Exeter Cathedral

LINKS to other pages in the 'Devon' site and to the Travelling Days series:

1 : Home from Home
2 : Dartmoor
3 : Widecombe
4 : South Coast
5 : Exeter Cathedral


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The following information has been condensed from articles in Wikipedia and the official Exeter Cathedral website (highly recommended).

Exeter Cathedral is built on the site of a camp of the Roman Army's II Augustan Legion. Archaeological evidence of 5th century Christian Worship has been found in the vicinity.

In the latter part of the seventh century St Boniface the Patron Saint of Germany was educated at a monastery or church adjacent to the Cathedral's present location. The founding of the cathedral dedicated to Saint Peter at Exeter dates from 1050, when the seat of the bishop of Devon and Cornwall was transferred from Crediton because of a fear of raids.

A Saxon minster already existing within the town (and dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Peter) was used by Bishop Leofric as his seat, but services were often held out of doors close to the site of the present cathedral building.

In 1107, William Warelwast, a nephew of William the Conqueror, was appointed to the see, and this was the catalyst for the building of a new cathedral in the Norman style. Its official foundation was in 1133 (after Warelwast's time) but it took many more years to complete.

Following the appointment of Walter Bronescombe as bishop in 1258, the building was already recognized as outmoded and it was rebuilt in the Decorated Gothic style following the example of nearby Salisbury. However, much of the Norman building was kept, including the two massive square towers and part of the walls. It was constructed entirely of local stone, including Purbeck Marble. The new cathedral was complete, apart from the chapter house and chantry chapels, by about 1400.

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The Norman North Tower (below) dedicated in 1133, rebuilt after King Stephen's siege in 1136, is viewed here from across the Cathedral Green.

The statue (right) is of Exeter's Richard Hooker, the Exeter divine whose arguments prevented the Church of England becoming wholly puritan during the Reformation.

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The West Front of the cathedral (right)

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Like most English cathedrals, Exeter suffered during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but not as much as it would have done had it been a monastic foundation. Further damage was done during the English Civil War, when the cloisters were destroyed.

Following the restoration of Charles II, a magnificent new pipe organ was built in the cathedral by John Loosemore. During the Victorian era, some refurbishment was carried out by George Gilbert Scott.

The bombing of the city in World War II caused considerable damage to the cathedral, including the loss of most of the stained glass.

Subsequent repairs and the clearance of the area around the western end of the building uncovered portions of earlier structures, including remains of the Roman city and of the original Norman cathedral.

Notable features of the interior include the great clock (see the next page), the minstrels' gallery (part of which is to be seen in the top left hand corner of the picture (above left), and the ceiling bosses, one of which depicts the murder of Thomas Becket.

Because there is no centre tower, Exeter Cathedral has the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England.

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        The pulpitum screen (1317-1325) encloses the Quire
        and supports the organ. (right)

        The tomb of Bishop Edmund Stafford 1395-1419 (below)

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Bishop Edmund Stafford 1395-1419

A visit to Exeter continues on the following page.
Please click on the 'Next' button (below right)

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