Work on the present Cathedral began in the 11th century under the leadership of Abbot Simeon, and the monastic church became a cathedral in 1109 with the Diocese of Ely being carved out of the Diocese of Lincoln. The monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. Ely suffered less than many other monasteries, but even so, statues were destroyed together with carvings and stained glass. St Etheldreda's Shrine was destroyed. The Cathedral was refounded with a Chapter of eight canons in 1541 as was the Kings School. Robert Steward, the last Prior of the monastery, became the first Dean.
The first major restoration took place in the 18th Century under James Essex. With the arrival of Dean George Peacock in 1839 a second restoration project began. Together with the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, he restored the building to its former glory.
A third major restoration project, the most extensive to date, was begun in 1986 and was completed in the year 2000.
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