Gothic Architecture in England and France

By George Herbert West | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XI
THE FRENCH TRANSITION

PETERBOROUGH, though late in the style, is a characteristically Norman building, and shows us how Norman was essentially a wooden-roofed round-arched style, complete in itself; and if it had not been influenced from outside, it would possibly never have aspired to be anything else. But on the north-east of Paris, in the districts of Beauvais and Soissons, was another Romanesque style, which from the first aimed at the ribbed vault with much more persistence than did the Norman. Situated midway between these two, the Ile de France was influenced by both, but more especially by its eastern neighbour, with whom it was on friendly terms, rather than by the Norman, its ancient but conquered enemy. For not only trade, but art follows the flag. The most vigorous state politically is the one with the most vigorous archilecture, and that of the Royal Domain becomes the leading style exactly in proportion as its government gains in power. It had been so weak, and its artistic soil so bare, that the new art found no previous one in possession, but grew up with its own character from the first.

The transition from round-arched Romanesque to pointed Gothie is much less marked in France than in England. Strictly speaking there is no transition, but continuous development of the style which was arising on the eastern frontier, in which the essential element of Gothic, the ribbed vault, was already giving rise to its necessary consequences, the pointed arch and flying buttress. In the buildings of the Beauvaisis and the Soissonnais, which correspond in date to the great Norman and Anglo-Norman churches, are to be found, as in them, premonitions of all these three elements, though curiously enough the flying buttress, which

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