Wednesday 5 August 2015

Heavenly stairs

Perhaps the most extraordinary stairs I've walked up are those leading to the Chapter House in Wells Cathedral. First, they are very old, built in the years 1265 to 1280, and show the wear of centuries of footsteps. Second, they do not fork apart to two doorways, but rather flow together through the space. For the Chapter House, take the right-hand flight; straight ahead is the route to Vicars' Close.

Finally, their destination is pretty breathtaking. Completed in 1306, the Chapter House is an octagonal room lined with seats, each watched over by carved faces.

They would be attention-grabbing in any other context, but here the vaulted ceiling is truly the star. 



Björn H said...

I was there in 1992 and will never forget how beautiful it is

Philip Wilkinson said...

They're stunning, those steps. Do you know the Frederick H. Evans photograph, 'Sea of Steps'? His viewpoint was slightly to the left of yours but similar.

Hels said...

I too love the octagonal Chapter House, its seats, carved faces and vaulted ceiling. But I have never really thought of the stairs. If I did ever think of the stairs in passing, it would have been as functional and tiring, not as beautiful. So thank you.

Renlau Outil said...

I visited Wells last summer, on a spectacularly wet day in August. We went into The Chapel House and took in the worn steps leading up, without realising their age and condition was so noteworthy. In the octagon itself after a while alone, we were joined by a quartet of people who briefly tested the acoustics by singing very, very gently - but came out sounding like a large, spectral choir. A very brief but memorable moment.

CarolineLD said...

How wonderful - there was no singing when I was there (and I don't have the voice to try it myself!).

I do find steps fascinating - even though I don't like actually climbing them, and usually get a bit disoriented descending this particular set.

I hadn't come across the photo, Philip, but having looked it up, it's beautiful.