Entrance gatehouse to Cathedral GreenThere was a Norman Cathedral in Wells, but in 1180 Bishop Reginald de Bohun, decided to build a new one on a different site in what became architecturally known as 'Early English Gothic'. It now has the acolade of being the first Cathedral to be built completely from scratch in this style; a harmonious building filled with light and space with ribbed vaults, and pointed arches.
Christ sits in majesty at the centre top of the facade flanked on either side by winged seraphim; the twelve apostles stand immediately below - St. Andrew, the patron saint of the Cathedral, has pride of place in the center holding his cross.
The facade was originally coloured in green, blue and red paint with gold gilding, the figures were unpainted apart from some golden highlights but were offset against a dark red background. Traces of the original paint were discovered during conservation cleaning in the 1970s/80s.
To give an idea of how the West Front may have looked - I coloured this in on an internet site found via the BBC. It accords with the paint traces found - the white area is the undecorated stonework.
Sound was an important part of the religious display, and on festival days the unseen choristers would sing hymns to the people gathered outside from a specially constructed gallery inside the Cathedral. The sound was channelled outside thanks to a series of carefully hidden holes in the West Front - trumpets played through the larger holes which can be seen carved below the apostles feet. Can you imagine how overwhelming this spectacle must have seemed to the medieval peasants standing outside on the Cathedral Green?
By the time the Cathedral was completed, it was considered too small for the increasing grandness of the liturgy during that period, and in order to find more room for the large ritualistic processions, a spate of construction work began in the early 1300s. A much bigger tower was built adding considerably to the weight at the center of the Cathedral creating structural cracks. When we venture inside next time, it will be possible to see the ingenious and unique way that the medieval stonemasons managed to solve this problem thus averting a potential collapse.
The exterior clock face on the north wall is driven by the astronomical clock inside the Cathedral which is over 600 years old. The two knights hammer the bells with an axe at each quarter. The mechanism is also linked to a bell in the Cathedral's main tower which strikes the hours and can be heard throughout the city
Through an archway with a covered passageway above from the Cathedral
and then this gate
leads to the oldest complete medieval street in Europe
and then this gate
known as Vicar's Close, the houses were designed and built before 1350 to provide communal accommodation for the Vicars Choral, who sang daily worship within the Cathedral. The current occupants still include all twelve men of the Vicars Choral, plus organists and vergers. The choir has always been at the heart of life in Wells Cathedral since the 1100s and is recognised as being one of the finest in the world.