is the image by which the present cathedral is best
known and is one of its great glories. The magnificent
west façade, built between 1209 and 1250, is
100 feet high and 150 feet wide - exactly twice the
width of the Nave which it terminates. There are niches
for more than 500 figure sculptures, most of them larger
than lifesize. Wells west front is unique in retaining
almost 300 of its original medieval statues.
During cleaning and conservation in 1974 - 1986 traces
were found of the original colour with which the sculptures
and their architectural backgrounds were painted. In
addition to the contrast between the dark blue-grey
lias shafts and the pale stonework, the statues were
decorated using rich colours including gold leaf, within
the background of their dark red niches.
However it seems that neither the sculptural campaign
nor the painting was completed in the 13th century,
probably, as was often the case, through lack of money.
The south and east sides of the southwest tower never
possessed statues, and those in the gable were not carved
until the 15th century. The towers to the south and
north were added respectively in the late 1300s and
This façade, covered with the images of the saints,
the great and the good, must have been intended as the
dramatic backdrop for the liturgy of the church, particularly
for the great processions of the liturgical year, such
as Palm Sunday. It is likely that the hidden singing
galleries within the thickness of the west wall were
used during these ceremonials.