Medieval Architectural Periods as shown in the Worcester Cathedral Visitor’s Guide Part 2

The overall period covered in this summary is from the commencement of Saint Wulfstan’s cathedral in 1084, and the rebuilding work at the time of Bishop Wakefield, 1375-1394.

Until the early nineteenth century, the naming of periods, or a generally accepted classification of their dates, was haphazard. Antiquarian curiosity brought about studying the physical history of church buildings in the twelfth century, but it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that a more archaeological detailed study of buildings and their structure became widespread.

 

Thomas Rickman did some work for Worcester Cathedral. These are photographs of a letter that he wrote on 13th January 1832. Both images copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

 

It was, however, the publication in 1817 by the architect Thomas Rickman of “An attempt to discriminate the styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation” that our present nomenclature was gradually adopted. The five principal styles of medieval architecture illustrated in the Worcester Cathedral guide are:

Romanesque – more commonly called Norman, 1050-1150

 

The crypt ceiling, an example of Romanesque architecture. Photograph by Mr Christopher Guy, Worcester Cathedral Archaeologist. Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

 

 

Transitional Norman (from Norman to Gothic), 1150-1200

 

The west end triforium, an example of Transitional Norman architecture. Photograph by Mr Christopher Guy, Worcester Cathedral Archaeologist. Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

 

 

Early English, 1150-1250

Decorated, 1250-1350

Perpendicular, 1350-1450

 

The south side of the nave, an example of Perpendicular architecture. Photograph by Mr Christopher Guy, Worcester Cathedral Archaeologist. Reproduced by permission of the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)

 

 

It should be noted that the above dates are a general guide and that some opinions can be more specific but all dates can overlap or be determined with expertise by other factors.

The three styles, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular come within the overall description of Gothic, but Perpendicular was created in England and is therefore English Gothic.

All Gothic essentials were present in England well before the middle of the twelfth century, for example in Durham Cathedral. It should also be noted that there were varieties within the Decorative style, for example curvilinear and geometric.

There was, however, a word “Gothick” (Neo-Gothick) – a derogatory term used to describe the excesses of romantic medievalism in the late eighteenth century by those wishing to revive Greek classical styles.

A lifetime’s study – enjoy!

 

Ian Clargo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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