Ely (pronounced eee-lee), Famous for Oliver Cromwell also contains a magnificent cathedral. Founded in 672 by Etheldreda, this cathedral has undergone many facelifts over the years. The story of Etheldreda is fascinating and can be read here.
The cathedral in its most recognisable form took 112 years to complete and this can be seen in the architecture. The bottom of of the cathedral reflects a much older period with rounded simples arches. These arches become more ornate as the levels increase, with interlocking arches and pillars. Interestingly the top arches reflect a much more stable and newer design with a more pointed top. In one wall you can see 112 years of architectural history and innovation.
Candice and I took the West Tower tour which I highly recommend. It is 15 pound for the tour and cathedral general admission fee. The tower tour also includes an excellent history on the cathedral and the west tower, and with our guide, a history of the local fens too!
Amazingly Ely Cathedral is built on only 6 ft of foundations. That is incredible, but over the years this has caused some major structural issues. Here you can see where the original arch used to be before strengthening with these newer pointed…and thicker arches were implemented.
On the west tower we were able to climb to the top where we we treated to great views of Ely and the Cambridgeshire. Here you can see the octagon tower, which is unusual for a normal church. This tower was created after the original tower fell down. The foundations for the Lady Chapel, seen of the left, caused the lowering of the water table and the drying out of the clay beneath. This then caused the tower to collapse at about 4 am. The octagonal chase was the formed by building just outside the original footprint of the previous tower.
The stone used to create the cathedral is not local stone, which is too hard and brittle and cannot be shaped, but was shipped down river from Barnack in Northamptonshire. Barnack stone is more easily sculpted, however some of the local stone can be seen in the walls as infill.
After the tour we browsed the rest of the cathedral and boy is it HUGE!
Many a grand palace has been built in the name of ones god and this is no exception. I’m not a religious person, intact I am atheist, however Ely Cathedral is an excellent example of grand design and beautiful architecture. At least, in my non expert opinion!
The wooden box in the above photo is a mirror allowing you to view the magnificent painted ceiling.
Lastly, and although we didn’t go in, there is a stained glass museum on site. If the window depicting the crowning of Esther are anything to go by, the stained glass at Ely Cathedral is just as ornate and magnificent as the rest of the building!