Cathedrals 10.

Although the building of meeting rooms and chapels for Nonconformist Christian churches greatly increased from the late-18th to mid-19th centuries, existing buildings of the Established Church had often suffered from neglect in maintenance.
Other trends stimulating the ‘Gothic Revival’ were; the Oxford Movement, spearheaded by notable academics who believed that much of the impact of collective worship had been lost to puritan ideas and clasicism and who believed that there should be a return to medieval forms of church decoration even though this opened them up to the criticism of pro-Catholic. The principle then adopted was for the church building to be ‘restored’ to what it may have looked like in the 13th and 14th centuries. A return to what Charles I’s Archbishop of Canterbury called ‘the beauty of holiness’, as a means of impressing and retaining congregations.
The Gothic Revival movement can present the student of church buildings with some difficulties as exampled in the photo above. The fan vaulting of Wells cathedral would appear to be a late-Perpendicular (15th century) addition to the building, as, for example, at the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge (scene of the annual carol service on the B.B.C.). In fact the fan vaulting at Wells is a 19th century product of the Gothic Revival movement. If not sure, the student should always qualify statements about ‘original features’.
The parish church at Boughton, the village in south-west Norfolk where I grew up, was a complete re-build of the mid-Victorian era in an Early English style (s.p.b.s), except for the genuine medieval west tower which was not replaced (as at Derby for example, (s.p.b.).
However, often the fabric of the building provides clues as to which features are genuine and which might be gothic revival ‘bolt-ons’.

Cathedrals, 9.

Georgian (18th and early 19th century) churches were radically different from their gothic predecessors if newly built, and often the interior of gothic churches were much altered to conform with the classical fashions beloved of the Renaissance. Typical elements of this style were; plain (often whitewashed) interiors, all features in an open-plan environment, interiors bathed in daylight following the replacement of medieval glass by plain ‘leaded-light’ glass, grand organ cases (often built using imported tropical hardwoods), many monuments (usually sited between the pillars of the arcades) and auditory three-decker pulpits. Salisbury cathedral is an example of a cathedral that underwent considerable ‘Georgianisation’ to the plans of architect Wyatt whereby plain window glass replaced the medieval and many grave monuments removed to create a turfy expance in the cathedral precinct – both these changes much copied later in other cathedrals and parish churches.
The photo above shows Derby cathedral viewed from the north-east. Although this a parish church until 1927 when it was elevated to cathedral status (elevated by the instalation of a chair for the bishop, s.p.b.s) the medieval nave and chancel had been re-built in the 1720s, pioneering the classical style of church architecture. The Perpendicular style gothic west tower was retained, this being mirrored in the parish church in Gainsborough for example.
The coming of the ‘gothic revival’ movement in Victorian and Edwardian times was a reaction against the ‘heathen’ building style of the Renaissance as it was mostly influenced by the pre-Christian classical styles of building. Thus churches often experienced changes from the gothic style of architecture to the classical and then back again to the gothic, although ‘re-gothicisation’ could often seem too pristine when compared with original features. This is very much the case at Worcester cathedral (s.p.b.s).
Stallingborough church near the south Humber bank is a particularly good example of a Georgian brick-built church, the train line from Barton to Cleethorpes passes close by.
(to be continued).

Cathedrals 8.

The picture today shows Gloucester cathedral from the south-west, an image copied from the Gloucester Cathedral website (much of this site is a built-up area today).
Gloucester cathedral is an example of a medieval monastic church of the Benedictine order that survived the Reformation of the 1530s because Henry VIII ordered it to become one of five new diocesan churches (cathedrals), these new diocese carved out of existing ones (Worcester in this case). The other four were Bristol (previously the abbey church of Augustinian canons), Chester (previously the abbey church of Benedictine monks), Oxford (previously the abbey church of Augustinian monks) and Peterborough (previously the church of Benedictine monks). Thus there were 21 cathedrals by the end of Henry VIII’s reign. This was the last subdivision of dioceses until the 19th century when eight new diocese were created and the respective parish churches elevated to cathedral status.
Not only the Reformation but also the Renaissance impacted on cathedrals. One example of this, if a rather complex one, was the history of ‘Old’ St. Paul’s cathedral in London.
The ‘Old’ St. Paul’S cathedral, said at one time to be the largest church in Christendom, dominated the landscape of medieval London. In 1561 its timber spire burnt down and in the early 17th century the nave and transepts were given a classical ‘coat’ designed by Inigo Jones. Cupolas were erected on top of the west towers at the same time and a corinthian collonade built across the west front. The fire of London, 1666, ended Wren’s plan to build a central cupola and ‘lantern’. After the fire there was much discussion in political circles as to the design of the replacement cathedral, the ‘Great Model’ being revised by the ‘Royal Warrant Design’ (Charles II). The building programme of Wren’s St. Pauls seen today ended in 1711. Here then was the great example of Classical architecture overtaking Gothic, the coming to fruition of the Renaissance.

