Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire

If I'm honest my first impression was a bit Meh but the more I saw the more I liked it and then I found the Lady Chapel and decided that it, or at least the Lady Chapel, is magnificent. One of the most intact Norman buildings I've visited, it seems to have been lightly treated by the Victorians. Having said that, until I read Pevsner I thought the choir stalls were entirely Scott's work and so missed the misericords (although they weren't 'on display'); having Googled them they look like, assuming they're accessible, a reason in themselves for a return visit.

As this is going to be a ridiculously long entry I'll link to Flickr here.

BUILDING HISTORY. ‘An DCLXXIII. Her Ecgbryht Cantwara cyning forthferde . . . Sce Aetheldryht ongon thaet Mynster aet Elige.’ In 673 Egbert King of the Kentish people died, St Etheldreda began the Minster at Ely. That minster, that monasterium, was sacked by the Danes in 870, and reconsecrated a hundred years later, in 970, by Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester. In the last Saxon century it was as powerful as Canterbury and Glastonbury. After the Conquest, in 1081, Simeon was made abbot, a kinsman of William the Conqueror, and a brother of Bishop Walkelin of Winchester. He had been Prior of Winchester before he was transferred to Ely. He started rebuilding in 1083 and died in 1093. He seems to have begun, as was usual, at the E end, and he got as far as the beginning of the transepts and crossing, when he died. The translation of the relics of St Etheldreda took place in 1106. By then no doubt the E end was complete. In 1109 Ely was made the see of a Bishop, but the monastery, under a Prior, carried on — under the typically English arrangement of the monastic cathedral, as it existed also at Canterbury, Durham, and so on. In the course of the C12 building went on, along the nave and to the W end with its strange W tower, W crossing, W transepts and W porch. Those parts, except for the tower top, seem to have been complete by the early years of the C13. Immediately after, it seems, Bishop Eustace began to remodel the W porch or galilee. The Liber Eliensis (B.M. Harley 258) says that he built it a fundamenzo versus occidentem sumptibus suis. However, the side walls probably existed already in the Norman building and the front and interior must have been finished later in the thirteenth century.

But before that happened, the Norman chancel — as in nearly all English cathedrals and major monastic churches — proved inadequate and was enlarged. The apse was pulled down, and the chancel and its aisles lengthened and finished straight, without apses or ambulatory at the E end. The work was begun under Bishop Northwold in 1234 and dedicated by him in 1252. The church must now have seemed complete, and nothing was indeed done for two generations. Then, when John of Hotham had been made Bishop (1316), John of Crauden Prior (1321) and Alan of Walsingham sacrist (1321) it was felt that a proper Lady Chapel was desirable, and in 1321 the foundation stone was laid, oddly enough, for an almost separate building to the NE of the N transept and to the N of the chancel. The position resembles that of some cathedral chapter houses. When no more than a start can have been made, building had, however, to be interrupted, because of a catastrophe which had befallen the cathedral.

On 22 February 1322 the Norman crossing-tower collapsed damaging in its fall the Norman bays of the chancel. The energy which would otherwise have been devoted to the Lady Chapel was at once diverted to the crossing, and - to a most unusual design of which much will have to be said later — the crossing-tower was rebuilt from 1322 to 1328. It was made larger than before and given an octagonal shape. Between 1328 and 1342 the stone octagon was crowned by an octagonal lantern of timber. Meanwhile the chancel was also rebuilt as far as necessary, and the Lady Chapel carried on, probably when the masons were free after the completion of the chancel bays, say about 1335. The altar in the Lady Chapel was dedicated in 1353. The whole chapel was then ready with walls, windows, and images.

Otherwise, after the Black Death little architectural work was done at Ely. Only fitments and furnishings kept extending, the most sumptuous being the chantry chapels of Bishops Alcock and West. Of the principal shrine of Ely, the shrine of St Etheldreda, only a few fragments have survived the fury of the iconoclasts. The monastery was dissolved in 1539. A dean replaced the prior, canons the monks. The cloister was pulled down and much of the monastic buildings. Of the fabric of the church the N arm of the W transept collapsed in the C15. Re-building was begun but no progress made.

For the work of restoration carried out by those more recent generations which cared for an ancient building for the sake of its aesthetic, historical, and sentimental associations, two names must be mentioned: James Essex, the friend of Horace Walpole, Thomas Gray, and William Cole, who began work in 1757 and did not, on the whole, do much, and Sir George Gilbert Scott, who started in 1847 and did a great deal. To mention only the chief counts, Scott altered the position of the choir stalls, put in the choir screen, and reconstructed the lantern of the octagon.

Ely Cathedral suffered no damage in the Second World War.

THE EXTERIOR. As one approaches Ely on foot or on a bicycle, or perhaps in an open car, the cathedral dominates the picture for miles around. It lies raised on an eminence 68 ft above the flat fenland and offers from everywhere an outline different from that of any other English cathedral. Instead of the two front towers and the square crossing-tower, as one expects it after Canterbury and York, Lincoln and Durham, Ely has only one tower at the W end, and, in the place of a normal crossing-tower, that curious corona, the Octagon. The W tower rises very high and broad and ends in four pinnacles, also square-topped, and it is accompanied on the s by a lower extension with its own turrets, the W transept. And the octagon in its stone built parts appears from a distance rather broad and spreading than tall, with eight big crocketed pinnacles standing round the timber lantern, which has again its own square-topped pinnacles, quite light and fanciful as a crowning. From dead-on N or S, the length of the building dominates — typically English characteristic — but from the W and E the most curious groups of crags of varying heights and shapes result.

A detailed examination of the exterior should start at the S TRANSEPT; for Simeon’s abbey church was begun in the usual way from the E end. This, the chancel, with apse and straight-headed chancel aisles, exists no longer. But by the time of the translation of St Etheldreda, in 1106, the ground floor of the transepts had probably already been started. It contains externally as internally the most ancient features of the church. It comes out three bays beyond the aisle walls and is provided with E and W aisles — both motifs taken over by Simeon from his brother Walkelin’s new cathedral at Winchester, which had been begun in 1079. Externally the W wall of the S transept — visible, above the remains of the E cloister wall, only from the Bishop’s garden - has three ground-floor windows, with just one roll moulding along jambs and arch, but with no shafts or billet decoration. At the height of the springing of the window arches and running right round them is a frieze or string-course chip-carved with small saltire crosses. The same motif occurs in the contemporary blocked doorway from the transept into the cloister (see under Cloister below). The string-course at the ground level of the upper floor consists of two rows of tiny raised triangles. The upper windows are Perp. On the E side the corresponding features are altered (the ground floor has late C13 geometrical tracery), but on the S side more elements can be observed which belong to the earliest of the building. The ground floor here is disturbed by the former monastic structures (cf. below under The Precinct), but a blocked, undecorated Norman doorway can be recognized and one (restored and apparently altered) early window. Above, the aisle fronts have single windows made into a tripartite motif by narrower blank arcades to the l. and r. These windows are given nook—shafts and no further decoration. The same motif is used twice in the front of the transept-nave, with a broad flat buttress between. Above that, the frieze of little triangles goes round again; then follows a blind arcade and then - clearly a later stage — windows surrounded by billet friezes and with double-shafting. Yet higher up one can just recognize the remains of another blank arcade. But this was replaced in the C15 by a low, broad, simple Perp window. To the l. and r. of the transept-nave rise two turrets. The clerestory on the E and W sides has again the tripartite window surrounds, but now all outlined by billet decoration.

We must now cross the church and emerge outside the N TRANSEPT to study the differences between the two, which indicate a slightly later date for the N transept. On the N front the dividing buttress is no longer entirely flat, but has two shafts at the angles and higher up consists of a group of three shafts. The billet-friezes which on the S side appear only higher up form here the sill-line of the ground-floor windows, and these windows have nook-shafts. Only on the E side, where work seems to have begun and where the ground-floor windows unfortunately are a later insertion, are the tripartite windows on the gallery level with billet frieze and with only single nook-shafts. Above them is a corbel-table, as also at the same level on the W side (where the gallery windows are Perp). The battlements on top of the gallery wall are of course also later. The clerestory is identical with that of the S transept. The N front at that level has a blank arcade and above it two tall Perp windows. The turrets are not identical with those on the S side either.

In 1699 the NW corner of the building was altered, the Norman window received new mullions, and a new doorway was put in below. The work was carried out by Robert Grumbold, Wren’s mason at Trinity Library, and Wren himself was consulted on it. The window design is indeed a repetition of that of Trinity Library, and the doorway with its concave jambs and arch moulding and its banded rustication comes immediately from St Mary-le-Bow, and less directly from such French designs as that of Mansart’s Hotel de Conti in Paris of c. 1645.

The elements established in the course of completing the transept were then taken over for the NAVE, and no innovations were introduced: a billet frieze at the level of the aisle windows — the blank arcading on the S side is rather part of the decoration of the cloister than of the nave (see below) — and billet surrounds of the tripartite groups of the clerestory windows. The gallery windows are Perp on both sides.①

The west END with the remaining Southern half of the w transept, provided with one E chapel,② and the mighty W tower is not dated or precisely datable; but it seems to have followed the completion of the nave after a short interval. The splendour of its broad-chested appearance, when the N transept was still standing, may have been matched by Bury St Edmunds (where hardly anything of all this now remains above ground), and preceded by Winchester. The country where the conception of the W transept and gigantic W tower was at home is Germany, but no immediate sources for the type of Ely have yet been found. Two things especially are not German: the duplication of the polygonal (to be more precise: decagonal) turrets at the ends of the transept - in Germany there was usually one on each side against the middle of the transept N and S ends - and the clothing of all the walls, except for the plinth, in tier after tier of blank arcading. This of course was the Englishman’s favourite motif, used ad nauseam in many cathedrals, particularly in the C13, though used wholly successfully at Ely. The success here is due to a wide variety of sizes and forms. They give a clear account of building history. The lowest tier of blank arches is plain and narrow, the second introduces the remarkable enrichment of arching in two layers immediately behind each other so that only the back layer can strictly be called blank. The third tier is larger and contains windows. They have a tripartite stepped setting, and the wall above them is entirely diapered. Above this follows a small tier of blank trefoil-headed arches, and above them the Gothic motif of the pointed arch is reached. There are here again windows, and they are again arranged in tripartite stepped groups. The nook-shafts have a series of shaftrings, and there are sunk quatrefoils in circles in the spandrels above. A corbel-table and late battlements end the composition. In the angle turrets on the SW and SE and on the E side of the transept - where incidentally, in a very English way, the apsed chapel projects with its own horizontal divisions, regardless of those of the transept - the motifs are identical or similar. The turrets rise three stages higher, and there is no essential change in their details, except for one remarkable conceit, impossible in any country but England. All the way up the turrets, shafts are carried not at the angles but in the middle of the sides. In the lowest stage of the turrets above the battlements of the transepts these shafts are not attached to the wall but run in front of blank arches behind them. The big W tower also must have been continued quickly; for right up to the stage of the quatrefoils above the bell-openings and the corbel-table above the quatrefoils stylistic material still remains the same, although here also decoration is used rather more sparingly. About 1200 the W tower was ready. It received a stone spire c. 1230 (the Liber Eliensis says explicitly ab opere caementario). Then, during the later C14, the spire was replaced by a tall octagon storey with large windows enriched by tracery still in the Dec traditions and yet taller polygonal angle pinnacles. The octagon carried a slender lead spire which was taken down only in 1801.

The next part of the building to be erected was the W porch or GALILEE in its present form. For a porch, very probably two-storeyed, seems to have been built at once, in the way to be seen to this day for instance at St Pantaleon at Cologne — one of the component parts of what in Germany is called a Westwerk. The whole W group at Ely is indeed such a ‘west-work’. In its present form the Galilee is a puzzling structure. Its date is known but seems to fit it only partially. As has already been said, it is recorded as the work of Bishop Eustace who died in 1215. Now the cladding of the N and Ss wall may well be as early as that — see the four tiers of plain blank arcades in the E.E. style, with no more complications than pointed trefoils in the spandrels. The angles have thin keeled shafts ending in thin pinnacles and dog-tooth between the shafts. But the W front and also the interior, which, being open to the outside, may be considered in our present context, are two generations later in style. In the interior the walls have tall arcading in two layers, the front layer starting from a lower plinth, the back layer from what is known as a bench table. Their interlocking is most effective. The motif derives from the choir aisle at Lincoln. Above these arcades runs an upper wall arcade, detached from the wall, and this has the same elaborate stepping and cusping (groups of five arches) as the clerestory in the retrochoir, that is work of c. 1250. The porch is vaulted, the earliest major vaulting at Ely: two bays with finely detailed thin ribs and transverse arches no wider than the ribs. The inner portal need not be considered too seriously. It is virtually new work of Scott. And the outer portal also in its most surprising motif is not original, the pierced vesica in the tracery flanked by two ‘mouchettes’. This, if old, would only be early C14. But it is a fanciful reconstruction of Bernasconi who worked at Ely in the early C19 (see Lady Chapel). The outer portal had, according to C18 engravings, two tall arches with a shaft between (a trumeau) and a solid tympanum decorated by a blank sexfoiled vesica. Above the portal is a fine group of three tall lancet windows, shafted, with shaftrings, and dog-tooth decoration, and these could again well belong to the early C13. Their nearest parallel is the E end of the retrochoir. The room behind these windows was (according to the V.C.H.) originally open to the W crossing.

