The Cathedral is unique in its collection of over 1000 roof bosses beautifully carved into the stone vaulting on the ceiling. A roof boss is a carved picture in stone which tells a story. For example, those in the Nave tell the story of the Bible from God's creation of the world to the crucifixion of Jesus and the judgement of people entering heaven.
Did you know?
The roof bosses have a practical as well as a decorative function. A stone roof boss is a keystone which actually holds all the stone ribs of the ceiling in place. You will see this clearly when you visit the Cathedral.
The Nave roof bosses are beautifully painted and show Bible stories which might be familiar to you.
Here is a selection for you to look at:
This magnificent bird is one of the first creatures that God has created. The blue around the phoenix is meant to represent the sky. Can you remember on which day God created animals?
You will probably recognise Noah's Ark. Noah and his family and the creatures are all looking out on the flood. Can you identify all the different animals on board?
This roof boss shows the Nativity. Mary and Joseph are sitting with the baby Jesus who is lying in a manger. The traditional ox and ass in the stable are above the baby.
About 400 of the Cathedral's roof bosses are situated in the Cloister. These were carved during the rebuilding of the Cloister which took place from 1297 until 1450 after the damage caused in the riot of 1272. Like in the Nave, the bosses here often tell stories - there are over 100 bosses carved on the theme of the Apocalypse (the end of the world). In the Cloister, just as in contemporary illuminated manuscripts, we find Christian images next to grotesque and fantastic depictions of beasts and monsters. It certainly is a fascinating mix and it is well worth hunting around the Cloister for these bosses when you visit the Cathedral. Here is a fine example:
This beautiful image is of a subject often found in medieval churches and cathedrals and called the ‘Green Man’. These mysterious figures, with faces made from or surrounded by leaves, are connected with folk customs that came before Christianity.
Green Men are usually associated with regeneration and new life and are taken to represent the cycle of growth which starts every springtime. When you visit the Cloister, hunt around very carefully, because there are at least seven other Green Men hiding away! They are all just as fascinating and they are all quite different in their appearance. You can find out more about the Green Man in our Green Man section, and we sell Green Man books, replicas and gift items in our shop in the Nave.