Here are more of the stone heads from Ely. I couldn’t get as close as I did with the others but they tend to be in a better state of preservation. This is partly because they are out of reach of rampaging Parliamentarian soldiers and partly, I think, because some of them have been restored.
I’ve just been trying to find more information but apart from finding out that the original stone came from Barnack, near Peterborough (which isn’t exactly earth-shaking news, as a lot of stone came from Barnack) I didn’t find much.
It was interesting to find that Ely paid for the stone by providing 8,000 eels a year, though I can’t find out how many years they provided them for. That’s a lot of eels, but if you were to eat 2 a day it would only take 11 people to eat them in a year. If you believe everything you read about churchmen and high living they would have needed a lot more food than that.
I’ve also found out that Cromwell stabled his horses in the cathedral, though he gets blamed for that at every cathedral. In fact he gets blamed for lots of things.
While we were in the Fens on Wednesday, as you already know from previous posts, I took a few pictures of Crowland Abbey on the way past. A photogenic ruin, stone faces and a graveyard – hard to resist.
The Abbey was founded in memory of St Guthlac early in the 8th century but destroyed by Vikings in 866, an earthquake (1118) and three fires (1091, 1143 and 1170). It wasn’t all bad though, the isolated Fen location kept it safe during the civil disorder of the Middle Ages and allowed it to accumulate considerable wealth.
St Guthlac is depicted in this photograph – he’s holding the whip he used to drive the demons off the island (which is what Crowland was before the drainage of the Fens). That’s not a blemish in the archway by the way, it’s a Jackdaw flying by.
St Guthlac -right side, second tier, statue on left
This is a cropped and enhanced piece from the picture above it, showing a close-up of St Guthlac, now protected from birds by netting.
The West Front, with its fine selection of statues was completed between the 12th and 14th centuries. Given time I could probably identify most if not all of them. I could also date statues and heads from the fashions they are wearing. That, however, is a project for the future. I need to know more about church architecture before I start on fashion of the Middle Ages.