From the 13th to the 16th centuries the history of each English cathedral varies according to if, and when, sections of the building were re-built, repaired or extended. However, there were examples of additions to the groundplan, the most significant of which in terms of the extent of the built complex was the addition of lady chapels (Lady chapels) particularly for cathedrals and large church complexes. Lady chapels were usually built as an eastwards extension of the cathedral’s chancel, that being behind the high altar. However, there were some variations from this positioning. The photo above is of the Lady Chapel at Ely cathedral which was a detached building on the north side of the chancel, later linked by a ceiled corridor. This lady chapel was built between the 1320s and the 1350s and is all of what was later to be defined as the Decorated style of church architecture, this exampled by the large windows topped by interlacing tracery (including the great east window), the lierne vault ceiling and the ogee-arched hoods to the seating recesses. The building programme was interrupted by the collapse of the then crossing tower, this in-turn beong replaced by the octagonal crossing topped by the famous ‘lantern’.
Lady chapels were a physical testimony to the Cult of the Virgin, a fundamental strand of medieval Catholic Church doctrine. Probably a lot of icons related to this element of Roman Catholocism were destroyed in the Reformation and, certainly, back in the day the interior plasterwork and the vaulted ceiling would have been richly painted. At the far end of Ely’s Lady Chapel can be seen a 20th century statue representing the Virgin Mary, this a controversial representation with Mary presented as a little-too modern like.
Both Lincoln and York Cathedrals have majestic Lady Chapels.