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Wells’ Splendid Gothic Cathedral


England’s first completely Gothic church dates from about 1200. Its striking and ingenious scissor arch, added later, helps support its tower. We admire the medieval statuary, marvel at the glorious stained glass, and appreciate a traditional evensong.

Complete Video Script

A short drive south takes us into Somerset and to the wonderfully preserved city of Wells, dominated by its glorious cathedral.

Wells has a charming medieval center. The stately Bishop's Palace is circled by a park-like moat and sports an impressive front yard. It’s a market city — and has been for a long time.

The peaceful Vicars' Close is perfectly preserved — lined with 14th-century houses. Locals claim this is the oldest complete medieval street in Europe. Originally built to house the cathedral choir, it still does. This overpass connects it with the cathedral.

England's first completely Gothic church dates from about 1200. The west portal shows off what’s said to be the greatest collection of medieval statuary anywhere in Europe — about 300 13th-century carvings. This entire ensemble was once painted in vivid color. It must have been a spectacular welcome — a heavenly host proclaiming “welcome to worship.”

Stepping inside, you're struck by the unique and ingenious "scissors" arch. This hourglass-shaped double arch was added in about 1340 to bolster the church’s sagging tower. Nearly 700 years later it's not only still working, it’s beautiful.

The chimes draw your attention to one of the oldest working clocks in the world — from 1392. The clock does its much-loved joust on the quarter-hour.

More medieval whimsy is carved into the capitals: This man has a toothache, another pulls a thorn from his foot, and a farmer clobbers a thief so hard his hat falls off.

And under glorious stained glass you can enjoy the cathedral’s evensong. The evensong is a Church of England choral service traditionally performed each evening and welcoming everyone. Taking a seat in the intimate, central part of the church, we enjoy the opportunity to experience the church filled with timeless music. Because we’re here in July, the cathedral’s choir is on break and a visiting choir is performing — this one’s from near Liverpool.