Gothic Architecture in England and France

By George Herbert West | Go to book overview

GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE

PART I. CONSTRUCTIONAL

CHAPTER I
THE ORIGIN OF CHRISTIAN ARCHITECTURE

IT used to be thought that English Gothic was a direct importation from France, but the true state of the case is of a far less simple nature. Like all the other nations in Europe, both the English and the French were trying to solve the same problem, that of placing a stone roof on the thin walls of the early Christian basilica, but gradually their paths and methods diverged in consequence of the different characters, circumstances, traditions, and aims of the two races, until each had worked out for itself the style which best satisfied its needs and aspirations.

In art, as in all else, the Teutonic races, who for five hundred years, from the sixth century to the eleventh, were slowly founding the nations of Europe, looked on Rome as the source of all their inspirations and aims, and were right in so far that long after all outward sign of her power had vanished, her influence and traditions were still living on beneath the surface, where, from time to time, they reappear.

The history of Christian art is complicated in its earliest stages by its having had to meet the requirements of the vigorous adherents of a new-born society which was arising in the midst of the dying civilization of an effete race. It was at once nascent and decadent. This truth is curiously illustrated even so late as the eleventh century in the architectural art of Southern France, where, as at Autun and Vezelas, over the stiff foliage of fairly correctly carved

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