In August I had the opportunity to visit the ancient Cathedral City of Wells in Somerset. Its iconic Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The Cathedral is formally known as the Cathedral Church of St Andrew but it is better known as Wells Cathedral.
The Ornate West Front of Wells Cathedral
On a large green to the front of the Cathedral Close sits Wells Cathedra, offering a magical view of the West Front. This part of the cathedral is believed to have influenced the design of the West Elevation of the much larger and later built, Salisbury Cathedral. In total there are 300 external medieval statues most of which are part of the West Front.
The Nave looking East towards the Scissor Arch and the Crossing
The present Cathedral commenced construction in 1175 and was finally completed in 1490. The nave is impressive having a height of 67ft (20.5 m). Where the Nave meets the Crossover there is an impressive Scissor Arch inserted to provide support for the addition of the Tower.
A Close-up of the Scissor Arch
The view through the base arch to the Crossover shows an Organ Loft and then onto the Choir and Altar at the East End.
From The Choir to the Alter and Jesse Window
The East elevation contains the Jesse Window, a splendid example of 14th century European stained glass.
The window is believed to date back to circa 1340 and has survived both Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries and the later Civil War.
Major repairs have recently been carried out to help ensure the survival of the Window for future generations.
The West End of the Nave and West Elevation
There was an early church on the same site dating from around 705. Wells Cathedral is referred to as a medium size medieval English Cathedral and described as “unquestionably the most beautiful Cathedral” and “the most poetic of English Cathedrals”.
Two of the Icons from the Fourteen Station of the Cross
In 2000 Silvia Dimitrovs, a Bulgarian artist in residence at Wells Cathedral was commissioned to paint the fourteen Stations of the Cross as a project for the Millennium.
The Icon of St Andrew
An Icon to St Andrew was painted in 1999 by Aleksandre Gormatiouk of the Grabar Institute in Moscow especially for Wells Cathedral and dedicated to St Andrew.
Not much exists of the original cloisters as they were substantially remodelled in the 15th century with a bequest from Bishop Bubwith.
The Gate House entrance to the Bishop’s Palace
The Bishop’s Palace has been the home of the Bishop of Bath and Wells for over 800 years. The crenelated gate house with stone drawbridge and portcullis provides access to the palace,
The substantial Moat provides protection to the Palace.
The presence of the moat tells its own story, for in the Middle Ages the powerful Bishops of Bath and Wells were locked in bitter conflict with the townsfolk of Wells. The Bishops, fearful for their safety, thought it prudent to protect their palace with a wide moat and allow access only by way of a drawbridge which could be lifted in case of threat.
The Bishop’s Palace
This view is of the front of the Bishop’s Palace. The large building towards the centre is the Bishop’e Private Chapel and the ruins to the right are the remains of the Great Hall. The green in front of the palace is used for croquet.
The Vicars Close
Vicars’ Close, adjoining Wells Cathedral, is believed to be the only complete medieval street left in England. Built in the 14th century under direction from Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury, the Close was designed to provide communal accommodation for the Vicars Choral, who sang at daily worship within the Cathedral. This centuries-old tradition continues today and is a unique and much valued part of life at Wells Cathedral.
Wells Cathedral in Sunshine
I hope you have enjoyed this brief look at Wells Cathedral. It is a magical place and well worth a visit if you ever happen to be in Somerset.