Visit: A Gothic Church

“Your second visit should be to a Gothic or Victorian Gothic revival church or cathedral. ” Course Notes.

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark is a small cathedral on London’s Southbank. Its plan is a traditional cross shape with western entrances and other adjacent buildings connected via a modern glass covered walkway.

Cathedral Plan
Cathedral Plan – Copyright © 2016 Southwark Cathedral

The Catherdral, then just a church, dates back to the early 12th century but was rebuilt in the Early Gothic style after a ‘disastrous’ fire in 1212 damaged the church, priory, and hospital. The oldest complete part of the building, the Choir and Retrochoir, still dates from 1212 and is now the oldest gothic building in London. At the end of the Choir is the Great Screen built in 1520 and embellished with statues in 1905 (when it was officially named a Cathedral). The Nave has been replaced several times since then, the current one dates from 1897 designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield.

The NAVE:

This view is from standing at the back of the crossing (by the choir), showing the crossing and nave. We can see the effect of the light pooring in through all the many pointed windows in the nave and illuminating the vaulted ceiling. At the back you can see the western pointed arched stained glass windows and blind windows.
This view is from standing at the back of the crossing (by the choir), showing the crossing and nave. We can see the effect of the light pooring in through all the many pointed windows in the nave and illuminating the vaulted ceiling. At the back you can see the western pointed arched stained glass windows and blind windows.
Remains of the former medieval nave
Remains of the former medieval nave by the south west doorway

The stained glass windows along the North aisle of the Nave are Victorian, designed by Charles Eamer Kempe. These depict famous inhabitants of Southwark with literary connections including, poet Oliver Goldsmith, author Samuel Johnson, Chaplian Henry Sacheverell, Alexander Cruden (author of the King James Bible), author and preacher John Bunyan, poet John Gower and author Geoffrey Chaucer.

The stone roof collapsed in 1469 and was replaced by a wooden one, some of the carvings from that ceiling still survive. – in the bottom of this photo:

“At the West End is a window designed by Henry Holiday showing scenes of the Creation.”

Most of the clustered column capitals throughout were plain but a couple of columns at the back of the Nave looked to have a stiff-leaf capital.

Most of the capitals were quite plain but there was one column at the back of the Nave (by the Font) which looked to be a stiff-leaf capital.
Most of the capitals were quite plain but there was one column at the back of the Nave (by the Font) which looked to be a stiff-leaf capital.

The Aisles also have vaulted ceilings one level lower (supporting the gallery level gabled roof) and stained glass windows.

South Aisle - looking back at the south western entrance. The Aisles have their own vaulted ceilings, in the same style but one level lower (presumably to support the gallery level gabled roof only because from the outside there doesn’t look to be space to have a full gallery level). Stained glass windows line the walls.
South Aisle – looking back at the south western entrance. The Aisles have their own vaulted ceilings, in the same style but one level lower (presumably to support the gallery level gabled roof only because from the outside there doesn’t look to be space to have a full gallery level). Stained glass windows line the walls.

The CROSSING and TRANSEPTS:

Vaulted ceilings in the Transepts are two stories high, with large pointed arched windows (with stained glass and octofoil window in the north and plain glass but elaborate curvilinear tracery in the south).

Pointed Arches & Vaulted Ceiling - South Transept
Pointed Arches & Vaulted Ceiling – South Transept

The North and South Transepts, filled with various 17th and 18th century monuments, were built in 1283 and 1310 respectively, however the current south transept is the result of another fire related rebuild in the 1390s. This time they took the opportunity to increase the height of the tower and restored the chapel. The tracery in the South Transept looks to be of Decorated style (equivalent to flamboyant style in Europe).

Pointed Arches, Vaulted Ceiling & Stained Glass windows (including octofoil window) - North Transept (looking across the crossing from Sotuh Transept )
Pointed Arches, Vaulted Ceiling & Stained Glass windows (including octofoil window) – North Transept (looking across the crossing from Sotuh Transept )

Arches leading to the choir aisles differ slightly in shape on each side of the church, on the south a usual equilateral arch, on the north is a stilted arch, (one side has been flattened) to allow for the tower staircase. The stilted arch can be seen in this photo below, to the left of the pulpit.

In this view of the crossing and into the choir leading to the high altar, you can clearly see the stilted arch on the left hand side is not symmetrical. this is to allow for a staircase to the tower.
In this view of the crossing and into the choir leading to the high altar, you can clearly see the stilted arch on the left hand side is not symmetrical. this is to allow for a staircase to the tower.

“The Crossing under the central tower has four piers, flattened on the inner sides, dating from the 14th century. Suspended here is a splendid chandelier given by an innkeeper’s wife, in 1680.”

This is looking up at the ceiling of the crossing.
This is looking up at the ceiling of the crossing.

The CHOIR and Great Screen:

South choir aisle - This is a slightly older part of the build, in the choir aisle looking at the first chapel in the retrochoir. The ceiling here, although vaulted, doesn't have the same fancy green striped pattern as the victorian tiles in the aisle of the Nave. Also, it doesn't have the rose pattern where the ribs meet.
South choir aisle – This is a slightly older part of the build, in the choir aisle looking at the first chapel in the retrochoir. The ceiling here, although vaulted, doesn’t have the same fancy green striped pattern as the victorian tiles in the aisle of the Nave. Also, it doesn’t have the rose pattern where the ribs meet.

