Ely Cathedral

Background and some history

Praise of God resounds through Ely Cathedral every day. Worship has been offered on the site for nearly 1400 years and the Cathedral continues to be a dynamic witness to the presence of God in the world and of his love and care for each and every one of us. 

It is the 'mother church' of the Diocese of Ely and the Bishop of Ely has a Seat of Authority at Ely Cathedral.

The Cathedral was founded as a monastery in 673 by St. Etheldreda, a Saxon Princess from East Anglia, the site of whose shrine is in front of the High Altar.  Work on the present Cathedral began in the 11th century under the leadership of Abbot Simeon, and the monastic church became a cathedral in 1109 with the Diocese of Ely being carved out of the Diocese of Lincoln.

The monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Ely suffered less than many other monasteries during this time, but even so, statues were destroyed together with carvings and stained glass. St Etheldreda's Shrine was also destroyed. 

The Cathedral was refounded with a Chapter of eight canons in 1541, as was the Kings School. Robert Steward, the last Prior of the monastery, became the first Dean of the Cathedral.

The first major restoration took place in the 18th Century under James Essex. With the arrival of Dean George Peacock in 1839 a second restoration project began. Together with the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, he restored the building to its former glory. 

A third major restoration project, the most extensive to date, was begun in 1986 and was completed in the year 2000.

Learn more about Ely Cathedral

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Cathedral and Parish Passes

Resident Passes

  • If you live in the CB6 or CB7 postal area you are entitled to free entry to Ely Cathedral.
  • Please bring proof of address (eg. a driving licence or household bill).
  • The Residents Pass gives you free access to the ground floor of the Cathedral.

Parish Pass Holders

  • Ely Cathedral offers free entry for those on the electoral roll of churches in the Diocese of Ely.
  • To apply for a pass, please use the link here to download an Application Form.
  • Please note: Expired Parish Passes are still valid for entry. There is no need to re-apply.
  • More information on Cathedral Passes can be found on Ely Cathedral website here
Page last updated: Monday 11th September 2023 7:45 AM
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