Locales > Devon and Cornwall
To enter Exeter Cathedral is to enter a mediaeval time capsule originally built by people whose world view was completely based on the certainty of God and his control of all matters. Yet they were very much concerned with gaining temporal power and monies. The cathedral was the epicentre of their efforts bringing in revenue from the faithful and bestowing power.
This cathedral is caught up in the movement to move away from venerating valuable objects. which in part this had been caused by King Edward the 1st who had ordered the cataloguing of valuable church objects in 1297, with a view to a possible sequestration. The church response was partly to beautify buildings which could not be sequestered (or so they thought).
The rebuilding of the cathedral spanned the whole of the 14th century and beyond. It was, of course, a Roman Catholic building and the priests celebrated masses according to Rome until Henry the 8th intervened.
The first thing that strikes you as you enter is the magnificent vaulted ceiling it's 300 feet long and 68 feet high, the longest uninterrupted arch ceiling certainly in England. The ornate and coloured boss stones that pin the structure together are notable.
As you walk down the nave if you look to your left above an arch you see the ornamented minstrels gallery -14 angels playing instruments . Just why it is here is the subject of dispute but the craftsmanship and style are undoubtedly brilliant.
As you move further towards the east you see the mighty pulpitum which is the screen which divides the nave from the choir on top Of this huge wall is the mighty organ which dates from the 17th century amazingly and you can hear it playing in the background on this video.
Let's pause for a second and enjoy the ornaments of the pulpitum. As your eyes rise you see a sequence of 14 paintings depicting Christian story Here we focus on just four the garden Of Eden with the fall of Eve , followed by the flood, a rather strange nativity and Christ being laid in the tomb.
The role of a pulpitum in separating clergy from the common mass has made it a disputed wall. Many have been demolished but this has survived despite moves to remove it. Of such things are liturgical arguments made.
You move into the choir, which is where the clergy would have held the services, pretty much
Now you see the 58 feet high bishops throne or cathedra . It was built entirely in Oak in the 14th century over 4 years. It was removed in the 2nd world war and rebuilt where it once stood. It was once fully painted – it is dazzling now and must have been stupendous then.
Arriving at the high altar, the great east window is before us. Much of the glass is original 14th century.
Let’s pause a while at the brightly painted tomb of a bishop called Bishop Oldham. He was bishop from 1505 until his death in 1519 when he was aged 67. He had moved across the country from one ecclesiastical position to another gaining power and influence as he went. He successfully annexed Warland Hospital for Exeter and sought to gain more power and money by annexing Tavistock Abbey. The pope ruled against that move though. He accumulated considerable wealth and was able to leave £80 for a mass to be said for his soul every day for all eternity.
There is much, much more to look at and consider in it’s own context but for now we’ll take one final look at the West Window. Do visit this amazing time capsule if you can.