Today I sat a series of complicated French tests, for which I was drastically underprepared but also pretty blasé. For some reason, despite having an Actualfax Anxiety Disorder and everything, exams don’t phase me. Today’s marks are probably not a credit to my language-retention skills, but on the other hand, I think I scared the oral examiner with the force of my enthusiasm. Not my fault they gave me a prompt about the usefulness of student evaluations for assessing university teaching, is it?
After something like four hours of French testing on subjects that I mostly don’t care about, though, I am not succeeding at focusing on work this afternoon. So here, have some more photos from Ely!
Large nave is large. Not the oldest part of the building – that’s the trancepts – but still, as I understand it, part of the Norman construction project. Look at the lovely lines – tall, yes, but simple and rounded. No fan-vaulting, either. Compare to the – later, showier, French – Gothic finery of St Gatien de Tours. Who’s on Team Norman Architecture? Anyone?
I’m also pretty fond of the colouring on the ceiling – it’s from the 1839 restoration.
This is, I think, the North aisle – although if it’s actually the South, no matter, they look the same. The roof here intrigues me – it’s like they were thinking of fan-vaulting but couldn’t quite be having with this strange new continental idea. The surfaces of the arches are rough, and aside from along the spines it’s hard to see the individual bricks. I’m not sure what’s going on there – perhaps they were plastered over at one point? Note the continued lack of Gothic fripperies on the columns, too.
Fun fact from Wikipedia: the stone to build Ely Cathedral was bought from Peterborough Abbey (which owned quarries) for a price of 8000 eels a year. That’s what I call putting your local economy to work.
I love love love this style of carving/decoration. Look at it! It’s so… definitive. This is the Prior’s Door, which dates to the 12th c. Enlarge it and look closely at the columns: I’m finding a lot in those floral shapes, the solid curves, and the knotwork on the capitals, that reminds me of earlier Hiberno-Saxon art styles. On the other hand, look up to the top left of the arch. What’s with the break in the curvy leaf pattern to give us that spiky, line-drawn leaf?
Here’s a close up of the lintel. At least I think it’s the lintel. Is that a lintel, folks? OK. So. Let’s talk about the human figures here. Humanoid figures, rather. That’s God up there, or possibly Jesus, chillin’ in his oddly vulvar-shaped heaven.* He reminds me of this God here (warning, huge file) in MS Junius 11.
Vulvar Oval shaped heaven? CHECK. Special Godly version of the Boy Scout salute? Check. Except our God, or possibly Jesus, is carrying a cross, whereas Junius 11’s has a book: and our chappy fills up his whole border. He’s a little bit better proportioned, but not much. I’m thinking, and correct me, O Art Historians of the internet, if I am making this up, that some Gothic influence is showing through in the proportions of the Angels; in the sheer detail of the clothes and facial features; and in the fact that God, or possibly Jesus, is looking right out at us instead of down at something else in the picture.
Oddly, he’s breaking the bounds of his border. I’m pretty sure I remember my supervisor saying that border-breaking is one thing you’d use to tell if a picture (French) was late 13th or 14th century – as opposed to the twelfth, where people stay within the borders they’re given. Not sure what’s going on here.
Let’s call that a day! I have more pictures of Ely, though, so expect to hear more on this topic soon. 🙂
* Heaven shaped like a… ok, possibly not so odd then.