Posted by: marymarthatours | September 8, 2014

Wonderful Wells, Again

On the Spring Garden tour last May, my husband Collie and I planned ahead to “opt out” of the tour activity one day.  He had never been to the city  of Wells, and I wanted to revisit Wells Cathedral with him.  It is one of my favorite English Cathedrals.  It sits in a large cathedral close.  When you enter through the surrounding wall, you see the imposing west front with over 300 statues and the twin west towers; very impressive and there is more wonder inside.

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We traveled by public bus from Bath, about 20 miles, but with stops at countless villages about 90 minutes long.  It was fun to travel as the local folks and school students do and experience the pace of their daily lives.

Wells Cathedral is the very first English cathedral built in the Gothic style of architecture, something new and “modern” in its day.  The first of three major phases of Gothic architecture in England is named “Early English Gothic”, duh, but that does define it as different from the style found on the continent and the later English phases.  Most of Wells, especially the entire exterior, was built in this one style though later some construction was added in the Perpendicular Gothic style, the last phase of the English Gothic period.  Unlike Salisbury, there is a mixture of architectural styles at Wells.

P1010811Most unique at Wells are the scissor arches that support the central tower at the nave-quire-transepts crossing.  They look very contemporary, but are not.  Shortly after the initial cathedral was built, it was noted that the foundation of the central tower was sinking and the tower was likely to collapse and bring down the entire building.  The internal buttresses of the scissor arches were added to disperse the weight of the tower.  Some did not think this engineering devise would work; well, ha, it has for over 650 years.

Everyone marvels at the worn, curved steps that lead up to the chapter house and to another location on the left.  The graceful bend of the Y-shape is so sculptural.  The depressions on the stairs tell of centuries of human feet moving up and down the staircase.  The chapter house is another piece of architectural art in marble and sunlight.  In invites one to simply sit and be inspired.

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P1010098We enjoyed a guided tour of the entire cathedral with a small group of visitors.  The guide told us about the Baptismal Font which dates from 750 AD and was in the Saxon church prior to the building of the current cathedral.  It predates the cathedral by 400 years.  I told the guide how much I like the contemporary font at Salisbury Cathedral.  He said that he doesn’t like it because it is too big and too modern.  I replied that for the builders of the Saxon font the Gothic cathedral that the font was moved into would have been too big and too modern.  This Saxon font was actually only meant to be “temporary” until a proper new font for the Gothic cathedral could be built.  While I do like the little, antique font, maybe it’s now time to construct the “proper” one.  So much in life is “relative”.

And of course, I marveled at the Jane Lemon altar frontals and other needlework throughout Wells Cathedral.  Here her frontals that are not on altars during the current liturgical season are on display in glass cases on the walls.  It is a wonderful way to allow folks to enjoy them and show the beautiful needlework artistry as a permanent part of the art and adornments.  Our guide knew some interesting details about the frontals, where the fabrics came from and how they were constructed.  Oh, to take an M&M tour here for this and all the rest.

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We even enjoyed a noon time organ recital by the Cathedral organist.  The music was from New Zealand, the home of the organist.  It was another one of those extra treats for the day spent well with Collie

(by Martha)

 

photo credits:  All photos copyright by Collie Liska and Martha Liska, May 2015

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Responses

  1. My Husband and I visited the Wells Cathedral in 2002 and thought it was magnificent. I remember the light inside the cathedral and the sounds of the boys choir singing. Would love to visit it again and honor my sister who accompanied us on that trip and was the one who suggested we visit the cathedral. it was our last big trip together. Ellen

  2. Beautiful. Your 2014 Tour only wetted my appetite for the beauty and history of cathedrals. Thank you, Mary and Martha, for that experience.


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