The RETROCHOIR was added to the Norman chancel in 1234-52. Its E end is intact, with its beautiful group of three tall lancets on the ground floor shafted and decorated by dog-tooth and the two tiers of five stepped lancets above. The upper tier gives light to the roof above the retrochoir vaults. In the spandrels above the windows are sunk quatrefoils, sexfoils etc., and the gable is decorated rather fussily by three more cusped quatrefoils. Also, for the sake of the same odd horror vacui, the group of five upper lancet arches is continued towards the flanking turrets of the retrochoir-end by half-arches, a motif that appears equally illogically and distressingly at Wells and Salisbury. At the angles of the aisles are also turrets. The aisle E ends show the C13 design on the gallery floor; on the ground floor the E windows are altered. On the N and S sides, owing to early C14 alterations (see below), less can be seen of Hugh de Northwo1d’s design. It should be examined on the S side. Here, though the aisle windows are all C14, the gallery windows are preserved in bays four and five from the W, single lancets with blank lancets l. and r., and vertical rows of crockets outside the nook-shafts. These two bays appear now as a screen, because the gallery behind was taken out at the time of rebuilding the choir, in order to give better light to the shrine of St Etheldreda. The C13 clerestory has stepped groups of three lancets under an arch, with dog-tooth decoration, and the bays are here separated by flying buttresses.

The early C14 has in these parts caused much adjustment. When the Norman crossing-tower had fallen in 1322 and was replaced by the OCTAGON (1322-42), one bay each of the transept aisles, the nave aisles, and the chancel aisles was cut out for the widening from the former square to the new polygonal shape. That led to the arrangement with a pair of flying buttresses in each tower and a very large Dec window set diagonally. Above these and the roofs of transepts, nave, and chancel is a low arched wall-passage, and then the pierced balustrade and the big pinnacles of the octagon. Behind this rises the extremely pretty timber lantern, renewed entirely by Sir George Gilbert Scott.③

As soon, it seems, as the masonry of the Octagon was complete, the Norman CHOIR was rebuilt (c. 1330-5) which had fallen down under the weight of the collapsing crossing-tower. The windows are Dec in all three storeys, broad, of four lights, and with flowing tracery. In the clerestory the jambs and arches have fleuron decoration, and at the top, below the parapet — the choir has no battlements - is another frieze with fleuron or square leaf motifs. On the N side and most of the S side the flying buttresses were at the same time re-done.

There is now only one more part of the cathedral to be examined, the LADY CHAPEL of 1321 (or rather c. 1335) - 1353. It is a rectangle of 100 by 46 ft with a seven-light E window and eight-light W window and tall four-light N and S windows. These are entirely in the flowing Dec style, except for the E window, where in the rather wilful, not to say ugly, development out of the singled-out middle light into the top of the arch-head, the Perp is heralded, in feeling if not in actual motifs. The windows have embattled transoms and the roof-pitch is comparatively low. Below the W window runs a row of eight broad niches with brackets for statues, and above the w and E windows is another, of nine rising niches squeezed in between window and embattled gable, and also provided with brackets for statues. These top niches are all ogee-headed.

For a study of the Perp style Ely is useless. Apart from the two upper N windows in the N transept and plenty of minor windows elsewhere, the architecture of Ely has remained ever since as it was by 1350.

The cathedral is entirely ashlar-faced. The STONE used seems to be the oolitic limestone of Barnack throughout, though the inside of the Octagon and the Lady Chapel is said to be of Weldon or Clipsham stone, and the Alcock Chantry Chapel (cf. below) is of local clunch.

The DIMENSIONS of the cathedral are as follows: 537 ft long from W to E, 190 ft wide in the E transepts. Height to the top of the W tower 215 ft, height of the Octagon 170 1/2 ft, height of the nave 105 ft.

THE INTERIOR. Ely Cathedral is unforgettable for its Norman nave and its early C14 Octagon; the C13 Retrochoir and the mid C14 Lady Chapel are also amongst the foremost examples of their respective styles in England.

The NAVE of Ely is Early Norman still, though it can hardly have been begun before c. 1110, Early Norman in its inexorably uniform rhythm and its absence of all light relief. As one sees it coming in from the W, it seems immensely high, immensely long and uncomfortably narrow in relation to the other two dimensions, moving, but grim and gaunt with its seemingly endless repetition of the same shafts from floor to ceiling, the same large bare arcade openings and the same gallery openings gaping nearly as wide. Even the clerestory is not much less tall.④ Subdivisions one cannot see from the entrances, variations of dimensions are not at once noticed, and subtler modifications less still. With the shafts marking the division from bay to bay like huge masts, and the sturdy but also far from short shafts of arcades and gallery looking like so many poles, the general impression is, in spite of the massive stone blocks, oddly oaken. Perhaps the fact contributes that the relation of void to solid is so astounding for a stone building of so early a date. The Gothic builders of France fifty years later certainly did not go beyond the transparency of Ely.

To appreciate the details of the nave, however, one has to see it in its position in the building history of the cathedral, and that, for us, begins with the transepts. Simeon’s cathedral was no doubt started at the E end. The beginning dates from 1083, and the first consecration took place in 1106. We do not know how much was done then, whether the chancel only, or the transepts, the crossing-tower, and the E end of the nave as well. We can only go by the evidence surviving in the building. As to the NORMAN CHOIR all that remains is the piers to the l. and r. at its former E end, by the springing of the former apse. The existence of an apse has been proved by excavation, and it has also been shown that it was very soon replaced by a square E end, as the English liked to use it (Southwell, Romsey). The surviving piers are rectangular towards the choir and have a shaft running straight up from floor to ceiling. So that motif existed from the beginning, as indeed it had existed already at Jumiéges (1040-67). Nothing else can be said of the choir.

The S TRANSEPT is the oldest existing part of the cathedral. The W windows and the ground floor of the S side have already been mentioned. Now the interior disposition must be studied, and in doing so it must not be forgotten that the first of its former four bays was cut out when the Octagon replaced the square Norman crossing tower. So what the Norman crossing piers were like, we cannot say. The remaining three bays have aisles on both sides just as at Winchester, which was undoubtedly Simeon’s example. The arcades are arranged with a kind of alternation of supports. Starting from the S wall and following W or E arcade there is first a circular pier, then a composite pier, and then again a circular pier, although this is now halved at its meeting with the octagon piers. The composite pier is of an odd design, flat towards the transept nave (where one might expect a shaft to go up to the ceiling, as indeed it does at Winchester - against a similarly flat background) and with three stepped attached shafts carrying the plain one-stepped, unchamfered and unmoulded arches. The capitals of the circular and the composite piers are of the characteristically Early Norman variety with stunted volutes at the angles,⑤ and on the E side there are in addition flatly carved thin tendrils or scrolls to decorate the surfaces of the capitals, and also affronted birds and beasts. The E and W aisles are vaulted, with groined vaults not too precisely set out. The E aisle (also of the N transept) was divided by low walls into chapels, the W aisle, in the same way as at Winchester, by a wall closing the arcade, was made into a sacristy. At the sill-level of the gallery floor appears the first billet-frieze in the cathedral. The gallery openings are about as large as those of the arcade, but they are sub-divided into two openings above each one of the arcades. The shafts between the twin openings are thin and straight like sturdy staves. The gallery was evidently built a little later than the arcade. The arches have now two roll-mouldings, and the sub-arches one.⑥ The alternation of supports is between the composite pier and the circular piers with their thin attached shafts in the main directions. All capitals are of the plain block or cushion type.⑦ The clerestory has the same motif as Winchester: an inner wall passage in front of the windows with a tripartite stepped group of arches for each bay: narrow-wide-narrow, and low-taller-low. Block capitals repeat here throughout, as they do at Winchester.

Now for the S wall. This is probably not in its original state. The wall space of the nave is divided in the middle by a three-shaft wall-pier with one of the early carved capitals. But narrowly in front of this and the wall runs an arcade of six arches on circular piers, and above these a small blank arcading of intersected arches. They carry an open passageway or balcony from W gallery to E gallery. Intersected arches seem to appear at Ely only in the second third of the C12, although they are present at Durham before 1100, and so one may presume that the original plan was for a balcony the width of one whole bay, exactly as it still exists at Winchester. Whether this was ever built or not, cannot be said. Intersected arches also are the decoration of the screen dividing the sacristies from the transept nave. This was no doubt brought here from somewhere else, perhaps from the NW transept when this was demolished. As the demolition is attributed to the C14, the DOORWAY now leading into the vestries from the nave aisle would confirm this assumption. It is clearly of the C14 and has two good large head-stops at the ends of the hood-mould (cf. Octagon). Above the balcony the S wall of the transept nave goes on with a tall shaft rising as high as to touch the sill of the Perp window in the gable, that is in the C12 probably rising right up to the ceiling. The present ROOF is a fine hammerbeam roof of the C15 with angels as supporters of the hammerbeam.

The N TRANSEPT must have been begun a little later than its companion. They differ from each other in many remarkable, if on the whole minor, ways. First of all, both have alternating supports, but the relation on the N side is rather illogically reversed. Starting again from the outer wall, that is this time from the N, the first pier is composite and the second circular. That may have been done with a view to the broad balcony across the N end, but it must have led to trouble at the Norman crossing; for while the pier leaning against the octagon is now composite, the half-pier against the Norman crossing must have been semicircular. There are other differences too. The capitals on the ground floor have volutes only on the E side.⑧ On the W side they are block-shaped. The W aisle has a stone seat running along its W wall and was perhaps used as a vestibule for pilgrims (V.C.H.). To return to the arcade, the piers of the N transept, as against that on the S side, have demi-shafts to the nave which run right up to the ceiling, marking the division into bays much more clearly than in the S transept. The arcade arches are like those in the S transept. The gallery and clerestory also are not altered.⑨ The N wall is similar, too, but the narrow balcony, replacing also what was, or was meant to be, a wider one, is different. It here consists of alternating narrower and wider arches, the wider arches being taller also, that is a motif similar to that of the clerestory. The capitals are still of the block kind. This balcony must have been put in almost immediately after the completion of the transept, though not as part of its design; for the balcony cuts into the arcade arches. - The ROOF of the N transept is similar to that of the other transept.

The NAVE is twelve bays long from the E face of the W tower to the Octagon, and was therefore originally thirteen to the Norman crossing - a length excessive even in England.⑩ Its general character has already been described. If we reckon that it was begun in 1110 or even a little earlier, it must either have been built very quickly or with a surprising and rare faith in the original plan. For except for the billet frieze at the gallery sill there is virtually no decoration at all in the nave. Capitals are still block-shaped; even the usual scalloping is not (or hardly) done. Shaft after shaft runs right up to the ceiling - a cambered ceiling, in its present form of the C19 — regardless of the fact that in the arcade as well as the gallery alternation of supports is not given up. There is a curious lack of decision in the design here, a wavering between the two chief types of Norman elevation - one-bayed and double-bayed. At Ely the main effect is entirely of uniform bays, as the shafts are identical, whether they stand against piers with five stepped shafts towards the arches or with one fat segmental less-than-demi-pier. The former motif comes straight from the transept galleries, the latter is a none too happy innovation of the designer of the nave. In the gallery the alternation is between five stepped shafts towards the arches and less-than-demi-piers with one shaft added in the middle, again not a happy invention. In the aisles there are more original features, especially the blank arcading all along the outer walls. This is again quite plain, but in various places above it, and below the sill-line of the aisle windows, a broad zigzag frieze appears. There is some of it to the l. and r. of the Prior’s Door (see below under Cloister) and more towards the W end.⑪ The aisle windows on the S side start higher up than on the N side, because the N walk of the cloister had to find place beneath. A few more indications of later date towards the W end have to be added. The arcade arches have three instead of two roll mouldings towards the nave and the transverse arches across the aisles two instead of none. In the clerestory scalloped capitals begin to appear, and in the westernmost bay of the S aisle two tiers of blank arches, the upper ones being interlaced. That leads direct to the W Transept.

