BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 September 2014
Accessibility help
Church and State Trailbbc.co.uk/history

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

The Early Church: Towards Gothic Splendour

By Carol Davidson Cragoe
English Gothic

Image of nave at Lincoln Cathedral
Vaulting and piers of nave, Lincoln Cathedral ©
In 1204, King John lost his patrimonial lands to the French King Philip Augustus. The severance of England from Normandy, which until that point had been ruled by the ‘Norman’ King of England, resulted in a corresponding divergence of architecture.

In the late 12th and 13th centuries, England developed its own form of Gothic quite unlike that in France. Whereas French masons built ever higher with relatively simple forms, English masons preferred lower buildings with more elaborate detailing.

'... Lincoln's nave and Canterbury's choir contain many of the same elements ...'

One of the best examples of this Early English Gothic style is Lincoln Cathedral. An earthquake damaged the Romanesque cathedral in 1185, just as Canterbury's choir was being completed. It was rebuilt over the next century, leaving only the west front from the old cathedral.

Whilst Lincoln's nave and Canterbury's choir contain many of the same elements, such as dark marble shafts, foliate capitals, moulded arches and almost identical rib vaults, the designer of Lincoln has taken them to an extreme level, introducing more shafts and more mouldings.

In general, the effect is to introduce a visual complexity, which both masks and enhances the overall structure of the building.

Published: 2005-02-02



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy