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Bill Thayer

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Note I
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Handbook to the Cathedrals of England

by Richard John King

published by John Murray, Albemarle Street,
Oxford, 1862

the text and engravings of which are in the public domain.

This text has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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p356 Lincoln Cathedral

Part III.
Note II (Part I, Sect. II)

Thayer's Note: This is a slightly edited text; for what appears to be the unedited original, see Kendrick's Lincoln Cathedral, pp15‑17. (This 'original' in turn seems to me to have the flavor of a translation about it, and I would certainly expect Viollet-le‑Duc to have written in French, but I haven't found any French text so far.)

The following letter from M. Viollet-le‑Duc appeared in the "Gentleman's Magazine" for May, 1861:—

"I expected from what I had heard in England to find at Lincoln the French style of architecture; i.e. some constructions of the end of the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth which would shew the evidence of a French architect. But after the most careful examination, I could not find in any part of the cathedral of Lincoln, neither in the general design, nor in any part of the system of architecture adopted, nor in any details of ornament, any trace of the French school of the twelfth century (the lay school from 1170 to 1220) so plainly characteristic of the cathedrals of Paris, Noyon, Senlis, Chartres, Sens, and even Rouen. The part of the cathedral of p357Lincoln in which the influence of the French school has been supposed to be found, has no resemblance to this. I mean the choir. On the exterior, the choir of the cathedral of Lincoln is thoroughly English, or Norman, if you will. One can perceive all the Norman influence: arches acutely pointed; blank windows in the clerestory, reminding one of the basilica covered with a wooden roof; a low triforium; each bay of the aisles divided into two by a small buttress; shafts banded. In the interior, vaults which have not at all the same construction as the French vaults of the end of the twelfth century; arch-mouldings slender, and deeply undercut; the abacus round; the tooth-ornament; which do not at all resemble the ornaments we find at Paris, Sens, St. Denis, &c." . . .

The rose window of the north transept, without disputing the date assigned to it, cannot be considered a French composition. "I do not know a rose of that period in France which is divided into four compartments; the centre of this window does not resemble the arrangement adopted in France; and as to the decoration with small roses which cover the mouldings, they are a very characteristic English ornament."

"Nowhere in France do we find, between 1190 and 1200, pillars similar to those at Lincoln, with the crockets placed between the shafts; nowhere in France do we find crockets carved like these; nowhere shafts with hexagonal concave section; nowhere capitals or abacus similar to those of these pillars."

M. Le-Ducº observes that he cannot readily believe the date usually assigned to the choir of Lincoln to be the true one. (Of this, however, there cannot be the slightest doubt.) The date of 1220, he thinks, or that of 1210 at earliest, agrees better with its architectural character. "We have in Normandy, especially in the cathedral at Rouen, and the church of Eu, architecture of the date of 1190. It is purely French; i.e. it corresponds exactly with the architecture of the Isle de France, except in certain details. At Eu, in the cathedral of Le Mans, at Seez, we have architecture which resembles that of the choir of Lincoln; but that architecture is from 1210 to 1220; it is the Norman school of the thirteenth century. There is indeed at Lincoln an effort at, a tendency to originality; a style of ornament which p358attempts to emancipate itself: nevertheless, the character is purely Anglo-Norman.

"The construction is English; the profiles of the mouldings are English; the ornaments are English; the execution of the work belongs to the English school of workmen of the beginning of the thirteenth century."

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Page updated: 1 Jun 03