Otherwise there is so much difference between the ground-floor of the W TRANSEPT and the nave that work must have been interrupted, probably during the troubled years of Stephen. The very arch out of the nave into the transept and the corresponding one into the E chapel of the transept are thickly decorated with row upon row of zigzag — in a style quite alien to that of the nave, and with a feeling for show absent from Ely until then (in spite of the Prior’s Door). The apsed chapel also has zigzag round the windows, intersected arches in the upper tier of its blank wall arcading, and scalloped capitals, though no ribs in the vault yet. How much of this is a correct representation of the original state cannot now be stated. The chapel was in ruins early in the C19, and rebuilt in 1848. Higher up in the E wall, capitals are of the many scalloped and even the waterleaf varieties.

The W and S walls of the W transept are as illuminating from inside as they are from outside. Again the tiers of decorative arcades above each other afford a sequence of historical phases in quick succession, starting with plain blank arches as in the nave aisles, going on to a zigzag frieze, to interlaced arches, to arches in two layers behind each other, to trefoil-headed arches, and then, yet higher up, notably in the crossing of the w transept, to pointed arches and shafts with several shaftrings. The crossing was in fact strengthened inside, when the octagonal lantern was put on in the C14. The present crossing piers and arches belong entirely to that period, but above the arches are the pointed ones of c. 1200 with a kind of spiky crenellation in three dimensions (similar to what appears in the Infirmary, see p. 301). To the l. and r. of the E arch facing the nave are two vesica-shaped sunk medallions.

For the interior of the GALILEE see above, p. 271.

The RETROCHOIR or Presbytery was built by Hugh of Northwold from 1234 to 1252. Its dates thus lie exactly between the end of the nave and the beginning of the retrochoir or Angel Choir at Lincoln and the Ely retrochoir is indeed the missing link between the two. Of its stylistic connexion with Lincoln there can be no doubt. The piers are the same as in Lincoln nave, with a circular core and eight detached Purbeck shafts around, tied together by a band of shaftrings. The capitals are the same, of Purbeck marble, with sumptuous stiff—leaf decoration. The arch mouldings, however, are yet more finely split up, and the bit of dog-tooth enrichment is lacking at Lincoln. The pointed sunk trefoils in the spandrels also correspond not with the nave but with the Angel Choir (or rather the doorway into the N chancel aisle), and the brackets supporting the vaulting shafts are as big and fully decorated as in the Angel Choir, at least in the W bays of the retrochoir, where the shrine stood. Here they are as gloriously profuse in their stiff-leaf crockets as any in England. Further E they are simpler and oddly denuded, the surface rather like a dry fir-tree’s when one has chopped off all the branches. The shafts are tripartite as at Lincoln nave and carry a vault also exactly as at Lincoln nave. It was there put in shortly after 1233; that is exactly when building began at Ely. But the Angel Choir was only started four years after Ely had completed its retrochoir. The vault, just like those of Lincoln, consists of transverse arches as thin as the diagonal ribs, ridge-ribs along the ridge, shortened or cut off ridge-ribs at right angles, and one pair each of tierceron ribs in each cell of the vault. The effect is palm-like but not as tropical as at Exeter (after 1275), where tiercerons are multiplied. But the palm-effect certainly confuses the logic of the vault. We do not see it any longer as bay following bay, but as sprouting wall-shaft following sprouting wall-shaft. The result is that at the E end we are left with the unsatisfactory feature of what seems to be a half-bay. Bosses run all along the longitudinal ridge-ribs and also stress the ends of the transverse ridge-ribs. They are mostly of stiff-leaf; but there is also a beautifully tender little Coronation of the Virgin above the altar, a seated figure of St Etheldreda above her shrine, and a seated figure of a monk (?) holding a church and keys. So far the gallery and clerestory have not yet been looked at in detail. The gallery is as copiously decorated as that of the Angel Choir, though no figure sculpture is introduced anywhere. The motif of twin openings is taken over from Norman Ely and also from Lincoln nave. The dividing colonnette is a thin quatrefoil Purbeck shaft. The sub-arches are trefoiled, and in the spandrel appears no bar-tracery yet (as at the Angel Choir) but still only a sunk pointed quatrefoil with big flat sprays of stiff-leaf r. and l. The surrounding main arch rests on three shafts separated by vertical bands of crocketing (as in the Angel Choir) — a most lively motif. Finally in the spandrels of the main arches are again sunk pointed quatrefoils. The clerestory has no bar tracery yet either, but instead the charming motif of a group of tall stepped lancet openings of the wall passage towards the choir-nave, again with Purbeck shafts, shaft-rings, and dog-tooth, and with elaborately cusped or foiled arches — a motif we have already found inside the Galilee.

The E end also uses Purbeck shafts and dog-tooth to enrich the beautiful group of three big lancets, and the four smaller lancets above have a screen of cusped or foiled stepped arches in front, the immediate continuation of the clerestory. Finally the aisle vaults. These, being amongst the earliest work, have no tiercerons, just the straightforward ribs and transverse arches, like the Galilee vault.

The years 1321-2 have been mentioned more than once before. In February 1322 the Norman crossing-tower fell down, and rebuilding took the ambitious form of a much enlarged octagon. The member of the chapter in charge of building work was the Sacrist, and to this post Alan of Walsingham had been promoted one year before. When the disaster happened he was so overwhelmed that, the chronicle tells us, he did not at first know ‘quo se verteret vel quid ageret’ (where to turn and what to do). But then he collected himself, had stones and timber cleared out of the church and ‘locum in quo novum campanile fuisset constructurus, per VIII partes arte architectonica mensuratas, in quibus VIII columnae lapideae totum aedificium supportantes erigerentur fodere facit’ (he had the place excavated where the new tower was to be constructed, measuring it out with architectural skill in eight parts, in which eight stone columns were to be erected to support the whole building).

As the idea of a wide octagonal crossing is the greatest individual achievement of architectural genius at Ely Cathedral, it must be emphasized as strongly as possible that according to the evidence of this source, the Monachus Eliensis who wrote in the later C14, the idea of the Octagon was not the mason’s but the Sacrist’s. Alan of Walsingham, it is true, was an artist as well; he first appears at Ely in 1314, as a monk and goldsmith. It has lately become fashionable to minimize the role played by the layman in architectural invention in the Middle Ages, but there is nothing in this great spatial idea that would not have been possible for an amateur. What Lord Burlington could do in the C18, Alan could do in the C14. Had he any ‘exemplar’? Octagonal towers of course existed even in the C11 and C12 (Jumieges, St Germans, and, in Cambridgeshire Swaffham Prior), but they could not have fired Alan’s spatial conception. So the only possible precedent I have found is the hexagonal C13 crossing of the Cathedral at Siena. Alan may have known Siena, or he may not. We have too little information about his life to say anything about that. To me it seems more likely that the idea was his.

However, even if this is granted, Alan still needed someone to carry it out.⑫ The temptation to throw out the child with the bath water was great both ways, and the Octagon contains so much of ingenuity in the details that to know the name of the designer of the actual work, as we see it, would be just as interesting as to know him to whom is due the initial conception of an octagonal crossing. Here also we are lucky at Ely, though the answer which the Sacrist’s Rolls gives us is more tantalizing than enlightening. Under Edw. II 17 we find just one entry: ‘Item dat. cuidam de Londonia ad ordinand novum opus ,3/4’. Ordinare in medieval documents means almost without exception to design or lay out. On the other hand 3s. 4d. is not much for the visit of a distinguished mason for such a purpose. And if he who came was a distinguished mason, say the King’s Mason from London, would not Alan have mentioned his name in the roll? The date fits, and it is tempting to assume a visit of a consultant de Londonia, before the Ely masons, first a John Cementarius and then John Attegrene, were left to the execution of the great work. The style of the Octagon allows, as far as I can see, for no attribution to one particular London mason.

And now, having said so much historically about the Octagon, it is time to enter and enjoy it. It is a delight from beginning to end for anyone who feels for space as strongly as for construction. For the basic emotion created by the octagon as one approaches it along the nave is one of spaciousness, a relief, a deep breath after the oppressive narrowness of the Norman work. Then follows, as one tries to account for that sudden widening of one’s lungs, the next moment’s feeling, a feeling of surprise. Its immediate cause is that light falls in from large windows diagonally — a deviation unheard of in the church architecture of the West.⑬ The rhythm of the Octagon as one takes it in, once one has reached its centre, is an alternation of immensely tall arches in the main directions and of a three-tier arrangement in the diagonals, consisting of arches of arcade height, a kind of blind triforium above, and the large ‘clerestory’ windows. The arches, the tall ones too, have capitals only to some of their jamb mouldings. Hood-moulds rest on excellently carved head-stops. The blind triforium consists in each diagonal of three ogee niches of odd trefoil shape, filled by seated Victorian figures. The windows have rather gross and heavy flowing tracery.

Of special ingenuity are the shafts in the eight angles which carry the vault. They are hard to describe. They start as one tripartite shaft in each angle, until, a little above the springing of the diagonal arches, they are met by a kind of corbelled-out lantern shapes. These odd lanterns or triple-niches rest on corbels carved with eight stories from the life of St Etheldreda. They are worth a close examination with field glasses, as relatively untouched English narrative sculpture of c. 1325. Then the lantern or niche corbels out and rises into a complex nodding ogee arch with crockets and pinnacles. But inside the niche the triple shaft goes on rising, unconcerned by the corbel and the crocketed gable which it seems to penetrate. It continues behind and above them until it reaches its final capital, where the ribs of the vault spring. The vault is of the tierceron kind and shoots up with its palm branches from each of the eight angles to one side of the eightsided lantern balancing on the vault. It seems a miraculous feat, though in fact the lantern is of timber and hence not as heavy as it seems, and though it does not really stand on the vaulting ribs, but on a magnificent sturdy timber construction behind the vaults.

A word must first be said about this, as it can be seen when one climbs into the lantern and on to the roofs. From the angles of the masonry octagon, reinforced by the heavy weight of their big pinnacles and supported by flying buttresses jut out horizontal beams realizing — perhaps for the first time in England - the principle of the hammerbeam. In addition, from somewhat lower down the angles, go up diagonally even bigger beams - 64 ft long and of a scantling starting at 3 ft 4 in. by 2 ft 8 in. and tapering to 12 in. at the place where, a little higher up, they meet the angles of the lantern. The lantern, this will be noticed with delight from inside and outside, does not stand angle above angle and side above side with the masonry octagon, but with a twist so that each outer side faces an inner angle, and vice versa. It seems the nec plus ultra of that playing with spatial surprise which characterizes the Octagon altogether. But it has at the same time a sound functional reason. By means of that twist each of the reinforced angles of the masonry octagon shoots out diagonally two horizontal and two diagonally rising beams, and thereby the weight from each angle of the timber lantern is split at its foot and carried on diagonally by two pairs of principal beams. The whole, seen in a diagram, is much like a C20 space frame. Standing inside, at the foot of the Octagon, however, one realizes nothing of all that and is simply thrilled and bewildered by the way in which eleven ribs sprout out of each angle shaft and five of them carry one side of the lantem. The lantern has large windows and is gloriously light. Its roof is again of the tierceron kind, a splendid eight-cornered star with a boss in the centre adorned by a demi-figure of Christ. The name of the ingenious carpenter to whom we owe the timber work of the Octagon is in all probability known to us. In the Sacrist’s Rolls for 1334-5 and 1336-7 appears the name of William Hurle, and he receives a salary quite out of proportion with all the others employed in the work. His £8 a year (plus board and lodging) compares with £2 for the resident master mason. In 1339-40, 1345-6, and 1349-50 he appears again, but with lesser sums. At that time he probably only paid occasional visits. Hurle was the most distinguished carpenter of his age. He can be followed through his career in London, from St Stephen’s Chapel, that is the King’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster (1326), to the Guildhall Chapel (1332), and again to St Stephen’s (1336, 1346, 1351-2) and to Windsor (1344, 1350). In 1336 he was appointed Chief Carpenter to the King’s Works south of Trent. He died in 1354 or a little earlier.

