The Splendor of English Gothic Architecture

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This book explains and celebrates the richness of Englishchurches and cathedrals, which have a major place inmedieval architecture. The English Gothic style developedsomewhat later than in France, but rapidly developed itsown architectural and ornamental codes. The author, John Shannon Hendrix, classifies English Gothic architecture in four principal stages: the early English Gothic, the decorated, the curvilinear, and the perpendicular Gothic. Several photographs of these architectural testimonies allow us to understand the whole originality of Britain during the Gothic era: in Canterbury, Wells, Lincoln, York, and Salisbury. The English Gothic architecture is a poetic one, speaking both to the senses and spirit.
churches and cathedrals, which have a major place in medieval architecture. The English Gothic style developed somewhat later than in France, but rapidly developed its own architectural and ornamental codes. The author, John Shannon Hendrix, classifies English Gothic architecture in four principal stages: the early English Gothic, the decorated, the curvilinear, and the perpendicular Gothic. Several photographs of these architectural testimonies allow us to understand the whole originality of Britain during the Gothic era: in Canterbury, Wells, Lincoln, York, and Salisbury. The English Gothic architecture is a poetic one, speaking both to the senses and spirit.

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ISBN: 978-1-78310-794-0John Shannon Hendrix



The Splendour
o f
English Gothic Architecture





C o n t e n t s


Introduction
Early English
Decorated
Curvilinear
Perpendicular
Acknowledgements
Bibliography
IndexNave vault, 1475-1490. Sherborne Abbey.


I n t r o d u c t i o n


The purpose of this book is to examine and celebrate the richness of English Gothic architecture, in
its use of materials, light, space, pattern, texture, and colour. Cathedrals and churches in England are
among the most beautiful buildings in the world; they display less material splendour, but a more
spiritual or experiential splendour. The experience of many of the buildings is unparalleled: being in
the buildings, it is possible to find a sense of fulfillment through pleasure in the senses, intellectual
stimulation in the complex structures and patterns, and the spirituality to which the spaces are
devoted. The buildings make possible an architectural experience which is unique, and have a richness
beyond most buildings, especially modern buildings. Architecture is closer to reaching its potential in
these buildings than in most others: its potential to create a fulfilling experience in which human
identity is understood in relation to nature and the divine. The architecture speaks, through its
materials, spaces, structures, textures, and patterns, to both the senses and intellect; it is among the
most poetic of all architecture, and is among the closest of all buildings which form art while still
fulfilling the aspirations of architecture. The hope of this book is for the details of the buildings to be
seen together as a whole, as a myriad of variations on a theme, which, taken together, represent an
extraordinary architectural experience.
The development of English Gothic architecture throughout the Middle Ages, from 1180 to 1540,
is relatively homogeneous and consistent, contributing to the same campaign, the same particular use
of vocabulary elements, with surprising and innovative variations, and the same expressive intentions.
Consistently throughout the development of English Gothic architecture, there is an intention in the
architecture to express a poetic idea through the juxtaposition of non-structural geometries with the
structural geometries of the architecture. Its characteristic “handwriting”, the linear networks, surface
patterns, geometrical articulations, and spatial interpenetrations contribute to the creation of an
architecture in which form contradicts function, resulting in a poetic expression. In order for
architecture to be art, its form must contradict its function, as architecture, unlike other arts, can
never be free and independent from its function. The cathedrals and churches of English Gothic
architecture contribute to an expression of a coherent idea, representing the theology, philosophy, and
epistemology (Scholasticism) of medieval England. The buildings are intended as catechisms, as
three-dimensional models for didactic purposes, to represent and communicate basic ideas about
man, God, and being to everyone. Such concepts of the structure of the universe, being, and intellect
permeated the culture of medieval England, and from 1180 to 1540 contributed to a homogeneous
cultural expression, particularly in the architecture of the cathedral. Cathedral architecture developed
as a response to the zeitgeist of the era; there was little concept of individual artistic expression or
creativity. The result is a lasting representation, in built form, of the theology, philosophy, and
epistemology of a civilisation in the Middle Ages in England.
thThe architecture is presented chronologically, beginning at the end of the 12 century and
thculminating at the beginning of the 16 century. The chronological development is divided into
periods, periods which were established by Thomas Rickman in the Attempt to Discriminate the Style
of Architecture in England in 1815. The periods are Early English (1180-1250), Early Decorated
(1250-1290), Decorated or Curvilinear (1290-1380), and Perpendicular (1380-1540). The names
given to the periods by Rickman are not exhaustive or completely accurate in relation to the
architecture of the periods, but they suffice to provide the simplest and most accepted way of naming
the periods.John Constable, Salisbury Cathedral
from the Bishop’s Ground (detail), 1823. Oil on canvas,
87.6 x 111.8 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.Master of Girart de Roussillon,
thBuilding Site, second half of the 15 century.
Page from the illuminated manuscript Girart de Roussillon:
chanson de geste. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.thNave, 1093-mid-12 century. Durham Cathedral.


