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Sea of Steps at Wells Cathedral: Architectural gem

Wells Cathedral, located in the medieval heart of Wells, Somerset, is renowned for its stunning Gothic architecture and rich history. Built between 1175 and 1490, it is the earliest English Cathedral constructed in the Gothic style. One of the cathedral’s most captivating features is the ‘Sea of Steps,’ a set of worn stone stairs dating back to 1286 that appear to flow like water up to the Chapter House. The best time to visit Wells Cathedral is during the warmer months, from late spring to early autumn, when the weather is favorable, and the cathedral’s stunning features can be fully appreciated.

Why Visit Wells Cathedral?

Wells Cathedral offers a blend of historical significance and architectural beauty that makes it a must-visit destination. Here are five places you should not miss:

  1. Sea of Steps:
  • These beautiful steps, worn by centuries of use, lead to the Chapter House and are one of the most photographed parts of the cathedral.
  1. Chapter House:
  • An architectural marvel from 1286, known for its octagonal shape, central pier with 32 vaulting ribs, and vivid light patterns created by its windows.
  1. West Front:
  • Described as “the most poetic of the English Cathedrals,” this facade is adorned with numerous statues and intricate carvings.
  1. Scissor Arches:
  • Unique to Wells Cathedral, these arches support the central tower and are a striking feature of the nave.
  1. Wells Clock:
  • The second oldest clock mechanism in Great Britain, known for its historical significance and intricate design.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the history behind the ‘Sea of Steps’?
  • The ‘Sea of Steps’ dates back to 1286 and has been worn smooth by centuries of use by clergy, pupils, and visitors. The name was popularized by a famous photograph taken by Frederick Evans in 1903.
  1. Can I visit the Chapter House at Wells Cathedral?
  • Yes, the Chapter House is open to visitors. It’s accessible via the ‘Sea of Steps’ and is notable for its unique architecture and central pier with 32 vaulting ribs.
  1. What are the unique features of Wells Cathedral?
  • Wells Cathedral boasts several unique features, including its iconic West Front, scissor arches, one of the largest collections of historic stained glass in the UK, the famous Wells Clock, and one of the UK’s four chained libraries.
  1. Are there guided tours available at Wells Cathedral?
  • Yes, free daily tours of the Cathedral are available all year, except on Sundays. Additionally, the Cathedral offers longer ‘High Parts’ tours, which explore hidden spaces and provide different perspectives of the nave.
  1. What is Vicars’ Close and why is it significant?
  • Vicars’ Close, adjacent to Wells Cathedral, is claimed to be the oldest purely residential street with original buildings still intact in Europe. Built over 650 years ago to house the Vicars’ Choral, it continues to be inhabited by their successors and is physically connected to the cathedral.

Wells Cathedral is a treasure trove of history and architectural beauty. From the mesmerizing ‘Sea of Steps’ to the grandeur of the West Front, every corner of this cathedral tells a story of the past. Whether you’re exploring the unique features like the scissor arches and Wells Clock or wandering through the ancient Vicars’ Close, a visit to Wells Cathedral promises a memorable and enriching experience. Don’t miss the opportunity to take part in guided tours to uncover the hidden gems and historical narratives that make this cathedral truly exceptional.

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