Wells Cathedral
Cathedral Green
Somerset BA5 2UE 
Beside the springs which gave the city its name, Roman foundations have been found. These remains include a Roman mausoleum believed to be the first Christian building. In 705 AD it is said the Saxon King Ine of Wessex gave permission for the first Christian church to be built in Wells in honour of St Andrew.
Minster Church on this site in 766 AD
The existence of a minster church is confirmed in a document dated 766 AD. This first church was built between the holy well of St Andrew and the market place and actually fronted the market place. The presence of this Anglo-Saxon church led to the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon town of Wells.
The siting of this first church was obviously very important because it was actually 12 degrees off the east-west line of the present Cathedral. This site, which eventually became Wells Cathedral, has long been used as a place of worship.
Minster raised to status of a Cathedral in 900 AD
In 900 AD the minster was raised to the status of a Cathedral and the last Saxon bishop, Gisso enlarged the building to accommodate live-in clergy. Nothing but the foundations survives from the early church. The only Anglo-Saxon furnishing that remains is the font, now in the south transept of the Cathedral.
The font basin is over 1,000 years old whilst the plinth on which it rests dates from around 1200 AD. The bones of the Saxon bishops were obviously treated as relics and were re-interred in tombs in the Quire around 1200 AD. The effigies on the tops of the box tombs have been deliberately fashioned by the medieval craftsmen to look Anglo-Saxon.
Following the death of Bishop Gisso in 1088 the Frenchman John of Tours was appointed Bishop. Sadly for Wells, the new Bishop decided to move his seat to Bath Abbey and Wells was demoted. In 1244, both Bath and Wells shared cathedral status and the bishop’s title became Bishop of Bath & Wells. However the Wells canons successfully petitioned the Pope for their church to regain its primary Cathedral status. This was granted and Wells Cathedral again became the Bishop’s See.
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Present Cathedral commenced in 1189 and completed in 1260
The present Wells Cathedral building was commenced in 1189 and completed in 1260. As the visitor approaches across the beautiful green lawns, the first impact is the magnificent west front with its 300 plus medieval statues; the largest gallery of medieval statues in the world.
The Interior
Wells was the first English Cathedral to be entirely built in the modern Gothic style and is architecturally magnificent - a perfect example of Gothic design with its pointed arches, shafted columns and ribbed vault.
The medieval craftsmen decorated the tops of the columns with scenes well known to them like the man suffering from toothache who is supporting his painful jaw with his hand. Animals and birds peep out of foliage and a fox is depicted chasing a goose.
Unique Scissor Arches underpin Central Tower
Unique to Wells Cathedral are the 14th century ‘scissor arches’ put in to solve a very real structural problem. In 1338, it was found that the central tower under structure was weakening and was in danger of collapse. The solution was to redistribute the weight of the tower on the foundations. The scissor arches were an excellent 14th century solution to this problem.
Beautiful Chapter House
In the north transept a curved, worn flight of stone steps leads to the beautiful Chapter House where the ruling body of the Cathedral met. Built c.1306 the Chapter House is octagonal in shape with a central pillar that blossoms into a glorious fan vaulted roof. The original stained glass windows were destroyed and light now floods into the building enhancing the slender strength of the central pillar.
Forty four canopied seats for the canons remind us of the immense power and wealth of this ancient See. There is an enclosed bridge (the Chain Bridge) leading from the steps to the Chapter House to the clergy’s medieval residences in Vicars' Close. The Close is the oldest complete street of 14th century houses in Europe.
The Cloisters
In the east wing of the cloisters is the entrance to the Camery Garden where you can see the foundations of the early Anglo-Saxon church. At the back of the gardens is a wall with a small glass window in it. Peep through this window and you will see the St Andrew Well. What you are looking at is the main reason for the establishment of this wonderful Cathedral and the City of Wells.
Famous Cathedral Clock
In the north transept is the famous Wells Cathedral clock, installed by Bishop Erghum in 1392. The Wells clock is unique as it still has its original medieval face, measuring 6 feet across and depicting the Copernican universe. Four jousting knights move around above the clock when it strikes the quarter hour. One of the knights is unseated from his horse. The 14th century mechanism was replaced in the 19th century and the original mechanism is now in the Science Museum, London.
A further dial was mounted on the external north wall of the Cathedral seventy years after the original clock was installed. It is attached to the inside mechanism and two wooden knights strike the quarter hours on a bell.
Everything to do with Wells Cathedral was designed to celebrate the glory of God. The architecture, the choir and even the bells are all part of this celebration. A small peal of bells was originally hung in the central tower until the tower began to sink c.1338. Bishop Harewell (1366-1386) had the south-west tower built and restored the bells to working order.
Heaviest Ring of 10 Bells in the World
The tower has the heaviest ring of 10 bells in the world. The tenor bell weighs just over 56 hundredweight (2,845 Kg) and is the 5th heaviest ringable bell in the world.
If time permits, there is no greater way to enjoy a cathedral than to attend a service. The bells call you to the service and the choir fills the magnificent space with heavenly voices.
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Agoda here:    External Link
Disabled Access
Via the north-west door.
Contact & Information on Facilities, Restaurant & Access
Telephone   +44 (0) 1749 674483
Website   Wells Cathedral Website    External Link
Getting there
Refer the Wells page in this website.
Google Maps - Wells Cathedral


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