Cathedrals 7.

The last of Thomas Rickman’s (s.p.b.s) medieval church building styles was Perpendicular, the term referring to the vertical thrust of most window tracery. The Perpendicular style of architecture was to become solely British and was also characterised by very large windows shedding daylight in the interior, by complex vault systems supporting the ceilings, by the raising much higher of towers and spires and by various changes to the style of arcades built in naves and chancels.
The picture above shows part of the choir and presbytery (area in the chancel reserved for the incumbent where the high altar was sited) and east window of Gloucester cathedral. It is claimed that it was in this part of the cathedral that the Perpendicular style of architecture was being pioneered in the late 14th century (let’s remember that this is a term applied much later, at the time the architect/master mason was developing a new style, what name he used for it we do not know) evidenced in the complex lierne vault (heralding the fan vaulting of the 15th century as can be seen in the vault of the cloistral corridor at Gloucester cathedral), the loftiness of the building and in the great east window.
It is also the case that the re-building of the nave at Canterbury cathedral completed in 1405, master-minded by Henry Yevele one of the few master masons for whom documentary evidence survives, pioneered the Perpendicular style of architecture.
At Norwich cathedral a later lierne vault was built above the nave and chancel incorporating a multitude of carved bosses which provide much evidence about life, folklore and beliefs at the time, 1460s to 1480s.
Great Perpendicular west/east windows often replaced those of earlier styles both in cathedrals and in parish churches.
Lofty crossing towers, often incorporating ornate parapets and pinnacles, also characterised building/re-building programmes of the 15th century.
(to be continued)

Cathedrals 6.

From the 13th to the 16th centuries the history of each English cathedral varies according to if, and when, sections of the building were re-built, repaired or extended. However, there were examples of additions to the groundplan, the most significant of which in terms of the extent of the built complex was the addition of lady chapels (Lady chapels) particularly for cathedrals and large church complexes. Lady chapels were usually built as an eastwards extension of the cathedral’s chancel, that being behind the high altar. However, there were some variations from this positioning. The photo above is of the Lady Chapel at Ely cathedral which was a detached building on the north side of the chancel, later linked by a ceiled corridor. This lady chapel was built between the 1320s and the 1350s and is all of what was later to be defined as the Decorated style of church architecture, this exampled by the large windows topped by interlacing tracery (including the great east window), the lierne vault ceiling and the ogee-arched hoods to the seating recesses. The building programme was interrupted by the collapse of the then crossing tower, this in-turn beong replaced by the octagonal crossing topped by the famous ‘lantern’.
Lady chapels were a physical testimony to the Cult of the Virgin, a fundamental strand of medieval Catholic Church doctrine. Probably a lot of icons related to this element of Roman Catholocism were destroyed in the Reformation and, certainly, back in the day the interior plasterwork and the vaulted ceiling would have been richly painted. At the far end of Ely’s Lady Chapel can be seen a 20th century statue representing the Virgin Mary, this a controversial representation with Mary presented as a little-too modern like.
Both Lincoln and York Cathedrals have majestic Lady Chapels.

Cathedrals 5.

Today’s illustration, taken from Thomas Rickman’s book (s.p.b.), shows the type of features in church architecture that defined what Rickman named as the ‘Early English’ style. The reason for this name seems obscure but it defines the move from reliance on the round-headed arch (see previous illustration) to the use of the pointed-arch for doors, windows, arcades etc., this then being the earliest type of ‘gothic’ architecture (I suspect this was not Rickman’s term but I could be wrong). Rickman’s illustration above shows stages (progress of fashion) within the Early English era – firstly single lancet windows, later cluster lancets, later still pierced spandrels above two lancets. Also with buttresses, first stepped against the church wall, later flying buttresses (much later). Also with external decoration where mouldings became more diverse.
In fact now the window shown bottom left would be more likely described as of the ‘Geometric style’, often considered a separate architectural style in its own right.
The Early English style of church architecture was mostly in vogue from the early-to mid-13th century, many churches and cathedrals built in the Norman era were extended in the Early English style and, if surviving today, this change is most easily seen. That said, the Early English style of architecture was much favoured by the builders of new churches in the 19th century so care has to be taken against over-confident reliance on the style alone when dating church buildings.
In fact the ‘gothic arch’ style of church building had been experimented with since the late 12th century, the innovation originating in France. The west bays of the nave at Worcester cathedral and the galilee porch at the west end of the nave of Durham cathedral are early examples. The new-build cathedral at Salisbury (s.p.b.) most of this style, the initial building programme being completed in 1258.
(to be continued).