Even before Hurle appeared on the scene, it seems, that means immediately after the completion of the masonry of the Octagon, the first three bays of the CHOIR were rebuilt. Their date must therefore be c. 1328—c. 1335. They are a little disappointing after the excitement of the Octagon. The capricious filigree of their gallery openings is, it is true, exceedingly pretty, and the arcade piers of Purbeck marble afford the most instructive comparison with those of the retrochoir: the ones with the fine articulation of the E.E. style, the others with the less distinct play of light and shade of the Dec, the ones with each shaft finished by its own capital, the others with some of the shafts left without capitals. The vault is the earliest instance in East Anglia of a full-blown lierne-vault ⑭ with bosses emphasizing the corners of the interlaced stars as much as their centres. But the system is that of the Norman and E.E. parts of the building unmodified, and thus the contribution of the new style seems only a matter of superficial adornment. As for details, the fleuron decoration of the orders of the arcade arches ought to be remembered and the corbels and trefoils of the spandrels. The vaults of the choir aisles have (renewed) lierne-vaults only in the N aisle, ridge-ribs in both directions (which the retrochoir aisles had not) in the S aisle.

The LADY CHAPEL carries on where the Octagon and the choir left off. Its foundation stone was laid in 1321, but work was no doubt interrupted for the sake of the more urgent reconstruction of the cathedral itself. So the building will have to be dated c. 1335-53. The exterior has been described. The interior is now reached from the N porch into the N transept. Originally a more important route of access led through a splendidly decorated DOORWAY in the N chancel aisle into a two-bay wide anteroom on the S side of the chapel. The doorway has as the principal motif of its decoration broad side niches placed diagonally — a position so much favoured by the designers of the early C14. Damaged figures are in the spandrels of the doorway, and niches for more statuettes run all along the jambs and arch, with their own little brackets and canopies.

The Lady Chapel itself is basically no more than a plain parallelogram, and it might well be expected that what the early C14 could do in that case would be no more than in the choir — the imaginative decoration of surfaces. But that is not so; the designer of the Lady Chapel, whose name we do not know for certain, has set the flat surfaces in an undulating motion, and it is from this that the great fascination of the room derives. The zone chiefly in question is that below the windows. Here seats have been placed all along the walls, as if it were a chapter house. From the level of the seats rise Purbeck shafts, treated like thin buttresses. Then, however, almost at once — perhaps in 1322 — this scheme was given up, and the rest of the stonework is of a soft limestone, said to be from Weldon or Clipsham. Each seat is treated as a deep niche and has a canopy with that most characteristic Dec motif, the nodding ogee arch or three-dimensional ogee arch. The arches are cusped, gabled, and thickly crocketed. Underneath them and half hidden by them, the niches on the N and S sides (not the E and W) have each a double arch against their back walls. This increases the complexity of the design considerably. Moreover, at intervals, corresponding to the strips of wall left standing between the wide and high windows is a wider niche projecting in its arch further forward. In addition the corners are veiled by niches placed diagonally. By these various means the designer gives the vivid impression of a movement swinging and rocking forward and upward. The flowing tracery of the windows takes up in two dimensions this feeling of sensuous curves, but the wall between the windows, above the broader niches, is given two tiers of blank arches and in addition two tiers of minor arches in the jambs of the windows. All these have again nodding ogee arches.

The vault is broad and not too steeply pointed. With its star formations of liernes, its concealment of any division into bays, and its innumerable comparatively small bosses it spreads out easily across and harmonizes well with the intricacies of the wall decoration.

The general impression of the room as we receive it now, is in one way quite false. The windows — the remaining fragments prove that - had stained glass and the architectural details, also according to preserved traces, were all painted. So there was not the clarity of to-day, but a rather hotter and more exciting effect.

The sculptural decoration of the Lady Chapel is of clunch. It is unfortunately far from intact. Not one figure, not one scene is as it should be, and what remains makes one feel sad about it. The decoration consists of figures of saints (?) in the small spandrels of the recessed sub-arches of each niche below the main nodding ogee arch, and of stories, usually comprised in two separate groups, in each spandrel to the l. and the r. of the gables of the nodding ogee arches. The iconography of the Lady Chapel has been investigated by the late Montague James. The scenes are from the life and the miracles of the Virgin, based mainly on the so-called Evangelium Pseudo Matthaei. Not much is recognizable to the layman. Only the following shall be pointed out: S side Nos 10-18 from the E: no 1., Joachim’s offering rejected by the High Priests, 11 l. the Angel appears to Joachim; 11 r. the Angel appears to Anne; 12 r. Meeting at the Golden Gate; 13 l. Birth of the Virgin, 13 r. Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple; 15 l. Marriage of the Virgin, 15 r. the High Priest dismissing the Suitors; 16 l. Annunciation; 16 r. Visitation; 18 Journey to Bethlehem (above the present entrance into the chapel).

FITTINGS AND FURNISHINGS (from w to E). W TRANSEPT: FONT. By Scott, 1853, very E.E. with stiff-leaf capitals. - ALTAR in the chapel. 1896 by P. Thieknesse. - PAINTINGS. Ceiling of the W tower by H. S. Le Strange, 1855. — Ceiling of the transept by T. Gambier Parry, 1878.

NAVE AND AISLES. PULPITUM. This was Norman, of stone, and stood between what is now the first pair of piers of the nave (from the E). It was demolished by Essex in 1770. — CROSS SHAFT AND BASE in the S aisle. Late C7, undecorated, but with an inscription in Roman capitals recording the cross as the gift of Ovin, steward of St Etheldreda. — PAINTING. Remains of imitation masonry jointing in the vaults of the aisles; remains of scrolls and chevrons on nave piers, where the pulpitum once stood (see above). - Nave ceiling by Le Strange, continued by Gambier Parry; 1858-65.

S TRANSEPT. COPE, c15, with Annunciation as the chief representation, saints on the orphreys and sprayed leaf motifs. — PAINTING. Liberation of St Peter, Italian, C18. Originally bought by Lord Grantham; formed part of the altar screen at Lincoln Cathedral later; given to the cathedral by Dr Yorke, Dean of Lincoln and later Bishop of Ely.

N TRANSEPT. SCREEN, PANELLING, AND REREDOS of St George’s Chapel, a memorial of the First World War, by Sir Guy Dawber, 1922. - SCREEN of St Edmund’s Chapel, C15, much restored. — PAINTING in St George’s Chapel. Remains of c. 1200 in the vault and on the walls. - In St Edmund’s Chapel, also c. 1200, in the N lunette, the Martyrdom of St Edmund, restored in 1936, and below a curious bold ornamental design of vertical bars with crockets. On the facing wall an equally bold pattern of circles. The scene in the lunette can no longer be traced.

CLOISTER. WINDOW-HEAD of timber from Prior Cranden’s Study (see Prior’s House, below). Three lights, straight-headed, with ogee reticulation.

CHANCEL AND CHANCEL AISLES. ROOD SCREEN by Scott. - REREDOS and ORGAN STAIRS (N aisle). Also by Scott 1850-68. Carvings of the Reredos by J. B. Philip, 1854 (Gunnis). - PULPIT. 1866 by Scott. — ORGAN CASE. 1851 by Scott. - CHOIR STALLS. They are the most precious of the belongings of the cathedral, though sadly treated by Scott who, beyond necessary repairs and justifiable restorations, chose to fill the graceful upper canopies with scenes sculptured heavily and sentimentally by Abeloos of Louvain. The stalls stood originally in the Octagon and can thus only have been started, when the Octagon approached completion. They seem to have been finished in 1341—2. They were probably designed and supervised by William Hurle (see p. 284). The back stalls are placed in tall niches with cusped arches and ogee detail. Above these is a straight cornice running uninterrupted all the way through and perhaps a little tidied up by Scott to give better visibility to the Belgian reliefs. The canopies must of course have looked much lighter when there were no reliefs, but the whole can never have been as graceful and fanciful as for instance the Bishop’s Throne at Exeter. That is partly explained by the stylistic development from c. 1315 to c. 1340. - MISERICORDS. All 46 back stalls have original misericords, and 13 of the 38 front stalls. This is a number unique for so early a date. Of representations the following may be singled out: Back Stalls N, 4 Huntsman with hare and dogs; 7 Monk looking through a forked tree; 9 Man picking grapes; 10 Confession; 11 Pelican in her piety; 12 Man with a hammer; 14 Wrestlers; 15 Man falling from a horse; 16 Virgin and Unicorn; 17 two Monks; 18 Woman beating a fox; 19 Adam and Eve; 22 two Men throwing dice. - Front Stalls N, 3 Beheading of St John; note the supporting scenes on the l. and r. 54 Owl and mouse. — Back Stalls S: 1 Two Monks on a bench; 2 Noah’s Ark; 4 Monkey; 5 Figure with monkeys; 7 Man with grotesque fishes; 9 Man and woman; 13 Seated King and Queen; 14 King on canopied throne; 16 Samson and the lion; 17 Monk and woman (or child); 20 Bear and monkeys; 23 Two Monks.— Front Stalls S, 3 St Martin; 4 Monk, Nun, and Devil; 5 Grooming a horse; 6 Wrestlers; 21 King and Monk fighting; 23 St Giles and the Hind.—REREDOS, Bishop West’s Chantry Chapel, 1938 by Sir Ninian Camper. It makes one long for Gilbert Scott. This sentimental painting and these smooth gold grounds are as timid and genteel as Scott was robust. — STONE SEAT, mid C13. Fragments of the arms shaped as an animal biting into a human head.

STAINED GLASS. Ely has little old glass. In the Lady Chapel is some canopy-work, contemporary with the building. When it was complete, it must have obscured the room more than might have been to our liking. In the cathedral itself there is hardly anything. What there is has mostly been assembled in the N window of the Alcock Chapel, the S window of the West Chapel and a window in the N chancel aisle. But as to Victorian glass Ely is a mine inexhaustible for those few who for the sake of historical completeness or a somewhat morbid aesthetic curiosity wish to study it. As the names of the artists are recorded with unusual care, a list follows here, without much comment.

W WINDOW. Crucifixion etc. 1800 and 1807; completed by Clutterbuck; all still in the pre-archaeological painterly vein, and quite robust in colour.

SW TRANSEPT. By Wailes, SW Apse by Wilmshurst, 1855.

S AISLE (from W to E). 1 and 2 by Gerente 1849, 1850; 3 by Warrington 1849; 4 by Howes, 5 by Gibbs, 6 by Howes 1850; 7 by Wailes 1850?, 8 by Gerente 1850?, 9 by Clayton & Bell 1881 and characteristically different from the earlier ones, 10 by Pugin, executed by Hardman, four times David, under canopies, 1852, 11 by the Rev. A. Moore, Rector of Walpole St Peter.

N AISLE (from W to E). r by Cottingham 1852?, 2 and 3 by Mr Preedy, 4 by Ward 1856, 5 by Ward & Nixon 1855?, 6 by Oliphant to a design of William Dyce, 7-10 all by Wailes (10 is of 1850), 11 by Hedgeland 1857?, 12 by Lusson 1839?

OCTAGON. The glass in the four large diagonal windows is all by Wailes.

S TRANSEPT. S side ground floor and first floor by Gerente, 1847, gable by Howes and Preedy, W side S by Warrington, centre by Lusson. — E chapels St Edmund by Clayton & Bell.

N TRANSEPT. N side ground floor and first floor l. by Wailes, r. by the Rev. A. Moore, Perp upper window by Ward & Hughes. W side N by Moore, centre and S by Lusson.

CHANCEL. Clerestory by Wailes. - Chancel windows in replacement of the gallery, two on each side. By Wailes. - E end, all by Wailes 1857.

S CHANCEL AISLE (from w to E). 1 by Clayton & Bell 1890, in style similar to that of say Walter Crane, and no longer as the FIrm’s style had been earlier. This is represented by windows 2 and 3 leaving out those without stained glass) of 1870 and 1860, 4 by Cottingham 1869, 5 by Clayton & Bell 1854. - Bishop West’s Chapel E window by Camper, and as anaemic as his reredos below.

N chancel AISLE(from W to E). 1 by Lusson 1870, 2 and 3 by Clayton & Bell 1871 and 1861, 4 by Hughes, 5 by Ward 1864. Alcock Chapel E by Clayton & Bell 1900.

PLATE. Two Flagons probably C18; two Almsdishes 1795; two tall Candlesticks 1661.

MONUMENTS (from w to E). NAVE AND AISLES. In the floor of the nave a large slab marks the entombment of Alan of Walsingham (see p. 281). No inscription or effigy records him. — In the N aisle Bishop Woodford d. 1885, designed by Bodley; effigy recumbent on a tomb-chest below a canopy; no attempt at any originality.

