Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral, officially called " The Cathedral Church of St Andrew", is a cathedral in the English city of Wells in Somerset. It is the seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Architectural History

The beginning of Gothic architecture in England is generally assumed with the Ostabschluss of Canterbury Cathedral in 1175, the actual English Gothic architecture, the Early English, interspersed with the construction of Wells Cathedral in 1180 and Lincoln in 1192 a.

Wells is the earliest Gothic church that is fully equipped with pointed arches. It is next to Salisbury Cathedral, the main work of the English early Gothic architecture, but also includes parts of high and late Gothic period. The whole complex is very well maintained and has a total of "one of the vollkommendsten images of the entire European Middle Ages".

The word " Wells " means " sources " and the Cathedral is accordingly in a watery landscape. According to tradition, founded Queen Ina of Wessex at the beginning of the 8th century a the hl. Andreas consecrated church.

The bishopric of Somerset was founded in the year 909 In the 12th century it was moved to Bath shortly. Only under Bishop Robert of Lewes was Wells to honor again. From now on, the canons of Wells and Bath chose together the bishop. Although the abbey of Bath in 1543 by Henry VIII is repealed, but the bishop was called more than " of Bath and Wells ."

The predecessor of the Gothic cathedral is unclear in its appearance and its location today. In any case, the new Gothic building has not directed at him, but could be planned without preconditions.

With the construction of the current system ( † 1191 ) in the late 12th century under Bishop Reginald de Bohun started ( 1186-1191 ). It started with the three western yokes of the three-aisled choir, the three-aisled transept, the crossing and the eastern bay of the nave. Under Bishop Jocelin Trotman (1206-1242) was the nave completed (1220 - 1239 consecration ). He was one of the signers of the Magna Carta. The rank of a "cathedral " Wells received only 1245th

The first known architect in Wells was Adam Lock; he died in 1229. His successor was Thomas Norrey.

The basic pattern consists of ogival arcades richly structured cross-shaped pillars with 24 submitted or selected services that are each arranged in groups of three. Thus, the columns appear to be very massive. The triforium seems like a long ribbon of identical pointed arch consequences. It follows the clerestory with a deep aisle and two far outside seated windows in each yoke. The vault services set between the Triforiumsbögen on consoles, so that overall a strong horizontal effect is created. The vault is not longer in six parts, but in four parts.

The nave has with its ten Jochen a length of 113 meters. However, the choir with its six yokes and a private transept of roughly equal size. The existence of two transepts is a hallmark of English buildings. The motive is probably derived from the Abbey of Cluny in Burgundy.

West facade

The west facade of gray sandstone was built as the last part of the new building early Gothic 1220-1240 in their lower parts. It has a width of 49 meters and thus pursues similar to the horizontal emphasizing principles such as the nave. It has two low, as if cut off acting towers and very small portals within an excessively high building base.

" In Wells took the English fondness for facades that provide such large lattice walls or altarpiece, the sculptures on display, their greatest achievement. ". The buttresses show in the two superimposed standing figure niches on the main floor significant figural. The entire facade was equipped with a total of 176 characters, the "richest and most beautiful figure cycle of English Gothic ." Get 127 size figures. There is a lack today but the coloring and the gilding. There are still preserved ball tracks which suggest iconoclastic actions Reformation zealots ( the number of figures on the facade varies in the literature, depending on how big they are counted. You can also find information from the original 400 characters. ).

The towers are not as on the mainland side aisle Jochen, but to the side " next to" the nave. You are in this form, probably not wanted, but remained unfinished. It has been decided during the later construction work instead to build a mighty crossing tower.

The upper floor of the South Tower was built 1367-1386 by the architect William Wynford. He was one of the leading architects of his time. For the King, he was also active in Windsor, the " New College " at Oxford and Winchester Cathedral.

The north tower of the facade was followed by 1407-1427 under Bishop Stafford ( 1425-43 ), also according to plans Wynfords. Stafford had taken over from his predecessor Bubwith a testamentary provision that granted him financial freedom. Bubwith is represented with his coat of arms on the tower to the originally included a figure.

Overall, the facade with its enormous sculptural program was worked until well into the second half of the 13th century into the completion. After that, the chapter decided to emulate the models of Westminster, Salisbury and Lincoln, and to build a chapter house.

Chapter House

The Chapter House ( engl. Chapter - House ) is accessible from the north choir aisle about a famous, often photographed, artfully designed staircase. He is - according to tradition - octagonal and exceptionally two storeys. The basement is designed kryptenartig coarse and served as a treasure chamber. It was completed 1319th The central pillar is standing around with 16 slender services of black Purbeck marble, about to rise from 32 pockets ribs. From each polygon corner radiate ribs 11, so that the small room with 44 pairs of ribs, eight radial ribs and a circumferential rib in the octagon vertex is vaulted.


