Wells Cathedral has proven to be our favourite of all the cathedrals we have visited. The nearby springs, or wells, (hence the name) have been the site of worship since Roman times. The current cathedral was begun about 1175 on a new site to the north of the old minster church, built around 700 AD. Wells was the first English cathedral to be built entirely in the new Gothic style, brought from France by Bishop Reginald de Bohun. The first building phase took about eighty years, culminating in the magnificent West Front, shown above. About 300 of its original medieval statues remain.
Wells Cathedral was fortunate to escape the massive destruction in the wake of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540, and the parliamentary abolishment of bishoprics in 1645. Thus its interior has remained largely intact through the centuries, with additions such as the famous scissor arches, employed to provide added support.
The level of detail in the wood and stone carving is incredible.The Quire is shown above, with its lovely embroidered cushions.
Wells is famous for its fourteenth century clock, above which rotate mechanical knights, who joust on the quarter hour, with one of them being knocked over. Above the clock, is a little man whose feet strike the bells, marking the quarter hour.
Visiting the area under the Chapter house, we encountered stout double doors. The columns in the undercroft reflect the octagonal shape of the Chapter House above.
The cloisters form a quadrangle around a small cemetery. The arched window spaces are filled with beautiful leaded glass.
Next to the cathedral is the Bishop’s palace. We understand a previous bishop had “an uneasy relationship” with the townspeople of Wells, and felt it necessary to provide himself with crenellated walls and a moat. “Uneasy” indeed!
Our final stop was the gift shop, where we met Louis, the cathedral marmalade cat. He is a great favourite with visitors and staff, and enjoys lots of treats, according to the clerk in the shop. In between feedings, he snoozes on a basket on the counter, tolerating, but not inviting, petting, in typical marmalade cat fashion.