Friday, 27 July 2012

Exeter Catacomb

On Monday, Felix Grant came down to Exeter for the afternoon (having known each other via science/computing circles for around 20 years, we get together for a chat from time to time). While we were walking off a light lunch, I showed him round the very photogenic Lower Cemetery, built on a valley slope below the city wall just a few minutes' walk west of the city centre. Studded with tombs, it's topped by a Karnak-style catacomb, built as the upmarket part of the cemetery. It was a financial failure, being overpriced: only 16 interments were ever made, and now remains largely as a picturesque folly. More details at the British Listed Buildings entry and Exeter Memories: Catacombs and Lower Cemetery.

It''s normally locked, but this afternoon Clare and I took one of the twice-weekly free Red Coat guided tours: Churches, Cemeteries & The Catacomb. A catacomb may sound dismal, but on a hot bright afternoon it felt strangely friendly; its vaulting is spacious and high, with soft sunlight filtering in. Clare described it as "like a little cathedral".

The Catacomb consists of a single central vault running parallel to the city wall, with side alcoves and few sections with rectangular niches for burials. The tour is done with the help of a strong torch, but in fact it's light enough that you rapidly adapt enough to see. Unfortunately my camera was less up to the conditions than my eyes, but I did my best.


Ramp down to cemetery, below city wall
Looking up to Catacomb entrance
Looking up to entrance
Looking up to entrance

Looking NE from roof of Catacomb
Approaching the entrance

Going in
Initial impressions
A longer exposure
Burial niches unoccupied ...
... and occupied.
The vaults are very spacious ...
... but the floor is quite uneven
The way out

These steps, now covered by a grille, originally led to the surface
- Ray

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