The chapter “Early English” presents architectural developments at Canterbury, Wells, Lincoln,
Winchester, Ely, Beverley, Chester, York, Salisbury, Worcester, Southwell, and Gloucester.
Canterbury Cathedral is the first English Gothic cathedral, where the work of William of Sens and
William the Englishman marks a departure from Norman or Romanesque precedents, where forms
and approaches are invented which would be influential throughout the development of English
Gothic architecture. The first phase of building at Wells, including the nave, was contemporary with
the first phase of building at Lincoln, and the two buildings represent different departures from the
architecture at Canterbury, but each equally and distinctively defining English Gothic architecture,
Wells more in its homogeneity and Lincoln more in its syncretism. The east and west transepts at
Lincoln show the influence of Canterbury in an experimental approach to spatial relationships and a
variety of materials. The rose windows in the west transept, along with the Dean’s Eye and Bishop’s
Eye, are the first great examples of stained glass in an English Gothic cathedral. Ely Cathedral was the
first to exhibit the influence of Lincoln, visible in the detailing of the west front and the Galilee
Porch, in particular the overlapping double arcading. The eastern part of Winchester Cathedral, the
thLady Chapel, shows the influence of Lincoln in the early 13 century. The overlapping double arcade
occurs at Beverley Minster, along with Purbeck shafts and openwork arcading, in a purification of the
intentions at Lincoln. The elevations of the south transept of York Minster, begun around 1220, are
similar to Lincoln and Beverley, as are the elevations of the retrochoir of Worcester Cathedral, built
in the 1220s; the vault of Worcester retrochoir is a tierceron vault derived from Lincoln. The motifs
of the retrochoir elevations are continued into the choir at Worcester.
The architects of Salisbury Cathedral, Elias of Dereham and Nicholas of Ely, incorporated Lincoln
thmotifs into the new design in the 13 century, combining them with themes from Wells. The choir of
Southwell Minster is based on the Lincoln, or Early English, vocabulary. The presbytery of Ely
Cathedral was built under Bishop Hugh of Northwold, a friend of Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of
Lincoln. The presbytery is seen as an intermediary in the development from the Lincoln nave, by
Alexander the Mason, to the Lincoln Angel Choir, by Simon Thirsk. The vault of the Ely presbytery is
a copy of the Lincoln nave vault. It is possible that the vault of St Hugh’s Choir at Lincoln, the “crazy
vault”, as it is called, was rebuilt in the 1240s, after the collapse of the tower in 1237 or 1239. The
vaulting, probably from an earlier design, perhaps by Geoffrey de Noyers, introduced the ridge pole,
tierceron (“third rib”, or non-structural rib), and triradial vault (three ribs converging at a boss on the
ridge pole), in the only major asymmetrical vaulting in a Gothic cathedral. The vaulting of the nave at
Lincoln and the chapter house introduce new elements into the vocabulary of English Gothic
architecture. The nave vault of Gloucester Cathedral, completed around 1242, is a Lincoln-style
tierceron vault built on a Norman arcade.
The chapter on the Decorated period includes details of the architecture at Wells, Lincoln,
Salisbury, York, and Southwell. The Decorated period introduces variations to the Early English
thmotifs. In the mid-13 century, similar diapering or reticulation appears at Lincoln, Westminster
Abbey, and Hereford Cathedral, displaying the “handwriting” of linear patterns. The nave of
Westminster Abbey, begun in 1253, combines Lincoln and French influences, with a Lincoln-style
tierceron vault. The stairwell to the chapter house at Wells, begun in 1255, contains elements of the
Lincoln vocabulary – Purbeck shafts, ridge pole, transverse ribs. The Angel Choir of Lincoln, begun
in 1256 by Simon Thirsk or Richard of Stowe, combines the Lincoln nave with the Ely presbytery,
with an increased amount of architectural and sculptural detailing, as well as arcading and bar tracery
which creates a transparency that can be seen as both a physical transparency and a conceptual or
phenomenal transparency, between human intellect and divine intellect. The nave of Salisbury
Cathedral contrasts a simple vault with highly-articulated arcades. The chapter house of Salisbury
Cathedral, constructed between 1263 and 1279, is based on the model of the Lincoln chapter house,
with sixteen ribs forming a cone at the centre blooming into the vault.Nave, facing east, 1235-1245. Lincoln Cathedral.


