Golden Fleece > Ely Cathedral
craftsman's art and music's measure
Unique among the cathedrals of Europe, the Octagon 'Lantern Tower' was constructed (1322-1328) to the plans of Alan of Walsingham, a celebrated architect. The four piers supporting the square Norman tower are a weak point in cathedral construction and the great tower of Ely Cathedral fell in 1322.
Distinguished by his skill in goldsmith's work, and for his acquaintance with the principles of mechanics, Alan advanced the supports into each arm of the cross. By so doing he not only distributed the weight upon eight piers instead of four, but obtained a magnificent central octagonal hall, which he roofed with a dome surmounted by a lofty lantern. The result was not only very beautiful, but in every sense original.
Ely Cathedral is not a museum but a living community.
The Diocese of Ely celebrates 900 years
Begun in AD 673 as a monastery founded by St Etheldreda and destroyed by The Danes, Abbot Simeon rebuilt it in 1081. To glorify God, the Benedictine monks built on a majestic scale. The monastic church became a cathedral in 1109, when the Diocese of Ely was formed from part of the Diocese of Lincoln. The monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Statues were destroyed together with carvings, stained glass and St Etheldreda's Shrine. The Cathedral was refounded with a Chapter of eight canons in 1541 as was the Kings School. Robert Steward, the last Prior of the monastery, became the first Dean. Sir Christopher Wren was responsible for a rather splendid Gothic door on the north face of the cathedral, when his uncle, Matthew Wren was The Bishop of Ely in the mid 17th century.
'How awesome is this place! this is none other than the House of God. And this is the Gate of Heaven.' Genesis 28:17
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