List of subjects |  Sources |  Feedback 

Share |

Discover in a free
daily email today's famous
history and birthdays

Enjoy the Famous Daily

English Gothic: 12th - 15th century

With Norman kings on the throne of England, the Gothic style soon spreads across the Channel. Thirty years after its original appearance in France, it is seen in 1175 in the rebuilt east end of Canterbury cathedral. Thereafter, though remaining closely related to French Gothic, the English version develops in three distinct stages - most easily recognizable in the stonework of church windows.

In the first phase, known as Early English and lasting until about 1300, windows are tall and narrow with sharply pointed tops. This severe style develops during the 14th century into something much more fanciful, lasting from about 1300 to 1370.

In this phase, referred to as the Decorated style, the tops of the windows fragment into the curving lace-like stonework known as tracery. At the same time the stone partitions themselves, holding the glass panels, become carved in decorative patterns.

Finally in the Perpendicular style, lasting approximately two centuries from about 1350, the windows become vast, filling almost the entire wall. They revert to more severely vertical partitions (the 'perpendicular' element), thus providing rectilinear spaces which can accomodate glorious expanses of Stained glass.

With glass now providing the main attraction of the windows, rather than the delicate stone fretwork of the Decorated period, the masons move their skills to the celing in the form of fan vaulting. This glorious display of patterned stonework, rising like so many peacocks' tails from the supporting columns, is first seen in its perfection in the late-14th-century cloisters of Gloucester cathedral.

Whereas the earlier rib vaulting was a structural development, making possible lighter stone ceilings, fan vaulting is a pure and delightful indulgence in decorative appeal.