Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cathedrals old and new

click photo to enlarge
There have been only three*(see below) completely new Anglican Cathedrals built in England since the Reformation of the sixteenth century - St Paul's in London, Truro and Liverpool. All the others were either built in earlier centuries, are former parish churches raised to cathedral status, for example Blackburn, or, as in the case of Coventry, are substantially new but replace and adjoin a medieval building that was severely damaged. One thing that distinguishes the newer cathedrals from the ancient buildings is the shorter period of time over which they were constructed, and the consequently smaller range of building styles that the structure shows.

St Paul's is, of course, a Renaissance building in almost every respect except its floor plan which was modified to more closely match those of medieval cathedrals. Wren was given the project in 1669, the first services took place inside the cathedral in 1697, and it was officially opened and declared complete in 1711, a mere forty two years later. Truro is a Victorian Gothic Revival cathedral, considerably smaller than St Paul's, and the work of John Loughborough Pearson. Building began in 1880, it was consecrated in 1887, and work was completed in 1910 - only thirty years later. Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral is the biggest cathedral in Britain and one of the largest in the world. Not surprisingly it took longer to build than St Paul's and Truro. In 1903 Giles Gilbert Scott's Gothic design was chosen from over one hundred competition entries, and the foundation stone was laid in 1904. Despite significant changes to the design it was consecrated in 1924, regular services began in 1940 and the central tower was completed in 1942. The Second World War slowed building progess, but the cathedral was finally finished in 1978, eighteen years after the death of its architect.

Of course all cathedrals are added to in some way as succeeding generations make their mark on the structure. For example, Truro had a chapter house added in 1967. But the point of today's reflection is the great difference in the construction time and styles of newer cathedrals compared with their medieval predecessors. Today's photograph shows some of the Norman (Romanesque) style at Peterborough Cathedral. It dates from the twelfth century when much of the main structure was built. However, most cathedrals of this sort were being added to, modified, brought "up to date", and generally knocked about by builders, bishops and others for 500 years or more. One consequence of this is the succession of architectural styles (fashions if you will) that exemplify this work - including the relatively heavy, crude and utilitarian of the Norman quadripartite vaulting shown above to the delicate Perpendicular style fan vaulting of the 1500s shown in this earlier post.

* 23/02/2010 18.27pm
As I washed the dishes after our evening meal a thought came to me - "What about Guildford Cathedral?" This is a building I've never visited but which I know from photographs to be modern. A bit of research showed that it was begun in 1936 and completed in 1961. So, for three above, read four. In fact, any advance on four?

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 60mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/20
ISO: 3200
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On