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have done on a previous occasion, the strongest predilection for this glorious style. It is consecrated by the most intimate connexion with the origin and progress of our faith. By those who have made themselves most thoroughly acquainted with its principles, it is even denominated the Christian style, in contradistinction to all the others, which had their origin in the darkness of remote and heathen antiquity. In their form, their construction, and their detail, its edifices are strikingly emblematical of the doctrines of Christianity. It is impossible, then, that they should not, by the force of association, exert a very powerful influence over the mind which is disposed to be assisted by them. It is observed by Mr. Dowson, in his elegant “ Essay on the Metaphysics of Architecture,” that “the scenes around us become, as it were, the pedestals, upon which our souls naturally exalt themselves to take a view of the things beyond." This kind of association can nowhere be more necessary than in a house of worship. From music, poetry, painting, or sculpture, we can easily escape, if they cause impressions which are in harmonious or unpleasing ; but it is impossible to avoid the impressions received from sacred architecture, unless we also banish ourselves from the ordinances of divine service, and habitually turn away our feet from the appointed exercises of religious worship. Every thing, therefore, which can contribute toward detaching the affections from the common and ordinary affairs of life, should be brought before the eye in a religious edifice; and it must be admitted that the solemn Gothic is admirably adapted for this purpose.
There are few, indeed, who can withstand its impressive influence, or fail to be affected with the serious emotions it at once excites in the mind. For ourselves, we cannot desire that kind of satisfaction, which some have endeavoured to derive from a denial of these truths. “Far from me and my friends," said the wise and pious Dr. Johnson, “ be such frigid philosophy! That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.”
In looking back over the history of Christianity, the events which mark its progress, and the great principles which it has continually kept alive, seem to us to be indelibly associated with the solemn edifices in which, from time to time, they have been either acted, or proclaimed. So long as these
invaluable monuments remain, they must always be viewed with the highest interest, and approached only with a feeling of reverent admiration. Mr. Pugin has very ingeniously endeavoured to show, that it is in them alone, that the great æsthetical principles of building have been fully carried out. Without venturing to question the correctness of this position, or to examine the numerous reasons which he has adduced in its support, we may remark, that many of the imitators in ecclesiastical architecture have certainly proceeded upon very erroneous principles in the formation of their designs. It is little to be wondered at, that many of our Gothic churches and other edifices are so unsatisfactory, when we observe, how different their designs are from those of the Gothic architects themselves, whose works are proposed as models for imitation. The fact, that at least six different stages or styles are clearly recognized in pointed architecture,
- each one distinguished from the rest by peculiarities that are not to be mistaken, has
often been lost sight of by our builders ; while the adoption of any species of pointed arched windows, with rude imitations of embattled parapets, and sometimes a few buttress-like projections from the walls, has been dignified among us with the honorable title of a Gothic design. It is true, that a better and more rational manner is now beginning to prevail, as the copious and elegant illustrations of its finest examples are more closely studied. But such solecisms as are observable in some of our earlier works of the kind would not have been committed by persons acquainted even with the leading principles of the pointed style, since the marked changes which it successively underwent can be easily understood by a reference to the history of the circumstances which occasioned them. There is no doubt, that the successive steps in this gradual transition are very clearly defined.
A few churches had been constructed during the early period in which the Romans still retained possession of Britain. The progress of Christianity upon that uncivilized soil was slow and difficult, and its struggles under the Dioclesian persecution, and under the wild irruption of the Northern barbarians, produced a perceptible effect upon the sacred architecture of the fourth and fifth centuries. In the rude strife and turmoil of those primitive times, when the Roman legions had been recalled by the tottering state from the charge of con
quests which she was no longer able to maintain, and civil disorder on all sides was at its height, the shrines of the new religion were almost entirely demolished, and their worshippers, as a body, scattered and lost in the paganism which rose upon their ruins. But when, at the end of the sixth century, the zeal of Augustine and Mellitus had rekindled the extinguished flame, and Christianity was again preached and propagated among the people, the new converts were assisted, in erecting their churches, by architects and workmen from the Papal city. Many of the Roman temples, and of the basilicas, or halls of justice, which still remained in existence, though in a neglected and dismantled condition, were repaired and consecrated to the services of the church. It is confidently believed, that the internal arrangement of these edifices was still retained, and first gave a form to the interior of all the religious structures which succeeded them. We find, that they were divided, by rows of columns, into three longitudinal spaces, like the nave and aisles of a church, and that the apsis, or semi-circular east end, still observable in some of the venerable Norman churches, had its distinct prototype in the recessed seats of the civil tribunal. The round arches, which, in the debased Roman buildings, sprung immediately from the imposts of the low and massive columns, and by their inelegance marked the decline of the last stage of Roman art, were copied with little alteration into these rude ecclesiastical structures, while the whole style of detail was left almost entirely devoid of ornamental finish. But in the subsequent invasions of the fierce Danes, it was their fate to meet with another almost-general destruction, so that the number of churches, which can with any certainty be referred to the period of the Heptarchy, is, in fact, very small. Before the subject of ecclesiastical antiquities, however,
had become of such general interest as at present, and when such an accurate knowledge of its history and principles as we now possess had not been acquired, nor even sought for, very confused notion of its early state had arisen, from the indiscriminate application of the term “Saxon” to almost every edifice, in which the form of the pointed arch was not distinctly exhibited. This erroneous idea is still
frequently entertained ; but the truth is, that the remains of Saxon architecture are now so inconsiderable, that its peculiarities could scarcely be illustrated by a reference to the
whole of them. The masonry is stated to be chiefly composed of rubble, with squared blocks of stone at the angles, and to have differed little in appearance from the latest specimens of the debased Roman manner of building.
