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if, on this subject, we venture to call his authority in question. Gothic architecture was in his time neither valued nor understood; and when those stupendous works, now so justly the pride of every country where they exist, were stigmatized, in a work written by Evelyn, and dedicated to Sir Christopher himself, as
congestions of heavy, dark, melancholy, monkish piles, without any just proportion, use, or beauty,” their origin was hardly worth the
fatigue of thought, and patient investigation. Sir Christopher, therefore, threw out his conjecture, that this peculiar style of architecture was introduced by the Crusaders from the East, with comparative indifference to its accuracy ; Mr. Evelyn, and himself, and the age, were agreed it was barbarous and worthless; and whether it originated with the Goths or the Saracens, in Europe or in Asia, was barely worth a difference. But, after all the laborious inquiry of the last half century, and when its excellence is understood and acknowledged, it is at least extraordinary that such an opinion should be thought worth reviving. It does, indeed, seem to us, that no unprejudiced man, whatever theory he may start with, can prosecute the inquiry, or endeavour to trace the rise and progress of Gothic architecture, even from the remains existing in this country, and within our own limited knowledge, but must end with a conviction, that it is the progressive advancement of art from rudeness to refinement, unfettered by a kuowledge of perfection existing in other countries, and, therefore, left to imagination and genius to create anew. Gothic architecture had the same origin as Greek architecture—the ever-active intelligence of mind, and the eternal passions of the heart. It is the result of the devoted energy of original power, seeking for excellence and unknown perfection; and receiving its first impulse and direction, possibly, but its impulse and direction, only, from accident and circumstance. Columns and capitals, and architraves, and piles of stone and mortar, existed before Greece itself had being; but it is the order, the proportion, the arrangement, the intelligent purpose, the pervading mind, the truth of beauty, that has given immortal fame to its architecture. So is it with Gothic architecture. It were as reasonable, in our opinion, to make a mystery of, and to seek in other countries for the original of all the deep feeling, the passion, the poetry, and the almost superhuman excellence of Lear and Othello, as of Westminster Abbey or York Minster; and, be it remembered, the same age that condemned the one as barbarous, neglected or despised the other. The license with which Shakspeare has been said to have“ found not, but created first the stage,” is excusable only in poetry: our dramatic literature could boast of names not altogether contemptible, before it had enrolled his greater name; and great
and original as his mind assuredly was, it took a form, and received a colouring, from the labours of his predecessors; and possibly the first germ of that original drama, so justly the pride of this country, must be traced back for centuries, but its perfection is an immortal crown justly due to the native energy of mind and the unfettered genius of that wondrous man. It must have been so in Gothic architecture. Imitation and known excellence would have made men creep rather than soar; ambitious to follow rather than daring to precede. The genius of other countries may have received its direction from like circumstances, as the earlier Spanish and English drama are said to have great similarity, and the result may be similar; although in this instance, it is hardly just, we think to speak of other countries, when one common feeling and an intercommunication of knowledge existed among the religious and learned men all over Europe.
However, let us consider more immediately the opinion of the Earl of Aberdeen, which the writer in the Quarterly holds to be so conclusive. “ If,” says that nobleman, “ we could discover in any one country, a gradual alteration of this style, beginning with the form of the arch, and progressively extending to the whole of the ornaments and general design: after which, if we could trace the new fashion slowly making its way, and by degrees adopted by other nations of Europe, the supposition of Mr. Walpole [a bare supposition] would be greatly confirmed. Nothing of this however is the case. We find the Gothic style, notwithstanding the richness and variety it afterwards assumed, appearing at once, with all its distinctive marks and features : not among one people, but very nearly at the same period of time, received and practised throughout Christendom. How will it be possible to account for this general contemporary adoption of the style, but by the supposition that the taste and knowledge of all on this subject were drawn from a common source : and where can we look for this source but to the East, which, during the Crusades, attracted a portion of the population, and, in a great degree, occupied the attention of the different states of Europe.” The line his Lordship has here traced out for the progressive advance of Gothic architecture, is, of course, arbitrary : let us, therefore, take a cathedral itself, and consider it in outline, and in detail ; and we feel assured we shall clearly discover this “gradual alteration" of style, from its first rude endeavour, to the utmost perfection it ever attained. A Gothic cathedral has not we think a form or proportion, the nucleus, or first germ, of which is not to be found, and the perfection of which was not progressive with the improvement of the science, and the increasing powers and revenues of the church.
In the first place, the Roman cross, so universally the ground
plan, is not peculiar to it. In whatever it may have originated, it is at least six hundred years older than Gothic architecture. In Mr. Whittington's own work, published by his lordship, instances are given of its use in ecclesiastical buildings as early as the fourth century, and it is acknowledged to have been common in the fifth : and as the Roman Basilicæ is known to have been the model of the first Christian churches, Mr. Whittington endeavours to shew how the cross, as a ground plan, may have been suggested by them. “ In these edifices,” he observes, “between the semicircular tribune of the judges, and the pluteus or great nave (on each side of which were the porticoes and galleries containing the people) a space was left for the lawyers, which formed a kind of transverse nave, though it did not project beyond the walls of the building. This navis causidica, as it has been called, when protracted by the fanciful piety of the Christians, gave to their churches externally as well as internally the figure of a cross."
