The Present Cathedral

The Early English Gothic style is now only evident in the proportions of the building, its breadth compared to its height, the interior of the nave, almost unaltered, and the design and execution of the West Front.

This style gave Wells a fresh and a modern look which it has never lost. Built in local limestone from the Doulting quarry about eight miles away, which is still used for repairs, the soft creamy colour adds to this impression.

toothacheOf course, in the Middle Ages the stone was painted inside and outside and the West Front would have appeared like a gigantic picture book. There are very few traces of paint left, apart from the eastern corner of the south transept, but enough, mainly in small crevices, to determine the extent of the polychrome. The sculpted work, which would have been emphasised in bright colours, is still one of the cathedral’s glories. The pillars of the nave, for example, like an avenue of stone trees, are topped by intricate foliage. On closer inspection the leaves seem to be inhabited by creatures and people of great diversity and imagination, ranging from everyday rural life to dragons and other mythological beasts.

The master mason of the second half of the nave, probably from the impressive north porch onwards, was Adam Lock; a gifted sculptor well ahead of his time. The foliage is much more elaborate as it proceeds westwards, probably due to his influence and direction. The idea of the West Front was undoubtedly conceived with his bishop, Jocelin, but Lock died in 1229 when only the plinth was in place. It was left to his deputy and successor, Thomas Norreys, to create the advanced design in all its glory. The central section under the great gable depicts the day of judgement, faithfully drawn from the book of Revelation: Christ on high, flanked by two six-winged seraphim, is supported by apostles, angels and saints, to welcome the seeker, particularly on Palm Sunday, into the New Jerusalem (heaven). See the West Front at sunset and you are indeed transported to the heavenly city.