Monday, November 04, 2013

Gloucester Cathedral cloister

click photo to enlarge
"cloister, n. A covered walk or arcade connected with a monastery, college, or large church, serving as a way of communication between different parts of the group of buildings, and sometimes as a place of exercise or study; often running round the open court of a quadrangle, with a plain wall on the one side, and a series of windows or an open colonnade on the other. (Often in pl.)"
from the Oxford English Dictionary

When I came to title today's photograph I couldn't decide whether to use "cloister" or "cloisters". Both are commonly heard, and, whilst I know what is meant by the words, I began to wonder whether the singular referred to just a part of the structure - say one side of the quadrangle - and the plural was reserved for more than this or perhaps for the whole of it. I needn't have concerned myself; the Oxford English Dictionary tells me that the singular and plural are used interchangeably and have been used in this way for centuries.

I was in Gloucester cathedral one recent early evening and immediately gravitated to the cloister(s). Why? Because they are my favourite part of this building. And not only mine; Pevsner says, "The cloisters at Gloucester are probably the most memorable in England. One of the greatest achievements of the Perp(endicular) style, they have the earliest surviving fan vaulting, other than on small-scale monuments; this must have been conceived in the 1350s, though all four walks were only completed at the beginning of the C15." It's possibly that this uniquely English, and very beautiful architectural form originated in Gloucester, but the charms of the fan vault were such that it quickly spread and they continued to be built right through into the early seventeenth century. Notable examples can be seen at King's College Chapel, Cambridge, at Bath Abbey and in the retrochoir at Peterborough Cathedral. At Gloucester the east walk of the cloister is the oldest. The three other walks were not started until 1381 and though very similar are not identical, being slightly simpler. Fan vaults differ from the many kinds of earlier vaulting that comprise ribs with infill by being constructed of large, jointed and carved pieces of masonry that are fitted together to form the inverted conoid shapes.

The daylight was fading and the cathedral's lights had been switched on when I took my photograph. The warm glow of the uplighters show off the delicacy of the vaulting's surface tracery and contrast nicely with the colder blue of the light from an overcast and rainy sky.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 13.4mm (36mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/125
ISO: 800
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On