Ely Cathedral and the man who died twice

Ely Cathedral and the man who died twice

26th November 2021 0 By livinguktaiwan

Today I want to take you to Ely in south east of England and tell you a story about the man who died twice.

Back in the summer, visited Sandringham House, the Queen’s private residence. During the same occasion, I visited a city called Ely in England. Cities aren’t necessarily big busy places in England, they could be small towns like Ely. That’s because any location that has a cathedral, has a city status in England. Ely is England’s smallest city after Wells, and Ely Cathedral is synonymous with Ely, a must see for anyone visiting.



Ely Cathedral

Ely Cathedral started off as a monastery in 673. Like all English religious buildings, parts were built and added on over the years. The current structure (not all of it) was built in 1083 and continued for the next few centuries. The architecture of the Cathedral is amazing. I won’t walk you through the details as I’ll just be repeating what’s said on the internet. If you’re interested to find out more, you can check out the official website. What I want to do is to show you inside, and my experience of the visit.


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The Nave

The first thing I saw as I entered the cathedral was the nave that extended into the heart of the building. At 75m long, it’s one of the longest naves in Britain. It is flanked by Norman arches on both sides, an incredible feat given that it was built in the 11th century, nearly a thousand years ago, and still standing!!!

By comparison, the ceiling is relatively new. The ten panel painting was installed in the 19th century the depicts the story of Jesus. When there are so many amazing features to admire in the cathedral, I think the ceiling may be neglected by many as it’s so high up and is quite difficult to see clearly. You could end up with a pain in the neck very quick, and I mean literally.

Octagon Tower

There is one overhead feature that is THE focal point of the cathedral. That is the Octagon Tower, ie the central tower of the cathedral and is located beyond the end of the nave. When the original central tower collapsed in 1322 the Octagon Tower was built to replace it. This is what it looks like from the ground up, and I’m sure you will agree with me, it is absolutely breathtaking.

Hailed as one of the wonders of the medieval world, the Octagon Tower is 23 meters wide and 43 meters tall. The sides are supported by stone pillars, but the vault is made of wood covered in lead. Bearing in mind, this was built 700 hundred years ago, the people didn’t have the technology or even tools we have today, this was by no means an easy feat.

Plus they installed the beautiful stained glass windows, adorned them with lead decor and hand-painted the Risen Christ in the center. Even for me who is not religious at all, I was just in awe of this incredible piece of engineering and artwork combined in one.


Here’s another view of the Octagon Tower from the back end of the cathedral. This is the Choir, you can see the organ on the right.

And here you can see how tall the tower is compared to us human beings. It was quite difficult to get a good image of us beneath the Octagon Tower, and to show how majestic the stone structure is, but we got there in the end.

Lady Chapel

Towards the left back of the cathedral is the Lady Chapel. This was built in 1349 in gothic style and is dedicated to Virgin Mary. Apparently, it was a popular thing during those times to have a chapel dedicated to Jesus’s mother. Ely Cathedral not only built one, but they also built the largest in the whole country.

Despite what the leaflets etc said about this chapel, it didn’t feel that special to me. I mean it had the same majestic and peaceful feel, but I was wondering what was so remarkable about it. It turns out that when it was first built, it had beautiful stained glass windows, marble pillars, and over 100 carved sculptures of the Virgin Mary. All this was destroyed during the Reformation in the mid 16th century. No wonder that Lady Chapel had a sense of allure lingering in the air.


You may have noticed a massive globe in the nave when I entered the cathedral. During my visit to Ely Cathedral, I was fortunate enough to see the planet Earth installation. This is a 7m massive globe suspended from the ceiling and is created using images taken by NASA. This earth is 1.8 million times smaller than the real earth and the idea is that the artwork may provide the viewer with a new perspective of our place on the planet.

Apparently, if you stand 211m away from it, it will look like you are seeing it from the moon. I didn’t know that until I wrote this post, but luckily it’s touring around the world, and I think I shall be able to see it again soon. Here’s the touring schedule if you’re interested, it might be coming to your city one day






Oliver Cromwell Museum

Apart from the cathedral, Ely has a famous resident, a guy called Oliver Cromwell who lived in the city from 1636 to 1646. This is his house behind me and it is now a museum. Oliver Cromwell is famous for many things, amongst them, being the man who died twice.  Want to know what happened?

UK has a royal family that is pretty famous around the world. I think they are one of the, if not the most famous royal families around the world. The British royal family have been ruling for centuries – apart from 11 years in between 1649 – 1660.

Cromwell was born in 1599, and he was a parliamentarian, a fancy word for someone who believes a country should be ruled by a parliament. The King at the time, Charles I, was a dictator. He believed the King was chosen by God and had absolute power to rule the country. To defy the king was to defy God.  And that’s basically what Cromwell did.

The Battle of Naseby

In 1649, the Royalists lost one of the bloodiest battles in English history, and Charles I was executed. Cromwell was one of the people who signed his death warrant. The monarchy was abolished, England became a republican and Cromwell became the Lord Protector of England, a role that was like a king in every aspect but name. When Cromwell died of natural causes in 1658, the Royalists regained power and Charles II, son of Charles I regained the throne in 1660.  That was the first time Cromwell died.  So how did he end up as the man who died twice?

One of the first things that Charles II did when he became King was to dig up Cromwell’s body that was buried at Westminster Abbey in London. He and hung and executed Cromwell’s corpse. Yup, that’s how much Charles II hated Cromwell for killing his father. I’m gonna kill you even though you’re dead!!

So, Cromwell was famous for two things. One, for the only person to rule England as a republican, and two for the man who died twice. Which do you think makes him more famous?

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