U.K. 2013  

 Day 11, Friday

 September 13, 2013


We got up early again and went up to breakfast/dining room. There was wonderful view of the Lincoln Cathedral with our good breakfast.

We took a taxi to the train station for a 10:00 train for Eli.  We had to change trains in Peterborough.  Our first train was 3 cars, the second on was only 1 car with about 60 seats. It had its own engine built in. We will be going back to Peterborough tomorrow for our tour of the cathedral.  It is about ½ hour ride.

We arrived in Ely and took a taxi to the Riverside Inn Guest House where we had reservations.  It is small but a well appointed inn with about 6 rooms –like a bed and breakfast as we do get breakfast.


We are on the bend of the river which has a lot of small house barges and other boat tied up. We will be here for three nights.  We walked through a nice park to the cathedral.  We didn’t see any place to eat.  We had bought a nice large muffin in Peterborough so that had to last us.

We had a 2:15 appointment for a tour.  Again we got a private tour as guests of the Dean, who was out of town.    Our guide, Tony Hull, was an attractive fellow with gray hair, but younger than me.


There has been a church in Ely since Christianity first came to England.  A monastery had been built in Ely in honor of  St. Mary by St. Augustine, who brought Christianity to southern England in 597.  There were Christians already in England.  We know that three English bishops attended the Council of Arles in 313.

About 70 years after the founding of the monastery, a Saxon Princess desired to enter religious life. Etheldreda, the daughter of Anna, King of the East Angles, became an ardent Christian like her father.  After 12 years of an unhappy marriage, she retired to a convent to become a nun.  In 673 she founded a double monastery for men and women.  She was abbesses for only seven years and died of a tumor in the neck and was buried in the simple grave.  Her sister, who succeeded her, exhumed her body and moved it into the church.  Contemporary accounts relate that the body was incorrupt and that the tumor had been healed.  Etheldreda soon was acknowledged a saint and Ely became a place of pilgrimage, a tradition that has recently been revived with the annual St. Etheldreda pilgrimage on the Sunday nearest to June 23, her feast day.  She is depicted in several windows and carvings in the Cathedral.

St. Etheldreda's church, in the monastery was destroyed by the Vikings when they invaded England in 869 and remained in ruins until the monastery was refounded.  It became a Benedictine Abbey for men only and the monastic life was lived in Ely under the rule of St. Benedict for 570 years until the Dissolution of the Monasteries 1539.  Chapel of St. Dunstan and St. Ethelwold in the South transept of the Cathedral commemorates the two Saints who were responsible for the restoration of the monastery.

In 1109 the Abbey became a Cathedral.  The Abbott became the Bishop of the new diocese of Ely.  The success of Ely as a place of pilgrimage required the remodeling of the area around the shrine in order to provide accommodations for the pilgrims.  The East End was rebuilt in the 13th century to provide a much larger space for the pilgrims.

In 1322, only 70 years after the Presbytery or the sanctuary was finished, the sqare Norman central tower collapsed.  It was replaced by an octagonal lantern Tower over 60 feet high.  It took 16 years to build.  Today the altar for the Sunday Eucharist is situated under the Octagon.

 The 13th and 14th century saw the rise of the cult of the Virgin Mary, especially in England, and Lady Chapels in her honor were added to many churches.  There was already a small Lady Chapel in Ely but it was not large enough, so a new one was built on the north side of the Presbytery or Sanctuary. The Lady Chapel of Ely, the largest attached to any British Cathedral, is exceptional.  It was built at the same time as the Octagon and was completed in 1349.  It took 28 years to build. 

When completed, the chapel looked very different from the way it does today.  It was highly colored, the windows were filled with stained-glass and there were painted statues in the niches.    All of this was destroyed in the Reformation.  The windows are now plain glass, all the figures in the lower niches have been defaced, and above are  the empty pedestals where the saints once stood.  Some of the coloring can still be seen. In the Lady Chapel is a new statue of Mary by David Wynne which was installed above the altar in the year 2000.  It is carved from Portland stone and weighs half a ton.  The sculptor shows her as very expressive with her hands raised exulting in the news that she was to be the mother of Jesus.  She is dressed in a modern flowing blue gown.

