Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire


This evening, I am focusing on Ely Cathedral, the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Ely, which is located in Cambridgeshire, eastern England. The building is locally known as the ‘Ship of the Fens’ because if its dominance of the local, flat landscape. The Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon.

West Tower, Ely Cathedral (1174-97)

The site has a long pedigree of Christian worship dating back to the founding of a monastery in AD 672 by Etheldreda (636-679) who became St. Etheldreda, Abbess of Ely.

A Benedictine Monastery was built in AD 970 of which the monastic church became a Cathedral in 1109 in the new Diocese of Ely.

The Cathedral plan is cruciform with maximum length 537 feet. At 250 feet, the Nave is exceptionally long.

Key events since 12th century:

  • Western transepts and tower completed 1174-89.
  • Rebuilding work in 14th century due to collapse of crossing tower.
  • New transept collapsed 15th century.
  • Monastery dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1539.
  • Cathedral re-founded 1541.
  • Extensive restoration undertaken in 18th century, 1839 and 1986-2000.

The population of the City of Ely is 20,000, relatively modest for such a massive cathedral. This anomaly is due to to founding of the religious site first and the subsequent growth of a civilian site around it.

Clearly, Ely and its Cathedral should be included in a tour of eastern England.



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