CLOISTER. Humphrey Smith d. 1743, designed by John Sanderson, carved by Charles Stanley. Bust in oval medallion; a putto leans elegantly on it; grey obelisk behind. — W. Pickering and R. Edger d. 1845 in an accident connected with the building of the railway line to Ely. Slab with a poem, called ‘The Spiritual Railway’ and eminently characteristic of the earnestness with which this new triumph of human ingenuity was still regarded.

The Line to Heaven by Christ was made
With heavenly truth the Rails are laid
From Earth to Heaven the Line extends,
To Life Eternal where it ends.
Repentance is the Station then
Where Passengers are taken in.
No Fee for them is there to pay
For Jesus is himself the way.
God's Word is the first Engineer
It points the way to Heaven so dear.
Through tunnels dark and dreary here
It does the way to Glory steer.
God’s Love the Fire, his Truth the Steam,
Which drives the Engine and the Train.
All you who would to Glory ride,
Must come to Christ in him abide.
In First and Second and Third Class.
Repentance, Faith and Holiness.
You must the way to Glory gain
Or you with Christ will not remain.
Come then poor Sinners, now’s the time
At any Station on the Line.
If you’ll repent and turn from sin
The Train will stop and take you in.

TRANSEPTS AND CROSSING. No monuments, except some minor tablets in the N porch which once belonged to the E aisle of the N transept (e.g. one by R. Blore, 1796).

N CHANCEL AISLE (from w to E). Dean Caesar d. 1636, standing wall monument of alabaster with big kneeling figure. - Bishop Fleetwood d. 1723, signed by E. Stanton and C. Horsnaile, a type which the bishops after the Restoration favoured at Ely, of moderate size and with no effigy. Inscription framed by two columns carrying an open scrolly pediment. — Canon Fleetwood d. 1737, signed by P. Scheemakers. A similar type but flatter. — Bishop Redman d. 1506; large tombchest with panels decorated by cusped quatrefoils and similar motifs (the flamboyant wheel of four mouchettes for example); recumbent effigy; large canopy; the whole the size of a chantry chapel; much renewed. — Bishop Kilkenny d. 1257, a coffin-shaped slab of Purbeck marble with the recumbent effigy flanked by attenuated columns or shafts with stiff-leaf capitals; stiff-leaf crockets rise from the rim and bend across the shafts; the shafts carry a pointed trefoiled canopy; angels in the spandrels. — Shrine of St Etheldreda; a few remains of crocket capitals etc. These lie below a superstructure of unknown purpose. It is said to be part of a new C14 casing of the shrine or part of Bishop Hotham’s monument (see S chancel aisle). The ground stage is open in two bays with cusped arches. The upper stage is closed and has blank ogee arches. The monument is of no special merit and seems improbable as the contribution to the cult of the patron-saint by those responsible for the Octagon and the Lady Chapel. — Bishop Hugh de Northwold d. 1254. The type is the same as that of Kilkenny’s tomb, but everything is more sumptuous - and rightly so, for the builder of the new retrochoir. The canopy has a more elaborately cusped arch, and along the sides canted down towards the tomb-chest, are instead of shafts three tiers of small niches with figures of saints, again under cusped and thickly crocketed canopies. At the foot three minute figures illustrate the story of St Edmund (Northwold had been abbot of Bury St Edmunds). The monument is one of the finest of its date in England. — Bishop Patrick d. 1707. Again white, again smallish, and again no effigy. The front here curves forward, flanked by obelisks; segmental top with two putti; signed by E. Stanton. - Bishop Laney d. 1675; the earliest of this modest type at Ely; black and white marble; inscription plate; achievement on top between the open scrolly fragments of a pediment.

EAST END. On the l., Bishop Alcock’s, on the r., Bishop West’s Chantry. — Bishop Alcock d. 1501. Begun in 1488, see the date-stone in a niche in the NW corner of the chapel. The fronts to W and S are mostly canopied, so closely and thickly that one is reminded of Spain more than of the reasonable English Perp. Equally bristly inside, even on the N wall, where the architecture of the chantry chapel is a screen in front of a window. Here is the monument to the bishop, high up, with the top of the tomb-chest below, left vacant, as if for an Easter Sepulchre. The chapel has a fan vault, with an extremely pretty openwork pendant. — Bishop West d. 1534. Made in 1525-33. This chapel is quieter in its external architecture. There is some blank space left, and the canopies do not crowd together quite so tightly. In the entrance from the W a good contemporary iron gate. The E window was replaced by one with Perp tracery. The vault is handsomely panelled, and it is in the infillings of this panelling that one can notice Early Renaissance motifs — the earliest at Ely. In other parts of the decoration also a few hints at the new Italian fashion can be detected. A study of the many bits of small-scale sculpture can be recommended. — Inside the chapel on the floor Bishop Sparke d. 1836. Brass cross and thin brass surround, made probably in 1868, which is the date of the encaustic floor tiles. — Against the outer wall of the West Chantry facing N Cardinal de Luxemburg d. 1443. Tomb—chest with quatrefoils enclosing shields; recumbent effigy; the canopy much renewed. — Against the back of the High Altar in a row: Bishop Nigellus(?) d. 1169; coffin-shaped slab of Tournai marble; the lower part broken off. The slab was found in St Mary’s Church; and there is no reason why it should be Nigellus. In fact the date c. 1170 seems too late, c. 1150 is more likely. The relief is considerably lower than in the C13 tombs. The bishop is not the large figure, but the small naked soul held in a napkin by a large angel with beautifully, sharply, compactly and flatly modelled wings symmetrically rising behind his head. — Unknown Bishop (headless). — Dr Mill d, 1853 copper effigy (electro-plated) on a tomb-chest with alabaster and mosaic; designed by Sir G. G. Scott, executed by Mr Philip.

S CHANCEL AISLE (from E to w). Bishop West’s Chapel see E End. — Bishop Hotham d. 1337. Tomb-chest only; for the canopy see N Chancel Aisle. The tomb-chest has blank broad ogee arcades, each sub-divided by three-light blank windows with tracery to each individual light. Of the statuettes in the arcades only one survives in a mutilated condition (W side). The effigy was of alabaster - a very early occurrence of the material (cf. Edward II d. 1327 Gloucester Cathedral). - Canon Selwyn d. 1875 (of Selwyn College and the Selwyn Divinity School, Cambridge), recumbent effigy with praying hands; by T. Nicholls 1879. — John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester and wife. He was a humanist, had studied in Italy, was made Lord Treasurer of England and beheaded in 1470. Tall tomb-chest decorated with cusped ‘saltire’ quatrefoils with shields; recumbent effigies; canopy. - Bishop Gimning d. 1684. Semi-reclining effigy, his head comfortably propped up on his hand; the figure placed without any back architecture (cf. Archbishop Dolben at York d. 1688). The type comes from the monument to Richelieu in the Sorbonne in Paris. — Bishop Barnet d. 1374; plain big tomb-chest with two tiers of small quatrefoils. - Bishop Goodrich d. 1554; brass in the floor; largish figure; the thin arch surround only preserved as an indent. - Dean Tyndall d. 1614; brass in the floor. - Bishop Heton d. 1609; alabaster; recumbent effigy against a background of two black columns carrying heavy motifs. - Bishop William de Luda d. 1299. The tomb-chest is now missing and the canopy serves as an entrance into the choir. It is much to be regretted that the monument is damaged; for it is so close in design to that of Edmund Crouchback Earl of Lancaster in Westminster Abbey (d. 1296) that it comes no doubt from the same royal masons. Tripartite canopy; the sides narrow, the centre wide and taller. The arches are cusped, with leaves in the spandrels. The leaves are already going nobbly and Dec, but there is no ogee motif yet anywhere. The tall gable in the middle has in the spandrel above the arch a blank pointed trefoil with a seated figure of Christ (?). Even the odd candle brackets l. and r. of the gable are as in the Crouchback monument. On the plinth seated angels, badly damaged on the S side, hopelessly restored on the N (choir) side. - Sir Robert Steward d. 1570. Semi-reclining effigy in armour, cheek propped on hand, behind three short heavy Tuscan columns carrying a pediment with ribbon-work decoration. - Bishop Greene d. 1738; standing wall monument, again without effigy. Two columns flanking an urn; segmental top. — Bishop Butts d. 1748. The ‘anonymity’ is here broken: portrait bust on top of a big monument of coloured marbles. — Sir Mark Steward d. 1603; heavy wall-six-poster with top obelisks and achievement; recumbent effigy. - Bishop Moore d. 1714; again the Ely type; no effigy;but two standing putti l. and r. of the inscription plate; top with urn between the scrolly parts of an open pediment. — Bishop Allen d. 1845; comfortably semi-reclining white marble effigy against a Gothic diapered background. By I. Temouth.

CHOIR. On the floor brass memorial to Prior Crauden d. 1341, the stone is original, the brasswork renewed: large foliated cross, the head with ogee shapes; at the foot, small, the kneeling figure of the prior. - The similar slab to Bishop Hotham seems to be entirely C19.


THE CLOISTER. The cloister at Ely is only partly preserved, and what there is has little of visual attraction. Of the Norman cloister no more can be seen than the bare and heavy blank arcade along the outer church wall. The w walk was rebuilt in the C19, and the rest c. 1510. The design of the windows and the blank arcades of the surviving E and N walks are of no interest. The cloister was apparently not vaulted, except for the w walk, where the springers of the vault remain against the church wall. The bay in question, the NW angle of the cloister is accessible from the S aisle by a doorway the cloister side of which is elaborately decorated. It is the most important of the three remaining Norman doorways of the cathedral.

PRIOR'S DOOR. The doorway consists of an outer pier, one order of columns and an inner pier. The lintel rests on two corbels, and on the lintel is a tympanum, surrounded by a roll-moulding and a flat band corresponding to the outer pier below. All this is carved all over with foliage scrolls, and human and animal figures. The relief is quite deep, but it does not intend to deny the existence of the surfaces into which the carver worked: That helps to date the Prior’s Door. The Early Norman period would not have carved so lavishly, the Late Norman period would have done more undercutting and stressed the third dimension more. So Dr Zarnecki’s date c. 1140 is more convincing than the late Sir Alfred Clapham’s c. 1170. The tympanurn contains a seated figure of Christ, beardless, in a vesica-shaped halo, supported by two angels. Their one arm is raised and bent at a sharp angle to reach the halo high up, and one of the two wings of each angel is also folded back so as to fill the space above the arm. The other wing fills the bottom corners of the tympanum. The angels seem to run away from the vesica, but look back. The tension between two contradictory movements in this attitude is familiar from France, and especially from the tympana of c. 1100-35 in Burgundy. The modelling of the figures is flat, drapery folds are often in the convention of two parallel incisions with a ridge between — a convention given up in France c. 1120. The lintel is made part of the tympanum which is built up of separate layers of stone blocks, and the two corbels on which it rests are given the shape of heads with large staring eyes. The orders of the jambs will repay some attention. The outer order has medallions, filled by single figures or groups. It seems impossible to find any system in them. A man on the r. tending a vine indicates the popular theme of the labours of the months, the fishes on the l., the figures pouring out water from a vessel on the r., the crab or scorpion on the l. (foot) indicate the signs of the zodiac. But there are others which cannot be explained that way, and in any case there are fourteen each side and not twelve. The explanation is perhaps that the zodiac-labours-of-the-months programme was given to the carvers, but that it meant little to them and that they were left alone to do with it what they liked. It appears to us an odd way of treating church sculpture, but tallies with other cases in Norman England. There is in any case a great deal of naive playfulness in these figures and scenes (two men in a boat, a tumbler etc.) and also the animals hidden in the scrolls of the other orders, and that is perhaps what makes the carvings most enjoyable now.

The MONKS’ DOOR also connects the S aisle with the cloister, but further E. The names are self-explanatory. A look at the plan of the monastic parts of the cathedral shows that the Prior’s Door was close to the Prior’s House, the Monks’ Door to the Dormitory and Refectory. The Monks’ Door is simpler in design, but of about the same date. It has two orders of columns and two of square piers. The inner order of the columns is spiral-grooved. This is continued in the roll-moulding of the arch. At its apex is a small head. The capitals are decorated with foliage scrolls. So are the straight orders of piers and arch voussoirs. There is no tympanum. The door arch is three-foiled with cusps carrying chip-carved stars. Squeezed into the cusps of the foils are two figures of kneeling priors or monks(?), in style similar to the figures of the Prior’s Door. Above them the voussoir of the arch ends in the meeting of two affronted monsters with intertwined necks - the same size as the kneeling monks. What can their meaning be? The doorway is cut into by a strengthening of the angle of aisle and transept aisle.

