Worcester Cathedral Nave – The rebuilding of the Worcester bays in the 12th Century

This may be the time to give the two western bays of the nave some closer attention as to the importance of their construction in the development of Gothic architecture in England. With our great west window now being restored, its beauty will not distract us from this study.


Photograph by Ian Clargo

Wulfstan’s Cathedral was built between 1084 and c.1100, which was within the Norman period of building (1050-1150). From 1150- 1200 various new developments began to change the Norman style, in particular the development of the pointed arch, which became known as Gothic. It was this new period that was called Transitional Norman (Norman to Gothic). It is therefore the rebuilding of the two western bays that come within the Transitional period.

We recognise in these bays Norman features, round arches, chevron moulding, paternae, also pointed blind arches, thin singular and multiple shafts, decorative capitals, trumpet shape, stiff leaf. This mixture of quite distinctive features of building indicate a transition; in this case an introduction into the main Romanesque or Norman building style of the Cathedral of a new development from France, now known as Gothic.


Photograph Ian Clargo

The main constructional change was, however, at the first level of a bay, which was now known as a triforium. In the original Norman construction this area was known as a gallery or tribune, an open space that extended from the wall of the nave to the outer wall of the building, which had a small opening, often circular. This wall was extended upwards, providing support for a roof of low elevation and finishing under the clerestory opening of the nave wall. The gallery in each bay provided open space and access for the length of the nave.

The introduction of this new architectural development was known as Gothic from Romanesque and provides us with a fascinating study in the details of this work, some of which had come from earlier monastic establishments in the Severn Valley and further west.

Ian Clargo

The following are recommended reading:

Worcester Cathedral- A Short History by Philip Barker, Christopher Romain and Christopher Guy, published by Logaston Press in association with Chris Romain Architecture 2007 (from the Cathedral Bookshop).

Worcester Cathedral – An Architectural History by Ute Engel, published by Phillimore & Co. Ltd. Chichester, West Sussex 2007

Cathedrals of England and Wales by John Harvey, published by B. T. Batsford Ltd, London 1974




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