The cathedral is one of the finest national examples of early English architecture and was largely built between the 12th and 14th centuries. The Cathedral is famed for its magnificent West Front, featuring over medieval sculptures and carvings; the inverted scissor arches of the nave, the Tower climb and the famous astronomical clock with jousting knights on the hour.
Sunday to Saturday: 7:00 am to 7:00 pm
Admission: Free, But Donations Welcome
Ever since I'd seen a photograph of the scissor arches in Wells Cathedral, I wanted to go there. I finally managed to do that this year - and was not disappointed. Wells Cathedral is surely one of England's most beautiful cathedrals. Built from 1191 to 1240 (the towers are from a later date), it is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, namely Early English. The impressive west front is covered over and over with figures, about 300 still survive. They show scenes from the Bible but also kings, bishops and angels.
Even more impressive is the inside of the cathedral. You'll immediately discover the scissor arches that have made it famous. They were built between 1338 and 1348 but look much newer. Visitors often falsely believe that they are just a modern attachment to the cathedral, but in fact they were built to stabilize the foundations of the tower above.
Just around the corner is the second main sight in the cathedral: the second-oldest clock of England. It is an astronomic clock showing not only the time but also the phases of the moon, the motion of both sun and moon and the time since the last new moon. What is particularly interesting is the little jousting tournament taking place every 15 minutes. Little knights move in two circles and one of them always manages to knock another one from his miniature horse - every 15 minutes for 600 years!!! Poor guy... Next to the clock is the figure of the "quarter jack" who marks the time by clicking his heels.
A third interesting and very beautiful part of Wells' cathedral is the Chapter House, the room where the bishop and canons met to discuss the affairs of the cathedral. It's an octogonal room with a single Gothic pillar (Decorated Style) in its centre, and of a kind that I've never seen before. A very bright and open room which could also be the main room of a palace or castle. Hard to describe, but definitely worth climbing up the most worn-out steps you can imagine.
Photography inside the cathedral is prohibited unless you obtain a permission from the souvenir shop for £2. The entry is free, but it is recommended to pay a fee of £5.50 as the cathedral has an upkeep of £3,000 per day.
We were not able to enter the cathedral. I think a wedding was in progress as a troop of clergymen went and the doors were closed behind them.
I walked around and admired the facade with its numerous statues.
The tower , the doors, minor carvings all added to its majesty.
I am so glad I finally had the chance to see ity.
There has been a church or cathedral on this spot since 705 when a minster church was founded here. The present cathedral was built starting in the 13th century. There has been damage over the years, particularly during the English Civil War when it was used to stable horses. The lead from the roof was melted down for bullets and they used some of the statues on the exterior as target practice! There was also some damage in World War II but has been restored now.
The Large square-ish west front is particularly beautiful with over 300 statues still surviving and two gothic towers. There's another main tower over the transepts that used to have a spire on top. It faces a wide lawn facing Sadler Street in the city itself. The church is dedicated to St. Andrew.
Inside, there are some wonderful original stained glass windows in the east side. There's a very old astronomical clock in the north transept that is one of the oldest working clocks in Europe. Its workings also are attached to a clock face on the outside of the cathedral though that clock is about 70 years newer. Not a big deal if the original clock dates to the 1300s! The fan vaulting is beautiful and there are large unique scissor shaped arches supporting the centre tower.
The Green and cathedral are reached via a tall medieval gate on the market square, called the Penniless Porch where the poor used to beg for alms. Next to that is the Bishop's Eye, a gate to the Bishop's Palace just behind the cathedral which is the seat for the Bishop of Bath and Wells.
Obviously.....the cathedral is what gives this small settlement its city status, and it is a wonderful example of Medieval craftsmanship.
Wells cathedral was started in the 1180s, gained cathedral status in 1245 and had reached more or less its present form by 1306, with the eight-sided Lady Chapel being completed by 1326.
It is a stunning building. The west front, with niches for more than 500 statues (300 still remain) is a stunning, but I found the superb scissor arches inside the building even more stunning...they look almost modern, and their creation without anything approaching modern technology is simply mind-blowing.
Like all Medieval English cathedrals there is a wealth of carvings, tombs, memorials and architecture to explore and enjoy. I'll add some more tips about specific things to look out for.
Allow at least an hour to wander around.
Evensong is at 5.15. Even if you are not a Christian it is worth attending to enjoy the beautiful acoustics and the superb choral singing. You will be seated in the choir itself. The cathedral is well-used to visitors, so you will find a helpful laminate telling you exactly what to do and when. This is not a mass; there is no communion (the taking of bread/wine) involved.....it is simply an evening service, with readings and choral works and prayers lasting around 45 minutes.
There is no entrance fee, but a donation of at least 5.50GBP is requested and should be given, imo. The very expensive upkeep of our wonderful Medieval cathedrals is not funded by the government.
You will need to buy a photography permit (2GBP) if you want to take photos.
