One of the consequences of the Reformation was the loss of art in Northern Europe. Statues were removed. (Did you spot the empty niches in this shot yesterday?) Paintings were destroyed. Murals and frescos whitewashed over. Carvings were vandalised.
The Lady Chapel at Ely which adjoins the Cathedral is a large an airy building; a magnificent space for worship in its own right.Around its walls are dozens of small arches framed with intricate carving; now pale stone, but once brightly painted as this fragment demonstrates.Within each of these arches is a small sculpture of a person; perhaps saints or other important religious figures. It’s hard to tell though because every one of them has been attacked; their faces and heads removed with hammer and chisel. As we in west decry the actions of Islamic State in flattening historic sites, as we were horrified by Taliban attacking statues of the Buddha, we should perhaps remember that we have been just as ignorant in our own history.What is ironic is that some statuary was immune to the fanatic’s hammer; there are still plenty of faces adorning Ely Cathedral who have had nothing more than the weather to contend with.