My visit to Wells Cathedral
In the past I have touched on about my visit to Wells in UK already as it’s a place that I often bring visitors to. During all those visits I’ve never been inside the cathedral as the exterior is an extraordinary structure in itself.
During my recent visit, we decided to go inside, and boy, was I blown away!
As soon as I entered the cathedral, this magnificent scissor arch was staring right at me. It took me a while to take it all in as I had never seen anything like it. They look modern, but were in fact built between 1338 to 1348. There are three of these scissor arches inside Wells Cathedral and they were designed to support the central tower above from caving in when cracks were found after an earthquake. It is an ingenious piece of architecture. Not only do they withstand time via its practical purpose and design, but is also blends in beautifully with the vault ceiling. Again, I was in awe. As I always am, when I visit English cathedrals by the scale of the architect and structure from centuries ago in comparison to mankind. My visit to Wells Cathedral was no different.
I stood there admiring the scissors. Looking upwards towards the Jesus statue and further upwards straining my neck 90 degrees towards the 20 meter high ceiling as if I was doing yoga stretches. My view stretched all the way back along the ceiling to as far as my neck would allow. I forgot how stiff my neck is but you don’t notice this sort of thing when faced with such a magnificent view.
These are the three scissor arches, together they have supported the central tower, and Wells Cathedral for over 700 years.
Tucked quietly on one side of the Cathedral is an astronomical clock that dates back to around 1390. It is one of the oldest working mechanical clock in the world and the oldest with a clock face. Back in those days, we believed the Earth is the centre of the universe and the sun evolves around it and this is reflected in the clock design. I can also confirm that the clock really does work as a little jousting knight above the clock face comes out and tells you every 15 minutes.
When I entered the Cathedral, one of the volunteers told me that I must visit the Chapter House. I’m so glad he did otherwise I would have totally missed it. The entrance is via an old stone staircase that has seen the test of times. A piece of modern sits on it, a sharp contrast between the new and old. The art was part of the Wells Art Contemporary exhibition in the Cathedral.
The 1306 Chapter House is another part of the Cathedral that will absolutely take your breath away. The central column fans out to eight other columns that form part of the octagonal chapter house. There are seats all around where visitors can sit and slowly take all this in. I could have sat here for the whole afternoon, especially since this was one of the heatwave days in UK and it was so cool in here!
You may have noticed the strings of butterflies in here. This is another part of the art exhibition and this piece is called Kaleidoscope and Mirrors by an artist called Anne Bennett. According to the program leaflet – Butterflies can symbolize new beginnings, a fresh start, being in the arms of an angel, rebirth, transformation, endurance, eternal life and departed souls.
The last place I want to show everyone is the Chained library. This is another first for me.
Chained libraries were popular in the medieval period to prevent valuable books from being stolen. The one at Wells Cathedral was the largest medieval library in England when it opened in the 1450s.
The books are chained to a rod on the bookshelf and the chain is long enough for the reader to place the book on the table to read, but not allow him/her to remove it from the library. Apparently, there are only four such chained libraries that still exist in England now. They also exist in Europe such as in the Netherland and Italy. This part of the library is not accessible to visitors but you can prebook a tour with a guide. I might do that one day as now my visit to Wells Cathedral has ignited my desire to spend more time here again. It’s such a remarkable structure, highly recommended for anyone who is around the area.