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Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral 3.jpg

The West Tower (1174-97)

Basic information
Location Ely
Full name Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity
Geographic coordinates 52°23′55″N 0°15′51″E / 52.398611°N 0.264167°E / 52.398611; 0.264167Coordinates: 52°23′55″N 0°15′51″E / 52.398611°N 0.264167°E / 52.398611; 0.264167
County Cambridgeshire
Country England
Ecclesiastical information
Denomination Church of England
Tradition Broad church
Province Canterbury
Diocese Ely
Diocese created 1109
Dean Very Revd Dr Michael Chandler
(Vice Dean) Revd Canon David Pritchard
Precentor Revd Canon Dr. James Garrard (effective 29 November 2008)[1]
Canons (Canon Missioner) Revd Canon Dr Alan Hargrave
Director of
Music
Paul Trepte
Organist Jonathan Lilley
Website www.elycathedral.org
Building information
Dates built 1083-1375
Architectural style Romanesque, Gothic
Length 163.7m
Height (max) 66m
Height (nave) 21.9m
Towers 2
Tower height(s) 66m (west tower), 52m (lantern)

Ely Cathedral (in full, The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Ely) is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and the seat of the Bishop of Ely. It is known locally as "the ship of the Fens", because of its prominent shape that towers above the surrounding flat and watery landscape.

Contents

History

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Previous buildings

The first Christian building on the site was founded by St. Æthelthryth (romanised as "Etheldreda"), daughter of the Anglo-Saxon King Anna of East Anglia, who was born in 630 at Exning near Newmarket.[2] She may have acquired land at Ely from her first husband Tondberht, described by Bede as a "prince" of the South Gyrwas.[3] After the end of her second marriage to Ecgfrith, a prince of Northumbria, she set up and ruled a monastery at Ely in 673, and, when she died, a shrine was built there to her memory. The monastery is traditionally believed to have been destroyed in the Danish invasions of the late 9th century, together with what is now the city. However, while the lay settlement of the time would have been a minor one, it is likely that a church survived there until its refoundation in the 10th century.[4]

A new Benedictine monastery was built and endowed on the site by Athelwold, Bishop of Winchester, in 970, in a wave of monastic refoundations which locally included Peterborough and Ramsey. [5] This became a cathedral in 1109, after a new Diocese of Ely was created out of land taken from the Diocese of Lincoln.

The present building

Inside of the Lantern.

The present cathedral was started by Abbot Simeon (1082-1094, brother of Walkelin, the then bishop of Winchester) under William I in 1083. Building continued under Simeon's successor, Abbot Richard (1100-1107). The Anglo-Saxon church was demolished, but some of its relics, such as the remains of its benefactors, were moved to the cathedral. The main transepts were built early on, crossing the nave below a central tower, and are the oldest surviving part of the cathedral. The West Tower was built between 1174 and 1197, and the Romanesque style of the west front overall shows that it was built in the 12th century, with the later addition of the Galilee porch (1198-1215). The west tower is 66m high (215ft). The unique Octagon 'Lantern Tower' was constructed during the 1300s and replaced the old central tower which collapsed. 'The Lantern' is 23m (74ft) wide and is 52m (170ft) high. From the floor to central roof boss 'The Lantern' is 43m (142ft) high.

Floor plan.

The cathedral is built from stone quarried from Barnack in Northamptonshire (bought from Peterborough Abbey, whose lands included the quarries, for 8000 eels a year), with decorations in Purbeck Marble and local clunch. The plan of the building is cruciform (cross-shaped), with the altar at the east end. The total length is 537 feet (163.7 m)[6], and with the nave at over 75 m long (250ft), remains the longest in Britain.

Attached to the north transept is the Lady Chapel (built 1321-1349 in the Decorated style) by the sacrist Alan of Walsingham. It was to his plans, too, that the octagonal tower or octagon (1322-1328) was built after Simeon's original crossing tower collapsed in 1322, injuring nobody but destroying the choir. This central octagon rises from the whole breadth of the building and towers up until its roof, a wooden lantern, forms the only Gothic dome in existence. The north-west transept collapsed in the 15th century and was never rebuilt, leaving a scar on the outside of that corner that can still be seen. Dating from the early 16th century, is a set of 44 misericords.

Later history

Nave of Ely Cathedral

In 1539, during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, the cathedral suffered only minor damage, but St Etheldreda's shrine was destroyed. The cathedral was soon refounded in 1541, although many of the statues in the lady chapel were severely damaged.

The Bishop of Ely in the mid 17th century was Matthew Wren and in connection with this, his nephew Christopher Wren was responsible for a rather splendid Gothic door, dating from the 1650s, on the north face of the cathedral.

