Cathedralling in Eastern England!

THE most amazing 3 days of completely blue skies and THE most amazing visits to 3 cathedrals!  Almost, but not quite, cathedralled-out for a while. Added to Norwich, where I was last Friday, that makes 4 cathedrals in less than a week. Phew!

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First was Ely, Cambridgeshire, where I went on Monday en route from Suffolk to Lincolnshire. Stopped to check out the city and the cathedral, and got myself on an octagon tower tour at the cathedral. YES YES YES!

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Ely Cathedral has its origins in AD 672 when St Etheldreda built an abbey church. The present building dates back to 1083, and cathedral status was granted it in 1109. Until the Reformation it was the Church of St Etheldreda and St Peter, at which point it was refounded as the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Ely, continuing as the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire. It is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon. Architecturally it is outstanding both for its scale and stylistic details. Having been built in a monumental Romanesque style, the galilee porch, lady chapel and choir were rebuilt in an exuberant Decorated Gothic. Its most notable feature is the central octagonal tower, with lantern above, which provides a unique internal space and, along with the West Tower, dominates the surrounding landscape.”

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The big advantage to Ely is that the city is so small – and so lovely – and car parking is free, so what you save on the car park, you can spend on the tower tour. Ely doesn’t just offer one tower tour, but two. I chose the octagon tour and it was amazing. Ely Cathedral is not cheap, £9 admission charge, and about the same per tower tour, or buy a special package of entrance and one tower tour for £16.50.  And it was well worth it to go up into the octagon and see down into the cathedral as well as walk around on the roof.  And we had a really good tower guide. The views were amazing, over to Suffolk, Cambridge and all places in-between. There’s also a sculpture exhibition at the cathedral, in fact there’s all sorts of modern art all over. I like it.  Ely has a nice atmosphere, and the weather was perfect. Blue sky – yippee!

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I’m staying in Bourne, Lincolnshire, my first visit here, staying with good friends, Hall and Sarah. On Tuesday, Sarah took me to Lincoln Cathedral, and that too was my first visit. Loved it, big time! So massive, so huge, so in your face as you arrive in Lincoln from outside of the city.  Sarah had planned the whole trip to include the Holy Communion service at lunchtime and a roof tower at 2:00 pm. The roof tour is incredible. We went up inside the cathedral at great height and walked out onto the roof, then inside along by the rose window and looked down at the nave and aisles.  Also had a great guide. These cathedral tour guides really know their stuff.  He told us all about the fires, the earthquake, the storm, the battles and all the damage to the cathedral as a result.  Incredible.  Admission is £8 plus more for the roof tower. Tower tours happen only on Saturdays, but roof tours happen more or less every day and well worth it! Must go!

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Lincoln Cathedral or the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lincoln, and sometimes St. Mary’s Cathedral in Lincoln, England is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Lincoln. Building commenced in 1072 and continued in several phases throughout the medieval period. It was the tallest building in the world for 238 years (1311–1549), and the first building to hold that title after the Great Pyramid of Giza. The central spire collapsed in 1549 and was not rebuilt. The cathedral is the third largest in Britain (in floor area) at around 5,000 square metres (54,000 sq ft), after St Paul’s and York Minster. It is highly regarded by architectural scholars; the eminent Victorian writer John Ruskin declared: “I have always held… that the cathedral of Lincoln is out and out the most precious piece of architecture in the British Isles and roughly speaking worth any two other cathedrals we have”.

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The first bishop of Lincoln was Remigius de Fécamp – reputed to be cousin of William the Conqueror, and it was him who asked Remigius to build the cathedral. Remigius is shown in the rose window, holding the cathedral in his hand.  We got so close, we could even touch this window, even though it is way up high!

