Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Peterborough Cathedral

click photo to enlarge
In yesterday's post I called Henry VIII's order for the Dissolution of the Monasteries an act of vandalism. It was as far as the laying to waste of many fine abbeys, monasteries and priories went. But it was also a political act, part of his move to usurp the pope as head of the English church and replace him with himself and all subsequent sovereigns. It had the added advantage, of course, of shifting the enormous wealth of the monastic establishments into the hands of the crown and the exchequer. But, though many fine buildings were wholly or partly destroyed some were retained to act as regional centres of the new Church of England. One such building is at Peterborough.

What became the cathedral in 1541, and remains so today, was until the time of the Reformation, a Benedictine monastery. It was founded by Peada, King of Mercia in about 650 AD. It suffered sacking at the hands of the Danes (870) and Hereward (1070) though the church was spared in the second assault only to suffer a great fire in 1116. In the present building some pre-conquest remains are eviden, but most of the work dates from 1118 and later.

The west front (seen above) was completed by the time of the great consecration in 1238. Stylistcally it is what architectural historians call Early English. The three great arches or portals that mark the facade indicate the nave (centre) and the flanking aisles. For reasons best known to whover instigated it, a porch was added to the central arch at the end of the fourteenth century. Many who see it accept it, but to my eye it is, with the large window above and behind it, an intrusion on the essentially lancet forms of the front.

I've photographed this facade a few times but have never been entirely happy with the outcomes. On the day of my recent visit the sky and light were kinder than previously and I secured this shot. I've converted it to black and white to better emphasise the details.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 104mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/800
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On