« AnteriorContinua »
that of Malmesbury, now in ruins. It was built early in the twelfth century,
by Robert, Consul and Earl of Gloucester, and patron of the Abbey.
In the first era of Norman architecture, towers of very large dimensions and great height were placed within the centre or at the west end of the cathedral and abbey churches. Many of these now lose the appearance of their real height from their extreme solidity. This abbey tower, like those of St. Albans, Lincoln, and others, was originally finished with a lofty wooden spire, covered with lead;" a plan which is still observed in Germany, where the church spires, constructed of wood and covered with tin or iron, serve as distant landmarks to the traveller. In forest countries this was not only ornamental but necessary. “One of the earliest deviations from the original timber spire to that of stone was in that of Salisbury Cathedral.”
The height of the abbey tower is upwards of a hundred and thirty feet. The height of spires and towers is usually found to be equal to the height and length of the nave-or, more accurately perhaps, of the transept. (Mitred Abbeys, Architect. Discourses: Notes.) Externally, this tower is a very striking feature in the landscape, and is much improved by the pinnacles at each corner, which, however, are comparatively modern. The three tiers of arcade mouldings on the outer walls are highly ornamental, and in the intermediate row intersect each other, so as to give the whole square mass a light and graceful appearance.
Cloisters. There are some traces of the cloisters remaining on the South side of the nare. They were in the perpendicular style, very rich, and contain the remains of several stalls and screen-work carved in oak. The windows are very elegant. In several instances the tracery is quite fresh and highly ornamental. The upper windows are nearly of the same character, but those underneath are of richer workmanship, with mullions, transoms, and all the minute chisel-work of the florid style. This part of the conventual remains is full of interest, and carries back the spectator into times when the genius of architecture, fostered by the spirit of religion, shed unrivalled lustre over the land.
Now, if this Cloister, fallen and gone,
And evening, in her solemn stole,
As spreads the slow gloom from the pole. Cloisters were first introduced as an appendage to the larger monasteries, and in this variable climate their use is sufficiently obvious. They are common to all the chief conventual houses in England; but the most remarkable and capacious are those of Canterbury, Salisbury, Norwich, Exeter, and Gloucester. They were particularly adapted to conventual life; the “ ambulatory" round the square, its open windows that descended by a dividing mullion to the floor,* and the small grass-covered cemetery that occupied the centre of the enclosure—the silence of the place—the sanctity of every object around
—all favoured a spirit of monastic seclusion, while, at the same time, the inmates found under these solemn arcades that healthful air, exercise, and social intercourse which they were not permitted to enjoy in public.
The modern entrance to the church is from the north side through a portal of considerable width and elevation, and is furnished with iron gates. Over the entrance is a mutilated image of the Madonna, under whose tutelary guardianship the abbey enjoyed many ages of prosperity. In one of the
round massive columns near the entrance into the north aisle, is an ancient Piscina, or vessel for holy water; and attached to the same pillar are two antique alms-boxes, which appear to have been the expressive monitors of charity during many generations.
The internal area of the church consists of the nave, the transepts, with two extensive side aisles, and a semicircular aisle surrounding the chancel. The lateral aisles, which are rather lower than the body of the church, are divided from the nave by double rows of massive pillars, which bear the stamp of the twelfth century. In the aisle, which forms a semicircular sweep from
the north to the south ends of the transept is the modern vestry-an apartment in which the archives of the abbey were formerly kept. The whole of the interior—the nave, choir, aisles, and transepts, are rich in the monuments of past ages. Shrines, tabernacle-work, sacella, tombs, inscriptions, religious imagery, military and heraldic badges, impart an air of solemn magnificence to the scene, and address the spectator from every part of the walls. The principal arcades, by which the nave is divided from the aisles, are circular, like those in the Cathedral of Gloucester. The centre, or nave, was highest in most of the great churches, and had a breadth scarcely less than the space of the pier arches.
• Analysis of Cathedral Churches, &c.
| History of Gloucest.
THE GREAT WEST ENTRANCE.
The Grand Entrance from the west is the most striking point of view in the whole structure. The Great West Window is “perpendicular," converted into a very lofty Norman arch of great depth, with shafts and mouldings. “ The clerestory windows of the nave are inserted in the Norman arcade; those of the Choir are of the finest decorated tracery, with considerable remains of ancient stained glass.” In design and workmanship the arch possesses nearly every feature that can enter into the combination of what is beautiful and even sublime in architecture.