The architecture of the chapter house at York Minster, between 1275 and 1290, represents
significant departures from the Early English style. It includes overhanging canopies and foliate
corbels which can be seen as “pendants”, a motif developed later in the Perpendicular period. The
vault of the chapter house at York is a centralised tierceron and lierne vault (the lierne is a segment of
a non-structural rib). At Exeter Cathedral, the vault of the Lady Chapel shows the influence of
Lincoln. The Bishop of Exeter at the time, Bishop Quivil, was present at Lincoln Cathedral in 1280
for the consecration of the Angel Choir. The profusion of tiercerons in the vaulting at Exeter suggest
the fan vault to come. Vaulting in the retrochoir aisle at Exeter presents a syncopated composition
which refers back to vaulting at Canterbury and Lincoln. It is possible that masons at Exeter also
worked at Lincoln. The carvings in the chapter house at Southwell Minster, celebrated by Nikolaus
Pevsner as the “leaves of Southwell”, present one of the most complete fusions of the human being
and nature, or geometry and organic forms, to be found in architecture. The vault of the chapter house
is a centralised lierne star vault.
The next chapter, “Curvilinear”, examines architectural details at Southwell, Exeter, York, Wells,
Norwich, Bristol, Gloucester, Tewkesbury Abbey, Ely, St Mary Redcliffe, Beverley, Ottery St Mary,
thChester, and Worcester. The Curvilinear period begins in the last decade of the 13 century. The
vault of St Mary Undercroft of St Stephen’s Chapel in Westminster Palace, designed by Michael or
Thomas of Canterbury, established an important precedent for the development of lierne vaulting, a
defining motif of the Curvilinear and Perpendicular. A lierne vault in the transept of St Mary
Redcliffe in Bristol represents a new level of detachment of the vault pattern from the vault structure.
Vaulting in the Lady Chapel and retrochoir aisles of Exeter introduce new variations, as do the
elevations of the York nave. The chapter house at Wells combines the Early English model with
Curvilinear tracery, combining geometrical and organic forms. At the turn of the century, flying ribs
which appear in Bristol Cathedral can be related to the tiny flying ribs in the Easter Sepulcher at
Lincoln, and to the experiments in spatial vistas at Lincoln and Canterbury. The vault in the choir at
Bristol is a lierne vault with conoid or cone-shaped bundles of springer ribs, tiercerons and transverse
ridge ribs, as developed from Lincoln. The elevations of the Exeter choir, between 1300 and 1310,
can be seen as Decorated variations of Lincoln nave arcades, with stonework grilles.
thThe nave vault at Bristol, reconstructed in the 19 century, is a tierceron vault. The flying rib
appears again in the antechamber of the Berkeley Chapel in Bristol Cathedral, designed by William
Joy in 1310. The nave elevations at Worcester are based on the nave elevations of Lincoln. Thepulpitum of Lincoln represents an early example of the use of the ogee arch and carved decoration
associated with the Curvilinear style. The pulpitum at Exeter, designed by Thomas Witney,
incorporates ogee arches, cusping (decoration on the edge of the tracery) and crocketing (foliate
decoration on the vertical edge), and a lierne vault. The nave vault of Tewkesbury Abbey combines
the lierne patterns of St Mary Redcliffe with the thick ribs of Exeter to create a catechism of the vault
of the cosmos, as an architectonic texture in the form of a “net” vault. The pulpitum at Southwell
Minster contains flying ribs, ogee arches and crocketed gables, and fragments of architectural
vocabulary elements which produce a literary or poetic architecture.Crossing vault and lantern, c. 1322-1336. Ely Cathedral.Stained-glass window. Canterbury Cathedral.


