Saturday, October 02, 2010

Church tower vaulting

click photo to enlarge
One could be forgiven for thinking that the purpose of stone roof vaulting in Romanesque and Gothic churches is to turn the eyes of the congregation upwards to heaven. As far as the beautification of the vaulting goes, that must certainly be so. The effect of all those angels, foliate bosses, stellar rib patterns, and grimacing faces is to draw the eye and cause the brain to wonder. However, the underlying reason for vaulting is purely structural. It is a framework that distributes load from above a void (chancel, nave, transepts, tower or porch) to the surrounding walls. Initally, during the Norman period, rounded arches were used and the area that could be bridged was relatively narrow. The development, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of the pointed arch increased the width that stone vaults could span, reduced the amount of material needed, and led to more elaborate rib vaulting patterns.

For the past forty years, ever since I was bitten by an interest in church architecture, I've been fascinated by vaulting. I've posted quite a few photographs of it in naves, chancels and crossings, such as this example at Pershore Abbey, and this fan vaulting at Peterborough Cathedral. But the one type of vaulting that I particularly like is that found under the tower of a church. Perhaps it is the radial symmetry that appeals to me, or the concentrated nature of the patterns that are used. Whatever it is, I've posted quite a few shots featuring tower vaulting. In this post showing the vault at Morton, Lincolnshire, I elaborated on my fascination. In another I compared the tower vaulting to be found at Louth (Lincolnshire) and Ludlow (Shropshire). Other examples I've blogged about are those at Peterborough, Ely, and Boston.

If you've looked at the links quoted you are forgiven for wondering what it is that's different about today's example from Brant Broughton, Lincolnshire. Well, as ever, the particular radiating pattern is unique, especially since it doesn't have axial symmetry from all sides. Another difference is the widely spaced paterae (stylized  foliage elements) on the corner ribs. But, it isn't the subject itself that is the principle reason for my posting this photograph, rather it is the photograph itself and the way that it mimics a watercolour sketch. I haven't processed the shot much, and my noise suppression was minimal. These are both factors that can give a watercolour quality to an image. Here, however, the effect comes from the way the brighter light at the edges makes it look like thinned paint at the edge of a rough draft painting, and the close striations on the stonework that resemble underlying pencilwork.

Incidentally, through the tower arch can be glimpsed the painted angel roof of the nave that was the subject of this blog post in 2009.

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: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On