A truly magnificent example of English heritage at its very best, Wells Cathedral was founded in 705 AD during Roman times, and although none of the original church remains, a small part of it has been excavated and can be viewed within the confines of the Cathedral’s cloisters.
However, it wasn't until c1180 that the present Wells Cathedral was started, and continued being built over the next three hundred years.
Overlooking the Cathedral Green, work on the great west front of the Cathedral begun in 1239. It consists of hundreds of life-size statues of saints and missionaries, bishops and kings and tells the story of Christian England from the earliest times. Indeed you can trace the stories, and characters involved by starting at the bottom and working up to the peak whereby the apostles and Jesus sit atop.
Inside is as one would hope from a cathedral-chapels, choir stalls, decorative glass-all awe inspiring but other highlights include the 600 year old Astronomical Clock, which is still operational and features jousting knights on the quarter hour, as two medieval warriors strike a bell. It is connected to an outside clock on the North side of the Cathedral.
However, the most striking feature is the ‘Scissor Arches’, which were a unique 14th century architectural solution to the problem of the weight of the main tower. Whilst the tower has sunk over the centuries since construction, these have stood a true test of time and are testimony to the immeasurable talent of a forefathers building prowess.
In the Cathedral interior there is a famous old clock that rings at each quarter hour. What makes the 600 year old timepiece exceptional is the jousting knights that go round in tournament.
On the exterior of the Cathedral there is another clock, the one pictured here, that is on the north side of the Cathedral. The large clock can easily be seen from St. Andrews Street, near the entrance to Vicar's Close.
These ancient and well trod steps lead up to the Wells Cathedral Chapter House, which was built 700 years ago. The Canons met in the Chapter House to engage in their business, sitting on benches that line the large and imposing octagonal chamber.
This cathedral is truly unique. It dates back to 1180, with the magnificent West Front (picture) from around 1230 with on of the largest galleries of medieval sculpture in Europe. The lower niches have biblical scenes, leading up to kings, bishops and orders of angels to the 12 apostles and Christ.
The interior Nave may seem modern, with the unusual "scissor arches." They look like they could be mid-20th century modern style, but were in fact an engineering feat of the 14th century.
Even if you have seen dozens of cathedrals, Wells merits a visit.
I have visited many gothic churches, but this one is surely among the most beautiful of them. Wells Cathedral dates back to the 7th century, but most of its present-day structure was built in the 12th and 13th century. The front facade of the cathedral contains over 300 statues of different sizes, some of them were painted once. Here, you will notice a transition between early english style and decorated style gothic. Inside, the early english style dominates. The most remarkable parts of the cathedral's interior are the scissor-style arches, which you will find at the crossing of transept and main nave. These were built for stabilization in the 14th century, after it was found out that the cathedral was sinking due to its own weight. An other mentionable piece of art is the famous Wells clock from the late 14th century. It still has its medieval face and every hour, two figures of knights come out for battle (The clock was out of function at the time I was there). The adjacent chapter house can be accessed via a long flight of worn steps leading up from the transept. The lawn in front of the cathedral is a popular place to meet, especially in summer. You will even see people playing football there.
After the 16th century, the cathedral suffered from the Ups and downs of british history, such as the dissolution of monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII. A larger retauration project took place in the 19th century during the reign of Queen Victoria. Today, it is a very popular toursit attraction and the see of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The bishop himself lives in the episcopal palace, which is located to the southeast of the cathedral.
Like in many churches in the UK, there is no entry fee, but a donation (5 pounds) is suggested. If you would like to take pictures, there is a photo perimission fee of 2 pounds. This permit allows you to take photos in the cathedral, but please be aware that flash photography is not allowed everyhwhere. If you would like to make a video, you also have to buy this permit.
The present church is largely of late 12th and early 13th century, the initial work being assigned to Bishop Reginald de Bohun, who died in 1191.
The western bays of the choir, the two transepts and the nave that we see today were completed under successive Bishops and a vast new church in the latest Gothic style - quite an innovation in those days - was largely constructed by the time of its dedication in 1239. Bishop Jocelin of Wells had his masons continue with detailed work, however, particularly the decoration of the glorious West front, which continued until about 1260. Bishop Jocelin, a brother of Bishop Hugh II of Lincoln, was one of the bishops who were at the side of Stephen Langton at the signing of Magna Carta. He was exceptionally active in other ways too. His building work not only included the West front of the Cathedral, but also the bishop's palace, a choristers' school, grammar school, hospital for travellers and a chapel and manor house at Wookey, two miles from Wells. This work stands as that of one of the three "master builders of our holy and beautiful house of St. Andrew in Wells." Associated with Jocelin was Elias of Dereham, a famous designer who died in 1246.
Simply stunning mediaeval Cathedral.
Beautiful building, great stained glass and clocks that are 100's of years old.
There are lots of Cathedrals to see in England. One of the spectacular features that makes Wells Cathedral special is the use of scissor arches.