The Homeland Handbooks—No. 55.
OUR HOMELAND CHURCHES AND HOW TO STUDY THEM.
SIDNEY HEATH (Author of "Some Dorset Manor Houses," etc.)
Illustrated by the Author and Ethel M. Heath
And by Photographs.
Published under the General Editorship of Prescott Row and Arthur Henry Anderson, by the Homeland Association for the Encouragement of Touring in Great Britain.
London: The Homeland Association Ltd., 22, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, E.C.
First Edition. 1907.
With a view to making future Editions of this Handbook as accurate and comprehensive as possible, suggestions for its improvement are cordially invited. If sent to THE EDITORS, The Homeland Association, Association House, 22, Bride Lane, Fleet Street, E.C., they will be gratefully acknowledged.
This Book as a whole, with its contents, both Literary and Pictorial, is Copyrighted in Great Britain.
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Author's Preface 7 Dedication 8 Introduction 9
I.—Early British Churches 19 II.—Early Church Architecture 26 III.—The Saxon and Norman Styles 31 IV.—The Early English Style 47 V.—The Decorated Style 57 VI.—The Perpendicular Style 64 VII.—The Renaissance and Later 74 VIII.—Church Furniture and Ornaments 80 IX.—Bells and Belfries 95 X.—The Spire: Its Origin and Development 99 XI.—Stained Glass 104 XII.—Crypts 109 XIII.—How to describe an Old Church 111
Appendix—A Glossary of the Principal Terms used in Ecclesiastical Architecture 115 Bibliography 123 Index 124
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
1 Foundations of a Romano-British Church Frontispiece 2 The Church of St. Margaret, Lynn 52 3 A Fine Perpendicular Tower, St. Mary, Taunton 72 4 Sedilia and Chantry, Luton 88 * * * * * The Various Forms of Arches 10 Plan of a Typical Gothic Cruciform Parish Church, Luton 12 Examples of Gothic Windows 15 Examples of Buttresses 17 A Rood Screen, with a Restoration of the Rood 20 The Church of S. Martin, Canterbury 22 Window Built with Roman Brick, Swanscombe 24 A Reputed Saxon Doorway, Bishopstone 30 Tower of Earls' Barton Church 33 An Example of Norman Tower, Bishopstone 34 A Norman Pier Arcade, Abbots Langley 36 Examples of Norman Mouldings 37 A Late Norman Parish Church, Castle Rising 38 West Doorway, Rochester Cathedral 40 Tympanum of Norman Doorway, Fordington St. George 41 Examples of Norman Capitals 42 A Curious Norman Capital, Seaford 43 Norman and Early English Doorways, Dunstable Priory Church 45 Windows, Showing the Origin of Tracery 47 An Early English Arch, Rochester Cathedral 48 Wall Arcading, Showing Junction of Norman and Early English Masonry, Dunstable Priory Church 50 An Early English Doorway, Huntingdon 51 A Group of Thirteenth Century Lancet Windows, Ockham 53 Salisbury Cathedral 55 Examples of Early English Capitals and Ornament 56 A Late Decorated Window in a Parish Church, East Sutton 59 Examples of Decorated Ornament 61 Examples of Perpendicular Ornament 64 Early Perpendicular Parish Church, Yeovil 65 A Fine Parish Church, Showing Rich Perpendicular Work, Terrington St. Clement, Norfolk 67 A Perpendicular Doorway, Merton College 68 A Perpendicular Porch, King's Lynn 71 An English Renaissance Church, S. Stephen, Walbrook 78 A Typical Cornish Font 80 The Sanctuary Knocker, Durham Cathedral 82 The Baptistery in Luton Church 83 An Example of a Leaden Font of the Late Norman Period 85 A Reputed Saxon Font, Shaldon 86 A Detached Holy-Water Stoup of Unusual Design 87 A Typical Somerset Bench-End, Spaxton 89 A Richly-Carved Pulpit and Canopy, Edlesborough 91 Screen with Rood Loft, Kenton 93 The Carved Oak Balustrade in Compton Church 94 Bell Turret for Three Bells, Radipole 98 The Best Example of a Saxon Spire or Pyramidal Roof, Sompting 100 Leighton Buzzard Church, with Early English Tower and Spire 102 A Parish Church with a Shingle Broach Spire, Edenbridge 105 Interior Elevation of a Bay of a Church 114
STYLES OF ENGLISH ARCHITECTURE.
The following periods of architectural style may be of use for the purpose of reference, but it must be borne in mind that they are more or less approximate, as each style merged by slow degrees into the next.
Norman.—William I. to Stephen. 1066-1154. Transition Norman.—Henry II. 1154-1189. Early English Gothic.—Richard I. to Henry III. 1189-1272 Decorated.—Edward I., II., III. 1272-1377. Perpendicular.—Richard II. to Henry VII. 1377-1485. Tudor.—Henry VIII. to Elizabeth. 1485-1600.
Mr. Edmund Sharpe gives seven periods of English architecture up to the time of the Reformation, and dates them as follows:—
I. Saxon from —— to 1066 II. Norman " 1066 " 1145 79 years III. Transitional " 1145 " 1190 45 "
IV. Lancet from 1190 to 1245 55 years V. Geometrical " 1245 " 1315 70 " VI. Curvilinear " 1315 " 1360 45 " VII. Rectilinear " 1360 " 1550 190 "
It is a truism that the history of building is the history of the civilized world, for of all the arts practised by man, there is none which conveys to us a clearer conception of the religion, history, manners, customs, ideals and follies of past ages, than the art of building. This applies in a special sense to cathedrals and churches, which glorious relics reflect and perpetuate the noble aim, the delicate thought, the refined and exquisite taste, the patient and painstaking toil which have been expended upon them by the devout and earnest craftsmen of the past.
There are very few of our ancient churches in village, town or city which do not offer some feature of interest to the visitor, and in the absence of anything more important, there is sure to be some door, window, font, screen, or other detail which will amply repay him for the small amount of time spent in seeing it.
The aim of the author of this little volume has been to indicate the symbolism and meaning attaching to the various portions of our churches and cathedrals, and to endeavour briefly to describe, in language as simple as the subject will allow, the various styles of ecclesiastical architecture with their distinctive characteristics in such a way as will enable the reader to assign each portion and detail of a church to its respective period with an approximate degree of accuracy.
He does not claim to be original, but endeavours to be useful and interesting. The best authorities have been consulted and freely drawn upon, but with the object in view of writing a book at once thus useful and interesting, no attempt has been made to deal with the subject in a strictly architectural, or a purely scientific manner.
To all those who love old buildings—cathedrals, abbeys, and village churches, which breathe the spirit of an age with which we have entirely broken—and who would fain hand down to posterity, unmutilated, the great building achievements of our forefathers, which we, with all our science, wealth, and means of curtailing labour, can no more imitate than we can reproduce the language of a Chaucer or a Shakespeare; this book is respectfully dedicated.
"Firm was their faith, the ancient bands, The wise of heart in wood and stone, Who reared with stern and trusting hands Those dark grey towers of days unknown; They filled the aisles with many a thought, They bade each nook some truth recall The pillared arch its legend brought, A doctrine came with roof and wall." —HAWKER OF MORWENSTOW.
OUR HOMELAND CHURCHES AND HOW TO STUDY THEM.
However much we may admire, considered purely as art, the Pagan temples of the Greeks and Romans, we must confess that they are lacking in those high ideals and those sustained and inspired motives which seem to penetrate and permeate the buildings and churches of the Christian era. Perfect as is Greek art within its somewhat narrow limits, it is, nevertheless, cold, precise and lifeless. The Gothic buildings on the contrary are pregnant with the very spirit of life.
Prompted by a deep and fervent faith in their religion, the Gothic builders and sculptors unconsciously wove into the humblest of their architectural enrichments some portion of their daily life and personality. The slave-built temples of the Greeks offered no scope for the exercise of individual expression—such, in fact, would have been strongly resented—whereas the early Christian craftsman, revelling in his freedom, seized every opportunity of expressing in his work his joy, fear and hope of immortality.
This is made apparent in the study of an old church, whereof every portion—door, window, bench-end, carving, gargoyle—has hidden about it some suggestion of beautiful thought, or some distinct and appropriate symbolism. The fact that symbolism underlies almost every such indication of mediaeval thought is made abundantly manifest in the study of mediaeval literature. Open any 12th century treatise on morals, science or history, and you become aware of the fact at once. The main-spring of this symbolism, of all Christian symbolism, turns on the parabolic meaning in the scheme of Creation. The early writers were far less concerned with recording the plain objective facts of history, than in pursuing the allegory and the love of the marvellous, and showing all those characteristics of what we now term an unscientific attitude of mind.
In its widest sense, symbolism means the expression of belief, and if we would interpret history aright, we must grasp the fact that the key to the character and disposition of peoples of all ages lies in the knowledge of their beliefs; for out of the beliefs of one age most surely grow the beliefs of its successors, and in no work of man's hand are the beliefs held by various peoples in past ages more clearly defined than in our cathedrals and churches, which noble buildings in every civilized country indicate principles as well as facts, influences as well as results; and while presenting the finest materials for aesthetic study, are no less useful as indicating the psychological peculiarities of those builders of old to whose condition they bear witness.
