The present Ely cathedral was begun in the 11th century and became a monastic cathedral in 1109, until the monastery was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. The cathedral was a major pilgrimage site, housing a famous shrine (destroyed in 1539) of its founding 7th-century Anglo-Saxon saint: Etheldreda. The cathedral was expanded and adapted over hundreds of years but the nave is an important example of Romanesque architecture and sculpture.
One the most lavish and elaborate survivals of twelfth-century sculpture in England, the Romanesque Prior's Door leads from the cloister into the south aisle of the nave. Its arches and columns are richly decorated, key points of the door design have heads projecting in high relief, and the tympanum has an image of Christ in a mandorla supported by charming angels whose wings and arms are designed to fill even the upper spaces of the tympanum. The rest of the door is carved with tendrils of vine and foliage filled with blossoms, and various hidden animals.