THE OLD ORDER AND THE NEW
THE favourite art of any age is the best clue to the spirit of the age; it is significant that architecture engrossed the artists of the Anglo-Norman period. Painting and sculpture, essentially imitative in their nature, depend for success upon a fine perception of nuance in colour, contour, and proportion. In this faculty the age was wanting; it was pleased with simple hues and the indefinite repetition of a simple pattern; it had not studied nature; it was more concerned with the soul than with the body. But in architecture the best minds found a satisfaction for some of their profoundest feelings; for their love of the mysterious and the massive; for their inveterate tendency to denote unseen realities by a concrete symbol; for the sense of brotherhood in an imperishable society; for the desire to testify their faith by some material contribution to the resources of the Church. So churches sprang up broadcast; cathedrals for the dioceses, minsters for conventual communities, chapels and parish churches for the poorest country manors. The architects expressed in stone and mortar what they conceived to be eternal truths. Incidentally and unconsciously they revealed the peculiarities of their own age and nationality. These buildings remain like the fossil skeletons from which geologists divine the features of an otherwise forgotten stage of life. From the churches alone we might infer the presence of a conquering race. Ground-plan and ornament alike carry the thoughts of the spectator beyond the Channel and across the Alps; the foreign influences are palpable; the breach with the past of English art is violent and sudden; the absence of a transitional stage denotes that we are dealing with an importation, not with a natural development. At the same time the new architects, though im
Anglo- Norman Archi-
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Publication information: Book title: England under the Normans and Angevins, 1066-1272. Contributors: H. W. C. Davis - Author. Publisher: Methuen. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1905. Page number: 181.
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