Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tewkesbury Abbey choir vault

click photo to enlarge
I visit a lot of churches, both great and small. And, if the truth be known, I prefer the modest buildings to the great abbeys, minsters and cathedrals. However, if it's awe and wonder you are in search of then one of the best man-made spectacles is to be found in the large churches of the medieval and later periods. More specifically, in the elaborate, often beautiful vaulting that supports their great ceilings.

In England there are many examples that take your breath away, and some that offer a variety of examples of the mason's art. Peterborough Cathedral has fine work from the twelfth century and beautiful fan vaults of the 1400s and early 1500s while Gloucester Cathedral cloister can claim the earliest example of this peculiarly English style. Beverley Minster has vaulting to compete with any church, and Ely Cathedral's vaults in and surrounding the famous octagonal lantern are unparalleled anywhere else. Even lesser known buildings, such as Pershore Abbey, can thrill when we stop, look up and reflect on the stonework above our heads.

Today's photograph shows the lierne vaulting of the 1330s above the choir of Tewkesbury Abbey. It is pretty much as built, though in the fifteenth century the Yorkist badges of the "Sun in Splendour" were added. And, of course, the paintwork has been renewed down the centuries. The two features that make this vaulting so different from any other, and so spectacular, are the extent and colours of the paint, as well as the unusual complexity of the ribs and bosses. When I visit this abbey I never fail to stop and look up at this beautiful spider's web that keeps the roof from falling on my head.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 18mm (27mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/30 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On