Stuart Constable's blog

A few words slung together

Norman is an island

After the Lemon Tree, we made a pilgrimage to Ely Cathedral. It’s a Norman cathedral, built after William’s conquering armies finally defeated Hereward the Wake. Hereward’s fighters defended the Isle of Ely for five years. It actually was an island then; the Fens were not drained until the 18th Century (I think that’s what our guide said).

The picture is taken from the nave of the cathedral from the west, so facing the altar. Up above you can see the ‘lantern’ tower, which dates from the 14th Century.

The original collapsed when the foundations were undermined by the building of a Lady Chapel. To rebuild the tower, they brought massive oak trees up the Ouse from Bedford, each one more than 300 years old. So the oak of the lantern has stood for more 1,000 years.

This is the Lady Chapel. The statue of the Virgin Mary was carved in Portland stone by David Wynne, the father of Ed Wynne of the Ozric Tentacles. I first heard the Ozrics when David Wynne chose Myriapod as one of his Desert Island Discs. They have been up there with Hawkwind and The Grateful Dead ever since.

And this, as best as I could manage, is the great organ of Ely Cathedral. The big decorative bit to the right is fake – purely decoration. You can just see some of the real pipes up on the second level.

Charles Handy bemoans the lack of ‘cathedral builders’ these days, by which he means visionary people who are prepared to start projects even though they may never see them finished. Such people are driven by causes greater than themselves. I wonder if the Gherkin will still be there 1,200 years from now?

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