Perspective of Ely Cathedral
Drawing: Gerald Horsley (1892)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection
This brilliant drawing fully reveals the ambitions of Ely’s Medieval patrons and masons. Never satisfied, they added to the structure again and again, and Horsley’s view shows their many different building campaigns, from the Norman Conquest onwards.
The massive Romanesque west tower, animated with arcades, contrasts with the plain nave and aisles, dominated by the bold roof outline, and the glorious Decorated octagonal crossing lantern, peppered with pinnacles. The building’s troubled history is also revealed – the ruined cloister walls showing the destruction that later centuries wrought upon the building, when the monastery attached to the cathedral was dissolved.
Gerald Horsley (1862-1917) was one of the most gifted architectural draughtsmen of his generation. Trained by leading late Victorian architect Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912), he spent much of his career decorating church interiors in a most sumptuous fashion. Other architects often employed him to draw up their designs, for publication and to be displayed at exhibitions. This perspective, shown at the Royal Academy (1892), shows Horsley’s command of pen and ink, and his ability to balance detail with scale, with astonishing ease.