The founding of the cathedral at Exeter, dedicated to Saint Peter, dates from 1050, when the seat of the bishop of Devon and Cornwall was transferred from Crediton because of a fear of sea-raids. A Saxon minster already existing within the town (and dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Peter) was used by Bishop Leofric as his seat, but services were often held out of doors, close to the site of the present cathedral building. In 1107, William Warelwast , a nephew of William the Conqueror, was appointed to the see, and this was the catalyst for the building of a new cathedral in the Norman style. Its official foundation was in 1133, after Warelwast's time, but it took many more years to complete. Following the appointment of Walter Bronescombe as bishop in 1258, the building was already recognised as outmoded, and it was rebuilt in the Decorated Gothic style, following the example of nearby Salisbury. However, much of the Norman building was kept, including the two massive square towers and part of the walls. It was constructed entirely of local stone, including Purbeck marble. The new cathedral was complete by about 1400, apart from the addition of the chapter house and chantry chapels .
The west end of Exeter Cathedral
Like most English cathedrals, Exeter suffered during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but not as much as it would have done had it been a monastic foundation. Further damage was done during the English Civil War, when the cloisters were destroyed. During the Victorian era, some refurbishment was carried out by George Gilbert Scott. The bombing of the city in World War II caused considerable damage to the cathedral, including the loss of most of the stained glass. Subsequent repairs and the clearance of the area around the western end of the building uncovered portions of earlier structures, including remains of the Roman city and of the original Norman cathedral. Notable features of the interior include the great clock, the minstrels gallery , and the ceiling bosses, one of which depicts the murder of Thomas Becket.
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46