The Lady Chapel at Wells, by Thomas Witney, is a composition based on the Early English
vocabulary (umbrella column, ridge rib, tierceron, lierne), with a domed vault with liernes forming an
eight-pointed star pattern, similar to patterns found in contemporary illuminations, as a representation
of the celestial vault. The adjoining retrochoir, by William Joy, contains clusters of Purbeck piers.
The arcade of the Lady Chapel of Ely is composed of nodding, cusped ogee arches and crocketed
gables in the Curvilinear style. The vault of the Ely Lady Chapel is a tierceron vault with lierne star
patterns, resulting in a crystalline organic form. The vault of the Ely choir is a lierne star vault, based
on vaulting at Lincoln and St Mary Undercroft. The octagonal crossing at Ely, designed by Alan of
Walsingham and topped by a timber lantern designed by William Hurley, is the most elaborate
composition of the Curvilinear style, creating a geometrical and material progression from the
material world to the spiritual world. The vault of the North Porch of St Mary Redcliffe is a
centralised tierceron vault taking on the appearance of a crystalline organic form. The remodelled
south transept of Gloucester, from 1331 to 1336, is seen as the first manifestation of the
Perpendicular style, with its vertical panelling and mullions, and tracery, derived from the exterior
elevations of St Stephen’s Chapel, but with Curvilinear elements such as ogee arches and cusping.
The vault in the Gloucester transept is a lierne net vault, taking on the form of an organic structure
based on underlying geometrical and mathematical proportions.
The choir vault of Wells, built by William Joy between 1333 and 1340, introduces a geometrical
net pattern which displays a dematerialisation through surface texture. The lierne star patterns in the
choir aisle vaults suggest a crystalline form or cosmic diagram. The Percy Tomb at Beverley Minster
is a masterpiece of the Curvilinear style, with nodding ogee arches, cusping and crocketing. The nave
vault of St Mary Redcliffe is a development of the transept vault there, with liernes zigzagging,
folding, and undulating across an uneven vault surface. Between 1337 and 1367 the elevations of the
choir and presbytery of Gloucester were covered with Perpendicular panelling, and densely textured
lierne net vaulting was designed by William Ramsey, taking to an extreme the vault as surface texture.
The choir and nave vaults of Ottery St Mary were designed by William Joy, showing the influence of
the Wells choir vault. William Joy’s nave vault at Exeter is a Lincoln-style vault with the tiercerons
increased in size and density, suggesting organic form. The vault of the south transept of Chester,
from around 1350 (restored) is a Lincoln-style vault, as is the nave vault at Worcester.
The first full fan vault in English Gothic architecture was constructed in the Gloucester cloister
between 1351 and 1364, attributed to Thomas of Cambridge. The fan vaulting can be seen as a
logical consequence of the development from the tierceron vault, as it consists of conoid bundles of
tiercerons with liernes applied to the surface. The fan vaulting merges the geometrical and organic,
the human mind and nature, or the human mind and the divine mind, with underlying geometrical
thmatrixes. The original nave vault of York Minster, replaced by a timber reproduction in the 19
century, is a simplified version of the tierceron vault. Tierceron and lierne patterns fluctuate, as do the
concave surfaces of the vault. The vault was painted to symbolise the vault of the cosmos. A more
complex version of the vaulting appeared in the choir and retrochoir of York, continuing the
fluctuating patterns. Openwork arcading in the presbytery at Norwich recalls the treatments of
Geoffrey de Noyers at Lincoln and William the Englishman at Canterbury, in their dematerialisation
and experiments in spatial vistas. Vaults in the transepts at Worcester also appropriate the Lincoln or
Early English vocabulary.
The Perpendicular, the subject of the final chapter, is the last period or style in the continuous
development of English Gothic architecture from the precedents at Canterbury and Lincoln. The
chapter on the Perpendicular style includes details at Tewkesbury Abbey, Lincoln, Gloucester,
Beverley, Winchester, Worcester, Sherborne Abbey, Norwich, Peterborough, Bristol, Chester, York,
Oxford Divinity School, Oxford Christ Church, Salisbury, Wells, Ely, Bath Abbey, and Cambridge
King’s College Chapel. The Curvilinear and Perpendicular overlap, as elements of the Perpendicular
thappear in the early 14 century. The Perpendicular style is dominated by vertical lines, linear patterns,
repeated cusped panels, the lierne rib, and overlapping ogee curves forming reticulated patterns.
The choir vault at Tewkesbury Abbey, from between 1375 and 1390, is a tierceron vault withlierne star patterns composed of curved liernes, which are segments of ogee arches, blurring the
distinction between organic and inorganic, structure and pattern. The vault in the crossing at
Tewkesbury is a centralised lierne vault in the form of a mandala, a cosmological catechism with
octagons and squares and a figure of the sun in the centre, symbolising emanation and creation, and
synthesising Christian theology and classical philosophy. The vaulting in the crossing tower of
Lincoln Cathedral synthesises the Lincoln vocabulary elements – conoid springers, tiercerons, liernes,
and ridge ribs – to form what could be read as a catechism of the celestial hierarchies, or the vaulting
of the cosmos.Retrochoir, 1174-1179. Canterbury Cathedral.


