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900 years of history
Exeter Cathedral (Exeter)
Member Name: kingseany
Exeter Cathedral (Exeter)
Date: 16/03/05, updated on 03/05/05 (735 review reads)
Advantages: Great building
Disadvantages: Not free to enter anymore
The only truly original parts of the Cathedral are the two Norman Towers, which rise to around 40metres. Instead of a central or western tower, there are twin towers north and south of the east end of the nave. No other church has Norman towers in this position. The remainder of the Cathedral was demolished in 1260, rebuilding started by Bishop Walter Bronescombe in the 1270's and continued to be rebuilt during the next 100 years or so, the new design being much extended. The wealthy, Bishop Walter Stapledon was able to provide the Cathedral with many endowments for extensions of the work. The nave was begun around 1310 and the huge pulpitum dates from the same time. These constructions were completed by Bishop John Grandisson in the late 1330s and the stonework of his windows is considered to be the best example of the period. Only five years later, the Black Death deprived the city of the many laymen who had been its builders and the clergy were permanently reduced in numbers.
The wonderfully ornate West Front , also by Grandisson dates from 1329, and is perhaps the most photographed part of the Cathedral nowadays, but it worth getting closer to examine the fine detailed carvings. At the time, this frontage would have been highly painted, and must have looked even more impressive than it does today. Among the images depected on the three rows of figures on the West Front are Jesus Christ (top row, 15th from the left), King Athelstan, Edward The Confessor, Richard II and William The Conquerer (all seated on the middle row). The bottom row is occupied by Angels, some playing instruments. Although many of the carvings can be identified, there is no complete key available. Some figures have actually been replaced, and the whole west front has had recent renovation work due to pollution and weather damage.
The Cathedral houses a a bullet-proof glass case, strongly secured within it's walls, in it is the home to a book that is more than 1,000 years old. The Exeter Book, was once used as a cheese board by workmen until, in the late 18th Century, historians realised how important it was. It is one of the most important pieces of literature in the English language, although so old most people would need a translator to understand it. The book is a collection of poems and stories from Anglo-Saxons and is believed to date from the 8th Century. Another ancient artefact inside the Cathedral is the 15th Century astrological clock, located in the North transept, as well as the time, the clock shows the passage of the moon and sun around the earth. The clock was made by Peter Lightfoot, the monk of Glastonbury responsible for the fine specimen of clock-making at Wimborne Minster in Dorset. Beneath the clock is the inscription Pereunt et imputantur, translated means "They [the hours] pass and are placed to our account."
The 350 ft long nave vault extends, through the presbytery, to the far eastern end and is the longest stone vault in the World! It is tierceron in style, with eleven strong ribs springing between each of the eight bays, to a central one running the length of the Cathedral. Carved bosses mark the intersections. The walls are supported below by distinctive 'Exeter pillars,' each consisting of sixteen shafts of Purbeck marble.
The Bishops Throne was the gift of Bishop Walter Stapledon, who was also founder of Exeter College in Oxford. is intricately carved from local Devon Oak wood, using no nails and completed in the year 1312.The throne measures 18metres in height, and is considered to be the finsest in the whole of England.
The 49 'misericords' (also know as mercy seats) are believed to date from the mid 13th Century. These are lcoated under each of the 49 choir stalls on which the medieval carvers executed their most imaginative designs. The most famous of these designs is the Exeter Elephant, now displayed in the southern quire aisle, was apparently carved by someone who had never himself seen an elephant.
The 20th Century.... On 3rd May 1942, German bomber planes descended on Exeter and pretty much destroyed this ancient City. The cathedral did suffer a direct hit and the double chapel of St. James and St. Thomas A'Becket was completely destroyed, along with two bays of the south quire. All the Cathedral glass which was still in place was destroyed except the great east window of 1304 which had been removed to a place of safety in 1939. Fears of major structural damage were soon discovered to be unfounded and repair work began as soon as conditions allowed. From those days right up until the present times, the Cathedral is being conserved and restored for the benefits of local people and those who come to marvel at it's beauty.
Entry used to be free, but now a donation is expected. A camera permit is also required if you wish to photograph the interior. A gift shop inside the cathedral sells a wide range of related good quality items, some not available elshewhere. Any visitor to Exeter whatever age, shouldn't miss the opportunity to see this great building.
The majority of this text is taken from the Souvenir from Exeter website, of which I am the author.