Cel­e­bra­tions of life

Landscape (UK) - - In The Home -

The ground be­neath Ely is capped by boul­der clay, which can be char­ac­terised as a partly con­sol­i­dated clay or mud. This means that the cathedral’s foun­da­tions are less than 6ft (2m) in depth, with no crypts or un­der­crofts. There are, how­ever, a wide va­ri­ety of chapels, memo­ri­als and re­liefs de­pict­ing the lives of many of the re­li­gious fig­ures associated with the build­ing. St Ed­mund, for ex­am­ple, who was killed by the Danes in 870, is com­mem­o­rated in scenes upon both the north and south walls. The for­mer shows him tied to a tree be­fore be­ing ex­e­cuted by ar­rows. The tomb of Bishop Richard Red­man, Bishop of Ely from 1501-1505, cel­e­brates his fa­mous gen­eros­ity, with an in­scrip­tion stat­ing that: ‘In his jour­neys, through any towns where he stayed but an hour, it was his prac­tice to cause a Bell to be rung, that the Poor may come and par­take of his Char­ity, which he plen­ti­fully be­stowed upon them.’ The suc­cesses and largesse of Bishop Ni­cholas West, Bishop of Ely from 1515-1534, are also cel­e­brated, record­ing that ‘he lived in the great­est splen­dour of any Pre­late in his time’ and fed ‘warm meat and drink to the ex­cess of 200 peo­ple per day’. On his death, he left ‘250 books and 5,000 ounces of sil­ver and sil­ver gilt’. There is also a chapel ded­i­cated to the woman who can be re­garded as the founder of the cathedral, St Ethel­dreda. Famed for her deep faith and the mir­a­cles it is claimed that God per­formed through her, the shrine be­came a fo­cal point of pil­grim­age in the Mid­dle Ages. Both 23 June and 17 Oc­to­ber are still ob­served as ma­jor fes­ti­vals at the cathedral in her hon­our.

A paint­ing on the North Wall de­picts St Ed­mund, just prior to his ex­e­cu­tion.

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