Ely Cathedral

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Ely, England

Ely Cathedral Reviews

joseph98 joseph98
107 reviews
The Ship of the Fens Sep 25, 2016
In a land of numerous, beautifully constructed Cathedrals, what helps this majestic Cathedral stand out is the effortless way it looms over the small, pretty city of Ely. You can spy it the moment you alight from the train station, its towering spire piercing the sky, and it can apparently be seen for miles around too, given that Ely is situated in the pancake flat geographical area in Cambridgeshire known as ‘the Fens’.

It’s this dominance of the landscape that has earned Ely Cathedral the moniker of ‘the Ship of the Fens’, and it is undoubtedly the main draw of this quaint, sleepy settlement. With livestock grazing on fields on one side, the medieval streets of the city centre on another, and a pretty, manicured lawn on yet another, the Cathedral is situated in picturesque surrounds that few churches can match.

The hulking Cathedral exterior is imposing and majestic, and doing a loop around it is very much worthwhile, to get a full appreciation of the intricate masonry featured on the dizzying towers, sweeping buttresses and latticed artwork of the stained glass windows.

It’s inside that you get the big highlights though, the ultimate ‘wow’ coming in the form of the gawp-worthy Octagonal tower, which sparkles like a star-shaped kaleidoscope, justly proud in the centre of the ceiling of the Nave. The spacious nave itself succeeds in projecting a sense of sombre grandeur, and all the usual trappings of beautiful Cathedrals – ornate high altars and side chapels, grand choir – are present and correct.

One distinct thing about this Cathedral is the more modern Lady Chapel, whose bare windows let more natural light in. The logos of modern businesses – banks, supermarkets - marking the window panes are weird; the garishly coloured Virgin Mary statue at the front of the chapel is weirder still. Another draw – if you’re willing to fork out double the standard ticket price, you can climb the towers for panoramic views over the Fens. I wasn’t, so I cannot corroborate if the views are indeed worth the extra money and 165-step climb.

As well as the Cathedral, Ely is worth a visit if you’re interested in history – Oliver Cromwell’s house is nearby, doubling up as the tourist information centre – or a general, genteel English town vibe, as tea rooms and independent shops line the streets, and the River Great Ouse that flows through the city makes for a pleasant stroll on a sunny day.
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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Vikram Vikram
248 reviews
A striking masterpiece ladies and gentlemen - I present Ely Cathedral Sep 26, 2013
So as one would expect, the Cathedral is THE reason you visit this tiny town that's probably the less famous brother of Cambridge, but the Cathedral is a strong enough reason to visit! I'm normally very wary of rave reviews for these Cathedral towns near London - it's almost like someone paid tourist books to highlight each as a "must see", and so I took the Ely Cathedral with a pinch of salt.... but was I wrong!

I'd easily rate this as the best Cathedral in the 1hr train radius of London, EASILY!

So you walk in and you know it's made for tourists with a bright board with rates - rates to view the church, or view the tower (always a guided tour). The entry to the main cathedral is around 6 quid, and you can visit either of the 2 towers but it's got to be guided and there's a price for it as well. I was in time for a tour of one of the towers and went with our guide and another elderly couple. I sadly didn't get time to wander around the Cathedral in detail as my tour was going to start in a few minutes, and there was some TV crew setting things up for the next day.

The first thing that struck me as interesting about this place was that the interiors of the cathedral were also v different than the usual stained glass windows I'm used to seeing - there was a snake type modern art installed in the 1980s, and as you enter the cathedral, there's like a maze/labyrinth drawing on the floor before the main chapel begins - apparently this was used as a maze to 'confuse the devil'.

I'm not a big history-architecture fan but the history of this place was really interesting, and how different conquerors added extra support to the structures to retain it and expand it. it was quite cool when the guide would take us up a fleet of stairs and then say "well now compare the stones - that one was 8th century and this one's 18th", etc. it was really too much to take, in a good way of course.

In a way, I'm glad we didn't spend too much time atop the Cathedral because outside of the views, the real beauty lies inside.
The west tower - the hallmark of t…
East tower (I think?!)
Close up of one the windows
Entrance to the Cathedral
9 / 9 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
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Andy99 says:
This looks like a very good one to visit. It appears light and very well lit inside.
Posted on: Nov 03, 2013
joseph98 says:
I live in London, and not been here yet, so I guess I probably should check it out. Thanks for the review Vikram!
Posted on: Nov 03, 2013
davidx davidx
564 reviews
Mighty impressive Nov 02, 2010
We reckon to know about cathedrals here and we think our best cannot be beaten, even if some naves are higher and various other technicalities. Well this is one of our best.

Work on it began in the 11th century, initially as a monastery but it became a cathedral in 1109. Additions since have included the magnificent octagonal lantern.

The Lady Chapel and the stained glass of the cathedral generally have to be seen to be believed.

While you are in Ely, you may like to have a look at Oliver cromwell's House, accessed through the TIC. Cromwell was Lord Protector of England during the period of the Comonwealth when Charles I had been executed and Charles II was still in exile, not yet having acceded to the throne.
Norman pillars in the nave
Side view showing the lantern in t…
Front view
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joehobo says:
I am informed that Cromwell also formed his own Presbitarian church?
Posted on: Nov 02, 2010

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