The building has been the subject of several major restoration projects:

  1. in the 18th century, under James Essex
  2. in 1839, under George Peacock, with the architect George Gilbert Scott (the architect Basevi died in a fall from the west tower). A painted wooden ceiling was added to the nave in this restoration.
  3. from 1986 to 2000

The building is still in active use, and also houses a collection of stained glass from the 13th century to the present that is of national importance and includes works from notable contemporary artists inlcuding Ervin Bossanyi.

Music

Ely has a cathedral choir of boys and men, which has recently attracted international attention because of its association with The Choirboys: two of its members, Patrick Aspbury and CJ Porter-Thaw, are choristers at the cathedral. Boys are educated in the junior department of The King's School, Ely.

In a new development breaking thousands of years of tradition, The Ely Cathedral Girls' Choir was also launched in 2006, comprising 18 girl choristers. The ECGC debut CD, ("Sing reign of fair maid: Music for Christmas and the New Year", under the direction of Sarah MacDonald) is available from Regent Records.

The cathedral community has an adult voluntary choir, the Octagon Singers, and a children's choir, the Ely Imps.

Organ

Details of the organ from the National Pipe Organ Register

Organists

  • 1729 Thomas Kempton
  • 1762 John Elbonn
  • 1768 David Wood
  • 1774 James Rogers
  • 1777 Richard Langdon
  • 1778 Highmore Skeats (sen.)
  • 1804 Highmore Skeats (jun.)
  • 1830 Robert Janes
  • 1867 Edmund Thomas Chipp
  • 1887 Basil Harwood
  • 1892 Thomas Tertius Noble

Assistant organists

The pipes of Ely Cathedral's Organ
  • George Legge
  • William George Price (later organist to the City of Melbourne)
  • Harold Carpenter Lumb Stocks 1906 - 1909
  • Edwin Alec Collins 1911 - 1915[7]
  • Guillaume Ormond 1927 - 1929 (afterwards organist of Truro Cathedral)
  • Frederick Chubb
  • William Bean
  • Russell Missin 1945 - 1949
  • Arthur Wills 1949 - 1958
  • Michael Dudman 1961 - 1964
  • Anthony Greening 1964
  • Roger Judd
  • Gerald Gifford 1973 - 1976
  • Stephen Le Prevost 1977 - 1989
  • Jeremy Filsell 1989 - 1991
  • David Price 1991 - 1996
  • Sean Farrell 1996 - 1998
  • Scott Farrell 1999 - 2002
  • Jonathan Lilley 2002 -
  • Edward Taylor (assistant for the Girls' Choir now Assistant Organist at Carlisle Cathedral)
  • Oliver Hancock (current assistant for the Girls' Choir)

See also the List of Organ Scholars at Ely Cathedral.

Honorary Canons

  • 1989 John Beer
  • 1994 Brian Watchorn
  • 1999 Timothy Elbourne
  • 2001 Jonathan Young
  • 2003 Vanessa Herrick
  • 2004 Margaret Guite
  • 2004 Richard Longfoot
  • 2004 Hugh McCurdy
  • 2004 Les Oglesby
  • 2004 Owen Spencer-Thomas
  • 2005 Fiona Brampton
  • 2005 Andrew Greany
  • 2005 Jane Keiller
  • 2005 Stephen Leeke
  • 2005 Shamus Williams
  • 2005 Francis Woolley
  • 2007 Peter Baxendall
  • 2007 John Binns
  • 2007 Stephen Earl
  • 2007 Wim Zwalf
  • 2008 Richard Darmody
  • 2008 Malcolm Griffith
  • 2008 Martin Seeley
  • 2008 Fraser Watts
  • 2008 David Thomson[8]
The Lantern from the interior.

In popular culture

  • A number of John Rutter's choral albums feature the Cathedral, a reference to early recordings of his music being performed and recorded in the Lady Chapel.
  • Direct references to the Cathedral appear in the children's book Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. A full-length movie with the same title was released in 1999.
  • Parts of Marcus Sedgwick's 2000 novel Floodland take place at the Cathedral after the sea has consumed the land around it turning Ely into an island.
  • Direct references to Ely Cathedral are made in Jill Dawson's novel Watch Me Disappear.

References

  1. ^ News of appointment of Dr James Garrard as Precentor to the Cathedral
  2. ^ For the origin of the word "tawdry", see Æthelthryth.
  3. ^ Bede, Ecclesiastical History, iv, 19.
  4. ^ Whitelock, D., 'The Conversion of the Eastern Danelaw', in Saga-Book of the Viking Society 12, London 1941.
  5. ^ [1]Consumption and Pastoral Resources on the Early Medieval Estate, accessed July 12, 2007
  6. ^ The English Cathedral. Tatton-Brown, T. and Crook, J. ISBN 1-84330-120-2
  7. ^ Who's who in Music. Fourth Edition. 1962. p.44
  8. ^ Diocese of Ely Directory 2008

Gallery


See also

External links


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