Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Last Saturday, I ventured out with my flatmate Teresa to visit Ely (pronouced "EE-lee"). I had originally planned to go on Sunday, but Saturday was gorgeous and the weather was forecasted to be raining on Sunday. The main attraction in Ely is the Ely Cathedral - by far the largest building in the city (and probably one of its biggest revenue-generators as well...). Ely is about 15 minutes north of Cambridge by train, and Teresa and I spent a lovely afternoon escaping the hustle and bustle of Cambridge. The cathedral is first glimpsed from the train station, but a short walk into the city brought us closer.

Walking up to the cathedral through what used to be a medieval vineyard. Interesting to me that so many monasteries were involved in wine-making, yet so many modern churches shun alcohol.

We walked inside, and I had not even made it all the way through the door when my mouth dropped in shock because I heard a SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.

THIS wasn't in my guide book...
Turns out, it was a rehearsal for that an evening concert in the cathedral. What luck! We sat and listened for a while, then wandered around the enormous church. The music sounded strangely familiar, and I would have put money on Gershwin because of the jazzy melody being tossed back and forth between sections of the orchestra. When Teresa and I left the church, I glanced at the concert advertisement. Sure enough: Gershwin's "An American in Paris" was among the pieces listed. HA! One particular side of my family has always been good at identifying musical nuances - the Davis ears ring true again!

The cathedral began as a monastery in 673, then was founded as a Benedictine community in 970 after the Danes destroyed it in 870. The monastery was closed in the 16th century but the cathedral is still in operation today. Main point: buildings tend to be very old in England.
Sculpture to the left of the main entrance, symbolizing the journey we take from darkness to light, leading to the cross of Christ.
Forgive the poor photo quality - flash was not allowed. Which subsequently resulted in me cringing and saying "CRAP" rather loudly every time my flash went off because I had restarted my camera and forgotten to negate the flash...

The level of detail in the entire church was astounding. This is a door sash. A door sash.  
The ceiling shows the ancestry of Jesus from Adam, with prophets on either side. I'm not sure what the little faces framed in circles are. The ending picture is Jesus enthroned in glory.
Once again, forgive the poor picture quality. A skewed view of the Octagon, where you can see three of the eight legs clearly above the small stained glass windows (which are overexposed - sorry mom!).
Main Impressions:
- Size: The cathedral is massive. A simple glance upwards is not sufficient - the ceiling is almost like a whole other world. I found myself craning my head even further backwards every time I looked up in an attempt to capture everything. This was particularly the case when I was studying the central ceiling painting that spanned the entire length of the cathedral. It took me a minute to realize that I could probably just walk down the aisle further instead of ending up in a backbend...
- Intricacy: As I mentioned earlier, the detail displayed in every single chapel, sculpture, and wall is awe-inspiring. I have never in my entire life paid as much attention to a single stone. Part of me is saddened by the loss of such excellent craftsmanship and beauty to today's demands of quick and easy.
- Number of chapels: A typical cathedral will have one or maybe two chapels, which are areas of worship set aside in honor of a particular saint or two. This cathedral has SEVEN chapels, all within the cathedral. Each one is designed with a different architectural style because they were added over time: one is Gothic, another Renaissance, still another partially 19th century. I could hardly turn a corner without seeing another chapel - it was like having a large church made up of a bunch of mini-churches.

On the front left edge of the building, the stone is broken off and the building just STOPS. I wonder if the building used to extend that direction before it was destroyed by the Danes.
Teresa and I in front of the cathedral. Had to wait for cars to pass - was reminded of certain geckos in the Bahamas... :)
 After we were finished at the cathedral, Teresa and I wandered through town in the general direction of the train station. We came across a traveling French market! It was their last weekend in Ely, and then they were moving on - who knew?

For a French market, they sure had a lot of other international foods for sale.
There was chocolate, jewelry, and all sorts of other lovely things. We stopped for a while at the handmade soaps vendor, but the scents were stamped into the soap face in French. I had fun trying to pronounce the names, but one of them stumped me. It read: "THE"





That can't be right.

Fortunately, Teresa pointed out the accent mark above the "e," and corrected my pronunciation: "tea."


Well, a teeny-tiny accent mark is hard to see when it's etched in soap... We both had a good laugh about that one for a while...

(For the record - I still don't know what the heck "tea" is supposed to smell like...)

Teresa and I both made it back to Cambridge safely and decided that the trip was definitely worth a Saturday afternoon. In fact, we plan to go back on a Sunday morning and attend a service, so as to hear their choir.

In other news:
- The house lost hot water sometime on Saturday, and we just got it back today. Hallelujah!
- Lectures start tomorrow - wish me luck...

No comments:

Post a Comment