Ely Cathedral

Prior Crauden's Chapel, Ely

Prior Crowdon Chapel_530x862

Prior Crauden's Chapel, Ely
Drawing: William Burges (late 1850s)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection

We often think of cathedrals as large, solitary buildings, spiritually detached from this world. In fact, cathedral churches were usually the heart of a large complex of buildings, accommodating the significant number of people worshipping in and maintaining them. This sketch, by the great High Victorian architect William Burges (1827 -1881), concentrates on one of these buildings, Prior Crauden’s Chapel.

Built as a private place of worship around 1325, this chapel survives in remarkably good condition, and clearly excited Burges. Above all else, it was the rich colour scheme that he wanted to capture. Most medieval buildings were whitewashed during the Reformation. Here a lost, multicoloured world could be encountered: patches of painted mouldings are noted; the richly glazed tiles can be enjoyed; we can even make out the figure of Adam and Eve on the floor.

Completed early in his career, this and other studies formed the foundation for his wonderfully imaginative and colourful buildings, such as Cardiff Castle, Cork Cathedral and Studley Royal Church. Then, as now, Ely and its many buildings were inspirational.


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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