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Too many writers and architectural historians damn Norman (Romanesque) architecture with faint praise. Because they look at it alongside the principal phases of Gothic architecture, styles that are later in date, more architecturally inventive and refined, and the sources that Victorian Gothicists usually used as their source of inspiration, they find Norman architecture wanting. I've never shared that view, being able to recognise in the style qualities that I find admirable and interesting.
Where detractors see crudity I see primitive vigour, where they see overpowering mass I see grounded strength, "savage" ornament and sculpture is, to my eyes, sturdy, dramatic, even dynamic. Norman architecture should not be judged by the absence of Gothic qualities but for its own elementary and evolving features that give it a grandeur of a different kind from that seen in Gothic architecture.
Today's photograph shows a view along the nave of Melbourne church in Derbyshire. It dates from the 1100s is much larger and grander than most Norman parish churches, but illustrates the sturdy nature of the style very well. The large, cylindrical columns, shallowly carved scallop capitals, rounded arches with heavy moulding and zig-zag , and the simple tub font on four squat columns, can all be seen elsewhere in parish churches, but not too frequently all in the same church. The rounded arches, of course, only allow a narrow nave and aisles, narrow windows, and a relatively short distance between the supporting columns: pointed Gothic arches enabled wider spans in churches. Consequently Norman parish churches churches tend to be darker than their Gothic counterparts. Here the church is well-lit because the day was very bright. The barn-like roof, incidentally, dates from the 1500s.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Photo Title: Font and Nave, Melbourne church, Derbyshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 9mm (18mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4
Shutter Speed: 1/50 sec
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On