sun dial on the South Wall of the cathedral, some reports stating that it dates from the 17th Century.  The whole lines represent the hour and the crosses the half hour.  The Greek writing on the top translates as "Know the (appropriate) time" or "Choose the timely moment".

Here is another one of the stained glass windows in one of the buildings that make up part of the Cathedral complex.

There is an area of grassland in the grounds of the Cathedral complex which has a few horses and a donkey running around.

When lunch arrived, the largest horse started to show his authority towards the smaller ones.

We are now heading towards the gateway that takes you to the street called The Gallery.

We will take one last look at the Cathedral from inside its grounds.

Walking along Gallery Street you feel like you are walking back in time with the terraced housing and these lovely old street lamps.

This street has some large trees overhanging the street, they look lovely in winter and provide shade in the summer.

I took these two photos because I love the mish mash of stone and brick used in this section of wall,

and well the daffodils, because they are daffodils and I love them.

We are now back round at the front of the Cathedral.  I took this next photo to show how parts of the Cathedral foundations must have moved over the years.  I made sure that I was perfectly square when I took this shot but you can clearly see the lean at the base of this tower.

The front entrance of the Cathedral has some lovely decoration over the door and windows.

Across the road from the Cathedral is the Minster Tavern one of the original taverns in Ely and documented as having ghosts of Monks.

Part of the Cathedral's wall adjacent to the market square has a war memorial next to The Almonry Restaurant and Tea Rooms.  The original Almonry dates from the 12th Century and was a chamber where charitable donations were distributed to the poor and needy.

We have reached the end of our visit to Ely Cathedral and you will now be aware that I did not take one single photo of the whole Cathedral.  This was intentional as if you search for Ely Cathedral on the internet you will see countless photos of the whole Cathedral, I wanted to highlight the areas that most people will just glance at.  I hope you enjoyed our walk.

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