The end of the 18th century, the Cathedral was in a disgraceful condition. The early Victorian period saw a reawakening in the importance of cathedrals and church architecture.  In 1839 a new Dean, George Peacock, set about a major restoration.  In addition to rearrangements of the choir and the organ, one of the most notable improvements was to construct the remarkable painted ceiling in the Nave.  The medieval rafters were covered with planks and were painted by two Victorian artists who did it as a labor of love.  The ceiling tells the story of the ancestry of Jesus, beginning with Adam continuing through David.  The last four panels have New Testament themes: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi and Christ in Majesty.

Ely Cathedral has exquisite stained-glass windows.  An example is the window at the very east end in the St. Etheldreda Chapel. 

On a wall near the West entrance is a modern sculpture symbolizing The Way of Life by Jonathan Clarke.  It is in cast aluminum with nine sections, each differently jointed. " Like the journey of life, it's path is irregular and unpredictable, and as the journey is sometimes hard, somewhat joyful, so the surface texture in the colors are also varied.  Perhaps to give human scale to the journey, Jonathan Clarke placed a tiny human figure on the top arm of the cross" (Ely Cathedral Guide Book)

There is a door on the south side of the nave,  known as The Prior's Door with a beautifully carved portal believed to date from c. 1120 – 1140.  The tympanum over the door shows Christ enthroned in Majesty.  His right hand is raised in blessing and his left hand holds the Book with the Seven Seals, the record of good and evil deeds.  Around the doorway the carvings depict the signs of the zodiac, and of the labors of the months.

There are several interesting tombs around the cathedral.  One of my favorite was a memorial to Bishop Peter Gunning, Bishop from 1675 -1684.

Our guide, Tony, gave us an excellent and memorable several hour tour of Ely.



The exterior of the church was quite remarkable.  I bought a model kit which had parts to assemble from various periods of the building. Pictured above are the various components.


This photo shows the cathedral  with the square tower in the crossing and over the west front. At the right end the apse can be seen.


  The photo belows shows the cathedral as it is after all additions - the Octagon Tower, the new West Tower, the East End addition for the St. Etheldreda Chapel and the addition of a Galillee porch on the West Facade.

This photo is of the East End Chapel with the beautiful windows in the center in the St. Etheldreda Chapel.  The structure  on the right is the Lady Chapel.

We walked several blocks around the cathedral, stopped for a drink and a cheese platter in an old hotel, then walked back to our room. 

There is a nice restaurant, The Boat House, next door to our Inn, but it didn’t open until 6:30. I went over and made reservations for 7:30.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Boat House. For starters we shared baked mushrooms in a cream sauce with cheese on top.  For the main course we shared a slow roasted lamb shoulder with new potatoes, carrots and sautéed cabbage.  It was listed to share…it would have been enough for three maybe four.  It was delicious.  For dessert we share a lemon posset with berries.  It came in a glass mug with berries and the lemon cream below.  As the English say: “it was lovely”.



Day 1 -Arrival in Edinburgh

Day 2 - Edinburgh

Day 3- Edinburgh to Inchcolm Abbey

Day 4 - Edinburgh to Melrose & Rosslyn

DAY 5 - Edinburgh   

DAY 6 - Edinburgh

DAY 7 - York  

DAY 8 - Durham

DAY 9 -York 

DAY 10 - Lincoln

DAY 11 -Ely  

DAY 12 - Peterborough

DAY 13 - Cambridge 

DAY 14 - Ely to Worchester  

DAY 15 - Tewkesbury and Gloucester

DAY 16 - Hereford         

DAY l7 - London   

DAY 18 - London  

DAY 19 - London   

DAY 20 - London to Guildford, Chichester, Midhurst

DAY 21 - London      OUR LAST DAY