This strengthening also cuts into a third DOORWAY which connects the E walk of the Cloister with the transept aisle. It was originally of c. 1100-10 — see the flat chip-carved decoration — and was then reduced in size and enriched in decoration. The columns have beaded spiral bands and foliage scrolls. The capitals and the arch are also ornamented with scrolls. In the apex of the arch is the head of an angel.

To the w of the Monks’ Door a large arched CUPBOARD was recessed into the cloister wall. Its forms date it to the late C13. The exit from the E wall of the cloister is by a modest C17 DOORWAY with a head in relief on the keystone.

① For the Norman doorways into the nave see Cloister, below.
② The E chapel or apse was in ruins in 1764 and rebuilt in 1848.
③ By Scott the spirelets of the stone pinnacles, the whole pinnacles in the centre of the longer side of the Octagon, the crestings of stone and timber, and the four-light timber windows.

④ The proportions of arcade, gallery, and clerestory are 6:5:4.
⑤ This has no parallel at Winchester.
⑥ In the w wall they have in addition an odd kind of fillet.
⑦ Except for one - E wall close to the N end.
⑧ Where also the gallery windows seemed earlier than the others — see Exterior.
⑨ The first capital from the S in the E gallery has a capital with tendrils — left over from earlier stock perhaps.
⑩ But cf. Norwich and Winchester with fourteen.
⑪ It also existed in the N aisle, but was there hacked off.
⑫ It throws an odd sidelight on the state of research into the   history of medieval architecture that the late G. G. Coulton and his school, in spite of the documents quoted, refused to accept the creative contribution of Alan of Walsingham, irritated and incensed by the nineteenth century’s conception of churchmen having done all the essential work on the planning and designing of   churches in the Middle Ages. This romantic conception died indeed hard, and one is inclined to forgive Coulton’s stubborn attacks, if one reads in the volume on Cambridgeshire of the Cambridge   County Geographies published in 1909 that the figure reliefs of the great corbels of the Octagon ‘were carved by Alan of Walsingham’.
⑬ I leave out chapter houses and also centrally planned buildings, though both have influenced the basic conception of the Octagon.
⑭ Except for the N choir aisle which must of course have received its lierne-vault a few years before the high walls were ready to receive the main vault.

Corbel (3)


Lady chapel N sedilla (1)

Ely Cathedral (5)

ELY. It is far from the world’s ignoble strife, a quiet country town with not 10,000 people in it, an isle of refuge in the Fens in ages past, and today a magnet drawing to itself all who love

beautiful things. To walk about this little city and to come upon its cathedral splendour is to be stirred with a new sense of the spiritual and intellectual enrichment of our English heritage.

It stands on almost the highest part of Fenland, the northern capital of Cambridgeshire, bounded. on the south by the River Ouse. In the days when its willowy marshes made the Isle of Ely a place

of refuge against invaders, it was here that the Saxons made their last stand against the Conqueror. Every English boy knows Charles Kingsley’s romance of Hereward the Wake, the thrilling story of

the last resistance to the Normans who were to transform our country and set it on the way to greatness. In 1069 and again the next year the siege of the Isle was resisted, and the long struggle ended only in 1071 with the Abbot’s promise of obedience if the Normans would spare the city and the church.

Today the marshes have become green pastures, orchards, and cornfields, and where nothing but reeds and sedge held back the sea in olden days long banks are raised as barriers against the floods. In the midst of it all, like a jewel above the plain, rise the unique cathedral towers of medieval England, crowning a shrine which takes us back more than 1200 years, to the 7th century when Etheldreda founded a monastery here. She had married a rich noble who gave her the Isle of Ely as a marriage settlement. It is said that it is called Ely from the number of eels caught in the Fens, and certainly for many years tithes were paid in eels at Ely. Widowed and orphaned a few years after her marriage, Etheldreda devoted herself to good works, and left the management of her estate to her steward Ovin. It is one of the thrills that come to us as we walk down Ely’s marvellous nave to see the broken shaft of a cross which is believed to have been set up to Etheldreda’s steward, for on the base is inscribed in Latin: Grant, O God, to Ovin Thy Light and rest. The cross was used for a time at Haddenham as a mounting-block.

After a few years of widowhood Etheldreda was persuaded to marry Egfrid, who became king in 670, but after a few years she was moved to obtain his consent to leave his court to live a holy life, and in 673 she founded a monastery for monks and nuns, endowing it with all the riches of the Isle of Ely, so investing the bishopric with the peculiar power it possessed in later days. When her time came she was buried as she desired, in the graveyard of the church she had built. Somewhere in this dust she lies, and it is a strange thing to reflect upon that, though we know it not, her name comes to our lips a thousand times. One form of it was Awdrey, and an annual fair granted 800 years ago was known as St Awdrey’s Fair, its sale of showy laces and gay toys giving rise to one of our familiar words, tawdry. It would do us no harm if, when we talk of tawdry things, we let our mind run back to that Awdrey who began the story of Ely and its glory.

It is recorded that Ely repulsed the first attack of the Danes, but in 870 they returned, stripped the monastery of its riches, and set fire to it. It was set up again for monks only, and the last Saxon abbot (Thurstan) was appointed by Harold. The Norman abbots recovered the old rights, and it was one of these, Simeon, who began the foundation of the cathedral as we know it at the end of the 11th century. The building went on after him, and in 1107 the Norman church was complete with transept, choir, central tower, and the east end of the nave.

In the heyday of their time the bishops of Ely had their town house at Ely Place in Holborn, which comes into Shakespeare, who makes the Duke of Gloucester ask my lord of Ely for some strawberries from his garden. The strawberries are gone, but Etheldreda’s chapel remains, a stone’s throw from the never-ceasing traffic of Holborn, the only pre-Reformation church in London which has been restored to Rome. From the curious little house in the middle of the road a man emerges every night to shut the iron gates of Ely Place, sounding curfew at ten, assuring the people in their beds at midnight that all is well, and opening the gates at five in the morning.

Rising like a mighty cross in the bosom of the Fens, the magnificent pile of Ely Cathedral is a superb sight for miles. It can be seen from the tower of Peterborough 35 miles away. It rises like a beacon from the plain, dominating the little town where the past still lives. The floor of the cathedral covers an area of 46,000 square feet, with a length from east to west of 537 feet, transepts 190 feet apart, a nave 208 feet long and half as high, and turrets on the western tower climbing to 215 feet above the street. In plan it is simple, in aspect and detail it is magnificent. The Norman nave has 12 bays with triforium and clerestory, and side aisles with vaulted roofs. The western tower was set up between two transepts, one of which has fallen, while the other remains. The west porch, known as the Galilee, was finished about Magna Carta time, the Norman transepts embrace some of Abbot Simeon’s building; the eastern half consists of the 13th century presbytery of six bays and the 14th century choir of three bays, with their continuous aisles ending in superb chapels of the 15th and 16th centuries. Centred in it all is the glorious 14th century Octagon, and detached from the north side of the choir is the 14th century lady chapel.

It has changed, like all our ancient buildings, from century to century, the triforium being raised, flying buttresses rebuilt, Norman windows replaced and medieval windows inserted in the great transepts, a curious one under the south gable being short and wide and having seven lights. The falling of a corner in the north transept in 1699 was Christopher Wren’s opportunity for laying his unmistakable touch on the cathedral where his Uncle Matthew was bishop nearly 30 years.

We come into the cathedral by the beautiful Galilee porch, 45 feet long and two storeys high, remarkable for its perfection of style from so early a time as 1200. Its north and south walls outside have four tiers of diminishing arcading, and on each side of the great entrance are four tiers of double niches. The interior is richer still, its vaulted roof springing from walls with double arcading and stone seats. Of the two doorways, like two great windows, all that can be said is that the inner one is even more magnificent than the other, with rows of dainty carving resting on shafts with curling foliage, though its original tracery has been replaced by an oval window.

The porch brings us into the tower, a marvellous construction of tier upon tier of windows outside and in, the light shining on a representation of the Creation painted on the ceiling; it shows the right hand symbolising the Creator, Our Lord holding a globe, the dove, sun, moon, and stars, and angels bearing scrolls. Crowning the older part of the tower is an embattled octagon 500 years old, supported by flying buttresses from the turrets.

It was probably the pressure of this great tower that brought about the collapse of the northern arm of the western transept. It was a tragedy indeed that it should go, for the southern arm which still stands is one of the most spectacular pieces of Norman work in England. The great tower inside has nearly 100 Norman arches, but this western transept, known as St Catharine’s Chapel, has nearly twice as many and is a wondrous sight. It has two great arches of three orders, with three rows of carving on each. The walls of the transept rise in stages, one stage with two tiers of arcading, the next stage with great arches enclosing smaller ones; the upper stage with low arches and carved capitals. In the apse of the little chapel, to which one of the two huge arches leads are two windows deeply set and carved all round, a delight to see. The chapel was rebuilt on its old foundations last century, and has a simple vaulted roof with a window over the altar of Our Lord on the Cross, crowned and in a robe of red and gold.

It is impossible not to be impressed by the hundreds of arches, single and interlacing, which make these walls such a marvellous spectacle. They are on single and clustered shafts, and crowd the great walls everywhere. Outside is the same rich mass of craftsmanship with elaborate stringcourses, rows of heads and humans and grotesques, and two fine octagonal towers 120 feet high, each with a ring of open lancets at the top. Inside and out we are held spellbound by this wonderful corner of Ely.

We come back to the tower, the floor of which is a maze designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, and here we stand enchanted by the majestic Norman nave. It is simplicity itself, the simplicity that nothing can surpass. Beyond it we see the screen, the choir, the presbytery, the long vista ending in the east windows hundreds of feet away, shining like jewels, and above us is the richly painted roof; but it is this marvellous avenue of Norman arches that holds the eye. It was begun 850 years ago and finished after about two generations, and it shares with Peterborough Cathedral the fame of being the finest nave of its time. So massive are the piers of the main arcades that as we look along the nave the aisles are shut out, and as the space narrows in the distance the great piers (24 of them) rise like sheer walls of stone with golden tints, ribbed with the glorious arcading of their three storeys. Touched by the rainbow light from the windows, the great floor of the nave is at times like strips of patterned carpet, and crowning it all is the ceiling of rich but delicate colouring — red, blue, green, and gold.

These 24 great piers have clustered mouldings round them, square and round, and everywhere the distinctive feature is the simplicity and purity of style. The massive lower arches rise to the triforium, where the arches become double, supporting the clerestory with three arches in each bay, so that in each bay of the nave the arches rise for 80 feet, in tiers of one, two, three, 144 arches in the 24 bays, those at the base on massive piers, the smaller ones on tall and slender shafts which carry the eye to the painted roof, with a picture for each bay painted on wood. The western half of the roof is the work of Mr Henry S. L’Estrange, the rest is the work of Mr Gambier Parry, who carried on the work when Mr L’Estrange died in 1861. The twelve subjects, beginning at the west end, are the Creation, the Fall, the Sacrifice of Noah, the Sacrifice of Isaac, Jacob’s Dream, Jesse, David, the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Shepherds and Magi, Our Lord in Glory: there are patriarchs and prophets who told of the promised Messiah, and a border of medallions in which are heads representing the ancestors of Our Lord according to St Luke’s Gospel. The aisles of the nave have roofs of simple vaulting and walls enriched with Norman arcading.

We pass from the nave into the Norman transepts. The chief remains of Abbot Simeon’s 11th century work is in the lower portion of the transept walls, which have the simple grandeur of the nave in the arcading of their three storeys. Both have end galleries resting on round arches, both have east and west aisles, both have medieval roofs gaily coloured in the old style, with a captivating collection of painted angels looking down, 48 of them. The west aisle of the south transept is walled off as a vestry; the eastern aisle is the library. In the middle of the floor of this transept are old tiles laid in cart-wheel fashion. The east aisle of the north transept is divided into chapels. St Edmund’s chapel, with its wall-painting showing the bowmen shooting the king, has a restored 14th century screen with delicate tracery in the bays; and St George’s, entered by a modern screen with three crowns in a border of vine, is a memorial to the men of Cambridgeshire who fell in the Great War, over 5000 names being written on the panelled walls. Here hangs a flag of the Cambridge Regiment which was carried at Alma, Inkerman, and Sebastopol. Except for the later windows in the ground storey, the east wall of this north transept is the best example of the ancient church extant, the triforium and clerestory being here in their original condition. The furnishings of the memorial chapel are by Sir Guy Dawber.