The Founder’s Chantry at Tewkesbury Abbey contains an early model of the fan vault, with
vaulting ribs as applied decoration, and Perpendicular grillwork. The Beauchamp Chantry at
Tewkesbury Abbey features fan vaults with pendants in its lower and upper levels. The pendant
becomes a defining vocabulary element of the Perpendicular style, as in the vaults at Oxford Divinity
School and Oxford Christ Church, Cambridge King’s College Chapel, St George’s Chapel at Windsor
Castle, and the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey. The pendant can be seen as a development of
hanging corbels, as in the York chapter house, the gradual minimalisation of responds in elevations,
or the removal of the umbrella column from the umbrella vault. The pendant is a hanging vaulting
corbel with no support, and can be related to experiments at Canterbury and Lincoln. The west
cloister walk of Worcester Cathedral, built by John Chapman between 1435 and 1438, contains
vaulting composed of conoid tierceron springers, the ridge pole, transverse ribs, and lierne octagons.
The choir vault of Sherborne Abbey is the first full-span fan vault. The vault of the Norwich nave
contains zigzagging liernes and lierne star patterns. The vaulting of the presbytery of Peterborough is
a lierne net vault similar to the St Mary Redcliffe choir vault, with the emphasis on surface texture.
The nave vault of Winchester Cathedral, designed by Robert Hulle, is a stellar lierne vault with
zigzagging liernes, as in St Mary Redcliffe nave or Norwich nave.
The remodelling of the crossing of Gloucester Cathedral between 1450 and 1475 by Robert Tully,
features mid-air stone ogee arches set on flat four-centred arches, supporting pendant conoid
springers of a lierne net vault. The arches appear to be a development of the flying rib, continuing
experiments in spatial juxtapositions which began at Canterbury and Lincoln, but with a
Perpendicular vocabulary. The crossing vault at Bristol Cathedral is a centralised lierne star vault, the
pattern of which is continued in the transepts, with tiercerons and lierne diamonds. The crossing vault
at York Minster is also a centralised lierne vault. The choir vault at Norwich consists of lierne star
patterns and tiercerons which spring from the peaks of window heads in the clerestory, or hang from
the vault like pendants, creating the effect that the elevations are suspended from the vault. The nave
vault of Sherborne Abbey, designed by William Smyth, interweaves tiercerons, lierne patterns, and
fans, in a summation of the vocabulary in the development of English Gothic vaulting.
The vault of the Divinity School of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University is a pendant lierne
vault designed by William Orchard in 1478. The vault is divided by bundled transverse ribs which
appear to be almost flying ribs; spandrels between are decorated with openwork tracery. William
Orchard also designed the vault of Christ Church choir at Oxford University, a pendant lierne netvault, with similar transverse ribs suggesting flying ribs, and pendants attached to the transverse ribs
as secondary corbels. The crossing vault at Salisbury is a centralised cusped lierne net vault; the
crossing vault at Wells, designed by William Smyth, is a centralised fan vault. Bishop Alcock’s
Chapel in Ely Cathedral, designed in 1488 by either Adam Lord, Adam Vertue, or Robert Janyns,
features a fan vault influenced by St George’s Chapel, with pendant cusping and an undulating canopy
screen filled with crocketed gables, ogee arches, and filigree tracery. The composition combines
recognisable vocabulary elements into an unprecedented form filled with overlappings and spatial
juxtapositions. The vault of Bishop Langton’s Chapel at Winchester features tiercerons, zigzagging
liernes, and cusped tracery. The vaulting in the retrochoir or “New Building” of Peterborough was
designed by John Wastell, designer of the vaulting of King’s College Chapel at Cambridge
University. The vault at Peterborough is composed of steep conoid sections of fans decorated with
tiercerons and reticulated tracery in the Perpendicular style.
The vaulting at Bath Abbey was designed by Robert and William Vertue and constructed between
1504 and 1508, and restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1860s. The vaulting consists of steep
conoid tierceron springer vaults or fans, transverse ribs, cusped tracery, and pendants. The fan vault of
King’s College Chapel, the largest fan vault in the world, was designed by John Wastell in 1508. Fans
are intersected by transverse arches and segmented by thin transverse ridge lines, and are covered by a
tracery of cusped arches and reticulation. The final fan vault in English Gothic architecture is the
vault of the Dorset Aisle of Ottery St Mary, featuring thick tiercerons and cusped ogee arch tracery.
The upper parts of the fans can also be read as canted spandrels alongside the ridge ribs. The fan
vaults at Bath, Cambridge, and Ottery bring English Gothic architecture to a close, in the wake of the
Renaissance, and a cultural shift in ideas and outlooks, as well as approaches to architecture. The
consistent cultural approach to knowledge and built forms, which produced a homogeneous
development throughout the late Middle Ages in England, resulted in what is among the most
extraordinary architecture in the history of the world.Chapel interior, elevations 1444-1485,
vaulted 1508-1515. King’s College, Cambridge.Courtyard. Canterbury Cathedral.


