exeter panoramic cityscape

Exeter Cathedral
Devon EX1 1HS
 
 
    
Entering the Cathedral Church of St Peter (Exeter Cathedral) is a colourful experience. This wonderful 13th century Decorated Gothic building still has much of its original medieval colouring intact.
 
It is full of architectural treasures and holds quite a few records. It has the longest uninterrupted medieval gothic vaulting in the world, the second largest number of ‘Green Man’ images in the UK and the oldest existing set of Misericords in England.
 
Exeter Cathedral is quite distinctive in appearance. It has two solid central towers and a decorative stone screen covering the west end. The overall appearance is 13th century ‘Decorated Gothic’ but a lot of the original ‘Norman’ construction still remains.
 
The Saxon minister of Exeter became the seat of Leofric, Bishop of Devon and Cornwall, in 1050. In 1107 William the Conqueror appointed his nephew as Bishop and a decision was made to build a new cathedral. Started in 1114, the two towers and Romanesque building were completed by 1180.
 
Exeter Cathedral's Gothic Architecture
It was in this period that Exeter’s ancient misericords were created. Forty-eight of the fifty misericords were carved between 1230 and 1270. They have many themes - some are of foliage and living animals, some are mythological creatures and others represent human forms in a variety of poses. They can be found beneath the tip-up seats in the back row of the choir stalls.
 
Before the cathedral was finished, building styles had changed. Norman solidity had given way to the soaring ethereal beauty of the Gothic style. Salisbury Cathedral fired Bishop Bronescombe’s imagination and rebuilding in the Decorated Gothic style began c.1265. The longest uninterrupted vault in the world was created, the Lady Chapel and flanking chapels were built; the quire, High Altar and the main body of the church were all finished by 1336.
 
Work on the tiered west front image screen started in 1342. The lowest tier depicts angels, the middle tier kings, and the upper tier added in 1450 depicts saints and apostles. When the whole thing was completed it was coloured – imagine the effect this would have had on the uneducated people of medieval England.
 
Glass in the Great East Window dates from 1391
The Great East Window was reglazed in 1391. The current window is a combination of this work done in 1391 (the central tier of 7 lights) and the original glazing done in 1304. The oldest glass is pot-metal (i.e. glass tinctured with metallic oxides so it is coloured throughout rather than just on the surface). Of the original window, only the top three lights (the figures of Abraham, Moses and Isiah) and the bottom north three (representing St Margaret, St Catherine and St Mary Magdelene) and the bottom south three (the figures of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew) survive.
 
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Astronomical Clock & Peter Bell
The new cathedral was completed by about 1400. The splendid astronomical clock on the north wall of the north transept, and the massive Peter bell were installed in 1484. Peter is the only bell in the North Tower and is used as the clock bell, being struck on the outside by a hammer. The cathedral’s peal of 14 bells hangs in the South Tower.
 
'Green Man Sculptures' 
The medieval masons have adorned every pier capital with beautifully carved corbels, some telling a story and some humorous. Look for the ‘Green Man’ sculptures – human faces with foliage crowing out of their mouths and hair. Originally pagan symbols of fertility they have been incorporated into the Christian message of rebirth or perhaps they are reminders of the sin of lust.
 
Exeter Cathedral lost some of its magnificence during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and during the 17th century English Civil War when the cloisters were destroyed. The Cathedral was also hit by two incendiary bombs during World War II.
 
19th Century Restoration
Over the centuries work has continued on the cathedral and a major refurbishment was undertaken in the 19th century by George Gilbert Scott. He painted and gilded many of the bosses and corbels that had lost their original pigments. The whole building glows with colour just as it did in the 14th century.
 
Cathedral Cat on mouse duty
Mixed in with the ecclesiastical magnificence are several reminders of more mundane matters. In the North Transept, near the astronomical clock, look for a wooden door with a prototype cat-flap in it. The hole gave access for the cathedral cat which was paid one penny per week in food when on mouse/rat catching duties!
 
"The cat was obviously a very important member of the cathedral workforce because depicted on the moulding over the archway leading out of St James Chapel, are two 20th century carvings of a one-eyed cat and an owl. The one on the west shows the head of Tom, the verger's cat in the 1940s. He lost the eye to an owl (shown on the east) in a dispute over a rat.”
 
The Cathedral has fine tombs, memorials & chapels
Exeter Cathedral has many fine medieval tombs, memorials and chapels and is well worth visiting. In The Chapel of Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (formerly the chantry chapel of St Andrew), the victims of the sinking of HMS Exeter in 1942 in the Java Straits are remembered. A post-war window by Sir Ninian Comper is dedicated to them.
 
Plan Your Visit
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General Visiting
Monday to Saturday:  Open: 09:00 - 17:00
Sunday:                              11:30 - 17:00  (Last entry, the Cathedral closes after Evensong)
Web:  Exeter Cathedral/ Opening Times    External Link
 
There will be restrictions to general visiting when the Cathedral is being used for Services and/or special events. Please check before travelling to visit by Tel: +44 (0)1392 285 983.
 
Everyone is welcome to join services.
 
Admission Price
Entry to the Cathedral for worship is free.
 
However, for visitors wishing to look around, there is an admission fee. Please refer to the Cathedral website for details.  Web:  Exeter Cathedral/ Admission Charges    External Link
 
Guided Tours & Audio Guides
Expert guides bring the cathedral and its history to life.
Tours take place several times during the day and are included in the Cathedral admission price and last about one hour.  Web:  Exeter Cathedral/ Guided Tours    External Link
 
Disabled Access
Yes. Wheelchairs can be pre-booked.  Web:  Exeter Cathedral/ Visiting/ Disabled Access    External Link
 
Facilities
Toilets, Cafe and Shop. Toilets and cafe are located in the Cloister area.
 
The Cathedral Café
Situated in the Cloisters, the café serves coffee, lunches and afternoon teas.
Open: Monday to Saturday 09:00 - 17:00
          Sunday                   12:00 - 14:30  *
          * (Traditional roast dinners only, booking essential Tel: 01392 285 988)
 
The Cathedral Shop
The entrance to the Cathedral Shop is in the south quire aisle. It is open Monday to Saturday 09:30 to 16:30, except when services are taking place. The shop stocks a wide variety of books, compact discs, cassettes, postcards, greetings cards and gifts.
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0)1392 285 983
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website   Exeter Cathedral Website    External Link
 
Getting There
The Cathedral lies to the south of High Street (the main shopping street) between the Guildhall Shopping Centre and Queen Street. There is no visitor parking at the Cathedral but city car parks are well signposted.
 
For a detailed map, go to  Web:   Exeter Cathedral/ Getting There & Map    External Link
 
Google Map - Exeter Cathedral