But during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the doctrines of Christianity had obtained a former foothold, and the
a edifices in which its worship was conducted had become the objects of general veneration and respect. Many more churches were erected, which, in size and style, far excelled the rude structures of the preceding age. Of these Norman buildings, there are many still remaining, in a state of excellent preservation. Parts of the older cathedrals are referable to this period, and the thick walls, massive piers, and heavy, semicircular arches of Winchester, Rochester, Norwich, and Durham, still seem likely to retain their stable solidity to the end of time. In their external appearance, the structures of this period are rather uniform and monotonous, and, though in the larger examples, different tiers or stories of arches were generally introduced, the buildings in which they appear are entirely devoid of any lightness or elegance of design. The few buttresses which project from the walls are plain and shallow, and seem, as observed by Mr. Bloxam, intended rather to relieve the plain external surface of the wall than to strengthen it.” But between the earlier and later examples, it must be allowed that a marked difference is observable, and the introduction of clustered columns, larger windows, and a profusion of enriched mouldings, appears to have gradually led the way to that lightness and elegance, which at once resulted from the discovery of the pointed arch. At the commencement of the thirteenth century, it had come into almost universal use, and the whole character of the style submitted to a consequent change.
The style of the thirteenth century is that which appears best fitted for our imitation. In its general character, it is light and simple ; and though all superfluous ornament is carefully avoided, it may be observed, that in no style is a proper management of the details more indispensable than in this. When judiciously applied, and properly executed, they constitute one of its chief beauties. But as experience has abundantly proved, it is quite possible so to vulgarize their forms, and mistake their application, as to render them offensive excrescences, rather than ornamental enrichments.
Every effort should, therefore, be made, whenever this style is adopted, to preserve a harmonious consistency throughout. The roof should rise with an acute pitch, scarcely less than forty-five degrees, and all the dressings of the windows and doors, the pinnacles, buttresses, string-courses, and water tables, should be selected with the greatest care from the best examples of the period. If these be neglected, as they often have been, the experienced eye will be dissatisfied, and the well-meaning architect will suffer rather than profit by a critical investigation.
So little, however, has this unity of style been attended to in this country, that every liberal lover of the arts cannot but perceive, that a very loose idea, as well of plan as of decoration, has been encouraged in some of those meagre and miserable Gothic edifices, which, it is to be hoped, have already had their day. We have seen, for instance, the low, flat ceilings, the four centred arches, and the lighter shrine-work of the Tudor period, brought by our builders into the same design with the square piers, lancet windows, and peculiarly distinctive mouldings of the early English and the Decorated styles, absurdities which are a source of great annoyance to every person of sound judgment and cultivated taste. For
. the first idea to be learned from the books is this, — that an incongruous intermingling of the manner of one century with that of another, is a total violation of architectural propriety, contrary to all the real principles of design, and, in the view of all who have studied the subject, totally destructive to the general effect. These
“jarring seeds of ill-concerted things' are peculiarly obnoxious in an early English building, the effect of which results much more from its form and outline, than from the introduction of any adventitious details.
The east end of Ely cathedral, the fine minster at Southwell, the Temple church in London, and parts of Westminster abbey, of Salisbury, Wells, and Lincoln cathedrals, exhibit fine examples of this style. There are, also, many collegiate and parish churches, which are the work of the same period ; and an abundant series of studies will be found in Pugin's “Specimens,” in Mr. Britton's “Cathe
, drals," and in the “Chronological Dictionary,” by the same author.
Whenever stained glass can be introduced in the windows