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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Ely Cathedral–The Octagonal or Lantern Tower


Looking up into the Lantern Tower from the centre of the Cathedral.

As promised in my last blog, this is all about the Octagonal or Lantern Tower of Ely Cathedral. The tower was built in  1322  to replace the original Norman Tower which collapsed. The construction of the Lantern is an amazing feat of Medieval architecture, and is constructed of wood, supported by 8 massive stone pillars.




The tower is in the centre of the cathedral, to stand underneath this amazing construction is just awe inspiring. We had booked a tour of the tower when we first arrived at the Cathedral, and I have to say it was well worth the wait, I was just amazed….it does seem that I am being drawn to climbing up towers in Cathedrals and churches, I just love seeing what is behind the facade of these buildings. Last year St. Pauls (that was a real feat for me, over 500 steps up to the top, but wow it was worth the climb. Ely this time, Bath Abbey a few weeks ago, it is one way to keep fit LOL)


On the roof of the Cathedral.


Looking down on the Lady Chapel.


Some of the gargoyles Smile


We climbed up a spiral staircase and emerged outside, at roof level, the roof to the right of us, a metal barrier to the left, and oh the view! We had time to take some photos, then went through a tiny space and we were inside the Octagonal Tower, behind the angel paintings. From here we could see the construction of the tower, and although there has been a lot of restoration some of the original medieval beams are still in place!


Inside the Lantern, these are not the Medieval timbers.


Some of the timbers you can see under these are Medieval.


The back of the painted Angel panels are on the left of this photo.

The angel panels are Victorian, they surround the interior of the lantern under the stained glass windows. Our guide opened the doors of a few of the angel panels, so we could see (and photo!) the beautifully decorated ceiling and look down to the floor of the Cathedral.


The angels, with some of the doors open so we can look up and down!!


Looking up…..


…and again….


….up again….


…and down…


The centre of the Cathedral from the tower.


The Choir and just visible, the High Altar.

We then went up a further staircase and emerged on the roof, above the angel paintings, level with the stained glass windows. As said before the lantern is constructed of wood, this is covered on the outside with lead cladding, and a parapet of stone surrounds the roof. I was amazed at what we were seeing, and so glad we had gone up there. It was also great getting up close with the gargoyles, to think they have been up there for hundreds of years, probably with very few people seeing them tells me of the pride of the builders of this wonderful building, and the skill of those medieval builders.


On the roof..


Close up to the tower.


Looking towards the West Tower



the stained glass windows which are above the Angel panels.



I love this one!



If any of you are ever in Cambridgeshire I can thoroughly recommend climbing the Octagonal Tower, you will be very pleased that you did. Now I want to visit Wells Cathedral and a few others…..


The angel panels just because I love them!



Have a wonderful weekend, take care all of you x




  1. All I can say is Wow, your visit to this Cathedral was awesome. Great photos as well as the commentary. Thank you so much for sharing this tour with all of us on the net. Can't wait to see the next Cathedral.

  2. Your visit to the Cathedral was Grand indeed great shots awsome !! I am pretty speechless so beautiful. Have a great weekend Hugs Sheila :) xx

  3. Satisfied sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh . . . beautiful.

  4. Horst, Sheila and Pat,glad you enjoyed looking at the photos, I think you can all tell I was totally awed by the Cathedral :)
    Horst the next one will be Bath and Bath Abbey, not as big as Ely but a wonderful church all the same. I also have some photos of two wonderful parish churches waiting in the wings, when I have time to sort them out!!

  5. I think Ely tops all the cathedrals I have been to and I have been to quite a few now.

    I never imagined that we had to walk over the roof to get inside the lantern tower and perhaps it was a good job I didn't or I might not have gone up. See what I would have missed.

  6. Absolutely stunning photos, you must have been quite high up to capture some of them, Loved these old timbers, I may have said before, but we have such a wealth of architecture in this country. thank your for sharing them.

  7. Wow! this is truly a work of art! Photographer Poppy did an awesome job of documenting this amazing cathedral! :-)

  8. Hi Poppy just popped over to see how you where , I haven't done a blog here for a while now, hope to soon. Look forward to Bath photo's I love it there especailly the Roman Baths. etc etc . Hugs Sheila hope you are well xx

  9. Now there's a truely spectacular building - the painted roof looks an absolute treat.
    Isn't it great how in churches the old always seems to sit well with the modern, whereas in other places they might clash badly.
    Two brill blogs from Ely - another place on the list of places to go.

  10. beautiful photos.Brings back memories.I have lived in New York for 43yrs Iremember when competing for Duke of Edinburghs award.We had to bicycle from Wisbech to Ely climb up the spire then write a essay on the angels..Have never forgotten thank you for these incredible photos

    1. I am so pleased you enjoyed the photos, and that they brought back some memories for you :) As you can probably tell I had a wonderful time taking photos of this lovely building, I would love to visit it again sometime, and maybe get up the West Tower as well! I still love those Angels :D