Early English


The eastern part of Canterbury Cathedral was destroyed by fire in September of 1174, as documented
by Gervase of Canterbury, one of the monks. That part of the cathedral was rebuilt between 1175 and
1185, which was also documented by Gervase. According to him, the monks of Canterbury
summoned masons from England and France, and were impressed by the French mason William of
Sens, who decided to demolish the Norman arcades and clerestory which survived the fire. Gervase
chronicled the construction year by year. In 1175, two piers on each side of the west end of the choir
were constructed. In the next year an additional pier was added on each side, with arches and
supporting aisle vaults for the first three bays. Two more bays were added the following year, along
with a gallery, clerestory, and vault for the first five bays of the choir. In 1178, the sixth bay of the
choir and the transept were constructed. The building project went smoothly for the entire ten years,
except for the accident of William of Sens in 1178, when he fell from scaffolding while supervising
work on the vault over the high altar, after having completed the sixth bay of the choir and the
transepts, which forced him to retire to France, and to be replaced by William the Englishman. The
new architect completed a new crypt by 1181, and began construction of the outer walls of the Trinity
Chapel. The piers for the chapel were completed by the next year, and the walls of the Corona behind
it, Becket’s Crown.
The shrine of Thomas Becket, who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170 and canonised as St
Thomas of Canterbury in 1173, was added to the short Norman choir built under Bishop Lanfranc
(1070-1077), after the Norman Conquest, which consisted of two bays and an apse, and was extended
thin the 12 century under Bishop Anselm (St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1093-1109) and
Bishop Conrad (Prior Conrad, d. 1127) to include a pair of eastern transepts and the chapels of St
Anselm and St Andrew. The body of Thomas Becket, which was originally buried in the crypt, was
placed in the new shrine, Trinity Chapel, built by William the Englishman, in 1220. For the Trinity
Chapel, William the Englishman followed the main lines of the choir.
Becket was murdered after he returned from exile in Sens, which resulted from his arguments with
King Henry II. In the north transept of the crossing, four knights, acting in support of the king, stabbed
Becket to death. Afterwards, a hair shirt swarming with lice was found under his robe. He was
recognised as a saint, and Henry II performed penance at his tomb, being flagellated by monks. The
tomb of Thomas Becket became the most important pilgrimage destination in medieval England, as
Becket became a symbol of resistance to tyrannical authority. The Canterbury Tales of Chaucer were
inspired by the journey along the Pilgrim’s Way from London to Canterbury to see the shrine. So
many offerings accumulated at the shrine that by 1538, when it was destroyed by Henry VIII, who was
determined to destroy the symbol of resistance to the king, twenty-six wagons were required to cart
all the offerings away.
Stained-glass windows, called the Becket Miracle Windows, were installed around Trinity Chapel.
Completed by 1220, the windows portray images of pilgrimage and miracles associated with Becket.
thA Becket Window was also installed in Chartres Cathedral in France in the early 13 century,
illustrating the exploits and death of the saint in 1170. Earlier stained-glass windows at Chartres
include the Blue Virgin Window, the Jesse Window, and the Life of Christ Window, all installed
around 1150.
The importance of Canterbury was established long before the murder of Becket. In 597 CE, the
missionary St Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory from Rome to Canterbury to convert England to
Christianity. He gave a sermon to the Anglo-Saxon King of Kent, Ethelbert, and later that year
Ethelbert was baptised, according to St Bede the Venerable’s history of England. Augustine became
the first Archbishop of Canterbury, and Canterbury became the see of the primate of England.
Following the Norman Conquest, the Archbishops Lanfranc and Anselm, who initiated the building
of the great cathedral, would also come to be considered the fathers of English Scholasticism, basedon their writings and sermons. Archbishop Lanfranc built the largest monastery in England, with a
complex of Benedictine buildings, including a cloister, chapter house, dormitory, refectory, and
cellarer’s lodgings on the north side of the cathedral.Choir, 1175-1185. Canterbury Cathedral.