Sharing with the Galilee porch in the 13th century additions to the cathedral is the presbytery of six bays, added to the choir. At its consecration in 1252 there were present Henry the Third, Prince Edward, and many prelates and nobles. Except for the alterations to its windows it stands today as they saw it, arresting in the beauty of the chaste enrichment of its three storeys. There are clusters of marble shafts with capitals of lovely foliage; the trefoiled arches of the triforium and the spandrels of the arcading are tipped with leaves; and magnificent foliage corbels bear up the marble vaulting shafts.

The three bays of the choir have the richness of carving and elaboration of detail expected from their time, both in the three tiers of traceried arcading and the vaulting of the roof, with about 80 golden bosses. The east window has effective glass in its lancets (Ely has very little glass). The choir is only part of the magnificent building undertaken at Ely in the first half of the 14th century, which included also the incomparable Octagon, the lady chapel and Prior Crauden’s Chapel (detached from the rest). The grandeur this work attained was made possible by the zeal of the Three Friends, friends of each other and of their cathedral, whose efforts for nearly 20 years brought into being what has been described as “the noblest series of works of the 14th century, or perhaps of any period of medieval building, in England.” The three were John de Hotham, Edward the Third’s chaplain and Bishop of Ely; John de Crauden, prior from 1321 to 1341; and Alan de Walsingham, sacrist in Crauden’s day and prior after him. It was a disaster which gave them their greatest chance, and well they used it.

The catastrophe which became the opportunity of the Three Friends was the falling of the square central tower of the Normans, destroying as it fell the bays of the Norman choir and the nearest bays of the great transepts and the nave, so that the transepts have now only three bays each instead of four, and the nave 12 instead of 13.

The great transformation that followed the fall of the tower was the creation of Ely’s crowning glory, the Octagon. No other cathedral has anything like it inside or out. When the rubbish was cleared away the idea came to Walsingham to utilise the whole of the space that had been opened up (three times the space of the original crossing) for what is generally accepted as the finest lantern in the world. It is like a poem in wood and stone, a stone octagon with a timber lantern covered outside with lead. The concrete foundations had been laid and the eight stone piers had been set up when the truth dawned upon Walsingham’s mind that the space to be roofed was too vast for a stone vault. The span is 74 feet. He decided, therefore, to build a timber lantern. He built it, the only Gothic dome in the world, and in this case necessity was not only the mother of invention but of beauty too. The construction of this wonderful thing is a marvel of engineering. As we see it today, rising above the great mass of the cathedral, it is Alan de Walsingham’s intention brought to its fulfilment, for in the 20 years he was building he did not complete his design for the enrichment of the stonework. Its beautiful wreath of turrets and pinnacles, rising above a lacy parapet and joined to the lantern by flying buttresses, is part of the restoration in memory of Dean Peacock, who inspired the restoration of the cathedral last century; we see him in the painted ceiling of the nave, where the face of Isaiah is his.

Outside the Octagon rests on the crossing like a beautiful two-tiered crown; inside it is as one conception, the lantern seemingly poised on the timber vaulting, which spreads like a wreath of glorious palms above great stone arches and windows, and shines with colour and gold. It is a unique experience to sit in this massive place, in this forest of majestic columns, with probably 1000 Norman arches all about us, and to look up into this dome of light and colour, the light from 32 windows, the colour from 32 painted panels, all resting on eight great fans as if to hold this exquisite thing from floating into the sky.

It is said that all England was explored for the eight oaks that were to form the eight corners of the Octagon, and that they were found at last at Chicksands in Bedfordshire. They must have been growing in A1fred’s England, for they had to be 63 feet long and free from any fault as the vital part of this vast structure. A big system of timber-work is hidden from our sight, but these oak trunks we see in all their pride and glory. The rich painting of all this timber work is chiefly the work of Mr Gambier Parry, who finished the roof of the nave. On the traceried panels below the eight windows of the lantern are minstrel angels and angels with Passion symbols; the ceiling is like an eight-pointed star, and has the original oak bosses showing our Lord with his hand in blessing. The very top of the lantern, once a bell chamber, is seen only outside.

The eight sides of the lantern are equal in width, and none are parallel with those of the stone octagon below, which has four long sides with great arches opening to the four arms of the cross (nave, choir, and transepts) and four short sides with smaller arches opening to the aisles. Over the small arches are modern sculptures of the apostles seated under canopies, and the hoods of these arches are adorned with heads, two of them grotesque but the other six said to represent Edward the Third and his Queen Philippa, Prior Crauden and Bishop Hotham, Walsingham, and perhaps his master mason. Fascinating are the great corbels supporting canopied niches on the slender vaulting shafts, for in their rich carving we read the chief events in Etheldreda’s story—her marriage to Egfrid, her taking the veil, the flood which forced Egfrid back from his pursuit of her, her staff taking root and bearing leaves while she slept, her installation as abbess of Ely, her death and burial, her liberation of a captive from prison, and her translation. The remains of Etheldreda and two other abbesses were removed into the Norman choir in 1106, and later into the presbytery, where the position of Etheldreda’s shrine at that time is marked by a boss in the roof showing the Coronation of the Madonna; another boss here shows Etheldreda wearing a crown and holding a staff and a book, and in a third we see her with two keys and a model of her church.

We come now to the chapels of this great place. We have looked at St Catharine’s at the west end, at St Edmund’s and St George's, and there remain the lady chapel and the two elegant eastern chapels of Bishop West and Bishop Alcock.

The lady chapel is detached and is reached by a passage from the north-west transept. It is a wondrous place; a great lantern of light, a marvellous mass of carving, 100 feet long and 60 feet high, the width giving it what is said to be the widest single span of any English church, 46 feet. It must seem almost a miracle of building, for even with this great span the walls are half glass, yet they carry a stone vaulting. There are five four-light windows with beautiful tracery in each side wall, and east and west windows of seven and eight lights. The shallow vault, springing from the tops of canopies between the windows, has hundreds of coloured bosses and painted roses, among the bosses being flowers and tracery, a Crucifixion, Adam and Eve, Mary and Elizabeth, the Ascension, and the crowning of the Madonna.

The canopies are an amazing spectacle, running right round the walls with stone seats under them, an almost incredible array of tabernacle work with canopied niches and statuary, delicately enriched with tracery, cusps, and diaper work, making the interior like a casket of exquisite sculpture. It is a tragedy that so much has been battered by stupid men in ages past. The architect Pugin is said to have wept as he looked upon its mutilation, and to have said that it would cost £100,000 to restore it to its original glory, even if men could be found to do the work. We found  the men doing it, and those who come in a little while will find this chapel a dream of beauty once again. The carving in the spandrels above the projecting canopies must once have looked something like the famous spandrels in the chapter house at Wells; they tell the story of the Madonna according to scripture and legend. For many generations the lady chapel was a parish church, but it is  now back with the cathedral and one of its chief glories. In the wall of the north choir aisle is a battered but charming medieval doorway, which led to the passage linking the cathedral with the chapel.

Worthy of their place among the richest chapels in the land are the two at the end of the eastern aisles, each built by a bishop to be his own last resting-place. On the north is that of Bishop Alcock, founder of Jesus College, Cambridge, and builder of the Palace at Ely. Built in 1488, the chapel is remarkable for being of chalk, the hard local chalk called clunch; it is one of the most richly carved and best preserved chalk buildings in England. It is entered by two doorways, and has in its windows old glass showing the bishop’s device of a cock on a globe. It is an astonishing sight with its mass of niches and canopies and pinnacles, wreathing the walls like the tops of a forest of pines, crowned by a roof of fan-vaulting with a great pendant. The bishop’s battered figure lies on a handsome tomb, enriched with cocks in a border of vine, and bands of quatre-foils and passion flowers. The figure and most of the tomb are in the curious little chantry in the north side, entered by a charming doorway. We should note the mermaid at the end of the doorway moulding on the south.

Bishop West’s, the companion chapel in the south aisle, is a lovely example of l6th century work. There is classical scrollwork over the doorway, and in the vault, with its rich panels, are two pendant bosses of angels holding shields. Here the sculpture is of the utmost delicacy, and the 25 canopies on the front, so dainty that they look like frills of lace as we approach, are only the foretaste of the loveliness within, where are over 100 canopies with roofs all differently carved. The iron gates through which we enter are as old as the chapel, wrought at the top into roses and leaves. Above the bishop’s tomb were placed in the 18th century the relics of seven early benefactors, which had been moved several times since being buried in the Saxon church. They were Ednoth, Elfgar, Alfwyn, Osmond, and Athelstan, all of the 11th century, and Brihtnoth of 991, earldorman of the East Saxons, who fell in battle against the Danes. A man of great wealth Brihtnoth gave the monastery certain manors in return for hospitality given to him and his soldiers, with the promise of still more if the abbot would see that, if he were killed in battle, his body should be buried at Ely. The Danes took away his head but the monks recovered his body and laid it in the church. Others sleeping in this chapel are Bishop Sparke and Bishop Keene (18th century), and Bishop Woodford of 1885, a rich brass cross marking his grave. On his fine canopied tomb in the north aisle of the nave is his figure in cope and mitre; he has his pastoral staff, and angels at his head; on the front of the tomb are angels holding shields, and on the wall under the canopy is a sculpture of the Crucifixion. On the north wall of Bishop West’s chapel lies the headless figure of Cardinal Luxembourg, made Bishop of Ely by Henry the Sixth; the canopy work above him is almost perfect. The cardinal had been archbishop of Rouen before he came to Ely and must have known Joan of Arc; he may have seen her burned in the marketplace.

Among the memorials between the two eastern chapels are the tomb of Canon Hodge Mill of 1853, a fine copper figure with students at his feet; a battered headless figure; a Norman gravestone with the Archangel Michael holding in his robe a figure with a pastoral staff beside it; and an interesting mosaic over the grave of Bishop Allen of 1845, whose tomb in the south aisle of the choir has his figure reclining in robes. The mosaic is interesting because it is made of material left over from the building of Napoleon’s tomb in Paris. On a tomb under the arch north of the altar lies the fine but battered figure of Bishop Northwold, builder of the presbytery, who died in 1254. Angels with censers are at his head, and on the sides of the canopy are figures of Etheldreda, a crowned abbess, a nun, a king, an abbot, and a monk. At his feet are a lion and a dragon, and a relief of the martyrdom of St Edmund. By the tomb is what seems to be the end of a great stone seat, the arm-rest carved into an animal holding a man’s head; it represents the wolf which is said to have guarded the head of the king after his shooting and beheading by the Danes.

In one of the next three bays of the presbytery we come upon the 14th century base of Etheldreda’s silver shrine, some of which is said to have been used to pay the fine imposed on a bishop for supporting King Stephen against Queen Maud. In the next of these three bays is the mitred figure of Bishop Kilkenny, traveller and statesman, who died in Spain in 1256 while on embassy for Henry the Third, his heart only being buried here; and in the third bay is the splendid tomb of Bishop Redman of 1505, who lies, a mitred figure, under a lovely canopy with a vaulted roof. By the tomb is the beautiful stone stairway to the organ. Under the four arches of the south side of the presbytery are four other tombs. That of Bishop William of Louth, builder of the 13th century Ely Chapel in Holborn, has a splendid canopy with gable and pinnacles. Bishop Barnet’s tomb of 1373 has a plain top and sides with quatrefoils. The two wives of John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, lie under a rich canopy with a traceried roof; the earl was beheaded in 1470 and he does not stain the cathedral with his presence. As Constable of England he was guilty of great cruelties, and was known as the Butcher of England; for his learning (gathered abroad) he was called the Pilgrim Scholar. Bishop Hotham’s tomb has lost the figure which once lay on it; a gravestone in the middle of his choir marks his resting-place, and by it is that of Prior Crauden.

Three monuments along the south wall of the presbytery aisle are the tomb of the Bishop Heton of 1609, his marble figure with a skull cap and a rich cope with disciples in the border; the mitred figure of Bishop Peter Gunning of 1684, reclining in elaborate robes; and Canon Selwyn’s marble figure in a wall recess. He died in 1875. One or two fine brass portraits in the floor of this aisle show Dean Tyndall of 1614, in skull cap and academic gown; the other is Bishop Goodrich, a zealous reformer who lies in his robes and mitre, his staff in one hand and in the other a book from which hangs the Great Seal, for he was Henry the Eighth’s Lord Chancellor.

In the south aisle of the choir is a monument with weeping cherubs to Bishop Moore, a great scholar whose library was bought by George the First for Cambridge; a monument with the bust of Bishop Butts of 1748; Robert Steward of 1570, reclining in armour under a canopy; Sir Mark Steward of 1603; a bulky coloured figure in armour, holding a gauntlet on his chest; a modern tablet to Robert Steward de Welles of 1557, last prior and first dean; an inscription to William Lynne, whose widow married Robert Cromwell and became mother of Oliver; and a bronze portrait plaque of Harvey Goodwin of 1891, Bishop of Carlisle. Another plaque has the portraits of Michael Glazebrook and his wife; he was canon here for 20 years and they died within a fortnight of each other in 1926.

