Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

not come from the Saracens, we shall, we hope, be admitted to have proved enough, if we shew how they might and probably did originate. And first, of the pointed arch.

“ We have remarked,” says Doctor Milner, “ that the Normans, affecting height in their churches no less than length, were accustomed to pile arches and pillars upon each other, sometimes to the height of three stories, as we see in Halkelin's work in Winchester cathedral. They frequently imitated these arches and pillars in the masonry of their plain walls, and, by way of ornament and variety, they some. times caused these plain round arches to intersect each other, as we behold in the said Prelate's work, on the upper part of the south transept of that cathedral, being probably the earliest instance of this interesting ornament to be met with in the kingdom [only because it is the earliest remaining instance). They were, probably, not then aware of the happy effect of this intersection, in forming the pointed arch, until De Blois, having resolved to ornament the whole sanctuary of the church at present under consideration, with these intersecting semi-circles, after richly embellishing them with mouldings and pellet ornaments, conceived the idea of opening them by way of windows, to the number of four over the altar, and of eight on each side of the choir, which at once produced a series of highly pointed arches."

Now, without offering any thing in confirmation of this opinion, we may be allowed to observe that it is sufficient to shew the possible origin of the lancet arch, in this country. There is no occasion, therefore, to travel farther. Whether it really had this origin, or became pointed from the irregularity in the width of the columns, when it was necessary to have the centre of the arches at an equal elevation, by which it appears certainly to have been produced in some foreign churches, will make little difference; it is one of the most striking details of Gothic architecture accounted for without reference to the east. Another circumstance well deserving consideration, and tending, we think, to confirm Dr. Milner's conjecture, is, that had Gothic architecture been introduced from any other country, where it was previously established, the strength and capabilities of the pointed arch would have been known; whereas, nothing is more certain, than that the architects seem in the first instance to have been suspicious of its durability; they deviated in a very trilling degree from the semicircle, and not till long afterwards were they more bazardous, when any great weight was to be sustained ; although, at the same time, and in the same building, where the arch was merely ornamental, it was pointed more than at any after period, and to an unpleasant excess.

But, to proceed : Dr. Milner observes, these windows, “ being in general very narrow, at the first discovery of the

pointed arch, as we see in the ruins of Hyde Abbey, built within thirty years after St. Cross; in the refectory of Beaulieu, raised by King John; and in the inside of Winchester tower, built by De Blois himself; it became necessary sometimes to place two of these windows close to each other, which not unfrequently stood under one common arch, as may be discovered in different parts of De Lucy's work in Winchester cathedral, executed in the reign of King John, and in the lower tire of the windows in the church of Netley Abbey. This disposition of two lights occasioning a dead space between their heads, a trefoil or quatrefoil, one of the simplest and most ancient kind of ornaments, [yet existing in the Norman circular window at Barfreston] was introduced between them, as in the porch of Beaulieu, in the ancient part of the Lady Chapel, Winton, and the west door of the present church of St. Cross.” This is progressive and, therefore, natural; and to continue the speculation, we may add, that to lancet arches, so enclosed, having their proportions lightened, and their ornaments increased, we trace, not merely the first idea, but the outline and all the distinguishing excellence of the great east window at Lincoln, and so up to the most magnificent display of mullions and tracery peculiar to the perfection of the art. The rose window too, though not strictly in agreement with the principles of Gothic architecture, is so often met with, and is in itself so beautiful, that it deserves a moment's consideration. “ The trefoil,” says Dr. Milner, “ by an easy addition, became a cinquefoil, and being made use of in circles and squares, produced fans and Catherine's wheels.” This may be, but to us they are clearly nothing but the improvement of genius and wealth, on the Norman circular window, as yet existing at Barfreston church in Kent; for the heavy Norman or Saxon division, with its rude ornaments, the lighter proportion of the Gothic are substituted; these are more numerous of course; but in every essential particular they are the same, and possibly the little trefoil ornament in the one, suggested the minuter division in the others.

Again, from the simple crypt at Winchester, to the splendid roof of the choir at Gloucester, the progress is distinct and visible; there is nothing of novelty in the latter, but to those ignorant of the progress of the art. The roofs of our earlier cathedrals, though always at the same proportionate elevation to the aisles, were formed of wooden rafters, and it was not probably till the middle of the thirteenth century that stone vaulting was introduced. This had at first almost the naked simplicity of the crypt; plain ribs, with the addition of a keystone, as at Chichester, the intervals being filled up with a lighter material. In progress of time these ribs became ornamented, and the simplicity of the form broken, by smaller ones

branching out from the main ribs, and intersecting each other as at York, until they eventually overspread the roof as in Henry the Seventh's chapel,

Where elfin sculptors with fantastic clue
O'er the long roof their wild embroidery drew.