In our grand specimens of ecclesiastical architecture, we may read the world's later history, and to-day they breathe the sombre reverential influence of a faith which sought to satisfy itself with the visible symbolizing of those half-poetical, half-superstitious conceptions with which the religion of the Middle Ages was so deeply imbued.
An early development of decorative symbolic art, known as Celtic, of which we have examples on old Irish crosses, and particularly on illuminated MSS. was wrought by the Christian monks of the 7th and 8th centuries, but what is generally understood as Christian symbolic art had its finest development about the 13th century. Gothic art is essentially symbolic and in many instances, its individual forms have specific significance. Thus the common equilateral triangle was used to symbolize the Holy Trinity, as are the two entwined triangles. Other symbols employed at this period setting forth the mystery of the Unity of the Trinity, without beginning and without end, are three interlaced circles, and a very curious one is that in which three faces are so combined as to form an ornamental figure. Baptism under the immediate sanction of the Divine Trinity was represented by three fishes placed together in the form of a triangle. So numerous, indeed were such Christian symbols after the 9th century that a mere enumeration of them would occupy considerable space. Every trefoil symbolized the Holy Trinity; every quatrefoil the four Evangelists; every cross the Crucifixion, or the martyrdom of some saint; and in Gothic ornament and decoration, we find the Chalice, the Crown of Thorns, the Dice, the Sop, the Hammer and Nails, the Flagellum and other symbols of our Lord's Passion.
Although presenting the same characteristics in their external design, our town and village churches are very various. The simplest form, and the one most commonly found, is that of a nave and chancel, with a tower at the west end; to which plan may be added aisles and transepts, the latter often being wrongly called "cross-aisles." When the walls of the nave above the arcade rise above those of the aisles and are pierced with windows, the upper portion is called the clerestory, the meaning of which word is not free from obscurity; it seems probable that it indicates the clear story—the story which rises clear of the nave and aisles. In large buildings, they are important both for utility and beauty, but in small and early churches, they are of less importance.
It is a well-known fact that the chancel and nave of a church generally stand east and west. This arrangement, called the orientation, is symbolic of the teaching that to the east we are to look for assistance and protection against the power of our enemy, and that as we pray we may look for the day-spring, symbolized to us in the rising sun that sheds light and warmth all over the earth.
The public entrance to a church is generally at the west end (the priest usually had a door in the chancel for his own use). Through this door we enter the house of prayer, for as in the east we see the emblem of the Lord of Life and Light, so the west represents the seat of darkness and of the powers of evil.
The earliest porches were those of the early Christian basilica churches; they were long and arcaded and were called "narthex." In later times, they assumed two forms, one the projecting erection, covering the entrance and divided into three or more doorways, and the other a kind of covered chamber open at the end and having small windows at the sides. These latter are generally found on the north and south sides of the nave. Formerly, when church government was more rigorous in discipline than is now the case, the porch was the appointed place for those who were under censure. Those also who were unbaptised, or who had not yet received the sacrament of regeneration, were not allowed beyond the porch, not quite excluded from the church and yet not permitted to enter fully. The porch also served as a path of admission for all Christians into the body of the church, so that they passed through the assembly of penitents and catechumens, who were wont to ask the prayers of the more highly privileged for their full restoration or admission to the communion of the faithful.
With reference to our Lord's word, "I am the Door," we frequently find the tympana of church doors, particularly those of Norman date, adorned with representations of events from his life, but they often also depict the monsters, dragons and devils, that formed so strong an article in the faith of the early Christians.
A more detailed account of these tympana will be found in a following chapter.
Passing through the porch we enter the nave, which word is derived from the Latin navis, a ship. Its symbolic teaching is that of the Church riding triumphantly and buoyantly on the troubled and dark waters of the world. The first thing noticed on entering the nave is the font, which was formerly placed outside the church, in a separate building called the baptistery; a few of our churches have retained these little buildings which now form part of the churches proper.
The reason in early days for placing the font outside the church was that the Christian was not admitted into the nave until he had been baptised and confirmed, the latter rite being administered immediately after baptism.
From the western door there is a clear passage through the centre of the nave, called the aisle, signifying the straight and narrow way from the seat of darkness to immortal life. On each side of this aisle are seats for the laity, with room for standing and kneeling. The nave was usually divided from the chancel by an open screen of wood or stone, signifying that although the Christian might have some insight into the mysteries of the priest's office, at the same time these were to be partly concealed from his view. The rood screen was so called from the fact that the great Rood, or Crucifix, stood above it, not always on the screen itself, but on a separate beam, to which was often attached a rood loft or chamber. In early days, the lessons were read from the top of the rood screen, and in many of our churches the stairways leading thither have been retained.
In churches where the screen has vanished, the division of the nave from the rest of the church is plainly marked by the chancel arch. The chancel is emblematic of the Christian perfection, of the Church triumphant in heaven.
In an old church, a piscina is nearly always found in the chancel, and here, too, were the sedilia or seats for the officiating clergy, the prior, sub-prior, and the deacon, the last-named occupying the lowest seat.
Founders' tombs also nearly always occupy positions in the chancel, and these tombs differ from all others in that they form an integral part of the structure, and could not have been added after the church was completed.
Another thing sometimes to be seen is the ambery, or aumbry, a small cupboard let into the chancel wall, in which were kept the communion vessels, the chalice, paten, etc.
The great object of interest, however, in the chancel, is the altar, which Archbishop Laud directed should be enclosed by rails, so that although the people may draw near, they cannot touch the holy table, but must accept from the hands of the priest those gifts of which he is the minister from God.
Altars are fully described in a following chapter, but we may here note that the reredos, so universally found in our cathedrals, abbeys, and in many of our churches, forms no part of the altar, and the Court of Arches has decided that there are no altars in the Church of England, but only communion tables.
Prominent among the external enrichments of our churches is the gargoyle, a word derived from the French, "gargouille," which in its turn comes from the Latin "gurgulio"—a water-spout. The earliest gargoyles are merely orifices with a lip to shoot the water well away from the fabric. The true gargoyle, however, was quickly evolved from this primitive form, and consists of two parts, the lower one forming the channel, the upper one being the cover. The full significance of the skill displayed by the old masons in the rare opportunity the gargoyle afforded them of representing the dragons, serpents, etc., in which their fancy revelled, is made apparent when we view the futile attempts of modern architects to introduce this feature in their churches, for modern gargoyles are generally grotesque caricatures, and anything but happy appendages to the buildings to which they are attached.
The churchyard, so pleasing an adjunct to the House of God placed within it, is frequently approached through a lych-gate, which word is derived from the Saxon lich, a corpse. These gates in our country churchyards are often very picturesque little structures, and under them the corpse at a funeral awaited the officiating priest before being taken into the church. The churchyard is commonly regarded as a mere dependency of the church, and as having a history very inferior in interest to that of the temple to which it is the court. The truth is that many of our churchyards have an antiquity far greater than that of the churches, as many of them constituted the open-air meeting-places of our Saxon forefathers long before the erection of parish churches. In the common meeting-place a cross was set up, either of wood or stone, to mark and hallow the spot, and when a church was subsequently built it was usually in the immediate vicinity of the cross, which accounts for the fact that many churchyard crosses are of older date than the churches themselves.
Wells of water are often found in old churchyards, and as the regulations of the Saxon church required immersion and not sprinkling, it is possible that these were the Saxon fonts.
Such then is the necessarily brief attempt to describe the main lines on which our old churches were planned, and the motives and ideals which animated their builders, who, being impressed with the dignity and mystery of the works of God, made their churches symbolical of the portions of the Christian life; the porch signifying baptism, the nave the life militant on earth, and the chancel the life eternal; while every little ornament, piece of sculpture and enrichment was designed to remind the worshippers of their faith, of its hopes, blessed promises and rewards.
EARLY BRITISH CHURCHES.
In dealing with the introduction of church architecture into our own land, the task would be much simplified if one could state with certainty when the first church was built on British soil. Some historians assert that the Church of England as it is constituted to-day dates no further back than the moment when S. Augustine and his followers landed on the shores of Kent in the year 596, yet one is probably justified in assuming that a church existed in these islands for centuries previous to the arrival of the Roman missionaries. Unfortunately we have no records to guide us as to the date of this earlier settlement, and the name of the first Christian missionary to heathen Britain has still to be discovered. "We see," says the quaint old historian, Thomas Fuller, "the light of the word shined here, but see not who kindled it." The first Christian building of which we have any record was probably that erected at Glastonbury before the year 300, but that this was the first Christian settlement cannot be alleged with certainty.
