Ely Cathedral


Detail of Prior Craudens Chapel roof

Approaching Ely from any direction, the cathedral dominates, just as it did throughout the Middle Ages. This magnificent pile, with its bold west tower, long bulk of cool cream stone, steeply-pitched roofs and intricate octagonal crossing, is made more imposing because of its flat fenland location.

We often think of architecture as alien to nature, man-made structures imposed upon the landscape. At Ely, however, we have a Medieval wonder directly relating to its surroundings. Its enduring presence was made possible by the easy transportation allowed by the wet fenland. Good quality stone could easily be transported by boat to this spot, then worked by skilled masons, creating the extraordinary collection of buildings making up the cathedral and its close today, shown in the images below.

Of course, with limited technology, and being such ambitious projects, cathedrals could take decades, even centuries to construct. In constant use, they have been adapted, rebuilt and restored by successive generations, an effort that continues today. In essence, Ely is one of Britain’s greatest Medieval buildings. However, to survive it has needed attention from other eras, not least the Victorians, as the drawings and images reveal.

About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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