Review: Grand Views, Hidden Gems and a Living Community

29 January 2021

Diane Walker
Exeter Cathedral: A Souvenir Guide

This new guidebook is a welcome replacement to its predecessor. It is beautifully illustrated with numerous photographs, many seen here for the first time. They show not only grand views of the building both outside and in, but also many details which might escape the naked eye when looking at the Cathedral itself – bosses, statues, misericords, and other carvings.

The text takes the reader on a tour of the Cathedral starting outside the west front, peeping into the Grandisson chantry chapel, before moving into the nave. Here the reader learns not only about significant architectural features such as the vault and the minstrels’ gallery, but also details such as the font and martyrs’ pulpit and the stories behind them. From the nave we are taken to the crossing and transepts where we learn about unseen features, such as the ring of bells in the south tower, the Peter bell in the north tower and, of course, the astronomical clock.

In the quire and presbytery we read about Thomas of Witney’s famous pulpitum screen and the organ that surmounts it as well the services that take place in this part of the building. Our attention is drawn to the stalls and misericords, the throne, the sedilia and lost reredos, and medieval glass. In the eastern aisles and chapels we are shown the tombs of various bishops including the nationally important effigy of Bronescombe and the ledger stone over the grave of Bishop Peter Quivil, complete with its Latin pun on the name Peter. Here are pictures illustrating easily overseen details such as beautifully carved bosses, the medieval painting of St Apollonia with her dental forceps holding an extracted tooth, Oldham’s rebus, the early sixteenth-century painting of the assumption, and modern corbels depicting the head verger’s cat, a rugby player etc, all intelligibly explained. Eventually we visit the Chapter House and Cloister where we learn the unfortunate history of their change of use over the centuries and finally we are introduced to the Library and Archives and their collections, including items of national or global significance, such as the Exon Domesday, the fabric rolls and the Exeter Book.

The welcome by the Dean which opens the book and the concluding account of Cathedral life today, by the Canon Chancellor, introduce the visitor to the Cathedral’s function as a living, working and worshipping community rather than its more superficially visible existence as an historical monument or work of art.

This book is the result of extensive research and knowledge accumulated over several years. Not for nothing did Jonathan Foyle consult its author when writing his own recent book on the Cathedral. The book is attractive to look at, easy to read and contains a wealth of historic, artistic and architectural information, all presented in a way that is easy to understand and enjoy. There should be a copy in every home of Cathedral clergy, staff, volunteers and congregation, not to mention their friends and families. At £6:00 it’s a snip.

– Review by Peter King

Exeter Cathedral: A Souvenir Guide is available from the Cathedral Shop. Email: [email protected]  Telephone: 01392 271354

News signup

Keep up to date with our latest news and offers