Entering the north aisle from behind the altar we pass over the stone of Bishop Gray of 1478, his brass gone. In the aisle is a wall-monument to Bishop Mawson of 1770, a benefactor of the cathedral and of the countryside. Here, too, in the floor is the brass portrait of George Basevi, showing him under a canopy and holding a plan; he was an architect, and was visiting the cathedral during restoration in 1845 when he fell from the scaffolding in the western tower and was killed. In his canopied memorial of 1636 Dean Henry Caesar kneels at a desk. Two vergers who served the cathedral for 60 and 58 years of last century have inscriptions.

Here among so much of his work sleeps Alan de Walsingham, who is thought to have died in 1364. He lies probably under the great flat stone just west of his wonderful Octagon. The brass which has gone from the stone showed a mitred figure with a staff. This Flower of Craftsmen, as he is called in the existing record of his epitaph, is said to have designed the wonderful stalls which stand mostly as in his day, except for the modem Belgian carvings under the lovely old canopies. These modern scenes show, on the north side, the Life of Our Lord from the Annunciation to the Ascension; and on the south side Old Testament scenes, among them the creation of Eve and scenes in the Garden of Eden, Moses with the serpent and striking the rock, the spies returning with the bunches of grapes, the Ark, and Jonah cast up by the whale. All but five of the stalls on each side are modern, but their misereres are worthy of taking their place among the superb company which have been here for six hundred years.

The old ones are 59 in number, an astonishing collection considered to be the finest of their time, every one beautifully carved in three sections with figures and scenes in high relief, sometimes with exquisite foliage as well. We see a bear in a tree, a demon with two women, men holding up the seats, Adam and Eve cast out of the Garden, a king and a queen resting, men playing dice, two women quarrelling, a huntsman with a dog and a hare; a huntsman with horn and hounds, a deer, and a horse between them; an old man and wife, grinding corn in a handmill; Samson fighting a lion. A splendid one shows two men holding a horse’s head and tail while a third attends to its foot. Another has Salome dancing at Herod’s birthday feast, the beheading of John the Baptist, and the bringing of his head on a charger. At one side of a huntsman thrown from his stumbling horse are the hounds and deer, at the other side is a praying figure in a chapel. A modern stall on the south side has an old miserere showing the two bowmen, and St Giles with the hind they have shot.

Sir Gilbert Scott’s oak screen is rich with tracery and has saints in niches. The seats of the bishop and the dean on its eastern side are guarded by saints on pedestals and their canopies with figures of saints rise like tall spires. Scott also designed the alabaster reredos, set in a stone screen with traceried arcading. In the wealth of sculpture in the reredos are twisted pillars glinting with polished stones, statuettes crowning the pinnacles, and canopied scenes of the Last Days in Jerusalem. A splendid old oak chest is covered with studded iron bands. There are dainty iron screens to the choir aisles, one enriched with wheat and poppies and vine. Hanging in a case is a handsome velvet cope, richly embroidered with lilies and a border of saints, which may be 15th century. An exquisitely embroidered banner shows Etheldreda with her staff and a book. A window in the north choir aisle has a fine medley of old glass, with heads and figures here and there. A recent loan to the cathedral is the splendid tapestry hanging on a wall of the tower; it shows the Annunciation and the Nativity, and was being made in Rouen at the time the small Octagon was being set on the top of the west tower.

Captivating as is the interior of this great place, we walk outside it, in and out of all its ancient ways, with growing wonder. We are not surprised to find ourselves in a small passage with ten Norman arches on the front of the houses, or looking at the walls of the grammar school with the stamp of the Saxon on them, or climbing up the little stone stairway into Prior Crauden’s chapel, with medieval tiles set in its floor. It is wonder everywhere at Ely, and indoors and out is an equal delight. The western facade has more Norman arches creeping up it than we can count, and the eastern facade has few rivals as an example of this time. Especially fine is the grouping of the lancets in tiers of four, five, and three, the storeys divided by stringcourses and adorned with quatrefoils. On each side of the gabled end are buttresses with niches; the buttresses of the aisles, and the dainty arcaded turret, have leafy tops like spires. The lady chapel comes into the lovely north-west view of the Octagon, its west wall adorned with a lacy parapet and a fine array of canopied niches round the great west window. Over the east window are more niches, and the niched buttresses have leafy pinnacles climbing above the roof. It is the work of Walsingham that we are looking at, begun in 1321 and completed by John of Wisbech in 1349.

We may leave the cathedral by what is known as the Monk’s Doorway in the south aisle, and we find ourselves in a corner of the cloister. The doorway itself (now the south entrance of the cathedral) has a trefoiled inner arch, and in its rich display of ornament are dragons, flowers, kneeling monks and trailing leaves. By the doorway hangs a fragment of oak window tracery and an oak door frame from Prior Crauden’s study. In this south wall of the cathedral is another doorway by which in olden days the monks came in; it is called the Prior’s Doorway, and has an amazing mass of carving in high relief. Its Norman arch has four depths of carving, the four orders resting on one round shaft, one twisted shaft, and two square pillars richly carved. The inner pillars have trailing leaves and are shaped at the top into faces, the outer ones are carved with rings in which are curious devices and figures, including the signs of the zodiac, a man drinking, two figures drinking from one cup, a woman mixing wine and oil, an ape fanning himself and another juggling, and two people in a boat rowing against one another. In the tympanum of this fine doorway Christ sits with one hand raised in blessing and the other holding a book, and round the tympanum is a roll of intricate spiral carving of foliage which continues below the capitals, running into the shafts on each side.

We find ourselves now in the midst of a captivating group of buildings which are for the most part monastic, and have been restored for the clergy and the grammar school. Their jumble of old roofs with mossy tiles are a charming foreground for a view of the cathedral from the park. In some of the walls of the school buildings is the long and short work of the Saxons, and there are traces of six Saxon windows.

A gem of six centuries ago among all these ancient buildings is the little chapel of Prior Crauden, 30 feet long and half as wide. It is a gabled building of two storeys, so beautifully restored that we can hardly believe it was once used as a dwelling. The lower storey, which has suffered the indignity of being a coal cellar, has been restored for the use of the school; it has a low stone vaulted roof, and a tiny east window with St Michael in its glass. A newel stairway climbs outside to the lovely chapel, lighted by big windows with tracery it would be hard to surpass: it is certainly the finest in Ely. There are two tall windows in each side wall. In the tracery of the west window is a big shamrock leaf, and the east window has a quatrefoil in a frame of trefoils. The figures in the lower part of the east window are said to have come from Cologne Cathedral. The modern oak vault springs from clusters of shafts with fine foliage capitals. There are stone seats round the walls, which are richly arcaded and have lovely canopies reaching the roof. In the fine sculpture are hoods of vine trail, tiny faces peeping from buttresses. and pinnacles, and little  men crouching. A very rare treasure is the floor of this place, for it is made up of medieval tiles, and in the old tiling on the platform of the altar is a crude mosaic with big lions and small lions, stags, and flowers, and a remarkable panel of the Fall of Man—the serpent coiled round the trunk of a tree, its human face coming from the branches and whispering to Eve, who is offering the apple to Adam. It is 14th century.

The chapel serves now as the chapel of the grammar school, which is of rare interest because it goes back in its beginning to the monastic school in which Edward the Confessor received his early education. It was refounded by Henry the Eighth in 1543, and occupies the fine range of buildings on the east side of the street called the Gallery. Of uncertain origin, this delightful range has in it Norman walling, medieval windows, and later gables, and ends on the south at the Ely Porta, which the school shares now with the verger. This fine gatehouse stands almost as when it was the principal entrance to the abbey, sturdy and strong and stately with its three storeys, square corner turrets, postern, and the great archway through which we pass from the Gallery to the Park. Through the gateway is the medieval barn now used by the school as workshops and gymnasium; it has a splendid roof of original timbers, and is 68 feet long and 24 wide. By the barn is an artificial mound covered with trees and shrubs, known as Cherry Hill but said to be the site of an ancient keep built for the defence of the monastery. New buildings for the Kings’ School (it is particular about its apostrophe because it has two kings in its pedigree) were built last century on the other side of the Gallery (not, alas, in harmony with the old ones). Looking across a small green to the Ely Porta is Ely Theological College, its chapel adorned outside with statues of Bishop Woodford (who founded it in 1876) and St Etheldreda.

Grouped with Prior Crauden’s Chapel are the Prior’s Lodge, the Deanery (which has absorbed the 13th century Guest House and has remains of the refectory and the Norman kitchen in its grounds), and the Fair Hall, which was used for entertainment and is now the house of the headmaster. The chapter house is gone, but east of the cloister site are interesting remains of the infirmary buildings, now for the most part absorbed into houses for the clergy. The hall and the chapel, over 50 yards long, are a roofless space, divided by an archway. The arcades of the hall with arches of zigzag and pillars with carved capitals, are seen in the walling on each side. The fine north arcade of the chapel is still to be seen, with the arch which led to the chancel. West of the infirmary is part of the wall of its cloister, showing the pointed arcading of a little later time. It is known as the Dark Cloister.

On the north side of the cathedral is an entrance to the close from High Street, known as the Sacrist’s Gate. Over the entrance is the muniment room; the eastern portion is for the choristers. Another entrance from High Street is the archway of an old house, which has a shield with three crowns on an oak beam. This is Steepil Gate.

Looking across the Gallery to the cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace, a dignified place of diapered brick and stone. Bishop Goodrich added a gallery to John Alcock’s hall and its two wings, built in the closing years of the 15th century, and Bishop Keene made improvements in the 18th century. Bishop Alcock’s work is adorned with his device, angels holding shields, and a fine triple niche. In the palace is a curious painting known as the Tabula Eliensis, with pictures and names of 40 knights the Conqueror quartered on the abbey. Their names and shields, and figures of monks, are with them. With the fine trees in the high-walled garden is a magnificent plane planted three centuries ago, said to be the biggest plane tree in England.

The palace comes into one of the lovely pictures of Ely and its cathedral, seen as we stand in St Mary’s Street, where the smooth lawns of Palace Green are the setting for a captivating group of buildings. Beyond the Green is the cathedral’s noble west front with its soaring tower, Galilee porch, and turreted transept, and by the roadside is a timbered house which is now the vicarage, and is of historic interest because Oliver Cromwell lived here from 1636 to 1647. He was Governor of Ely, and is said to have ordered the discontinuance of the cathedral services so that the soldiers should not be incited to desecrate the building. Nearer the cathedral is another timbered house, and between them stands St Mary’s church, with its spire rising above the long low roof; it is reached by a dainty avenue of almond trees across the sward. Below the vicarage are the almshouses, with gables and a tower, standing round three sides of lawn and garden.

St Mary’s church, begun in 1198, has a 14th century tower and spire, and windows of all three medieval centuries, filling the interior with light, some of them shining with rich glass. The long nave arcades of seven bays have pointed 13th century arches, and tall pillars with scalloped capitals marking the passing of the Norman style. A fine doorway of this time, sheltered by the north porch, has an arch with elaborate carving of zigzag under a hood, and clustered shafts with capitals of graceful foliage. The blocked south doorway has lost its shafts after 750 years, but keeps its arch of zigzag and its leafy capitals. The old priest’s seat in the chancel has a trefoiled arch and there is a fine little double piscina in the south chapel, which is entered by a low medieval arcade. The triple lancet of its east window has the Crucifixion and Our Lord in Glory, St Edmund and his martyrdom, and St Etheldreda with a fine picture of the cathedral. The east window of the chancel has glass showing the Nativity and the Shepherds. Another window has Our Lord Risen, with blue-winged angels; and one in memory of the men who fell in the Great War has figures of St George, the Archangel Michael, and Earldorman Brihtnoth as a warrior. St George is fighting the dragon with the princess looking on. Below Brihtnoth is a fine picture of the boat bringing his body to Ely, rowed by nuns, candles burning by his bier. A big broken font is in the churchyard, and on a buttress of the tower is a tablet reminding us of the Ely riots, with the names of five men executed in June 1816 “for divers robberies.”

Perhaps we should think much more of St Mary’s if it were not in the shadow of Ely Cathedral; it would be a superb building indeed which could endure such rivalry. A rare town it would be, also, which could compare with this, a gem in England’s coronet.


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