Dedication of Ely Cathedral

This day of 17 September in 1252 saw the dedication of Ely Cathedral as built up to that time by the aged bishop, Hugh of Northwold, who laid out an elaborate feast for the expected guests. Matthew Paris notes only the king, Henry III, among the notables present. Doubtless the queen was there as well. Back in 1235, Hugh had gone to Provence to escort Eleanor to England for her marriage to Henry. But the overall turnout, says Paris, disappointed Hugh. ‘The bishop lamented the small number of the assembled guests, declaring that the entertainment he had proposed was, in a great measure, shorn of its just dimensions.’ Even the prelates who assisted him during the ceremony were two nondescript bishops. Less than a year earlier, Hugh and 12 other bishops had attended the more magnificent dedication of Hailes Abbey, whose patron was the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall. Says Paris: ‘The nobles feasted sumptuously in company with the bishops and others, who ate meat, whilst the religious men took their places and refreshed themselves with large quantities of fish of various kinds.’ Hugh may have lacked Richard’s prestige and line at the buffet table, but his cathedral today remains a wonder of medieval architecture. Sadly, Hailes was left in ruins after the gluttonous Tudors got their chops on it.

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