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· Although it is very difficult to comprehend what many writers understand by the word Gothic, I believe that, most usually, the pointed style is intended by that term. This, however, is by no meang uniformly the case. Several early authors comprise, under the class of Gothic buildings, those erected by the Saxons and Normans in this country ;-and, perhaps, the writers of a modern date may mean the same, so obscure, and even contradictory, are their intimations.
Indifferent as to a phrase, so that it convey a distinct meaning, it becomes a duty on succeeding writers to adopt some Nomenclature that may have fair sense for its basis, and may afford luminous and decisive ideas.
In support of the term which I have used in describing that Jight and graceful mode of architecture, which intervened between the heavy circular style, and the partial revival of the Grecian in the 16th century, I present an opinion published in a work sauctioned by the Society of Antiquaries;-an account of Durham cathedral, with plans, elevations, &c. of that structure. .
“ It is much to be wished that the word Gothic should not be used in speaking of the architecture of England, from the thir
has been the custom to restrain the term Gothic to this light style only." (the pointed) “and it has long been so called. That name was received all over Europe, and was so well established, and every body understood, and knew so exactly what it meant, that it really does appear to be a great pity people would not rest contented with it. It answered completely all the purposes of language; and much confusion has been caused of late, by the inuoduction, and unsteady use, of new and dubious names; and a vast deal has been written, which might have well been spared.”
It is curious that Mr, Kerrich affords a confutation of his own position, in the course of the notes and illustrations attached to the same essay. . In une. of his illustrative plates, we find a range of examples, in the circular (AngloSaxon, or Anglo Norman) style of architecture, which he denominates the Old Gothic of the Middle Ages. Parallel with it, is a class of pointed architecture, which he terms simply, Gothic.-See Observations on Gothic Architecture, &c. by T. Kerrich, M. A. Archæologia, Vol. XVI.
teenth to the sixteenth century. The term tends to give false ideas on the subject, and origiuates with the Italian writers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ; who applied the expres. sion of La Maniera Gotica,' in contempt, to all the works of art of the middle ages.
“ From these writers it was borrowed by Sir Christopher Wren, the first English writer who has applied it to English architecture. There is very little doubt that the light and elegaut style of building, whose principal and characteristic feature is the high-pointed arch struck from two centres, was invented in this country: it is certain that it was here brought to its highest state of perfection; and the testimonies of other countries, whose national traditions ascribe their most beautiful churches to English artists, adds great weight to this assertion, and peculiar propriety to the term English, now proposed to be substituted to the word Gothic.
" The architecture used by the Saxons is very properly called Saxon. The improvements introduced after the Norman Conquest, justify the application of Norman to the edifices of that period. The nation assumed a new character about the time of Henry the Second. The language, properly called English, was then formed; and an architecture, founded on the Norman and Saxon, but extremely different from both, was invented by Euglish artists: it is, surely, equally just and proper to distinguish this style by the honourable appellation of English.”
It would appear that the Society of Antiquaries, on mature reflection, are not disposed to warrant the promulgation of the above, as their decided opinion, in its complete tenour; but, as far as an application of terms is implicated, there cau scarcely be cause for disavowal.— It is clear that the architects who designed those structures in the pointed style, which so greatly assist in adorning our island with monuments of art, did not themselves bestow any distinctive name on their novel mode. Its ters of designation with posterity must, therefore, proceed from certain marked architectural characteristics, or from the uational appel
lation of the people under whose patronage it was commenced and carried to its utmost height of perfection in this country. - The peculiarity most obvious to notice, in this light, delicate, style, is the general tendency of its component parts to the Pointed, or pyramidical, form; while the term ENGLISH may be applied, with as strict propriety, to the architecture practised by the English, as the appellations of Saxon and Normau have been already to the structures erected by the Saxons and Normans of Britain. It will be evident that the use of such a term is, in each instance, really far from implying that the mode was invent. ed by the people whose name it bears; but is merely intended to discriminate the historical era at which it was practised-the dynasty by which it was adopted.