There are many traditions concerning the introduction of Christianity into Britain, some of which may probably have some bearing on the truth, but the whole subject is involved in considerable obscurity. One of these numerous traditions is to the effect that the British King Caradoc, after being taken prisoner to Rome, was allowed to return, on condition that several members of his family remained as hostages; and whilst serving in this capacity, his mother, son, and daughter are stated to have become converts to Christianity, the doctrines of which faith they spread in their native land on their return thereto. Another tradition is to the effect that S. Paul himself visited Britain and laid the foundation of the Christian faith. We are also told by eminent church historians that the father and grandfather of S. Patrick were Christians, in which case S. Patrick himself would from a very early age have been brought up in the tenets of their faith. He is said to have been seized by pirates in the Clyde and taken to the north of Ireland, and eventually to Gaul. He was subsequently restored to his friends, whom he wished to convert to the Christian faith, and for this purpose his father sent him to be taught in the schools of Tours, Auxerre and Lerins. Eventually he was consecrated Bishop of the Irish and organized an efficient ecclesiastical system in Ireland.
Before the coming of the Anglo-Saxons the church seems to have established a firm hold on the people, who held tenaciously to their possessions, both secular and religious, which were only wrested from them after a severe struggle. Their enthusiastic love of Christianity led them to make a heroic defence of the churches, rather than see them fall into the hands of the heathen Anglo-Saxons. The historian Bede tells us that all their buildings were destroyed, the priests' blood was spilt upon the altars, prelates and people were slain with the sword, and all the cities and churches were burnt to the ground. When all was lost and there was no longer a church or home to defend, the Britons retired to the country of their fellow-Christians, the secluded and almost impenetrable hills and forests of the west. The Anglo-Saxon love of gold was quickly recognised by the people of West Wales who saved their property and bought the right of worshipping after the manner of their fathers by the payment of an annual tribute to their conquerors.
[Side note: Church of S. Piran, Perranporth.]
So ruthlessly indeed did the Anglo-Saxons rase to the ground the early churches, that, until a few years ago, but few traces of these early buildings were thought to exist. An accidental discovery, however, in the year 1835, brought to light an undoubted relic of an early British church in the west, this being the remains of a little church which had been until the date above mentioned completely buried in the sand on the sea coast near Perranporth in Cornwall. They are thought by ecclesiologists to be the remains of the original church erected to the memory of S. Piran, a Cornish missionary and a friend of S. Patrick, who was buried within its walls before the year 500 A.D. On removing the sand, the accumulated deposit of centuries, the church was found to have consisted of a nave and chancel containing a stone altar.
The building measured 29 feet in length, 16-1/3 feet in width and 19 feet from the floor to the roof, and probably shares with S. Mary's Church in Dover Castle, and S. Martin's, Canterbury, the honour of being one of the earliest links we possess with the ancient British Church. S. Mary's, Dover, appears to have been built of Roman bricks and cement, a combination which antiquaries consider is found only in those buildings which were erected during the Roman occupation.
[Side note: S. Martin's Canterbury.]
S. Martin's Church, Canterbury has many claims to be considered one of our most interesting churches, no less on account of its associations than for its structural interest. The date of its building has been a source of endless controversy, as it contains many features attributable to either Roman or Saxon architecture. It is thought that it may possibly have been used for worship by the Christian soldiers of the Roman army. Be this as it may, it is established beyond doubt that it was the oratory of Queen Bertha, the first English Christian queen, who here worshipped, with her chaplain Liudhard, long before the advent of S. Augustine, who himself in later times preached here; and within the walls of this cradle of English Christianity, Ethelbert, King of Kent, the husband of Queen Bertha was baptized. The Venerable Bede, writing within a hundred years of the death of S. Augustine states that there was in 597 A.D. in Canterbury, a church "dedicated to the honour of S. Martin and built while the Romans still occupied Britain." On the departure of the Romans it is probable that the church was still used by a small band of Christian worshippers until the heathen Jutes overran the Isle of Thanet in 449.
Little is known of the progress of Christianity on this island from that date until the landing of S. Augustine in 597, and the first fruits of his mission, as we have seen, was the conversion and baptism of King Ethelbert. As one would naturally expect, the aspect of the structure to-day, though suggestive of antiquity, is lacking in uniformity of treatment. The brick courses in the nave are at irregular intervals, varying from nine to twenty inches apart, the spaces being filled with Kentish rag-stone and occasional blocks of chalk. The chancel extends eighteen or twenty feet east of the arch and is composed of Roman bricks, evenly laid and averaging four bricks to a foot.
The chancel was lengthened at the beginning of the thirteenth century and again at a more recent date, so that its architecture to-day is of three distinct periods. Outside may be seen five flat pilaster buttresses and one semi-circular one, a square-headed Roman doorway, a Saxon doorway and two Early English porches; and there is also a nearly circular panel on the south side of the nave, and a Norman squint at the west end. There are many other features of interest which bear evidences of a great antiquity, and the only question which is seriously disputed is whether the earliest portion of the present nave was built about the end of the Roman occupation of Britain or during the mission of S. Augustine. The Rev. Charles F. Routledge, M.A., F.S.A., Hon. Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, writes: "Whatever may finally be determined to be the date of the church's foundation, it can never lose its unique association with S. Augustine, King Ethelbert and Queen Bertha, nor its undisputed claim to be the oldest existing church in England. From it flowed the tiny spring of English Christianity, which has since widened out into a mighty river, and penetrated the remotest parts of the civilized and uncivilized world."
[Side note: Other Early Churches.]
Among other churches which show signs of having been built during the Roman occupation are those of Reculver, Richborough and Lyminge, while the foundations of an undoubted early church have been discovered in the old Roman city of Silchester, in Hampshire. See frontispiece. The old church at Reculver stood originally within the Roman castrum, the fortress which guarded the northern mouth of the Wantsume, now a small stream, but once an arm of the sea dividing the Isle of Thanet from the mainland. The greater part of this church was pulled down in 1809, but the western towers, known as "the sisters" were repaired by Trinity House, as they constitute a useful landmark for mariners, being visible at a great distance.
Reculver church was built about A.D. 670, and from the existing walls and foundations it is clear that its plan was basilican. The church is now a ruin, but some stone pillars which supported the arches are preserved in the Cathedral Close at Canterbury.
As Reculver guarded the northern mouth of the watercourse, so Richborough protected the south, and here traces of a chapel in the form of a cross are plainly discernible amongst ruins known to be of Roman workmanship. The old church at Lyminge in the same county is thus described by Canon Jenkyns, in his "History of Lyminge":—"The Roman foundations discoverable at the south-east angle of the chancel, together with the remarkable half-arch that intervenes, marked the site of the aquilonalis porticus—the title of basilica already given to it in the seventh century establishes its claim to great antiquity."
We thus see that although remains of the actual buildings in which the British Christians worshipped are few in number, yet enough are left us to prove conclusively that there was a very active and zealous Christian community established in these islands during at least the period immediately preceding that in which Rome withdrew her legions from Britain in order to defend Italy against the Goths, and abandoned our island to the mercy of her foes.
EARLY CHURCH ARCHITECTURE.
In the early years of the Christian Church, when its members became sufficiently free from persecution to erect buildings for the purpose of worship, they were naturally anxious to avoid any of the forms peculiar to either heathen or Jewish temples. Some model, however, was necessary, and their choice being limited, they appear to have adopted the simple style of the Roman basilica, or court of justice. There was an adaptability about the general plan of such a building which rendered its selection natural and not inappropriate, while the dignified simplicity of its construction and the object for which it was primarily founded—the dispensation of justice—commended it no doubt in the first instance as a model for the primitive Christian church. These basilicae were usually enclosures surrounded by a colonnade, sometimes roofed, but more often open to the air, and designedly built for the purpose of being accessible to all members of the community at all times of the day. They appear occasionally to have been used for the transaction of ordinary business in which they would closely resemble our exchanges. Be this as it may, this form of architecture has left its impress on many Christian buildings, and the name of basilica, for a church, is still used in many parts of Italy.
The Roman basilica was usually in the form of a parallelogram, with a seat for the judges at one end, and in their adaptation of this form of building, the early Christians devoted this place to the purposes of an altar. This, by an easy and natural transition, is thought to have given rise to the formation of the semi-circular recess at one end of the building, known as the apse (from the Latin apsis, a bow or arch), which is still to be found in some of our older churches.
Being thus Roman in the nature of their ground plan, it is not surprising to find that other portions of the early Christian buildings show decided characteristics of a Roman style. On the destruction of the Pagan temples by order of the Emperor Constantine about the year 330, much of their material was built into the earliest Christian churches, and the Roman character of their design being prevalent, they formed a style of architecture which has been designated Romanesque, of which the later styles, known here as Saxon and Norman were largely modifications. There is no reason to doubt that the earliest Christian churches were very unpretentious in form and that some time elapsed before there was anything which could be called a definite church architecture, beyond that to which we have alluded. Nevertheless, as the Church strengthened her position and grew in security, more attention was devoted to the subject of its edifices, and the departure in time from the original ground plan furnished an opportunity for the introduction of a more symbolical and appropriate design. The plan of the old basilica was abandoned for one in the form of the cross, the accepted symbol of the Christian religion, which departure, however, did not involve any very great alteration from the old ground plan.
