Editing Internet Texts/Gothic Architecture in France, England, and Italy/Gothic Architecture in England

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English Gothic flourished in England from about 1180 until about 1520. In his Attempt to Discriminate the Style of Architecture in England, Thomas Rickman introduced the division into three periods:

  • Early English Gothic (1180-1250)
  • Decorated Gothic (1250-1350), further divided into:
    • Geometric style (1250-1290)
    • Curvilinear style (1290-1350)
  • Perpendicular Gothic (1350-1520)

Early English Gothic[edit]

Early English Gothic favours simplicity and fine proportions over rich decoration. Most cathedrals have three levels: arcade, triforium and clerestory level. The nave has singular aisles on each side. The nave and the choir are usually of the same length and are separated by the rood screen. The ambulatory is almost always rectangular. Two transepts is a common feature of English Gothic architecture. There is a tower on the crossing of the nave and the transept. In comparison to their French counterparts, English cathedrals have heavier, thicker walls.

Salisbury Cathedral is the leading example of English Early Gothic architecture as it was built in mere 38 years (1220-1258) and is therefore not contaminated by later styles.

Salisbury Cathedral

West façade.
Note: two buttresses near the centre line, triple lancet windows with the middle window higher than the rest two, quatrefoil tracery, richly decorated with sculptures
Note: The nave flanked on each side by a single aisle, two transepts, rectangular ambulatory, palm vaulting at the crossing, Lady Chapel attached to the ambulatory
View of the nave looking west. Note: three levels: arcade, triforium, clerestory level, quadripartite ribbed vaulting
Seen from the East
Note: tower at the crossing of the nave and the transept, flying buttresses, pinnacles, lancet windows

The most frequently used ornaments are crockets, foliage and tooth-ornament, the characteristic ornament of English Gothic. The most characteristic form of a pillar is clustered pillar with detached shafts, usually made of Purbeck marble, but there are also cylindrical and octagonal pillars. Pointed arches of bigger churches are usually adorned by mouldings, very often decorated with tooth-ornaments.

Westminster Abbey arches, York Minster arches, tooth ornament

The lancet-shaped windows are plain and narrow, sometimes adorned with moulding. Frequently two, three or more windows are grouped under a single moulding. In the group of three, the middle window is usually taller than the rest two. The western end usually has two or three tiers of lancet windows.

Warmington, Northamptonshire, triple window

Plate tracery is usually applied to the heads of the windows. At first they are simply circular openings, but later develop into foils. The vaults are usually ribbed, but sometimes they are made of wood only.

York Minster wood vault, Warmington, Northamptonshire

Decorated Gothic[edit]

Decorated Gothic is divided into two phases: Geometric and Curvilinear. They are named after the type of traceries that is dominant at the time.

The plans of cathedrals do not change radically. Just like with High Gothic in France, the main focus is put on decoration. The columns are taller and more slender than before. The eastern end usually has one large window at the end of the choir. In comparison to the Continent, rose windows are smaller and are rarely found at the western ends. They are usually used at the ends of transepts.

Selby choir interior

Thanks to the adoption of flying buttresses and more complex patters of vaulting, windows are larger, wider, divided by mullions. Window heads and traceries are more richly decorated. The earliest traceries are geometrical.

Geometrical tracery, Exeter Cathedral

Early Gothic vaults give way to lighter, but more complex forms called lierne vaults. The bosses of the vaults are decorated with foliage. Simple Early Gothic arches are replaced by more complex ogee ones, which combine concave and convex curve.

Exeter Cathedral, bosses; York, chapter house, Norwich, cloisters

York Minster

West façade. Note:
Note: Cruciform plan, the nave with singular aisles on each side, transept consists of three aisles,

One of the main ornaments of Decorated Gothic is foliage, but compared to the Early English it has wider variety of leaves. It spans from seaweed, ivy, oak and vine. Another popular ornament is bell-flower and four-leaved flower. In the Curvilinear period, the traceries are based on floral patterns and the ogee (S-shaped curve), which gives them flamelike effect.

Rose windows that are one of the main features of French Gothic, are only used in Decorated Gothic. They are discontinued in Perpendicular Gothic.

The portals are large and richly decorated with sculptures.

"*^The General Appearance of Decorated buildings is at once simple and magnificent; simple from the small number of parts, and magnificent from the size of the windows, and the easy flow of the lines of tracery."

Perpendicular Gothic[edit]

One of its main features is the emphasis on strong vertical lines, especially noticeable in window traceries and wall panellings. Vaults become even more elaborate and ornate and soon develop into fan vaults, which are characteristic for this period.

Another characteristic Perpendicular vault is a hammerbeam roof, which uses horizontal and vertical beams, instead of stone ribs, to distribute the weight of the roof. Such vaults are often decorated with carved figures of angels and pendants. Beams:

Interior is no longer divided into levels, but the walls are a unified vertical expanse. The improvement of flying buttresses and pointed arches enables the architects to design even taller windows. They have very elaborate tracery and repeated, slim mullions that are often crossed by horizontal transoms.

Towers have four or five stories of windows and are richly decorated with canopies, pinnacles and tabernacles.

Flying buttresses are richly decorated with knobs, crockets and terminated by pinnacles.

Pointed arches are still used, but other types of arches develop: ogee and Tudor.

The characteristic ornament of Perpendicular Gothic is Tudor-flower.