Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Wells Cathedral (Part Eight).

Text and Illustrations from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

Fan-Vaulting in
Wells Cathedral.

The West Front,
Wells Cathedral,
Somerset, England.
Photo: 30 April 2014.
Source: Own work.
Author: Diliff.
License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Clock has its original Mediaeval Face. As well as showing the time on a 24-hour Dial, it reflects the motion of the Sun and Moon, the phases of the Moon, and the time since the last New Moon. The Astronomical Dial represents a geocentric or pre-Copernican view of the Universe, with the Sun and Moon revolving round a central fixed Earth, like that of the Clock at Ottery St. Mary. Every Quarter Hour, the Clock is chimed by a Quarter Jack, in the form of a small automaton, known as Jack Blandifers, who hits two Bells with hammers and two with his heels. At the striking of the Clock, Jousting Knights appear above the Clock Face.

The Dial of the Astronomical Clock,
inside Wells Cathedral.
Photo: 9 December 2008.
Source: Own work.
Author: Mattana.
(Wikimedia Commons)

On the Outer Wall of the Transept, opposite Vicars' Hall, is a second Clock Face of the same Clock, placed there just over seventy years after the Interior Clock, and driven by the same mechanism. The second Clock Face has two Quarter Jacks (which strike on the Quarter Hour) in the form of Knights in Armour.

In 2010, the official Clock-Winder retired and was replaced by an electric mechanism.

The first record of an Organ at this Church dates from 1310, and a smaller Organ, probably for The Lady Chapel, was installed in 1415. In 1620, an Organ, built by Thomas Dallam, was installed at a cost of £398 1s 5d.(equivalent to about £75,000 as of 2012).

The Organ, that was installed in 1620, was destroyed by Parliamentary soldiers in 1643. An Organ, built in 1662, was enlarged in 1786, and again in 1855. In 1909–1910, an Organ was built by Harrison & Harrison, of Durham, with the best parts of the old Organ retained, and it has been maintained by the same company, since.

The first recorded Organist of Wells Cathedral was Walter Bagele (or Vageler) in 1416, and the Post of Organist, or Assistant Organist, has been held by more than sixty individuals since then.

Vicars' Close extends to the
North of Wells Cathedral.
Date: 2005-06-12.
Source: From
Author: Clive Barry
(Wikimedia Commons)

There has been a Choir of Boy Choristers at Wells Cathedral since 909 A.D. Currently, there are eighteen Boy Choristers, aged from eight to fourteen years. The Vicars Choral was formed in the 12th-Century, and the sung Liturgy was provided by a traditional Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys, until the formation of an additional Choir of Girls, in 1994.

The Boys and Girls sing alternately with the Vicars Choral, and are educated at Wells Cathedral School. The Vicars Choral currently numbers twelve Men, of whom three are Choral Scholars. Since 1348, the College of Vicars has had its own accommodation. The Vicars Choral generally perform with the Choristers, except on Wednesdays, when they sing alone, enabling them to present a different repertoire.

In December 2010, Wells Cathedral Choir was rated by Gramophone Magazine as "the highest ranking Choir with children in the World", and continues to provide music for the Liturgy at Sunday and Weekday Services. The Choir has made many recordings and toured frequently, including performances in Beijing and Hong Kong in 2012. Its repertoire ranges from the Choral Music of the Renaissance, to Recently-Commissioned Works.

The Choir and Organ
at Wells Cathedral.
Photo: 12 April 2013.
Source: Own work.
Author: Rodw.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Bells, at Wells Cathedral, are the heaviest Ring of Ten Bells in the World; the Tenor Bell (the 10th, and largest), known as Harewell, weighing 56.25 Long Hundredweight (2,858 kg). They are hung for Full Circle Ringing in the English Style of Change Ringing. These Bells are now hung in the South-West Tower, although some were originally hung in the Central Tower.

The Library is above the Eastern Cloister, and was built between 1430 and 1508. The Library's Collection is in three parts: Early Documents, housed in the Muniment Room; the Collection pre-dating 1800, housed in the Chained Library; and the post-1800 Collection, housed in the Reading Room.

The Chapter's earlier Collection was destroyed during the Reformation, so the present Library consists, chiefly, of early-printed books, rather than Mediaeval Manuscripts. The earlier Books, in the Chained Library, number 2,800 Volumes, and give an indication of the variety of interests of the members of the Cathedral Chapter from the Reformation until 1800. The focus of the Collection is predominantly Theology, but there are Volumes on science, medicine, exploration, and languages. Books of particular interest include: Pliny's Natural History, printed in 1472; an Atlas of the World, by Abraham Ortelius, printed in 1606; and a set of the Works of Aristotle, that once belonged to Erasmus. The Library is open to the Public, at appointed times, during Summer, and has a small exhibition of Documents and Books.

Wells Cathedral and Bishop's Palace.
View of Wells Cathedral from beside
the Moat
to the Bishop's Palace.
Photo: 17 January 2010.
Source: From
Author: Philip Halling.
(Wikimedia Commons)

Three early Registers of the Dean and Chapter of Wells Cathedral – the Liber Albus I (The White Book; R I), Liber Albus II (R III) and Liber Ruber (The Red Book; R II, Section i) – were edited by W. H. B. Bird for the Historical Manuscripts Commissioners, and published in 1907. The Books comprise, with some repetition, a Cartulary of possessions of the Cathedral, with Grants of Land dating back as early as the 8th-Century, well before the development of hereditary surnames in England; they also comprise acts of the Dean and Chapter, and surveys of their Estates, mostly in Somerset.

The Cathedral is situated adjacent to a large area of lawn, Cathedral Green, which is approached by three Ancient Gateways, Brown's Gatehouse, Penniless Porch and Chain Gate. On Cathedral Green, is the 12th-Century Old Deanery, largely rebuilt, in the Late-15th-Century, by Dean Gunthorpe, and remodelled by Dean Bathurst in the Late -17th-Century. It is no longer the Residence of the Dean, and, instead, serves as offices for the Diocese.

To the South of the Cathedral, is the Moated Bishop's Palace, begun around 1210 by Bishop Jocelin of Wells, but dating mostly from the 1230s. In the 15th-Century, Bishop Beckington added the North Wing, which is now the Bishop's Residence. It was restored and extended by Benjamin Ferrey between 1846 and 1854.

Wells Cathedral's West Front,
as painted by J. M. W. Turner,
circa 1795. Watercolour on paper.
(Wikimedia Commons)

To the North of the Cathedral, and connected to it by the Chain Gate, is Vicars' Close, a Street planned in the 14th-Century, and claimed to be the oldest purely residential Street in Europe, with all but one of its original buildings surviving intact. Buildings in Vicars' Close include the Vicars' Hall and Gateway at the South End, and the Vicars' Chapel and Library at the North End.

British painter J. M. W. Turner visited Wells Cathedral in 1795, making sketches of the Precinct and a watercolour of the West Front, now in the Tate Gallery. Other artists, whose paintings of the Cathedral are in national collections, are Albert Goodwin, John Syer and Ken Howard.

The Cathedral was used as an inspiration for Ken Follett's novel, The Pillars of the Earth, and, with a heavily modified Central Tower, featured as the completed fictional Kingsbridge Cathedral at the end of the 2010 television adaptation of that novel. The Interior of the Cathedral was used for the Doctor Who TV episode, 'The Lazarus Experiment', while the Exterior shots were filmed at Southwark Cathedral.


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