We come then to the time when one or other of the forms known as the Latin or the Greek cross—whichever was most convenient—was usually employed in a building designed for Christian worship, and these forms are universally found in the most elaborate structures of which the Christian Church can boast.
As time passed, these cruciform churches were surmounted with a dome, steeple, or tower at the point where the members of the cross intersected each other. At first the most prominent of these external adornments was the dome; a characteristic of the architecture of Eastern Europe, which acquired the name Byzantine, from its having been carried to great perfection in Byzantium (Constantinople), the capital of the Eastern Empire.
The church of S. Sophia, which was built, much as it now exists, early in the sixth century, and was afterwards converted into a mosque, is an almost perfect example of the Byzantine style. In this building we find the Roman arch used in a variety of ways, while the dome itself is formed entirely of this arch used as the crowning work of the edifice. Eastern churches in this style usually took the form of the Greek cross, this form being better calculated to support the weight of the cupola. In Western Europe, however, where the flat squat tower afterwards developed into the steeple, as we shall see in a later chapter, the Latin cross was mostly used, and this, with a few notable exceptions, is the plan of most western churches.
With writers of about fifty years ago, it was a favourite theory that the Christians converted the old basilicae into churches, and that the "Halls of Justice" erected by the Romans in this country were also converted into Christian churches, and some authorities point to the walls and arches of Brixworth church in confirmation of this theory. The late Mr. J. W. Brewer, however, stated that unfortunately for this theory, no single example of a basilica being converted into a church has been found in this country and he himself held the theory that the word basilica was used by the Romans to describe any building which was supported by internal columns, and in that way the name came to be applied to Christian churches.
As we have seen, the early Christians, after a short time, became dissatisfied with these buildings adapted from Pagan types, and the Byzantine form of church arose, the first people who practised this style of building being the Greeks. The style spread with rapidity all over the East, the great church of S. Sophia being its largest example and the smaller, but more perfect, church of S. Mark at Venice giving us the best idea of this form of church architecture. Largely modelled on this style, also, are the circular baptisteries of Italy and the round churches of England, France and Germany, the modern Russian churches and all the Mohammedan mosques. The Latin churches did not greatly favour this style and their use of it was confined, with few exceptions, to baptisteries, monumental chapels and the like, but for parochial, cathedral and monastic churches, the oblong plan was retained and ultimately developed into the Gothic church with its nave, transepts and chancel.
The changes which the Christian basilica at first underwent were simple, viz., the use of the arch instead of the straight lintel, or the placing of an entablature between the columns; a little later, about the tenth century, the old wooden roof of the basilica gave place to the arched roof or vaulting, so called from its being composed of a series of vaults. The styles called Romanesque and Lombardic are but geographical varieties of the same architecture and from these the Saxon and Norman styles were soon to be developed. The vaulted basilica church soon became common over the north of Europe, the two most important and practically unaltered examples being the cathedrals of Speyer and Worms, in Germany, although our Anglo-Saxon cathedrals of Peterborough, Ely and Norwich may, so far as regards their naves, be justly regarded as the offspring of the vaulted basilica style of building.
When the old basilica style of church with its heavy beam roof and its innumerable columns had ceased to satisfy the lofty aspirations of Latin Christianity, and when the Greeks had inaugurated a new style of church architecture, only two courses were left to the Latins, either to adopt the Greek style in its entirety, or to improve upon the basilica type. Fortunately, although after considerable hesitation, they chose the latter alternative, the result being the genesis of our glorious cathedrals with their long naves and aisles, deep transepts and beautiful variety of form and outline.
THE SAXON AND NORMAN STYLES.
As we have seen in the previous chapter, the whole subject of pre-Saxon church building is still very obscure, and for some considerable time after the Anglo-Saxon invasion little is known concerning church architecture, nor has it yet been fully ascertained whether any buildings of this period exist. By the year 588 the Saxons were in complete possession of the land. Christianity was to all appearance wiped out and the Church, to the superficial observer was dead. In his "History of English Church Architecture," Scott expresses the opinion that the oldest English churches may be divided into three groups. First, those which preceded the Danish invasion; secondly, those from the above epoch to the invasion of Sweyn; and thirdly, those onward to the Norman Conquest.
[Side note: Saxon Architecture.]
What exactly constituted Saxon architecture has long been a controversial point and one which will probably never be definitely settled. Parker, in his "Glossary of Architecture," says:—
"For a considerable time, after they (the Anglo-Saxons) had established themselves in this country, their buildings were of wood, and this appears to have been the prevailing material employed at the time of the Conquest, although stone had been occasionally used several centuries earlier.... No timber-work of Saxon date can be in existence at the present time, but it is contended by some antiquaries that several of our churches exhibit specimens of Saxon masonry; the truth of this theory, however, is not fully established, nor has the subject of Saxon architecture been yet sufficiently investigated to clear away the obscurity in which it is involved."
Probably few of our so-called Saxon churches were built earlier than thirty or forty years before the Norman Conquest, and it seems certain that for some years after they had settled in England, the Normans employed Saxon masons to build in the Saxon manner, as is seen by the tower of S. Michael's Church, Oxford, which, although showing all the characteristics of reputed Saxon masonry was built many years after the Battle of Hastings. Certain it is that these pre-Norman buildings in England were singularly rude and rough and show how much our Saxon ancestors were, at that period, behind the Italians, French and Germans in architectural skill.
[Side note: Saxon Churches.]
Our best examples containing Saxon work are possibly the churches at Sompting and Bishopstone, Sussex; Bradford-on-Avon; Wootton Wawen (sub-structure of tower); Wing; Brixworth, and Barnack, Northants; Greenstead in Essex; and S. Martin's at Wareham, Dorset. Of towers of this date the best are possibly those of S. Mary's and S. Peter's, Lincoln and S. Benet's, Cambridge. Of crypts, the finest examples are at Ripon Cathedral, York Minster (part) and S. Mary's Church, York. In addition to these, many other churches have chancel arches, doorways or some other less important features which are considered to be of Saxon origin.
These early buildings generally show the semi-circular arch on the doorways, but the windows usually have a triangular head; at Sompting church, however, the windows have the semi-circular arch. It is necessary to say a few words in detail about the more important churches of this era.
[Side note: S. Lawrence, Bradford-on-Avon.]
The church of S. Lawrence at Bradford-on-Avon is one of the oldest unaltered churches in England, and it seems to be beyond question that it is the actual church built by Ealdhelm at the beginning of the eighth century and dedicated by him to S. Lawrence. It consists of a chancel, nave and north porch, and among its remarkable features is its great height and the extreme narrowness of the round-headed arch between the nave and the chancel, a feature it has in common with the Saxon church of S. Martin at Wareham; the ground-plan measurements of both these churches are identical. At S. Lawrence's church, an incised arcade is seen outside the walls, and on either side of the west aspect of the chancel arch are two sculptured figures of angels, which are thought to represent the earliest extant fragments of church carving in England.
[Side note: Brixworth, Earls' Barton and Barnack.]
Brixworth church is possibly older than S. Lawrence's and it is said to have been in continuous use for Divine Service ever since it was erected. The tower appears to be of rather later date than the nave and rests upon the walls of a "narthex" or portico, which may have extended along the whole breadth of the front, as is still to be seen in churches at Rome and Ravenna. The curious pile of masonry built up against the tower may have been added for defence, as it could hardly have formed part of the original design.
Earls' Barton and Barnack churches both have towers so covered with narrow projecting strips of stonework that the surface of the walls appears divided into rudely formed panels. The west doorways of both show primitive imitations of Roman mouldings in the imposts and architraves. The tower of Earls' Barton consists of four stages, each of which is slightly smaller than the one below. In that of Barnack church, the upper stages of the tower represent the period of transition from Norman to Early English.
S. Michael's, Oxford, has a massive tower of solid masonry, unpierced in its lowest stage by either door or window, the second stage shows but one window and the highest is pierced by several windows of more elaborate construction.
[Side note: St. Michael's Church, Oxford.]
Although generally consisting of rubble and stone, Saxon churches were sometimes built of wood as we see from the existing nave of the parish church of Greenstead, Essex.
[Side note: Greenstead Church, Essex.]
A brick chancel has been added at the east and a timber belfry at the west end, but the old Saxon portion is composed of large chestnut trees split asunder and set upright close to each other with the round side outwards. The ends are roughly hewn so as to fit into a sill at the bottom, and into a plate at the top, where they are fastened with wooden pins. There are 16 logs on the south side where are two doorposts, and on the north side twenty-one logs and two spaces now filled with rubble. There is a tradition that this church was erected to receive the body of S. Edmund, on its return from London to Bury, in 1013.
The semi-circular arch has long been considered to be one of the most distinctive marks of Norman architecture, but Mr. Rickman, who made an exhaustive study of the early churches of France and England, says:—
"In various churches it has happened that a very plain arch between nave and chancel has been left as the only Norman feature, while both nave and chancel have been rebuilt at different times; but each leaving the chancel arch standing. I am disposed to think that some of these plain chancel arches, will, on minute examination, turn out to be of Saxon origin."
