Although far from England’s finest, Exeter Cathedral (built 1133-1400) does have its claims to fame. Chiefest, to my mind, is its possession of a fine statue of Richard Hooker toward the north entrance of the Close–the only such statue I am aware of (though I’m sure there must be others somewhere)–and the one that is always used in pictures of Hooker.
Exeter was of course Richard Hooker’s boyhood home, and so a necessary stop for any would-be Hooker pilgrim. I paid my respects in decidedly un-Protestant fashion.
Today, Exeter Cathedral has as its Canon Theologian the great Hooker scholar, and author of many fine books about Reformation and Anglican ecclesiology, Dr. Paul Avis. It can also boast having survived a direct hit from a German bomb in 1942, which destroyed a chunk of the northeastern portion of the church, which has since been completely restored. Architecturally, though, it is neither particularly long nor particularly high, nor particularly grand, particularly Norman, or particularly Gothic. Its chief treasure is its vault.
Since Exeter, unusually, has no central tower at the transept crossing, it boasts an uninterrupted ribbed vault from west door to east end, the longest in the world (315 ft.), and it is a wonder to behold, even though partially blocked by that epic organ. The painted bosses at the rib joints are also justly famous, of which my wife captured this beautiful picture: