The Lady Chapel
The largest Lady Chapel attached to any British Cathedral.
The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries saw the rise of the cult of the Virgin Mary, and chapels in her honour were added to many churches and cathedrals, including Ely.
The foundations were laid in 1321, just before the collapse of the central tower, but work continued despite the disaster. Its construction was overseen by John of Wisbech, whose memorial lies just in front of the doors. It was completed in 1349, when it would have looked very different from today. As a Chapel dedicated to Our Lady, the space would have been highly coloured, with windows alive with stained glass and painted statues in the niches.
All this was destroyed in the sixteenth century during the Reformation, which, in keeping with Puritan convictions, rejected all forms of religious decoration. The scars of this deformation are highly visible today. Traces of coloured paint can still be seen, and fragments of the glass survive in the central window on the south side. The exquisite figures in the lower niches have been defaced and above are the empty pedestals where the statues stood.