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Etheldreda and the Shrine Architecture of Ely

            The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Ely is currently the mother church of the Diocese of Ely. It is referred to as Ely Cathedral and is also known as the Ship of the Fens, because "Wherever you went in the Fen country you had only to look up and see it there, riding the sky like a great ship" (Ely Cathedral History and Heritage n.d.) The Fens have been described as "a place well suited for to those who wished to devoted themselves to God: relatively inaccessible, remote from worldly distractions, yet so blessed with natural resources necessary for sustaining life of a religious community." (Meadows and Ramsay 2003) But the Fens and its eels are not the Cathedral's legacy, it owes its distinction to St Ethelthryth, who is now known as St Etheldreda, who founded a monastery at Ely in the 673. (Cathedrals in the East of England n.d.) Ely Cathedral owes it tradition and character not to the Saint herself, but to the veneration of her as a symbol of sanctity in the early English Church. The architecture and decoration of the entire building were carefully designed to lead up to and focus upon her shrine area thus this paper will examine the bearing that the Cult of St. Etheldreda had on Ely Cathedral regarding its history, architecture and liturgy.
             To begin, one must place Ely in the context of the idea of "spiritual tourism " which has a long history in Christianity. It began in the early days when the persecution of the Church created a multitude of martyrs whose tombs would become pilgrimage sites. It was encouraged by subsequent Roman emperors and Church Fathers as more locations were added. By the Middle Ages many thousands of people were traveling to visit shrines all over Europe and the near East, in search of spiritual or physical benefits. "There is ample evidence of griefs assuaged, ailments healed and lives transformed by what became known as pilgrimages. (Braughton 2001, 6) Ely is one of these places to which they came to venerate St.

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