Exeter Cathedral was founded in 1050, and the construction of a Cathedral on the present site began in 1114.
The two towers and the lower part of the Nave walls of this Norman (Romanesque) building survive in the present Cathedral. A major rebuild, in Decorated Gothic style, was carried out under six bishops between c.1270 and c.1350.
The magnificent Bishop’s Throne is one of the greatest treasures of medieval woodwork in Europe. It was made in the early 14th century using local Devon oak and is 18m (59ft) tall.
The 14th century stone vault which forms the nave and quire ceiling is one of the glories of Exeter Cathedral. It is the longest continuous medieval stone vault in the world. As there is no central tower, the vault can run all the way from the west wall of the nave to the Great East Window at the far end of the quire, a distance of approximately 96m (315ft).
Either side of the Cathedral, about half way along the north and south sides, there are two square towers. They were built between 1114 and 1133 as part of the Norman cathedral.
The West Front Image Screen of Exeter Cathedral is one of the great architectural features of Medieval England. The addition of the image screen around 1340 marked the completion the re‑building of the cathedral in the Gothic style. Work continued on the screen with the additional top tier completed about 1470.
An extensive project to repair and reset lead crestings along the Cathedral roof was completed in 2014. The leadwork, comprising over 400 single pieces, each in the shape of a fleur de lys, is a unique feature of the Cathedral’s roof. Over the centuries some of it had slipped and there was a significant risk of lead falling from the roof. Work was carried out to remove and examine each piece, and cost £70,000. Part of the project was funded by the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund.
In 2016 a specialist survey (carried out every five years) examined the state of any remaining colouring (the original polychrome) as well as investigating the condition of the carved statues.
This survey informed a phased programme of works around the following areas:
Non-invasive cleaning of the polychrome areas. Repairs to the statues with lime mortar to prevent water from pooling around the stonework and, where possible, halt further decay. The cotton wool used around these repair sites prevents the mortar from drying out too quickly and failing.
Application of a sheltercoat to protect the image screen from the weather. The work was carried out by the Cathedral’s own stonemasons, supported by The Prince of Wales who made a donation through The Prince of Wales’ Charitable Foundation.
The Cathedral stonemasons have commenced the repair and conservation of the stonework and glazing to three bays of the South Quire ‘Clerestory’. This work will be completed during 2018.
Exeter Cathedral is one of the great Cathedrals of England, and one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture anywhere. It is well worth a visit.