The Architecture of the Scottish Medieval Church, 1100-1560

By Thurlby, Malcolm | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2012 | Go to article overview

The Architecture of the Scottish Medieval Church, 1100-1560


Thurlby, Malcolm, The Catholic Historical Review


The Architecture of the Scottish Medieval Church, 1100-1560. By Richard Fawcett. (New Haven: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. 2011. Pp. xiv, 456.$100.00. ISBN 978-0-300-17049-8.)

Over the past thirty years, Richard Fawcett's numerous publications have revolutionized our understanding of medieval church architecture in Scotland. The fruits of his brilliant research are now brought together with fine illustrations in this handsome new volume. The book opens with an introduction to church architecture in Scotland before 1 100, and there follow eight chapters arranged chronologically and a conclusion on the impact of the Reformation. Comprehensive endnotes and a bibliography facilitate further study on the buildings. Fawcett's passion for architectural history exudes throughout his presentation and meticulous analysis of the buildings, and this cannot fail to be infectious for specialists and nonspecialists alike. His keen eye for detail combined with an unparalleled knowledge of the buildings and profound understanding of comparative material in Europe provides us with an unparalleled view of Scottish churches in a European context. Churches are discussed in their appropriate historical setting and, where documentation permits, in terms of their patronage. Small churches and those known only from Antiquarian sources are examined alongside the "great monuments." For twelfth-century churches Fawcett demonstrates close ties with exemplars in England, particularly Durham Cathedral and its influence on Dunfermline Abbey and Kirkwall Cathedral and several smaller churches. In the thirteenth century, Lincoln Cathedral was a favorite point of reference, as at Horyrood Abbey. Yet the Scottish churches were by no means provincial copies of English models, especially in the smaller Romanesque churches of the Northern Isles. In Orkney, the round tower at Egilsay and the twin round western towers at Deerness (now lost) are allied to northern Germany, which was then in the same ecclesiastical province. The southwest nave doorway at Whithorn Cathedral is associated with Irish Romanesque. …

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