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Gothic in England: Architecture, Liturgy and Identity 1170-1360


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Tutor: Dr Zoë Opačić
  • Assessment: to be confirmed

Module description

Gothic was the dominant style of architecture in England from its formation in the late twelfth century until the end of the Middle Ages. Its first fully fledged example, the choir of Canterbury Cathedral, demonstrates the speed with which the English patrons and their architects adopted the new style emanating from France and made it their own. It also left us with an eye-witness record - unique in the history of Gothic architecture - of that campaign.

From that point until the middle of the fourteenth century, the Gothic in England refused to follow a single uniform path, but diversified in a series of highly original regional styles culminating in the incredible burst of imaginative creativity known as the Decorated style. 

In this module we will not simply plot the development of Gothic through a series of outstanding projects but also examine the creative, political and religious forces that shaped them. We will see how architecture was used:

  • to express institutional aspirations or defend old traditions at monastic cathedrals, such as Wells and Salisbury
  • to set the stage for important or aspiring new cults of saints at Ely and Lincoln
  • to frame the royal image in a number of projects mainly focused on London
  • as the common language of parish churches, especially with the creation of the Perpendicular style. 

We will also consider all aspects of building design from layout to furnishings, as well as the importance of artistic exchange between England and its continental neighbours in the shaping of its architectural identity. What is so particularly English about Gothic that, as late as the nineteenth century, it was still considered the national style, par excellence

This option is seminar-based and you will be expected to have read key texts for each class and to give presentations.