It would be tedious to enter into any more minute account of the Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical remains, and the reader whose enquiries conduct him to the more elaborate works on the subject will be startled by the contrary opinions that he will surely encounter.
In concluding these brief remarks on early buildings, we must again quote from Parker's work to which reference has already been made:—
"The class of buildings referred to as being considered to belong to this style contain some rather unusual features, and they require to be particularly described, both because they are in themselves remarkable, and because there is a probability that some of them may be Saxon."
The Norman style of church architecture with its varied forms of columns, moulded and recessed arches and vaulting, may be roughly stated to have been introduced into England at the time of the Conquest. The Saxon masons do not appear to have understood vaulting sufficiently well to have roofed over any large space with stone, and for this reason alone the Saxon form of building was bound to give way before the Norman, which of all the earlier styles was the most advanced in this respect.
[Side note: Norman Architecture.]
Generally speaking, Norman arches were semi-circular, but they were by no means universally so, for a form frequently found is one in which the spring of the arch does not take place from the abacus, or upper member of the capital, but at some distance above it and when it assumes this form it is called a "stilted" arch, suggested by some authorities to have been unintentional and the result of imperfect construction or planning. See page 10.
The main features in the ornamentation of this period are the sculptured bands worked round the arches, which, although generally called "mouldings," are more in the nature of decoration, and in some instances they appear to be additions carved on the originally unadorned surface of the masonry.
[Side note: Ornament.]
The earliest and most general ornament is the chevron or zig-zag, which is frequently found doubled, trebled and quadrupled. The next most common form is the beak-head, consisting of a hollow and large round. In the hollow are placed heads of beasts or birds whose tongues or beaks encircle the round. On the west doorway of Iffley church, Oxford, are many of these beak-heads extending the whole length of the jamb down to the base moulding. They also figure prominently among the ornamentations of the hospital church of S. Cross, near Winchester. The zig-zag moulding is very common on Norman churches and is so easily recognised that no further description is needed here. The less prominent decorations of Norman mouldings include the alternate billet, the double cone, and the lozenge, together with an immense number of others less commonly found.
[Side note: Windows.]
The Early Norman window was little better than a narrow slit finished with a plain semi-circular head, and was generally only a few inches wide. They were, it is believed, filled with oiled linen and the sides of the aperture were splayed towards the interior. Later in the period, the windows were enriched by the zig-zag and other mouldings and at a still later period an improvement was made by inserting nook-shafts in the jambs similar to those in doorways.
The towers of Norman churches often show windows of two lights separated by a central shaft, all enclosed under a large semi-circular arch, the spandrel of which is rarely pierced. Plain circular windows of small dimensions are sometimes found in other positions and in churches of later date, and occasionally in gable walls. Larger windows of the same form, with small shafts radiating from the centre and connected at the circumference by semi-circular or trefoiled arches, are also found as at Barfreston church, Kent, where there is a fine example.
[Side note: Doorways.]
Norman doorways are found in great numbers and variety, even in churches which present no other features in this style. The most usual form consists of a semi-circular-headed aperture with a hood-mould springing from plain square-edged jambs. Frequently, however, the doorways are recessed, having a nook-shaft in the angle formed by a recession from the capital, in which case it presents two soffits and two faces, besides the hood-moulds. The depth of these doorways is largely due to the great thickness of the walls usual in buildings of this period, but in many cases that portion of the wall in which the entrance is inserted is made to project forward beyond the general face, which projection is finished either with plain horizontal capping, or a high-pitched gable.
Norman porches thus have generally but little projection, and are frequently so flat as to be little more than outer mouldings to the inner door. They are, however, often richly ornamented and have rooms above, which rooms are wrongly called "parvises." The shallow aperture often follows the form of the arch, but is frequently square-headed, having a semi-circular tympanum of masonry filling the space between the lintel of the door and the intrados of the arch.
These tympana are usually sculptured in low relief with a representation of some scriptural or traditional event, while the assertion of the Apostle that "we must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God," may account for the fondness of the Norman sculptors in representing different stages of martyrdom on the tympana of their doors. A very singular tympanum is that on the door of the church of Fordington S. George, at Dorchester, whereon is represented some incident in the life of S. George. The principal figure is on horseback with a discus round his head. The other figures are in hauberks and chausses, and generally bear, in point of costume, much resemblance to the figures on the famous Bayeux tapestry. Barfreston church, Kent, has an interesting tympanum, as also has Patrixbourne church in the same county, where the sculpture shows the Saviour with dragons and at his feet a dog. At Alveston church, Warwickshire, the sculpture shows two quadrupeds with enormous tails, fighting, with between them a small bird, possibly intended for a dove. Our best example of a Norman doorway and tympanum is generally considered to be the west doorway of Rochester Cathedral, where the sculpture is of a very advanced character for its date, which is probably about 1130-40.
[Side note: Piers.]
A distinctive feature of the Norman style are the massive pillars, usually circular, and with capitals either of the same form, or square; occasionally in plain buildings the pillars themselves are square with very little or no ornamentation. Towards the end of the period, an octagonal pillar was often used, having a much lighter appearance than the earlier forms.
Besides these plain styles, compound or clustered piers are very numerous, differing considerably in plan; the simplest consists of a square having one or more rectangular recesses at each corner, but one more frequently met with has a small circular shaft in each of the recesses and a larger semi-circular one on each side of the square.
[Side note: Capitals.]
Norman capitals are very varied, having many different forms of ornamentation; the commonest is one which resembles a bowl with the sides truncated, reducing the upper part to a square; sometimes the lower part is cut into round mouldings and ornamented, but it is frequently left plain. The Norman capital in its earliest style was of short proportions, but afterwards it became longer, with lighter ornamentation, gradually merging into the Early English.
The bishops and abbots of this period appear to have possessed considerable skill in architecture, for no fewer than fifteen of our English cathedrals contain some important Norman work, as the older portions of the cathedrals of Canterbury, Durham, Winchester, Gloucester, Peterborough, Ely, Norwich, Lincoln and Oxford.
[Side note: Norman Buttresses.]
The Norman buttress, better described by Mr. Sharpe as a pilaster strip, unlike those of the later period, projects but very little from the wall, and this is especially so in buildings of the earlier part of the period. They are usually quite plain and are more used for finish than actual support; the Norman builder relying principally upon the thickness and weight of his walls to sustain any roof thrust (see page 17).
[Side note: The Round Churches.]
There are in England a few round churches which are thought to have been built by the Knights Templars, a religious community banded together for the purpose of wresting the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem from the Saracens. Their object was to defend the Saviour's tomb and to guard Palestine, for which purpose they built numerous monasteries throughout the Holy Land and fortified them like castles.
Another famous order which combined the religious instincts of the cloister with the military ardour of the warrior was that of the Knights of S. John Baptist or Knights Hospitallers, who, besides fighting, were to tend the sick and provide for the welfare of all Christian travellers. The churches belonging to the Templars were usually built in circular form in imitation of the church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. They were capped with vaulted concave roofs said to be symbolical of the vast circuit and concave of the heavens. Our best example is the Temple Church, London, to which was added at a later period, a beautiful Early English Gothic extension. Other round churches are those of S. Sepulchre, Cambridge; S. Sepulchre, Northampton; Temple Balsall, Warwickshire, and of Little Maplestead, Essex, which last, although the smallest, is by no means the least interesting. It is attributed to the Hospitallers, an order founded about the year 1092, and introduced into England in the reign of Henry I. At Clerkenwell may still be seen the ancient gateway leading to their hospital. The order was suppressed in 1545. The church at Little Maplestead was built early in the 12th century, and in 1186 the adjoining manor was given by Juliana Doisnel to this order, which gift was confirmed by King John and Henry III. This church is thought to reproduce with more fidelity than the others the original church of the Holy Sepulchre.
These famous Norman round-chancelled churches have much in common with the old basilica form.
It must be pointed out that the arbitrary divisions into which architecture has been divided—Norman, Gothic, etc., are pure figures of the imagination, as by a series of easy transitions, one style became gradually merged into the next without any hard and fast dividing lines whatever. The periods during which one style became gradually blended into another are called the periods of transition.
[Side note: The Transition.]
Architecture being progressive, it was only by the gradual development of one style from another that the art was enabled to advance with social progress, the literature and other arts of the country. The transition from the Norman to the Early English style may be ascribed to a period somewhat earlier than the 12th century, when a great change in the construction of the arch began to manifest itself. Alone, however, the form of the arch is no real test, for many pure Norman works have pointed arches. The square abacus may be taken as the best test. In its incipient state the pointed arch exhibited a change of form only, whilst the accessories and details remained the same as before; and although this change gradually led to the Early Pointed style in a pure state, with mouldings and features altogether distinct from those of the Norman, and to the general disuse, in the 13th century, of the semi-circular arch, it was for a while so intermixed as, from its first appearance to the close of the 12th century, to constitute that state of transition called the semi-Norman.
