As promised in last week’s door moment in the east cloister here’s our ecclesiastical stroll. The entrance to Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew, what we all know as Wells Cathedral, is through a modern building just a few steps from the Penniless Porch. Penniless Porch as you may have surmised takes its name from the beggars who once plied their trade here. There were no beggars when we visited, and there is also no entrance fee for the cathedral. You are encouraged to make a donation and given most visitors are entering to view the building I think that is only fair. Before you enter Wells Cathedral though do take a moment to walk across to the green and view the West Front. This building is stunning both inside and out.
Once inside the west cloister you have the option of turning left and straight into the church, or turning right to enjoy the tranquillity of the cloister before entering the church in the south transept. We of course went right!
Originally cloisters were the busiest places in a cathedral, where all the business took place. Wells has never been really busy as it wasn’t monastic, it is though only in recent years it has become the tranquil place it is today. It took us a while to walk first south, then east before heading north to the south transept. Our attention being caught by the windows, the stone masonry, the quality of lettering in the memorial stones as well as what had been written. I’ve decided though I really don’t like the word ‘relict’ to describe widows, in fact I wasn’t overly impressed by how any of the women were remembered!
You may recall from Thursday’s post I had a door moment in the east cloister. Well the door to Camery garden wasn’t the only door to catch my eye, as you enter the south transept through a small door within an enormous door. For a moment I forgot all about the doors as immediately your attention is grabbed by the stunning scissor arches. A late addition in the 14th century when the new squire on top of the central tower was threatening to collapse the entire thing. Their purpose may be highly practical but their beauty is breathtaking. MrB’s attention however had been caught by another door! He’d spotted the word ‘library’ on the door behind us, and up he went. A few moments later I joined him in Wells’ 15th century chained library. It was once common practice to chain books in libraries, particularly expensive books. Although a little part of me, as a fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, likes to think a few are chained for the safety of the readers!
Returning back down to the south transept after a lovely chat with the library staff we began to explore the central tower area, the north transept with its astronomical clock and the choir. It is Jack Blandiver who notifies you that the clock is about to strike by kicking his feet up to kick the bell in front of him.
For me though the next highlight was the Chapter House. A wonderful octagonal shaped room built above the undercroft. It is here that the business of the cathedral was once discussed by forty or more prebendaries (canons). Above each seat there is a face, some serious some not. I took quite a few so rather than overwhelm you here I’ll save them for a rainy day.
Eventually we managed to leave the beauty of the Chapter House and make our way to the Lady Chapel and retro choir. The stained glass windows in the chapel are unusual in that most of them have survived the many disasters and destruction that English Christian churches have suffered over the centuries. As we had not picked up a leaflet I of course failed to take many photographs of the most famous window – the Jesse Window, and instead focused on those whose destruction and repairs had resulted in the most interesting patterns. In fact I took so many they deserve a post of their own, so I’ll return another day perhaps with another lingering look through windows.
Leaving the chapel behind we returned to the south transept before taking a seat in the nave. We didn’t stay there long though as my stomach was rumbling and I needed something more than beauty for sustenance. You’ll be pleased to learn Jo this was classic Monday Walk as our lunch included a very large piece of cake! Talking of which if you are reading this in the afternoon it is the perfect time to sit down with a cup of Earl Grey and Victoria Sponge (or whatever takes your fancy if you are reading it earlier) and enjoy some other Monday Walks and Lingering Looks at Windows. Why not join me! Alternatively if you happen to be in or near Somerset today why not visit Wells. It is a lovely town, as well as the beautiful cathedral, there is the Bishop’s Palace, plenty of tea shops, an original medieval street and the source of the name of Wells – its bubbling springs.