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A View of Ely Cathedral
A View of Ely Cathedral

What are Cathedrals for?


Cathedrals were built to God's glory. Unlike other large and impressive buildings such as football stadiums or theatres which were designed simply to seat thousands of people, cathedrals were built big and tall as an expression of God's greatness. They were built to be beautiful, awesome, powerful and holy.

They are the result of generations of human effort to say in stone, in glass, in wood and many other materials what the artist felt about God and about the Church.

Cathedrals are about people. The Overall effect may be an awe-inspiring statement of faith in God, but everywhere in cathedrals there are reminders of the individual men and women whose lives have been somehow linked to this great enterprise, the Cathedral.

There are tombs and monuments to the powerful and wealthy.
There are memorials to saints and other prayerful people.
There are humble stonemasons' marks and humerous carvings and fanciful gargoyles, each of which spring from the creativity of one person at some point in history.
Together, with the people of today, they make the community of the Cathedral, each ancient stone lifted by hand, each brass plate still polished by some human hand.

Most ancients cathedrals were originally designed as the chapel for a thriving monastic community. They became centres of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages; through the centuries, they have protected livestock, fugitives and refugees.

They have been centres of art and of learning and of musical excellence.
Some cathedrals serve a larger number of people than perhaps ever before in history.

There are still pilgrims, as well as tourists, school groups and regular worshippers. The Cathedral serves the Anglican churches in this area as a venue for large events and as a spiritual centre. At the root of all this activity there is the rhythm of daily prayer.

Every morning and evening the clergy and people of the Cathedral pray for the church and for the world, for the visitors who leave their requests and for the individual parishes of the Diocese.

Cathedrals are not merely museums; they are not monuments;
they are a sacred space in an increasingly frantic world.
They are a sign of permanence and endurance in an age of instant and temporary arrangements.
They are a witness to what faithfulness means.
They are a precious gift from our past to our future which we, in the present, may pass through and in which, if we are still enough, we can sense the wonder of God's love.

Here we can meet Jesus Christ, the son of God, in whom God's great love for us is revealed.

You are not here to verify, instruct yourself,
or inform curiosity or carry report.
You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid.

From 'Four Quartets', T.S. Eliot

O Lord my God, May your eyes
be open day and night toward this House.
This place of which you said
"My name shall be there."

1 Kings 8 verses 28 and 29

Each builder must choose with care
how to build on the foundation.
For no-one can lay the foundation
other than the one that has been laid;
that foundation is Jesus Christ

1 Cornithians 3 verses 10 and 11

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