Thursday, 6 March 2014

Yesterday's day out

What a lovely day to go for a trip with the U3A History Group to Ely.  The first stop was a guided tour of the Cathedral which was first built, with its monastery, in 673 by Saint Ethelreda.  However the invading Danes did not treat the buildings very well and it was rebuilt in 970 and finally became a cathedral and the new diocese of Ely, in 1170.
The West front of the cathedral
  Unfortunately in 1322 the Norman built central tower collapsed and the wooden octagonal lantern was built, which survives to this day.  Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries brought more destruction to the cathedral and some damage took place, including destroying the attached monastery, destroying Ethelreda's shrine and knocking the heads off the saintly figures in the Lady chapel.

The Cathedral is nicknamed the 'Ship of the fens' because wherever you go you can see its stately towers riding the sky like a great ship and it is certainly imposing as you approach the city.  Yes, Ely is the smallest city in the country.  
The octagon lantern from the ground

Some of the madder people decided to climb the 165 steps to the top and I am glad that I did this.  There is a walkway round the lantern which is the 'lit area'you can see in my photo taken from the ground.  The guide opened two of the painted panels and we looked down into the nave.  Amazing piece of architecture when you wonder how the carpenters got the massive trunks of oak up in to place.

I also visited Ely Museum and Oliver Cromwell's house. Though born in nearby Huntingdon, Cromwell lived here with his wife and 9 children.  After circulating though the house with an audio guide, we were asked to decide whether we thought Cromwell was a hero or a villain.  I actually found this difficult, but said he was a villain.  However on reflection  and though I am a confirmed Royalist, Charles I did get above himself, dismissed Parliament and thought he could govern as he saw fit.  So perhaps Cromwell was a hero because we might now have been living in a dictatorship!  

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