Exeter Cathedral information
Magnificent in warm, honey-coloured stone, Exeter's cathedral is one of Devon’s most prestigious sights. Dating largely from the 12th and 13th centuries, one end of the exterior is framed by extraordinary medieval statuary, while inside the ceiling is mesmerising – the longest unbroken Gothic vaulting in the world, it sweeps up to meet ornate ceiling bosses in gilt and vibrant colours. Other highlights include elegant wood carvings and striking sculptures.
The site has been a religious one since at least the 5th century but the Normans started the current building in 1114; the towers of today's cathedral date from that period. In 1270 a 90-year remodelling process began, introducing a mix of Early English and Decorated Gothic styles.
Above the Great West Front scores of weather-worn figures line a once brightly painted screen that now forms England's largest collection of 14th-century sculpture. Inside, the exquisitely symmetrical ceiling soars up and along, towards the north transept and the 15th-century Exeter Clock : in keeping with medieval astronomy it shows the earth as a golden ball at the centre of the universe with the sun, a fleur-de-lys, travelling round. Still ticking and whirring, it chimes on the hour.
The huge oak canopy over the Bishop's Throne was carved in 1312, while the 1350 minstrels' gallery is decorated with 12 angels playing musical instruments. Cathedral staff will point out the famous sculpture of the lady with two left feet and the tiny St James Chapel , built to repair the one destroyed in the Blitz. Look out for its unusual carvings: a cat, a mouse and, oddly, a rugby player.
The Roof Tours are superb; as are the 45-minute ground-floor guided tours . Evocative choral evensong services are held at 5.30pm Monday to Friday, and 4pm Saturday and Sunday.
In the adjoining Refectory you can tuck into cakes, quiches and soups at trestle tables surrounded by vaulted ceilings, stained glass and busts of the great, the good and the dead.