the publius enigma


Hereward The Wake

The wars they have fought, and the flags they have flown,
may carry upward with chills of an appearance long forgotten and
almost unknown. 

But remember, foward hope without segregate plans, may lead to
distruction without helping hands.

William the Conqueror led his army to Ely, then an island in the Fens, and was three times foiled by Hereward in the attempt to build a causeway across the marshes. The third time, while William was encamped at Brandon, Hereward rode there on his horse, a noble beast called Swallow, on the way meeting a potter, who agreed to exchange clothes with him and lend him his wares. In this disguise Hereward got into William's camp and overheard his plans (as according to legend King Alfred disguised himself as a harper to enter the camp of the Danes). When William built his third causeway, and proceeded to send his soldiers along it to attack Ely, Hereward's men, hidden in the reeds, set fire to the vegetation. The Normans were engulfed by the flames, and those who tried to escape were either drowned in the marsh or picked off by English arrows.

 In 1109 Ely became a cathedral as part of the Norman reforms of the English church.

Every part of the ground–plan and elevation was set out using ratios like the Golden Section to ensure that the whole was completely harmonious.

The Monk's Door at the east end of the aisle has swirly foliage patterns in the carving. These are similar to the patterns in the 12th–century painting on a nearby section of the south aisle vault. The monks didn't do stone carving or wall–painting (that was done by professional craftsmen, just like today's builders). But, the similarity between these motifs and a manuscript that was made by the monks suggests that the monks provided the patterns for the craftsmen to work from.

The Monk's Door is partially covered by a large buttress and there is a blocked doorway in the transept wall to the right. This buttress was added in the 1320s to support the Octagon lantern that was then being built over the crossing, but before that the blocked doorway led into the a vestry in the transept. Blocked doors are good clues to the history of a building because they can tell us about how the building was used in the past.

 Waiting in silence for the door to be opened again...

The next major event in Ely's history was the reordering of the choir in 1770–71 when the pulpitum screen was removed, and the choir stalls moved out of the Octagon to the Far East end of the choir. This arrangement lasted less than 100 years. In 1847 George Gilbert Scott began a major restoration of the cathedral. His work included moving the choir stalls to their present position, installing the new gilded iron screen, and laying the geometric marble and tile floor. The new nave ceiling was added a few years later. Structural work, including the reinforcement of the west tower and the rebuilding of the lantern, was also done at this time.