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Wells Cathedral

History

Blessed Sacrament windowWells Cathedral is one of the most beautiful in England and well worth a visit. The usual approach is from the Market Place, through Penniless Porch, where you are confronted by the magnificent view of the 13th century West Front twice as wide as it is high.

 

Architecture

The Front carries 293 pieces of mediaeval sculpture crowned by the Figure of Christ, designed by David Wynne and installed in 1985. Such an array of sculptured figures is unique in Europe.

Inside, the Nave presents one of the earliest completely Gothic designs, its austerity relieved by the elaborate sculpture of capitals, corbels and head stops. The Transept is the best place to see the impressive scissor arches which many people mistake for modern additions. Their great curves transfer weight from the west, where the foundations sank under the Tower’s weight, to the east where they remained firm. This dramatic solution to a structural problem in 1338 remains effective to this day and there has been no further movement. From the North Quire Aisle lead the worn curving steps up to the amazing octagonal Chapter House which is the official meeting place of the Canons. Beyond it the stairs lead on to the Chain Gate of 1459-60 and the Hall of the Vicars Choral, completed in 1348 and leading down into the 14th century Vicars’ Close, where Vicars Choral and members of the Cathedral staff live.

Attractions

In the North Transept a unique mechanical clock dated 1390 can be seen. Every quarter of an hour horsemen have a tournament in which a knight is knocked off his horse at each rotation. The east walk of the Cloister supports the Library which, with a length of 168 feet, is possibly the largest mediaeval library building in England. It contains a number of chained books, archives and documents from the 10th century onwards.

To experience the true splendour of the Cathedral, attend choral Evensong, sung by the Choir on weekdays at 5.15pm. On Sundays Evensong is at 3pm.

A number of concerts are held in the Cathedral every year, especially in the Summer and Autumn.