THE EARLY ENGLISH STYLE.
The origin of what is loosely called Gothic architecture—which is generally considered to include the styles, with their transitions, from Early English to late Perpendicular, or Tudor-Gothic—is not free from obscurity, but it is certain that it began to be employed in ecclesiastical edifices about the time that the Goths settled in Italy, although all the available evidence goes to prove that the style originated and underwent its earliest developments in the north-west of Europe, and penetrated by slow degrees to the south and east.
England was somewhat later than France in introducing this style of architecture, our earliest purely Gothic building being Salisbury Cathedral, begun in 1220, although the choirs of Rievaulx and Fountains Abbey were commenced a few years earlier. The Early English style in its earliest developments is nowhere seen to better advantage than in Salisbury Cathedral, and in its very latest forms at Westminster Abbey, the period of time being chronologically measured by the reigns of Richard I., John and Henry III.
Most of our Gothic buildings were carried out under the supervision of a master-mason, but the most subordinate workman was left plenty of scope within reasonable limits for whatever artistic individuality he possessed, and the enrichments and ornaments of the Gothic era point out the noble aim, the delicate and graceful thought, the refined and exquisite taste expended upon every portion of their buildings by these Gothic masons.
[Side note: The Pointed Arch.]
One of the chief differences between pure Gothic and Norman architecture is in the use of the pointed form of arch, yet in the study of the early buildings of this date it is curious to notice how evenly the balance is held between the pointed and the round arch, and how at one time it was quite an open question whether the Gothic style would be distinguished by a round or a pointed arch. In Germany and Italy the round arch held its own and continued to be used right through the Middle Ages. In England, however, the pointed arch soon gained a decided victory over its rival. Many theories have been put forward concerning the introduction of the pointed arch, one amongst them being that it was the result of the intersection of two circular arches such as is very commonly found in late Norman work; another theory is the poetical idea that it was copied from an avenue of trees. Whether or not either of these theories holds good, it is quite certain that this form of arch was known in the East for centuries before it reached Europe, being found in cisterns and tombs in Egypt and Arabia dating from long before the Christian era.
It has also been suggested that it was introduced from the East by the Crusaders, in which case we should have found it making its first appearance in Hungary, Poland, Bohemia and Russia, but it so happens that these were the very last countries in Europe to adopt the pointed arch.
[Side note: The Transitional Period.]
The first form of the pointed arch, known as the Early English, was used from about 1180 to 1300, including part of the reigns of Henry II., Richard I., John, Henry III. and Edward I. "Nothing," says the Rev. J. M. Hutchinson, "could be more striking than the change from Norman to Early English. The two styles were the complete opposites of each other; the round arch was replaced by the pointed, often by the acute, lancet; the massive piers by graceful clustered shafts; the grotesque and rudely-sculptured capitals by foliage of the most exquisite character; and the heavy cylindrical mouldings by bands of deeply undercut members."
Gothic architecture differs from all previous forms in the economical use of material, and the small size of the stones used. Whereas in both Roman and Norman buildings the arrangement of the materials depended upon their strength in masses, the Gothic masons employed stones of small size in the construction of edifices of equal strength and of far greater magnificence; while in constructive properties the Gothic style was a great advance on anything that had gone before, as the buildings in this style did not depend for their stability on the vertical pressure of columns, but on the correct adjustment of the bearings and thrusts of different arches operating in various directions. Owing to the fact, then, that each portion of a Gothic Church helps to support something besides itself, it is obvious that such buildings could be erected with a far smaller quantity of material than was previously necessary. The various little shafts or columns are so disposed as to distribute the weight of the superstructure and thus relieve the greater columns or piers of some portion of the superincumbent weight; the aisles help to support the nave; the walls of the side chapels act as abutments against the walls of the aisles, while the towers are generally placed so as to resist the accumulated thrust of all the arches along the sides of the nave.
The enrichments and little ornaments attached to mouldings, and particularly those placed in the hollows, are most characteristic of the various styles of Gothic architecture. The zig-zag is peculiar to the Norman, the nail head to the Transitional or semi-Norman, and the dog tooth to the Early English.
[Side note: Early English Ornament.]
This last ornament represents a flower, looking like four sweet almonds arranged pyramidically, and there is no other ornament so distinctive of this period. Early English foliage is known by reason of the stalks always being shown as growing upwards from the lower ring of the capital, called the astrigal. These stalks are generally grouped together and curve forward in a very graceful manner. The plants mostly represented are the wild parsley, seakale and celery, and this foliage, called stiff-leaved foliage, is found at no other period than the end of the 12th century.
[Side note: Early English Mouldings.]
Early English mouldings are very complicated and yet very beautiful, and consist of beads, keel and scroll patterns, separated by deep hollows giving a rich effect of light and shade round the arch. These deeply-cut hollows are also a distinctive mark of the style.
[Side note: Early English Windows.]
The earliest windows of this period are long and narrow, with acutely pointed heads, the exterior angle being merely chamfered and the interior widely splayed. Somewhat later the introduction of tracery gave a highly beautiful appearance to the windows and from the character of this feature the date of the window can be fairly accurately determined. Where the tracery is formed by ornamental apertures pierced through a plate of stone, it is called plate tracery, and is certain to be of not later date than the earlier part of the 13th century. If it is bar tracery, with the bars forming plain circles, the work is also Early English, but if, on the other hand, the bars form other shapes filled in with patterns, or consisting of a single trefoil or quatrefoil, they are of later date.
The traceried window originated from the placing of a two-light narrow lancet window under one dripstone having a plain head, the introduction of tracery between the heads of the lancets and the dripstone becoming necessary for beauty and lightness of the form (see page 47).
[Side note: Early English Porches.]
Early English porches project much further from the main walls than do the Norman doorways, and in large and important buildings they frequently have a room above. The gables are usually bold and high pitched, and the interiors quite as rich in design as are the exteriors.
[Side note: Early English Doorways.]
The doorways of this period are usually pointed, though occasionally they have a semi-circular head. The mouldings are boldly cut and often enriched with dog tooth ornament. The jambs frequently contain a shaft or shafts with plain or foliated capitals (see page 51).
[Side note: Early English Capitals and Piers.]
Early English capitals are usually bell-shaped, and are, in the smaller examples, quite devoid of ornament, with the exception of a necking and one or two mouldings round the abacus. The bell is generally deeply undercut, which, as in the mouldings, is a strong characteristic of the style. The nail head and dog tooth ornaments sometimes appear in the hollows between the mouldings. In the large examples the bell is covered with foliage, which, springing direct from the necking, curls over most gracefully beneath the abacus. In clustered piers the capitals follow the form of the pier, and they also adopt the same form in the single shaft, with the exception that multiangular shafts have often circular capitals. The base consists of a series of mouldings and frequently stands upon a double or single plinth, which in the earlier examples is square, but in later examples assumes the form of the base, and is either circular or polygonal. At Stone church, Kent, is a good example of an Early English capital, decorated with stiff-leaved foliage, and the dog tooth ornament, which in this case is seen between the mouldings of the arch, and is of a perforated character.
[Side note: Early English Buttresses.]
The buttresses (see page 17) of this period are, as a rule, simple in form, and in small churches consist of two or more stages, each set-off or division being sloped at the top to carry off the rain. In larger buildings the buttress generally finishes with a triangular head or gable, and is frequently carried above the parapet, except where stone vaulting is used, in which case it is covered with a pinnacle either plain or ornamented. The edges are often chamfered or the angles ornamented with slender shafts. A niche to contain a statue is occasionally sunk in the face of the buttress, but this feature is more common in the next or Decorated period, although the change from one period to another was so gradual that the exact date of a niched buttress would be difficult to determine were there no other features to guide us.
Flying buttresses were first introduced at this period, and are common in all large buildings with vaulted roofs. They are generally of simple design, with a plain capping and archivolt, and they spring from the wall buttress to the clerestory (see page 17).
THE DECORATED STYLE.
The best examples of Gothic architecture may be said to have been erected between the years 1180 and 1300, and from the latter year many writers date the commencement of its decline. In England we owe nearly the whole of such magnificent buildings as the cathedrals of Lincoln, Salisbury, Worcester, and the abbey of Westminster to the 13th century, and there is scarcely a cathedral or abbey that does not owe some beautiful portion of its structure to the builders of the same period, the transepts and lady chapel of Hereford Cathedral, the eastern transepts of Durham, the nave and transepts of Wells, the transepts of York, the choir presbytery, central and eastern transepts of Rochester, the eastern portion of the choir of Ely, the west front of Peterborough, the choir of Southwell, the nave and transepts of Lichfield, and the choir of S. David's being a few of our most characteristic examples of this period. The style which followed the Early English is known as the Geometric or Early Decorated style, and it embraces roughly the end of the 13th century and the first twenty or thirty years of the 14th century, and continued in its later or Curvilinear form to near the end of that century. Perhaps the most perfect example of the Geometric style in the world is the cathedral church at Amiens, which is usually called the mother church of this style, and although she has many daughters, none of them can be said to equal their parent in beauty.