The Choir is Early English style. The Choir stalls are of ornately carved wood. There are also elaborate wooden screens, tombs and monuments across the five bays each side.

The Choir has elaborate wooden screens in the arches.
The Choir has elaborate wooden screens in the arches.

The piers are alternately circular and octagonal leading up to triple vaulting shafts for the ceiling. The Altarpiece has gold leaf geometric patterns and religious sculptures which melt into a wall of statues on the Great Screen.

This is looking at the alter and great screen in the santuary. You can see the light shining through the stained glass pointed arched windows here.
This is looking at the alter and great screen in the santuary. You can see the light shining through the stained glass pointed arched windows here.

“The Pulpit, Stalls, and Bishop’s throne, or ‘cathedra’, all date from the 19th and 20th centuries.”

The Great Screen was built in 1520 and embellished with (‘New Jerusalem’ style) statues in 1905 when it was officially named a Cathedral.

The great screen statues, added in 1905.
The great screen statues, added in 1905.

The RETRO-CHOIR

The oldest complete part of the building, the Choir and Retrochoir, still dates from 1212 making it the oldest gothic building in London. It has some random blind tracery at the back of the chapels

This is medieval blind tracery in the retrochoir. You can see there is much less light in here but I expect if I visited first thing in the morning the light would be streaming in through the eastern chapel stained glass windows behind me
This is medieval blind tracery in the retrochoir. You can see there is much less light in here but I expect if I visited first thing in the morning the light would be streaming in through the eastern chapel stained glass windows behind me
One of the chapels in the retrochoir, all four had stained glass pointed arches windows
One of the chapels in the retrochoir, all four had stained glass pointed arches windows

Lancelot’s Link

This is the ‘street’ outside the original church but its actually an interior now connecting the ancillary buildings together

This is a covered walkway which would have been outside the original church, called Lancelot's Link. This shows the exterior view of the North Aisle pointed arched (stained glass) windows
This is a covered walkway which would have been outside the original church, called Lancelot’s Link. This shows the exterior view of the North Aisle pointed arched (stained glass) windows

 

todo – revisit and photograph the roman wall behind

Exterior:

Outside, the retrochoir is seen as a symmetrical set of four chapels topped with gables and lancet windows. Behind them on the sanctuary tower above the main stained glass is a small rose window not visible from inside. The square central tower rises up, with four spiral pinnacles and a clock.

East Exterior view. Symmetrical set of chapels with Pointed arches. This is the oldest part of the building, the back of the Retro choir, you cannot tell from this exterior view but all of those windows have stained glass. Apologies for the condition of the photo, my camera-phone struggled with the dynamic range at this side of the building at this time of the day.
East Exterior view. Symmetrical set of chapels with Pointed arches. This is the oldest part of the building, the back of the Retro choir, you cannot tell from this exterior view but all of those windows have stained glass. Apologies for the condition of the photo, my camera-phone struggled with the dynamic range at this side of the building at this time of the day.

In the South churchyard, you can see medieval pointed arch windows with geometric tracery (retrochoir) and further along, that newer curvilinear tracery in South Transept windows and the sweep of the flying buttresses as they support the upper level of the building. Quoins edge the buttresses and cornerstones of the building in a different brick which makes an attractive pattern.

Exterior view of medieval Restrochoir from south east churchyard showing pointed arch windows with geometric tracery
Exterior view of medieval Restrochoir from south east churchyard showing pointed arch windows with geometric tracery
South Churchyard - Exterior view of the South Transept large pointed arched windows with curvilinear tracery
South Churchyard – Exterior view of the South Transept large pointed arched windows with curvilinear tracery
South Churchyard - Exterior view of the South West Entrance to the Nave. You can see Flying Butress supporting the higher level of windows and pointed arched windows.
South Churchyard – Exterior view of the South West Entrance to the Nave. You can see Flying Butress supporting the higher level of windows and pointed arched windows.
From outside the south churchyard to the west
From outside the south churchyard to the west

The facade at the west end of the cathedral shows equilateral arch stained glass windows with symmetrical blind tracery arches. Above, a strip of arabesque molding and two pointed religious medallion moldings. Higher up there are some more lancet windows with shutter blinds in them.

This exterior view is of the West end of the nave, showing equilateral arch windows (with stained glass, see later picture from inside) with, for symmetry some blind tracery arches too.
This exterior view is of the West end of the nave, showing equilateral arch windows (with stained glass, see later picture from inside) with, for symmetry some blind tracery arches too.
Detail of the last picture, of the exterior view of the West end of the nave. This shows two pointed medallion moldings with relgious scenes in them above the arched windows and a strip of arabesque molding along the top.
Detail of the last picture, of the exterior view of the West end of the nave. This shows two pointed medallion moldings with relgious scenes in them above the arched windows and a strip of arabesque molding along the top.

 

I have captioned the following images in detail to explain each feature of the photos: Click them for larger. There are some extra ones in this gallery that are not above.

References:

Honour, H & Fleming, J. (2009) A World History of Art. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Hopkins, O. (2012) Reading Architecture: A Visual Lexicon. (7th Ed), London, Laurence King Publishing

Hughes. (2009) Timeline Of Southwark Cathedral – PDF At: http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/downloads/visit/timeline.pdf
(Accessed on 20 April 16)

Southwark Cathedral . (2009) Various links from the main visit menu At: http://cathedral.southwark.anglican.org/visit/
(Accessed on 20 April 16)

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