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Archaeology and iconography: Recent developments in the study of English Medieval architecture

  • Eric Fernie

This paper is the text of the Society’s Annual Lecture for 1988, delivered at the Royal Society of Arts on 14 November.

It is a commonplace on occasions such as this for speakers to begin the lecture by acknowledging the honour they feel in having been asked to deliver it. In most instances there is no means of knowing whether the sentiment is anything more than a rhetorical flourish for form’s sake; this evening however may be different, because of the chronological centre of gravity of the Society’s interests, as indicated, for example, by the fact that the great majority of articles in the Society’s journal deal with the buildings of the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Thus, as a historian of the architecture of the Middle Ages, I think I can say, not rhetorically, but as an almost quantifiable statement, that it is indeed an honour to be asked to deliver the Society’s annual lecture this evening.

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1 Dawson, C., The Making of Europe (Meridian, New york, 1956).

2 Taylor, Harold and Taylor, Joan. Anglo-Saxon Architecture (Cambridge), vols I and II, 1965, vol. III, 1978.

3 SirClapham, Alfred, English Romanesque Architecture before the Conquest (Oxford, 1930).

4 See for example Franki, P., The Four Phases of Architectural Style (Cambridge, Mass., 1968 ) (a translation by J. O’Gorman of the text of 1914), and the literature discussed in the introduction.

5 Biddle, Martin, ‘Archaeology, architecture, and the cult of saints in Anglo-Saxon England’ in Butler, L. and Morris, R., eds, The Anglo-Saxon Church: Papers on History, Architecture and Archaeology in Honour of Dr H. M. Taylor (CBA Research Report 60, 1986), pp. 1-31; Taylor, Harold, ‘St Wystan’s church, Repton, Derbyshire: a reconstruction essay’, Archaeological Journal, CXXXXIV (1987), pp. 205-45. The case for a date before the 870s is not without uncertainty. It rests primarily on the finding of coins of the 860s and 870s in grave 529 which appears to have been cut back to enable it to fit against the foundations of the north porticus, which must therefore pre-date it. The coins however do not provide a terminus ante quern for the porticus so much as a terminus post quern for the grave, leaving open the possibility of a date after the re-establishment of Christianity in Mercia, provided one keeps an open mind about the dates at which coins remained available for use in such circumstances. Further, on the basis of the published evidence it is possible to ask whether the grave might not have been cut back in the digging of the trench for the foundations. And lastly, whatever date is suggested for the north porticus by the grave, it does not necessarily apply to the vaulting inserted into the crypt, since the thickening of the chancel wall above could have taken place, as the authors admit, either during or after the insertion of the vault; and similarly, there is no guarantee that the chancel wall was not thickened after the construction of the north porticus.

6 Kidson, Peter and Murray, Peter, A History of English Architecture (London, 1962), pp. 30-32. For St Peter’s see Perkins, J. B. Ward, ‘The shrine of St Peter and its twelve spiral columns’, Journal of Roman Studies, XLII (1952), pp. 21–33, and Toynbee, J. and Perkins, J. P. J. Ward, The Shrine of St Peter and the Vatican Excavations (London, 1956), p. 195 ff. and 247 fr, and figs 20-22.

7 Kubach, Hans and Verbeek, Albert, Romanische Kirchen an Rhein und Maas (Neuss, 1972), p. 338 and pl. 70 (Deventer), and p. 358 and pl. 69 (Utrecht).

8 Fernie, Eric, ‘The Romanesque piers of Norwich cathedral’, Norfolk Archaeology, XXXVI (1977), pp. 38386 ; idem., ‘The spiral piers of Durham Cathedral’, Medieval Art and Architecture at Durham Cathedral (BAACT 1977), 1980, pp. 49-58; ibid., ‘St Anselm’s crypt’, Medieval Art and Architecture at Canterbury Cathedral (BAACT 1979), 1982, pp. 27-38.

9 Rodwell, Warwick, ‘The archaeological investigation of Hadstock church: an interim reportAntiquaries Journal LVI (1976), pp. 55-71.

10 Fernie, Eric, ‘The responds and dating of St Botolph’s, Hadstock’, JBAA, CXXXVI (1983), pp. 68-73.

11 Bony, Jean, ‘Durham et la tradition Saxonne’, Etudes d’Art Medievale Offertes à Louis Grodecki (Paris, 1981), pp. 79-92. For an example of Bony’s earlier work on Durham, see ‘Le projet premier de Durham: voûtement partiel ou voûtement total?’, in Urbanisme et Architecture: Etudes Ecrites et Publiées en Honneur de Pierre Lavedan (Paris, 1954), pp. 41-49.

12 Fernie, Eric, The Architecture of the Anglo-Saxons (London, 1983), p. 172 .

13 Fernie, Eric, ‘The use of varied nave supports in Romanesque and early Gothic churches’, Gesta, XXIII (1984), pp. 107-17.

14 Gomme, Andor, Architecture of Glasgow (London, 1987), pp. 35-37.

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Architectural History
  • ISSN: 0066-622X
  • EISSN: 2059-5670
  • URL: /core/journals/architectural-history
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