Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Pershore Abbey vaulting

click photo to enlarge
I think that Gothic vaulting is one of mankind's most inspired creations. Down the ages people have sought to produce objects that combine the twin virtues of beauty and function; in fact designers and architects strive daily to achieve it. Yet despite our greater knowledge, our computers, universities and professional organisations, the work of medieval masons, people who learned from their peers, is the equal of, and often surpasses, anything that we produce today.

The vaulting in today's photograph was erected about 1290-1300. It is in what is known as the Early English style, and is an interesting and unique example. The architectural historian, Nikolaus Pevsner describes it thus: "It consists of transverse arches, diagonal ribs, ridge-ribs, one pair of tiercerons to N(orth) and S(outh), but in addition lierne-ribs forming a kind of scissors movement: open-closed, open-closed, all along." Look at vaulting anywhere else, and you won't see anything quite like it. Pershore has, to quote Pevsner again, "pleasant confusion." The purposes of the vaulting arches is, of course, to transfer the weight of the roof outwards to the columns, piers and walls. Pointed Gothic arches of the thirteenth and subsequent centuries do this better than the earlier, rounded arches of the Romanesque period, and consequently allow wider spaces to be roofed.

The carved stone bosses at the intersections of the vaulting ribs are ornamental (each is a different design), but also functional in that they cover the joins. What prompted me to take this shot (apart from the beauty of the vaulting) was the fact that the roof was lit whilst the lower part of the building wasn't. The orange warmth of the electric light contrasted with, but also complemented, the colder blue daylight shining through the windows, and added to the scene's attraction.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 250
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On