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Also in the cathedral, we lit a candle in memory of my good friend in Taiwan, Rev. Hsu, who died this week, and whose daughter, Alice and husband, Bishop Roger from Mauritius, are mutual friends of the 3 of us, it’s the Madagascar, Mauritius, Taiwan / CMS, USPG connection.  Rev. Hsu and his wife have lived in the Shuang-Lien Elderly Centre, near St. John’s University, Taiwan for about 5 years now, and I visit them often. Their life story and testimony are quite incredible, and he will be much missed.  Quite timely that he should die just on the day I was visiting mutual friends of his family.  May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Yes, Lincoln Cathedral is quite amazing.  And they have a really good and very professional instagram page, full of interesting things about the cathedral, which is partly why I was so keen to go.  Check it out at ‘lincolncathedral’.  And unlike Norwich which greets you at the main entrance with a statue of Wellington with a cannon, and Ely which has an actual cannon in front, instead Lincoln has a statue of the famous poet and native of Lincolnshire, Tennyson, and a quote from one of his poems…

And yesterday was Peterborough Cathedral, but first Hall took me to visit Crowland, a town just outside Peterborough, famous for its abbey and its 14th-century three-sided bridge – Trinity Bridge. This stands at the centre of the town and used to be the confluence of three streams, but now just stands in the street, water nowhere to be seen!

Crowland Abbey is incredible. “In about 701 a monk named Guthlac came to what was then an island in the Fens to live the life of a hermit. Following in Guthlac’s footsteps, a monastic community came into being here, which was dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin, Saint Bartholomew and Saint Guthlac in the eighth century…… The abbey was dissolved in 1539. The monastic buildings, including the chancel, transepts and crossing of the church appear to have been demolished fairly promptly but the nave and aisles had been used as the parish church and continued in that role.”  The bells are famous too, maybe the oldest in England, certainly the first to be broadcast on radio by the BBC in 1925, and they have the longest bell-ropes in the country.

And so to Peterborough. The cathedral has a huge wow factor as you come round the corner and see the west front right in front of you.  Amazing.  And with a deep blue sky behind, it’s stunning.  The west front of Lincoln Cathedral would be stunning too, but is largely covered in scaffolding ~ so Peterborough definitely has the edge!

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Peterborough Cathedral is the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Peterborough, and  is dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew, whose statues look down from the three high gables of the famous West Front. Although it was founded in the Anglo-Saxon period, its architecture is mainly Norman, following a rebuilding in the 12th century. With Durham and Ely Cathedrals, it is one of the most important 12th-century buildings in England to have remained largely intact, despite extensions and restoration.

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Peterborough Cathedral is known for its imposing Early English Gothic West Front (façade) which, with its three enormous arches, is without architectural precedent and with no direct successor. The appearance is slightly asymmetrical, as one of the two towers that rise from behind the façade was never completed (the tower on the right as one faces the building), but this is only visible from a distance.”

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This year, Peterborough Cathedral is celebrating its 900th anniversary, and has an exhibition showing Tim Peake’s Soyuz spacecraft – Soyuz TMA-19M – and a Space Descent VR experience. This is also a great wow factor,  coming round the corner and seeing that spacecraft on display brought gasps from everyone as they saw it. It is really very small for 3 people but Tim Peake and 2 other astronauts descended in it from the international space station back to earth after their trip in 2016.  The virtual reality experience is well worth £5 for 20-25 minutes sitting and experiencing their great descent.  Really amazing.

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The cathedral is free to enter.  Yes, free!  Definitely must go.  Yesterday, we also went to Choral Evensong, where there was a mixed choir of boys and girls singing, beautiful!  And this was the view of the west front last night as we left Peterborough Cathedral.  WOW!

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This has been a rather amazing few days, thanks largely to my good friends in Bourne who organized everything so wonderfully.  Grateful also to Almighty God for His many blessings ~ the weather, the cathedrals, the views and the roof tours, all amazing.  Really grateful for having seen and experienced so much.  No more cathedrals for a while.  Back to the road – and the real world!

4 thoughts on “Cathedralling in Eastern England!”

  1. Thanks Catherine, for sharing all that and all those fantastic blue-sky cathedral photos. Hope the sun shines for your days in Saffron Walden. We had a fantastic ordination in St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon – two of our curates plus five others – two-hour service then an hour for chat and refreshments and the sun shone all through – Rachel’s face was radiant too – she’s our young curate! Love, Jenny

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