Friday, May 19, 2006

Langford Church, Oxfordshire

click photo to enlarge
The Saxon period in British architectural history is usually defined as the time between about 600 and the arrival of the Normans in 1066. In European terms both the Saxon and subsequent Norman style of building are Romanesque, and it's helpful to remember that, since Norman ideas penetrated England before the invasion, and Saxon builders continued to work afterwards. This makes churches built in the eleventh century hard to categorise as Saxon or Norman, as here at St Matthew, Langford in Oxfordshire.

Romanesque architecture, as its name rather implies, is usually characterised by rounded arches. In churches these appear mainly in doors, windows, nave arcades, and decoration. That being the case, the pointed windows and door in the chancel are clearly later, and are in fact Gothic of the 1200s. In this photograph it's the tower that is Saxon, or possibly Norman, but built by Saxon masons. The corner pilaster strips with stepped capitals are a strong clue for the earlier style, as are the twin arched bell-openings with roll-moulding and leaves. The corbel table at the top of the tower is from about 1200. In fact the tower's whole style and profile looks quite Italianate. Other Saxon evidence includes a relief of the crucifixion, and a large (headless) Christ triumphant reset in the wall of the south porch, and visible in this photograph. For further information about Saxon architecture go to my church architecture website here.

I took this shot as an overview of an interesting building. It was a dull, overcast day, but fortunately the trees and the foreground detail of the leaning gravestones in shadow were there to give effective framing and contrast. I might have wished for broken clouds, but sometimes you've got to put up with what the day offers. Consequently I've converted this shot to black and white to minimise the drabness of the sky.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen