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Thursday 27th April 2017

Ely Cathedral and The Stained Glass Museum

The cold and rainy weather could not dampen the spirits of 35 members who spent a very enjoyable day at Ely Cathedral. We arrived at 10am and enjoyed a hot drink before splitting into two groups for the Cathedral and Stained Glass Museum guided tours, one before lunch, the other afterwards.
The cathedral tour was led by an excellent guide, very knowledgeable and passionate about the history of the cathedral. We learnt about Etheldreda and the original monastery she founded for both men and women, the Benedictine abbey for men only which succeeded it, and its rebuilding in Norman times which created the cathedral we see today. We were shown all the major features on the ground floor, including the choir stalls, organ and the famous octagon tower. The tour ended at the magnificent Lady Chapel, which was the highlight for many of the group, although opinions were divided regarding the large statue of Mary in a bright blue dress, which had been installed to mark the millennium.

The stained glass museum, situated upstairs in the cathedral, was founded in 1972, with the aim of rescuing stained glass windows under threat from destruction, and putting them on display to raise awareness of this unique art and craft. The museum has given new life to hundreds of stained glass windows removed from redundant buildings, predominantly churches across the British Isles; other windows, including examples from Europe and North America, have been loaned, donated or purchased. The windows date from medieval times through to the present day. Our guide clearly described the various techniques employed, from the creation of white glass, the making of coloured glass, glass painting and silver stain, to the use of enamels, flashed glass and acid-etching, each illustrated by a specific exhibit on display.

Between the tours, many of the group stayed in the environs of the cathedral, having a light lunch at the refectory café, whilst others ventured into the town to eat. After the second tour, three intrepid members fitted in a tour of the West Tower, and were rewarded with views showing the extent of the monastic buildings. Another couple obtained the key for Prior Crauden’s Chapel, with its wall paintings and impressive mosaic pavement.

We left promptly at 4.30 pm, arriving back in Norwich by 6pm. Many thanks to Fay Gammer for planning and organising a super day out.

Lynne Smith

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