The rebuilding of the eastern end of Canterbury was directed by William of Sens, a French
architect who imported stone from Caen in Normandy for the project, from 1174 to 1179. William
of Sens’ work consists of the choir, which contains stalls for the monks across five bays between the
central tower and the eastern crossing; the presbytery or retrochoir, across three bays east of the
crossing, with a high altar raised on a few steps; and a final bay of the presbytery, containing the
ththrone of St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the 6 century. William of Sens was
able to replace the piers in the new French Gothic style, but he was limited to the original Norman
plan. The resulting new building was much higher, with thinner proportions, pointed arches, and a
ribbed vault. While Gothic elements appeared at Durham, and at Ripon and Roche Abbey, Yorkshire,
around 1170, the choir of William of Sens is considered to be the earliest surviving Gothic building
in England.
The architecture is a compromise between the desire to build a new cathedral in a French style, and
existing local requirements. The architecture is French in that it has a semicircular ambulatory, flying
buttresses hidden under the aisle roofs, coupled columns, acanthus capitals, and two-bay sexpartite
vaults. While the walls along the plan are thick Norman walls, with thick piers alternating between
cylindrical and octagonal, a combination repeated in the sculpted capitals, the height of the arcade
suggests the French cathedral; it comprises about sixty percent of the elevation, and the gallery and
clerestory above look diminished in relation to it. Responds rising from the cylindrical columns
support transverse ribs which transform a quadripartite vault into a sexpartite vault in the French
style, but the continuity of the French system is interrupted by the alternating piers. A single shaft
supports the extra transverse ribs, while tripartite bundled shafts support the diagonal ribs and the
main transverse ribs, creating an alternation which expresses the hierarchy of supports, as at Notre
Dame in Paris or Laon.
The ribs of the vault rise from corbels with alternating square and canted abaci, corresponding to
the alternating circular and octagonal piers at the bottom of the respective responds. The square abaci
are placed on top of the single slender shafts, which support the extra transverse ribs which intersect
with the diagonal ribs at a boss along the ridge line of the vault, while the canted abaci are placed on
the tripartite bundled shafts, which support the diagonal ribs and the main transverse ribs which
delimit the bays of the vault. The corbels are placed at the bottom of the round arches of the gallery,
at the same level of the abaci of the arches and sub-arches, so the springing of the vault is carried to
below the base of the clerestory, in contradiction to French standards. The diagonal ribs receive the