The perspective, though injured by modern arrangement—the introduction of the organ, and the consequent interruption of the grand coup-d'oil—is still solemn and impressive, and readily suggests to the mind a clear idea of what it must have been when the eye could range at once through the whole nave, with nothing between that and the choir to intercept the view.
The nave in style and construction is Norman; the piers are round, massive, and lofty. At the intersection of the cross is the fine Norman tower, so much admired by all connoisseurs and men practically skilled in the science of architecture. It is or namented with rows of arches in successive stages, both within and without, which give lightness to the mass, and take off the heaviness that would otherwise mark the structure.
The choir has a multangular east end, with additional chapels and a Chapter-house, all of excellent decorated character. Of the windows in the aisles, some of them are decorated, others perpendicular. The great window of this arch was thrown down in a storm in 1661, and twenty years elapsed before it was restored.
King selects the western Portico of Tewkesbury as the grandest in England in point of extent and effect. The western front, or façade, has always occupied a prominent part in every large church. “It exhibits in various instances a gradual alteration of style, from the early Norman to that at the close of the fifteenth century. In the principal feature, the entrance doorway, there is a remarkable difference between those in England and upon
the Continent. The German and French portail forms nearly one half of the total space, and is surmounted by a circular or rose window of vast diameter;" while in the instance before us, as also at St. Albans, the doorway bears no relative proportion to the magnificent window which rises above it. font.—In the south transept is a beautiful baptismal Font, with a cover,
richly carved, and finished with a cross. “ The variety exhibited in the design of these is infinite, and upon no subject connected with ecclesiastical rites did sculptors exert more fancy and taste than in the design and workmanship bestowed on the font.” No genuine Saxon work is so frequent as this; fonts have often survived the church in which they originally stood, and been preserved as venerable relics of primitive Christianity. In the present specimen, however, elegance, design, and execution, not antiquity, are what chiefly claim attention, and which never fail
to receive it from all who are curious in sub
jects of this kind. Towards the close of the fourteenth century, a very ornamental appendage to fonts was introduced, and chiefly in the eastern counties. These consisted of carved oaken covers, exquisitely wrought and embellished, which were suspended from the ceiling, moveable at pleasure, and not unfrequently consisting of a pinnacle or frame several feet high. They have been classed by Mr. F. Simpson, in his Series of Baptismal Fonts, into Saxon, early English, and decorated English of the lower era.- See Dallaway, Bapt. Fonts, p. 205.
The Roof of this church has a great advantage over that of St. Albans, being of stone, and forming a magnificent groined vault, the ribs of which are richly carved at their points of intersection with curious devices, and ornamented with much beautiful tracery, which at that height has a particularly delicate appearance. The carvings, where the ribs cross each other or meet in clusters, are all emblematical of some passage in Scripture history, commemorative of events in that of the order of Benedictines, or obscurely referring to others against which the sculptor's ingenuity indulged in a satirical humour. But here the latter is by no means so conspicuous as in others; for in those early times the ornaments of the churches were made the frequent vehicles of bitter satire against some rival brotherhood, whose vices, true or imputed, were hieroglyphically represented in the capitals, corbel heads, and archways of their respective buildings.
CLOISTER BELI-THE TOMBS.
“No instance of a genuine Anglo-Norman building,” says a well-known authority, “possesses, or was intended to possess, a stone roof, which is indicated by the position of the capitals. The Norman wooden roof was open to the timbers, and hence the conflagration of the ancient churches were disasters of frequent occurrence. That of Tewkesbury was completely destroyed by fire—“igne consumpta.”
Far o'er the Severn's crimson'd flood
That blazing Abbey flung its fire,
On chancel, nave, and choir.
Cloister Bell-case.—Among other striking remains of elaborate workmanship with which the church was so profusely adorned, is a richly carved fragment, with pinnacles, supposed to have been the case in which was suspended the Cloister Bell, which at stated hours summoned the monastic brotherhood to prayers. It is at once elegant in design, and delicate in execu- ST K UUT tion; and were larger models wanting, it a would be sufficient of itself to illustrate the beautiful style of architecture to which it " hi belongs.
Summoned by this bell, the whole brotherhood, with the Lord Abbot at their head, were wont to assemble for vespers; when the well-known hymn, in commemoration of the early life of their founder, Saint Benedict, was chanted in full chorus :
Ille florentes peragebat annos
The Tombs and sepulchral antiquities which here proclaim the virtues of the dead, and the sorrows of the living, are still numerous, though far from what they are known to have been at the dissolution of the monastery. Some of these are elaborate productions, and ably illustrate that period when the purchase of masses and the erection of costly sepulchres for the dead were