The retro- choir was built in 1320-1363. From the same period of the construction of the three Ostchorjoche ( presbytery ) and the upper floor of his western yokes comes. The windows show both the geometric Zellenmaßwerk ( 1325 ) as the Flammenmaßwerk ( flowing tracery, 1360 ), which is engaged since about 1370 to France and known there as "style flamboyant" and from circa 1400 dominated the continent.

The choir extension was necessary because the pilgrims had greatly increased. Wells had become its own " saints." 1302 Bishop William de Marchia had died. After a " holy regular " life had increased the local veneration quickly. 1318 were the pilgrims gifts to his grave already an important source of income of the abbey. 1324 strove the Abbey, to obtain recognition of William by the Pope as the " Holy ". This was rejected, but the local cult of the saints went on. The incoming funds were put into the improvement of Vierungsturmes and especially in the expansion of the choir.

Lady- Chapel

They built no isolated Lady Chapel, but was associated Retro choir and Lady -Chapel insofar as protrude three sides of the chapel in the choir. Again, Salisbury served as a model. Bishop John Drokensford made ​​in the early 14th century for an expansion of the cathedral. 1326 Lady Chapel was completed. The octagonal building was joined in the middle of the 14th century by the retro choir with the main choir. She has a stellar vault. Famous is the "golden window" of about 1330.

There was " a sprawling landscape of low, shed -like spaces of the most delicate outline and lights brightness ". Noteworthy is the complete grating of the walls by rod and tracery. The slightly higher jumps Lady Chapel to the east before. Thomas of Whitney was the decisive Steinmetz of the first construction phase. The chapel was completed in 1326 under Master William Joyce.


Originally no crossing tower was intended for the cathedral of Wells. This was only built 1315-1322 under Bishop John Drokensford by master builder Thomas of Witney. Following the model of Salisbury he originally had a high helmet, but in 1439 one was destroyed by fire and was not renewed.

Soon they realized that the mass of the tower led to a reduction of the soil, and therefore stabilizing measures were necessary. This led to the construction in 1338 of his famous paper sheets ( " scissor arches " ), which are generally the architect William Joy, who worked in Wells since 1329 attributed. However, the source location is not unique, and only for the years 1354 and 1356 are news about the construction of the famous arches in front of what would exclude Joy as project architects.

The unique throughout the history of architecture scissors arches are an extension of the crossing piers vigorously profiled structures that are indented under the three Vierungsbögen and delimit both the nave as the two transept arms visually from the crossing. Only the east side towards the choir does not have a scissor bow.

Clearly, a scissors sheets are described as interpenetrating S- turns or as a rotated on its head pointed arch on an upright. In addition, an intentional allusion to the cross of St. Andrew, the church is dedicated, is possible. The support measures will lead to a clearly separate but characterized by complex vistas spatial structure. The most important for the overall impression scissors arch of the nave also refers to the lines of the wall structure and concentrates them in the both sides flanked by oculi crossing point.

Modern experiments lead to the conclusion that the scissor arches of Wells would be superfluous for a support function and the less conspicuous relief of flying buttresses would have been sufficient in the walls of the clerestory; However, this has no importance for the historical development.

Astronomical clock

In the north transept is located since the late 14th century an important astronomical clock. The dial shows a further 24 hours, minutes and lunar month, etc., and thus belongs to the clock in Ottery St Mary of the oldest preserved church clocks.


The huge cloister was built in the second half of the 14th century. The inner box has dimensions of 55 × 38 meters. The cloister wings are characterized by large scale unit of the structure of both the vaults as well as on the walls.

Monastery buildings

In the 14th century a closed settlement of 42 row houses of Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury as a residence for the canons was built (Vicar 's Close ) next to the cathedral in the south. He wanted to give the singers a safe haven away from the temptations of the city. He had anyway a strained relationship with the residents of Wells, mainly originating from the taxes that he had recover. That's why he also considered it necessary, the abbey grounds to be surrounded by high walls and drawbridges. This plant was later changed very little. The homes are located in two rows facing each other. Each house has an upper and a lower space and a small garden. To of this " model village " without any threat to reach the cathedral, even a covered bridge was built.


The organ was built in 1909/1910 by the organ builders Harrison & Harrison. In 1973, the instrument has been restored to a new plant expands (positive organ ) and re- voiced. 2002, a new electronic combination system has been installed. The organ case dates back to 1974. The instrument has 67 registers, four manuals and pedal. The tracker action is electro- pneumatic.