Had a full day field trip today to the Ely Cathedral, yet another cool historical spot that we’d been discussing in class. The cathedral was absolutely beautiful inside, and we got to go on a guided tour of both the ground floor and the Octagon Tower.
View of the cathedral, approaching from the park (there’s cows living in that field, though not visible in the photo).
The Octagon Tower included a climb of 170 stairs, which I didn’t love… but after the most terrifying stair climb of all time (Nieuwe Kerk in Delft), having to do just 170 stairs – split into several different flights – felt almost perfectly fine.
The Octagon Tower from below.
The Octagon Tower from eye level!
The back panels of the Octagon Tower. This part wasn’t meant to ever be seen by the public, so it didn’t need to look pretty. The tower weighs 400 tonnes total, and is supported by a very cool system that transfers the weight to the flying buttresses lined up outside the cathedral walls. This system also means that the walls of the cathedral don’t need to bear as much weight, so they can have way more windows and allow in much more natural light to brighten the cathedral.
An example of the flying buttresses that support most of the cathedral’s weight:
Some of the old graffiti scratched onto the back of the panels of the Octagon Tower. They’re trying to preserve this graffiti, as much of it has historical significance. During World War II, right before they went off to fight, local boys would go up and write their names on the panels so that they would have the protection of the angels.
View from the rooftop.
This is the West Tower of the cathedral, available to visit through a separate tour. Photo is taken from the roof on top of the Octagon Tower. The city of Cambridge is visible in the background…. very, very far away.
In addition to having an absolutely gorgeous interior, the cathedral also had an expansive grounds, including gardens and a field of cows. When the cathedral still had monks living there, it is likely that the setup was similar, with either cows or sheep to help provide income for the monks to live off of.
Afterwards, we wandered through Ely for a bit, which seemed very peaceful and pretty. It helped that the weather was perfect, warm and sunny. Plus, on the walk back through the park, our field trip ran into a great Golden Retriever whose owner let me cuddle him for a little while. Cool old cathedral, sunshine, and a cute dog… basically a perfect day.