TL5480 : Ely Cathedral - the nave roof

taken 8 years ago, near to Ely, Cambridgeshire, Great Britain

Ely Cathedral - the nave roof
Ely Cathedral - the nave roof
Henry Styleman Le Strange, squire of Hunstanton, Norfolk, was a friend of the Cathedral clergy. When in 1853 traces of medieval decoration were discovered in the nave arcade, Dean Peacock, having noted Le Strange's enthusiasm, suggested that he paint the ceiling of the west tower. The work was completed in 1855 and in July 1856 Le Strange agreed to Peacock's suggestion that he paint the entire nave ceiling, now recognised as one of the finest examples of nineteenth century church art in Europe. Work commenced in 1858 and Le Strange devised an ingenious system by dividing into squares and scaling up to full size mechanically his original small designs. These he pinned to the ceiling, over a sheet of paper covered in red ochre and a boy then traced over each line, leaving the design in place, outlined in red ochre. House-painters were used to fill in the backgrounds whilst Le Strange concentrated on the faces and other crucial areas. His models included Dean Peacock himself, who appears as Isaiah in the sixth panel from the west end. The artist himself appears in the easternmost roundel on the north side. He is said to have taken infinite pains over the toning of his work, avoiding bold colours, and would descend frequently to ground level to judge the effectiveness of each shade used.

Halfway through, however, Le Strange suddenly died and with no definite plans for the remainder, Thomas G Parry, Le Strange's Eton schoolfellow and executor, was called in to finish the work. Parry devised his own technique (Spirit Fresco), involving pretreatment of the ceiling (or wall) to be painted with a mixture including spike oil, derived from Lavender which he prepared himself.
A marked change in style can be seen by comparing bays six and seven. The work was completed in 1865, having taken seven years in all. Parry went on 10 paint the Octagon and Transepts.
Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral > LinkExternal link is believed to originate from an old church which was restored by Etheldreda, queen, foundress and abbess of Ely. She was the daughter of Anna, king of East Anglia and can often be found depicted on East Anglian rood screens. In 673 she founded a monastery in Ely, the site of which was where Ely cathedral now stands. The monastery flourished but was eventually destroyed by the Danes and refounded as a Benedictine community in 970. Etheldreda died around 680 and was buried in Ely where her shrine was the focus for a vast number of medieval pilgrims. Work on the cathedral as it stands today began in the 11th century under the leadership of Abbot Simeon, and the monastic church became a cathedral in 1109. The oldest parts of the cathedral still standing are the south and north transepts which date from around 1090. Both have C15 hammerbeam roofs adorned with carved angels. The west tower was extended in the 14th century and the octagonal lantern above the crossing was built by Alan of Walsingham after the Norman central tower had collapsed in 1322. The monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 and St Etheldreda's shrine was destroyed. The first major restoration took place in the 18th century and a second restoration project began in 1839 under the then Dean George Peacock and architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. A third major restoration project - the most expensive to date - was begun in 1986 and completed in the year 2000. The cathedral is 161 metres long and nave and aisles are 24 metres wide. The Octagon lantern tower is situated 43 metres above the floor. The total area of the cathedral covers 4273 square metres. The cathedral's stained glass windows date from the Victorian restoration.

A Stained Glass Museum is situated in the south triforium gallery. It is the only museum in England dedicated to stained glass.

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TL5480, 911 images   (more nearby )
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Date Taken
Friday, 19 November, 2010   (more nearby)
Saturday, 20 November, 2010
Cathedral (interior)   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TL 541 802 [100m precision]
WGS84: 52:23.9145N 0:15.8118E
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! TL 541 802
View Direction
WEST (about 270 degrees)
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