Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The broach spire

click photo to enlarge
When one considers the tools and technology available to the builders of medieval churches one can only be astonished at the wonderful structures that they managed to erect. Human muscle, wooden scaffolding, hemp ropes, steel tools and the secrets of the masonic crafts are responsible for buildings that amazed our forbears as they arose in the churchyard, and have the power to impress us still.

Gothic architecture developed over the centuries as masons and builders developed new ways of spanning ever larger spaces with ever smaller amounts of stone and wood. Windows increased in size and became filled with stone tracery as the dark churches of the twelfth century gradually evolved into the light, airy spaces of the fifteenth century. Ever larger buttresses were placed between windows allowing walls to be thinner, and the lateral forces of roofs to be supported, enabling naves to be wider to accommodate growing congregations. The ingenuity of those involved with such developments was remarkable, and as one builder introduced a new idea, so others took it up and introduced it into the building they were constructing.

This church at Frampton, Lincolnshire, is one of the first to use the thirteenth century technical innovation known as the broach spire. The broaches are the triangular shapes clasping the spire above the top corners of the tower. Their purpose is to enable the tapered octagon of the spire to fit onto the square top of the tower. It's a wonderfully elegant solution to the problem, produces very attractive spires, and enjoyed popularity for a hundred or so years. Here at Frampton (and also at Sleaford and North Rauceby, also in Lincolnshire) can be seen some of the first examples.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: Off