In England the most perfect examples are not to be looked for in cathedrals and large churches, but in their chapels, and the most superb specimen we possessed, S. Stephen's Chapel, Westminster, has been destroyed within comparatively recent years. Those left to us include the chapel of the palace of the bishops of Ely, in Ely Place, Holborn, now the Roman Catholic Church of S. Etheldreda, a building almost identical in plan with the vanished chapel of S. Stephen. Trinity Church, Ely, once Our Lady's Chapel, and Prior Crawden's Chapel, in the same city, are lovely examples of the latest development of the Curvilinear style, while the former is considered the most highly-wrought building in England. Belonging to this period, also, is the choir of Merton College Chapel, Oxford, and Luton Church.
The Decorated style may be divided as regards its windows into two classes—Geometric and Curvilinear. The first has tracery evolved entirely from the circle. The Curvilinear style is distinguished by traceries formed by curved and flowing lines. See pages 15 and 59.
[Side note: Decorated Windows.]
Decorated windows are usually large and contain from two to seven lights, although one sometimes finds a window with a single light, but of less elongated form than those of the Early English period.
As we have seen in a previous chapter, tracery originated from the necessity of piercing that portion of the wall which was left vacant when two lights were gathered under a single arched dripstone, and therefore elementary tracery consisted merely of apertures in a flat surface. As the possibilities of this ornamental feature became better understood, the mullions were recessed from the face of the wall and the fine effect thus produced was, as the art progressed, much enhanced by the introduction of various orders of mullions, and by recessing certain portions of the tracery from the face of the mullions and their corresponding bars. The geometrical tracery, as we have seen, consists of various combinations of the circle, as the trefoil, based on the triangle, the quatrefoil on the square, the cinquefoil on the pentagon, etc.
In Curvilinear windows the tracery, although based on the same forms and figures, is yet so blended into an intricate pattern that each figure does not stand out with the same individuality as in the Geometric. Among our most beautiful Geometric windows are those of the Lady Chapel at Exeter, Ely Chapel, and Merton Chapel, Oxford, and of the Curvilinear our best example is probably the east window of Carlisle Cathedral.
It must be noted that beautiful as are Curvilinear windows, yet they mark a certain decadence in Gothic architecture, in that it is an irrational treatment of stone, and conveys the idea that the material was bent and not cut into the required shape, it being a well-established canon in art that when strength is sacrificed to mere elegance it marks a decline in that art.
[Side note: Decorated Capitals and Piers.]
Decorated capitals as a rule follow the contour of the pier in clustered columns, and are either bell-shaped or octagonal. They are frequently only moulded, thus presenting rounds, ogees and hollows, on which the prevailing ornaments of the period, the ball and the square flower, are set. The foliated sculpture is most exquisite, and is gracefully wreathed around the bell, instead of rising from the astrigal or upper member of the capital, as in the earlier style.
Almost every variety of leaf and flower is represented, the oak, the vine and the rose being perhaps the most common, but the leaves of the maple, hazel, ivy and strawberry are all so beautifully rendered as to evidence their having been directly studied from nature. Plucked flowers too, are not uncommon, and sometimes the little stalks and foliage are accompanied by birds, lizards, squirrels and other creatures. The columns of this period are much more elaborate than those of the Early English style, and in plan have curved profiles with moulded members between the shafts. These mouldings are very varied, but the hollows not being so deeply undercut, the general effect is broader and less liney than in the Early English; while the Decorated arches are less sharply pointed than in the previous style.
[Side note: Decorated Doorways.]
The doorways of this style possess much the same features as the last, but the mouldings, jamb shafts, etc., are more slender, and generally of finer proportions, the hollows being often filled with the ball flower and square flower instead of the dog tooth. Sometimes the doorways have no pillars, being entirely composed of mouldings which are continuous with those in the architrave. The large single doorways of this period are nearly as large as the double ones of Early English date, and on the sides small buttresses or niches are sometimes placed, and often one finds a series of niches carried up like a hollow moulding, and filled with figures. The figures of this period are not so good as in the previous style, the heads seem too large for the bodies, and in the female figures the breasts are represented as quite flat. Where there are no figures double foliated tracery is often found hanging from one of the outer mouldings, giving an effect of great richness.
[Side note: Decorated Buttresses.]
The buttresses (see page 17) in the Decorated style are nearly always worked in stages, and a niche frequently figures on the face of the buttress. Crocketed canopies and other carved decorations are common, and in large buildings they usually terminate in pinnacles, which are sometimes of open work.
A Gothic building attains its effect by the combination of numerous parts, each possessing an individual character of its own. In its loftiness, graceful outlines, and rich effect of light and shade, it speaks of noble aspirations, of freedom, of intellectual thought, of talent and skill, all generously given for a high purpose, the foundation of which was a strong religious enthusiasm, combined with an intense love of the work itself.
[Side note: Characteristics of Gothic Architecture.]
Having now arrived at the point where Gothic architecture reached its climax, we may briefly sum up its leading characteristics. It is essentially pointed or vertical; its details are mostly geometrical in its window traceries, clusters of shafts and bases, but this geometric quality is only one of construction and form and not of its inner spirit and motive, for plants copied directly from nature were used in beautiful profusion.
If we compare a large Gothic church with a comparatively small one, we shall find the columns, windows, ornaments of the former are not so very much larger than those of the latter, but that there are double or three times the number of them. This is not the case in a classical building, where each feature has to be enlarged in proportion to the size of the building. It is the constant sub-division of a Gothic Church which adds so to its apparent size.
Ornamentally, the Gothic is the geometrical and pointed elements repeated to their utmost and afterwards combined with the elaboration of natural objects, plants, flowers, etc., growing in the neighbourhood of the work. This is a great feature, but the most striking point in all good Gothic work is the wonderful elaboration of geometric tracery, vesicas, trefoils, quatrefoils and an immense variety of other ornament.
In regard to the sizes of our great churches it may be of interest to note that our longest English cathedral is Winchester. York and Lincoln, although not so long as Winchester, are in superficial area very much larger. The largest English church of a non-cathedral rank is Westminster Abbey, which has, moreover, the distinction of being the loftiest internally; the nave being 104 ft. in height. The largest parish church is that of S. Nicholas, Great Yarmouth, which exceeds in superficial area no fewer than eight of our cathedrals.
THE PERPENDICULAR STYLE.
Towards the close of the XIVth century a great change came over English Gothic architecture, a change which was to a certain extent a return to classical ideas. The curvilinear tracery gave place to a rigid vertical and horizontal form, with the result that windows and panels instead of being filled with curved bars of stone, were sub-divided by straight perpendicular bars and transoms or cross-bars.
This style of architecture is popularly known as Perpendicular, but as the horizontal lines are quite as distinct a feature as are the vertical, it would perhaps be more correct to speak of it as Rectilinear. This change in architectural form made its appearance towards the close of the XIVth century, although it was by no means generally introduced at that period, for the old methods and styles were carried on side by side with the new for many years. For example, the eastern end of the choir of York Minster (1361-99) possesses a window the traceries of which contain both curvilinear and rectilinear lines, while Shottesbrook Church in Berkshire (1387), and Wimmington Church, Bedfordshire (1391) are examples of village churches neither of which has any feature of the Perpendicular style.
In its earlier stages the Perpendicular style presented an effect at once good and bold; the mouldings, though not equal to the best of the Decorated style, were well defined, the enrichments effective, and the details delicate without extravagant minuteness. Subsequently the style underwent a gradual debasement; the arches became depressed; the mouldings impoverished, the details crowded and coarsely executed, and the whole style became wanting in the chaste and elegant effects for which the Decorated stands unapproached and unapproachable. The flowing contours and curved lines of the previous style now gave place in the windows to mullions running straight up from the bottom to the top, and crossed by transoms. As the arch became more and more depressed the mouldings became shallower and less effective. In early buildings of this period the drop arch is very prevalent, but as the period advanced a form known as the Tudor arch began to be used. It is an arch in which, as a rule, the centres of the upper portion lie immediately below those of the lower, but this is not always the case. Sometimes the whole of the upper portion uniting the arcs of the ends is struck from one centre, in which case the arch becomes a three-centred one, being, in fact, half an ellipse. Towards the close of the style the curvature of the upper portion is so slight that it can hardly be distinguished from a straight line, and as the debasement progressed it became really straight. Ogee arches are also found at this period, and foiled arches are very frequent. When the Tudor arch was not used, we generally find the low drop arch, these three last being mostly used for small openings.
The peculiar characteristics of the windows—the perpendicular mullions and horizontal transoms—we have already alluded to.
[Side note: Perpendicular Windows.]
The window heads, instead of being filled with flowing tracery, have slender mullions running from the heads of the lights between each mullion, and these again have smaller transoms, until the whole surface of the window becomes divided into a series of panels, the heads of which being arched, are trefoiled or cinquefoiled. In the later windows the transoms at the top are often furnished with a small ornamental battlement, causing the mullions to present a concave outline.