Of the cluster column, Dr. Milner observes, “wherever the pointed arch was first produced, its gradual ascent naturally led to a long and narrow form of window and arch, instead of the broad circular ones which had hitherto obtained; and these required that the pillars on which they rested, or which were placed at their sides by way of ornament, should be proportionably tall and slender. Hence it became necessary to choose a material of firm texture for composing them, which occasioned the general adoption of Purbeck marble for this purpose. But even this substance being found too weak to support the incumbent weight, occasioned the shafts to be multiplied, and thus produced the cluster column.” Throughout these speculations, we think, Dr. Milner is too much accustomed to attribute originality to the details of Gothic architecture, and he has vast potency in his art ; but we who are accustomed, and “'tis our vocation,” to look into “ the dark backward and abysm of time," see much more of adaptation and taste, than of actual creation. “ The body or trunk of the vast massive pillars of the Normans," says Bentham, “ were usually plain cylinders, or sett off only with small half-columns united with them.These latter are to be found in Durham, and many other places, where a whole line of round arches, in the basement story of the north front, spring from half circles of clustered Norman pilastres, and there are isolated columns, wholly encircled, in the interior ; nor is there any doubt in our mind, that the arches in the nave of Chichester cathedral did the same. Notwithstanding the early and innumerable alterations there, a part of the cluster at the west end, on the side nearer the aisle, remains nearly perfect; each front has a large central half column, and there are three smaller between each front; if, therefore, the whole pier were thus encircled, there was a cluster of not less than sixteen half columns as closely together as the large heads of the Norman pillars would admit; and the column on the south side is deserving particular attention, being itself subdivided, two half columns under one head; serving to shew the progressive love of lighter and more elegant parts, and minuter division, and the slow approach made to. wards what they desired.

We hope the reader is now as much surprised as we were to learn that the “ Gothic style, notwithstanding the richness and variety it afterwards assumed, appeared at once with all its distinctive marks and features." After throwing aside some of the minuter delicacies, and geometrical forms, which it afterwards assumed, and which his lordship honourably leaves out of the consideration, we have, we believe, left little to which his lordship’s observations can be applied. Towers, we have shewn, are old enough, and they occupied the same situation in the earlier as in the later buildings. Buttresses are no more peculiar to Gothic architecture than stone and mortar; and in what, we ask, do those old Norman ones, at the west end and north front of Durham, differ from those at Winchester, but in lightness and ornament? And at Lincoln, indeed, those on the west side of the great transept have, by decoration and greater elevation, been actually converted from the earlier into the richer Gothic, while those on the east side remain as at first.

“But,” says the reviewer, “ if the pointed style was formed by the gradual developement of the Norman style, there would be many distinct instances of the transition style.Many distinct traces of it we have shewn there are-they are every where apparent—and considering it was the ambition, and direct purpose of every succeeding architect, employed either to repair or beautify, to remove all trace of them, and the long interval that separates our age from theirs, it is only extraordinary that so many still exist. But the reviewer seems to expect a series of entire cathedrals in this “ transition style.” If so, he is rather unconscionable. Gothic architecture, we repeat, is the production of original mind, and mind does not take centuries in developing itself. The most extraordinary change in the literature of this country, perhaps of the world, took place in the 15th century ; from comparative darkness, it burst into the full blaze of its meridian glory. A steady and attentive observer will, indeed, perceive the dark clouds, that, in the beginning, lay congregated in huge masses, seeming to sleep in eternal quiet, separating gradually, pierced through by some gleam of the coming light, until the whole were swallowed up and gone ; but there is no neutral moment between darkness and light, when ignorance and knowledge sported together in fellowship. So was it with architecture in the 12th and 13th centuries. The advance of knowledge, and the progress of intelligence, are here and there discoverable;--not in a “ transition style,” for a style necessarily supposes something consistent and accordant; but in the want of style; in fluctuation and uncertainty ;-not in the character, but the want of character, that is peculiar to such periods ;-until the round and cumbrous architecture, with its horizontal lines of ornament, gave way before the genius of the age, and Gothic architecture was perfected and established by the master genius, possibly, of some great man. Ifa“ transition style” were really the characteristic of an age, which in its very nature wants the determined purpose that can alone give character, we might expect to find it in our literature, where all that ever did exist, exists now ; not in architecture, where every passing century bears with it some“ rich-proud cost of out-worn buried age.”

But this subject is usually considered too much in detail, “ too curiously," as Horatio says. The men most skilful, are not always the best to take an enlarged and philosophical view of it. It is not, as we have before observed, the separate parts that compose a cathedral, that make up Gothic architecture; there is the mind that is apparent in piling these together; and as we would rather bid the student, that should inquire in what consisted the excellence of Shakspeare, to open the volume, than write volumes to give inadequate notions of him; so to the same inquiries about Gothic architecture, we would answer, go and see. Its foundation, we repeat, was in original mind; and the direction of that mind was given by the genius of the age. The genius of the architect expanded and enlarged, because it was protected and encouraged ; and the grander proportions and the minuter divisions of his work, its multitude of ornaments, the division of its windows, their mullions and tracery, were but the natural progress of science so encouraged, and wealth still increasing, till it ended in the gem-like chapels of the 15th and 16th centuries; and we must here observe, that these chapels differ more from the earlier specimens of Gothic architecture, than the latter do from the Anglo-Norman, that preceded them : if, therefore, we are content to have imported the one, we must seek out another crusade, and a new eastern world, whence we brought back the other.

But it is clear we did not import the one ; it did not appear at once, with all its distinctive marks and features;”-it was slow, though not creeping in its progress, subject to experiment, and adopted from success; all the works of the 13th century are full of variety ;-there seems to have been no known standard, no determinate end, no heard- of perfection, which there would have been had models existed any where; but every separate architect availed himself of all that was previously known, and sought for no further excellence. To this purpose is a passage in Mr. Wild's description of Lincoln, a work that, like his Worcester, lately published, cannot be too highly commended.*

* In looking over these works lately, we were struck with their VOL. X. PART 1.

« ПредишнаНапред »