The Origin, and early HISTORY, of the Pointed, or English, style, are iuvolved in a mysterious cloud, which no attempts have hitherto succeeded in removing, and under whose gloomy inAuence they will probably for ever remain. The strange oblivion attending the iutroductiou and cultivation of so fine and unique a mode of architecture, is, in some measure, explained by a consideration of the character and circumstances of the persons en. gaged in erecting buildings during the centuries in which it fourished.
It would appear that associations of architects and workmen had been long in the habit of traversing various countries, for the purpose of undertaking the construction of ecclesiastical edifices, according to the inost approved methods of each prevalent style, or fashion. These associated parties of masons met with peculiar favour from the Pope, towards the close of the 12th century. Bands of “ architects and artists,” of various national extraction, were then incorporated by the holy father, and were endowed with many great and exclusive privileges. Among the advantages obtained by them at that time, was an authoritative grant of pere mission to fix their own prices of labour, subject, perhaps, to some regulations euaeted in papal chapter. This arbitrary privilege, which exempted such artists from the operation of the
statutes statules of labourers prevailing in England, remained in force until the reign of Henry the Sixth;* but it will appear that they assumed little on so comprehensive an indulgence, and were as moderate in demands of remuneration as they were transcendant in professional skill. The persons thus incorporated, and stimulated to exertion by such valuable endowments, were termed, in England, Free and Accepted Masons.
Many particulars concerning this fraternity, of some importance to the present enquiry, are transmitted by Sir Christopher Wren, who was, for many years, the grand master and ruling genius of that wreck, or mimickry, of the institution, which existed in his time; and was a man likely, from professional curiosity, to examine all its remaining records.
Sir Christopher Wren, after noticing the indulgences granted to these builders by the Pope, observes that they " styled themselves Free Masons, and ranged from one nation to another, as they found churches to build (for very many in those ages were every where in building, through piety or emulation.) Their government was regular; and where they fixed near the building in hand, they made a camp of huts. A surveyor governed in chief; every tenth man was called a warden, and overlooked each nine; the gentlemen of the neighbourhood, either out of charity, or commutation of penance, gave the materials and carriages. Those who have seen the exact accounts in records, of the charge of the fabrics of some of our cathedrals, near four hundred years old, cannot but have a great esteem for their æconomy, and admire how soon they erected such lofty structures.
“ Indeed, greai height they thoaght the greatest magnificence; few stones were used but what a man might carry up a ladder, on his back, from scaffold to scatfold, though they had pullies and spoked wheels upon occasion; but, having rejected cornices, they had no need of great engines; stone upon stone was easily piled
· up to great heights; therefore, the pride of their works was in 'pinnacles and steeples.
“ In this they essentially differed from the Roman 'way, who Jaid all their mouldings horizontally, which made the best perspective: the Gothic way, on the contrary, carried all their mouldings perpendicular; so tliat the ground-work being settled, "they had nothing else to do but to spire all up as they could.
Thus, they made their pillars of a bundle of little torus's, which divided into more when they came to the roof; and then these torus's split into many small ones; and, traversing one another, gave occasion to the tracery work (as they call it) of which this society were the inventors. They used the 'sharp-pointed arch, which would rise with little centering, required lighter key-stones, and less butment, and yet would bear another row of double arches, rising from the key-stone; by diversifying 'of which, they erected eminent structures, such as the steeples of Vienna, Strasbourg, and many others.”
In different pages of the “ Parentalia,” from which work the above extract is made, Sir Christopher Wren indicates that the practice of the pointed style of architecture, exclusively appertained to the fraternity of Free-Masons. And the inference thús arising, is the chief article of information which he conveys. His distaste towards the attractive style used by this skilful association, is sufficiently known. It would appear that he could not fathom the rules of art by which their works were governed, and politically affected to despise that which he wanted invention to imitate.
To a contemptuous neglect of enquiry, or to an affectation still more reprehensible, must be attribnted the excursive spirit which led him to Vienna and Strasbourg, when he might have found finer examples on English ground, executed from the desigus of English artists.
While we recollect that the cultivation of the pointed style appears to have been exclusively confined to the fraternity of Free-Masons, we shall be less surprised at the mystery in which