May 17 – The second day at our Wells Cathedral exhibition

A visit to Cew Mendip on the way home

Hello from 1066 – A Medieval Mosaic

Our second day at the Wells Cathedral and we are really enjoying being in the cathedral. Most of the people walking down the corridor are on the way to the toilet but we don’t let it worry us and I wander off into the cathedral often to joins tours and learn all about the different aspects of the cathedral. There is so much to discover. The exhibition looks great in a straight line down the cloister but very few people stay long enough to walk backwards and forwards three times. The front entrance opens onto the East cloister and we have strategically placed our banner so that people will come down to see what it is all about. We are really pleased with the banner as it looks good.

Lunchtimes are spent out in the Camery Gardens which is lovely at this time of the year and we enjoy looking at all the trees and plants in flower and sitting in the sun. The wells or springs were the reason for the settlement here from Roman times and there is evidence of a Romano-British burial chamber which might be a Christian burial. King Ine of Wessex gave permission for a minster church to be built here. Bishop Reginald de Bohun built the cathedral in the Gothic style, the first of its kind in England. The building took eighty years, built from East to West finishing with the fantastic West Front which still has 300 of the original medieval statues. The first master mason was Adam Locke and a corbel of his image is in the nave. Although he did not live to see the cathedral completed the next stone mason finished the cathedral using the same plans so that the architecture is the same throughout.

There are many stained glass windows in the cathedral, many by J. Powell and Sons. There also many beautiful tapestries, processional banners and altar cloths. The stonework both inside and outside the cathedral is stunning and everything inspires and produces awe in us.

There are also many tombs of the Bishops around the aisles but the most important one from our point of view is Bishop Giso who was the Bishop of Wells from 1060 – 1088 so he was Bishop both before and after the Norman Conquest. He was chaplain to Edward the Confessor and travelled to Rome to be consecrated by Pope Nicholas II  on 15 April 1061 rather than by Stigand, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He constructed the cloisters to the north of the cathedral and the communal buildings to the south for the canons. He also introduced the veneration of new saints and the position of archdeacon in the diocese for the first time. He wrote a history of the church and restored lands which had previously belonged to the bishop or the cathedral that had been acquired by others. After the Norman Conquest Giso supported William the Conqueror. Giso died in 1088 and was buried at Well Cathedral. His tomb was opened in 1979 and a cross with verses from the “Mass of the Dead” inscribed on it was found in the tomb.

The other important tomb is that of John Harewell who was Bishop of Bath and Wells from 1366 until his death in 1386. He was chaplain to Edward the Black Prince. His ancestor was listed on the Battle Abbey Roll as one of the men who accompanied William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

Vicar’s Close was started in 1348 and completed in 1430 and is the oldest purely residential street with its original buildings all surviving intact in England. It has a Grade I listed status. It has 27 residences, originally 44, and was built by Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury. It also has a chapel and a library. It was built to accommodate the Vicars Chorale as it was their duty to chant divine service eight times a day. We had been told about a free car park that we can use in Ash Lane and every day we walk through the Vicar’s Close to and from the cathedral. It never gets old!

All around the Mendip Hills are a series of church micros and in order to complete the Wells Cathedral church micro, we must collect information from any two of them. On the way home, we called in to visit the church of St Mary Magdalene in Chew Magna. The church was made of blue lias stone, had a Norman archway and a 126-foot tower of Doulting stone. There are also a variety of grotesques and gargoyles but no hunky punks. Near the altar is a stone seat called a “frid” which is for those who took sanctuary in the church especially criminals. There was an altar to Sir Henry Fitzroger and his wife Dame Elizabeth and also the Bonville Monument. There are some lovely embroidered processional banners, altar frontals and paraments. It is good to have so many beautiful churches to visit in the region.