The plans of churches in this style differ from all others in that they are more spacious, the columns more slender and wider apart, the windows much larger, and the walls loftier and thinner. Panelling is used most abundantly on walls, both internally and externally, and also on vaulting, while some buildings, as Henry the Seventh's Chapel at Westminster, are almost entirely covered with it. Fan tracery vaulting, a feature peculiar to this style, is almost invariably covered with panelling.
The mouldings of this period are essentially different from those which preceded them. As a general rule they are cut on a slanting or chamfer plane, the groups of mouldings being separated by a shallow oval-shaped hollow, entirely different from those of the Decorated period.
[Side note: Perpendicular Doorways.]
The doorways of the early portion of this period had two-centred arches, but the characteristic form is the four-centred, enclosed in a square head, formed by the outer mouldings with a hood mould of the same shape, the spandrels being filled with quatrefoils, roses, shields, etc.
[Side note: Perpendicular Capitals.]
Perpendicular capitals are either circular or octagonal, but the necking is usually of the former shape, and the upper members of the abacus of the latter form. The bell portion is mostly plain, but is often enriched with foliage of a very conventional character, shallow and formal, without either the freedom or the boldness of the Early English, or the exquisite grace of the Decorated periods. A distinguishing feature in the ornamentation of this period is that called panel-tracery, with which the walls and vaulted ceilings are covered. The patterns are found in a variety of forms, as circles, squares, quatrefoils, etc.
[Side note: Fan Vaulting.]
The rich vaulting called fan vaulting previously alluded to, is composed of pendant curved semi-cones, covered with foliated panel-work, which bears some resemblance to a fan spread open.
[Side note: Perpendicular Ornament.]
Another very characteristic ornament is the Tudor flower. It is formed by a series of flat leaves placed upright against the stalk. It was much used in late buildings as a crest or ornamental finishing to cornices, etc., to which it gave an embattled appearance. Cornices and brackets were frequently ornamented with busts of winged angels called angel-brackets, and angel-corbels. The portcullis and the Tudor rose—both badges of the house of Tudor—also figure prominently among the ornaments of the period. The crockets for the most part partake of the squareness which pervades all the foliage of this style. See page 64.
[Side note: Perpendicular Buttresses.]
The buttresses are very similar to those preceding them in their plainer forms, but, in richer examples the faces are covered with panel work and are finished with square pinnacles sometimes set diagonally and terminated with a crocketed spire, or finished with an animal or other ornament. Parapets with square battlements are very common at this period, but they too are frequently panelled or pierced with tracery, or with trefoils or quatrefoils inserted in square, circular or triangular compartments.
[Side note: Perpendicular Roofs.]
The roofs of this period, both in ecclesiastical and secular buildings, are very magnificent, and have the whole of the framing exposed to view; many of them are of high pitch, the spaces between the timbers being filled with tracery, and the beams arched, moulded and ornamented in various ways; and frequently pendants, figures of angels, and other carvings are introduced. The flatter roofs are sometimes lined with boards and divided into panels by ribs, or have the timbers open, and all enriched with mouldings and carvings, as at Cirencester church, Gloucestershire.
The gradual decline of the Gothic style is very evident in late Perpendicular churches, especially in those erected at the beginning of the XVIth century. The elements of Gothic architecture became much degraded and led to that mixture of features called the Debased Gothic in which every real principle of art and of beauty was lost.
The chief characteristics, then, of the Perpendicular style are the vertical mullions, and the general flattening of arches, mouldings and carvings. Should there be no other guide, a Perpendicular church carries its style and period stamped upon its carvings. The plants represented are, almost without exception, the vine with or without grapes, and the oak with or without acorns. The leaves are generally full blown and crumpled. The earliest building showing the Perpendicular style is the beautiful little priory church of Edington, in Wilts, erected by William Edington, Bishop of Winchester. The same style, but more fully developed, is seen in the nave of Winchester Cathedral, at New College, Oxford, and at Winchester College.
It is generally admitted that the Perpendicular style was, to a certain extent, a return to classical ideas, for Gothic architecture in its aspiring grace and feeling for motion was becoming a little unsteady in construction, and although the movement was started by Bishop Edington, it was left to William of Wykeham to save our English Gothic architecture from developing into the flamboyant style so characteristic of the late Gothic buildings of France and Germany.
It is little less than astounding that William of Wykeham, at once Prime Minister, diplomatist, scholar and energetic churchman, should have found time to introduce such far-reaching reforms into the art of building, and whatever his fame may be in other directions he will always be remembered by posterity as one of the most remarkable geniuses of the Middle Ages, a man of giant mind and immense physical energy, who carried into all his work a large and dignified character, stamping it with the unmistakable personality of a master mind.
[Side note: Perpendicular Towers.]
As builders and designers of church towers the masons of the Perpendicular era have never been approached, and all our finest English towers are of this style and period.
Considerations of space will only allow a few of these towers to be mentioned, but among the finest are those at Boston, Lincolnshire; Wrexham, Denbighshire; Wymondham, Heigham and S. Clement's in Norfolk; Southwold Church in Suffolk; Manchester Cathedral, S. Nicholas' Church, Newcastle, and S. Mary's Church, Taunton. Of Perpendicular date and style, also, are the great lantern towers of Worcester, Bristol, Gloucester, York and Durham Cathedrals, in addition to the fine bell-tower of Evesham Abbey.
[Side note: Perpendicular Spires.]
The spire, although less commonly used than formerly, was by no means abandoned, and beautiful examples of Perpendicular spires are those at S. Michael's, Coventry, and Rotherham Church, Yorkshire. Although nearly all our cathedrals have some portion of their fabric in the Perpendicular style, chantries, chapels, cloisters, vaulting, screens, etc., it was in our parochial churches that Perpendicular architecture reached its highest and finest development. Just as the XIIIth century was the great age for cathedral building, so the latter end of the XIVth and earlier half of the XVth centuries was the period to which we owe some of the most beautiful of our parish churches, as S. Michael's, Coventry (fin. 1395); S. Nicholas, Lynn (fin. 1400); Manchester Cathedral (formerly a collegiate church), (1422); Fotheringay Church, Northants (fin. 1435); Southwold Church, Suffolk (1440), and S. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol (about 1442). A little later came, among others, Wakefield Church, Yorkshire (1470), S. Stephen's, Bristol (1470), S. Mary's, Oxford, and its namesake at Cambridge (both in 1478) and Long Melford Church, Suffolk (1481).
Apart from the actual buildings the Perpendicular architects, masons and sculptors have left us some beautiful work in the form of timber roofs, screens, stalls and seats. Among the more notable roofs of this period are those at S. Peter's, S. Andrew's and S. Mary's, Norwich, the one at Morton Church in Somerset, those at Saffron Walden and Thaxted, Essex, and a particularly fine one at S. David's Cathedral in Wales. Among the remarkable domestic roofs in this style are those at Westminster Hall and Eltham Palace.
THE RENAISSANCE AND LATER.
So far we have been considering Gothic churches, but we now come to the time when, from a variety of causes, the Italian architects, among them Palladio and Vitruvius, began to revive classical architecture, a movement which gradually spread over other parts of Europe.
[Side note: The Classic Revival.]
The various causes which led to this apparently retrograde movement are still involved in considerable obscurity. The commercial prosperity of the age produced a class who travelled abroad and cultivated the fine arts, with the result that they desired to see erected in England buildings such as they had seen in Rome, Florence, Genoa and Padua. It is generally admitted that the ramifications of Gothic architecture had reached their utmost limit, and the style was getting out of hand, as is seen by the flamboyant buildings on the continent. The revival of classical literature in western Europe gave an impetus to the movement which was largely intended to enfold art within the shelter of an enlightened taste, and protect it from the licence of unordered enthusiasm. How far it succeeded is not a question that can be discussed at length here, but, however good their intentions may have been, the architects used little discrimination in the selection of buildings which were to serve as models for Christian churches, and although subsequently considerable improvements were made, yet, most of the defects in the pagan buildings of the ancients were retained in such as were intended to be utilized for Christian worship, and even considered purely as exercises in architecture it was not until the more chaste remains of antiquity began to be studied that the spirit and harmony of the good examples were attained. A greater contrast than the methods employed by the Gothic mason and the Renaissance architect could not well be imagined. The former shaped his material with his own hands; the foster mother of his art was tradition and its cradle the craftsman's bench; whereas the latter, with no builder's training, worked out his flawless and precise plans in the exotic atmosphere of the office and the study. The practice of making working drawings for every detail of the building was the cause of the decline of ornamental sculpture, with the result that all life and growth in the building ceased. Some authorities are very severe on the Renaissance movement. Dr. Fergusson, in his "Modern Styles of Architecture," says: "During the Gothic era the art of building was evolved by the simple exercise of man's reason, with the result that the work of this period is the instinctive natural growth of man's mind. The buildings, on the other hand, which were designed in the imitative styles, and produced on a totally different principle, present us with an entirely different result, and one which frequently degrades architecture from its high position of a quasi-natural production to that of a mere imitative art."