Now to confine our observations to this country, we may observe, that, as these Basilicæ, or courts of justice, were erected in most of the great cities in the Roman empire, it is reasonable enough to conclude they were erected'in Britain. This “ fanciful piety,” therefore, might as well have first indulged its imagination here as elsewhere, but all that we mean to infer, is briefly, that as the earliest churches remaining here are built in the form of a cross, it is natural to suppose that form was, as in other places, suggested by the Basilicæ. There is indeed a long interval of time, between the abandoning the island by the Romans, and its subjugation by the Normans, and the connecting links are wanting ; but there is a wide difference between their absence and their disagreement; and when we find the extremes bearing palpable relation, we must conclude the architecture of the intermediate ages
had similarity to both. Of Saxon architecture we know little, but the truth of this reasoning is strengthened if not proved by the description of the church at Ramsey, in Huntingdonshire, finished in 974, quoted by Bentham. “ It appears to have had two towers raised above the roof, one of them at the west end of the church, affording a noble prospect at a distance to them that approached the island; the other which was larger, supported by four pillars in the middle of the building, which it divided in four parts, being connected together by arches, which extended to other adjoining arches, to keep them from giving way.”. From this one may easily collect, that the plan of this new church was a cross, with side-aisles, &c.”
As to the magnitude, the material, and the adornment of the Saxon churches, that must have depended on the wealth and the resources of the clergy, and people ; but if these were
little, there would be less room for the excursiveness of genius, and what was erected would be in imitation of what existed. As the resources of the country increased, or its revenues were consolidated, and directed to ecclesiastical architecture, magnitude and ornament would follow. When, therefore, we see the general proportions of the Norman buildings preserve a near relation to the first Christian churches of the Romans, it is not mere imagination to trace the one to the other, although a connecting chain of similar buildings cannot be traced in the records of a people who left so few records, or in existing monuments, which not merely neglect and ages contributed to destroy; but the removal of the sees, and the contempt of the conquerors. For the Normans were a sumptuous, magnificent, and splendid people, who by force or fraud possessed themselves of the whole wealth of the kingdom; and such we learn was the daring magnitude of the works they designed, that the people held it impossible they could ever be completed.
But this connection between the form of the Basilicæ and a Gothic cathedral suggests something further.-—" The basilica,” says Bentham, “ differed from the templa; the pillars of these latter being on the outside of the building, and consequently their porticos exposed to the weather; but the pillars of the former were within, and their porticos open only towards the nave. Now it must be evident, without any“ fanciful piety,” that the side aisles of our cathedrals are nothing more than these porticos; but observe, though Bentham has not noticed it, Whittington does incidentally, that over these porticos were galleries, and these galleries are yet distinguishable in our cathedrals. In York, in Litchfield, in Westminster, and in many others, they extend the whole length of the nave, and frequently beyond it; and indeed there is not, that I remember, a cathedral in England in which these open galleries do not exist, in some part or other, between the centre of the pillared arches and the roof. They necessarily, indeed, differ, both in magnitude and situation; in Winchester, for instance, the splendid windows occupy all that space in the nave, and in Chester; an alley rather than a gallery runs between them; but in the transepts, the oldest part of Winchester, they exist somewhat like those in the nave of Chester, and in the choir of Chester they are large and perfect. We are the more inclined to this opinion from observing the extent of the practice, and not comprehending its use. By those that reason from results it has been said, that they break the blank spaces of the walls, and give lightness and elegance; and served for the nuns, and ladies of superior rank, to witness the grand ceremonies of the Romish church; but we answer they are discoverable in the earliest remains of our ecclesiastical architecture, when solidity
and not elegance was considered ; and that the use of them, if they were so appropriated, was an after thought, the galleries themselves existing in the simplicity of earlier Christianity. Indeed the elder churches more closely followed the form of the Basilicæ, and were, in imitation of them, generally circular at the east end. Again, the roofing of the Basilicæ gave that greater height to the centre over the porticos, that the nave of a cathedral bears to the side aisles. There is indeed no doubt, we think, that the Basilicæ having been accidentally the model of the first Christian churches, had its form and peculiarities sanctified in the religious feelings of the people. In every subsequent building, in every variety of fashion, and through all the progress of the science, the form was subject to variation, but still the original features were kept distinctly visible; and were preserved, with superstitious reverence, long after their origin was forgotten. Thus, accident gave form to our cathedrals, and the great men to whose knowledge and splendid muniticence we are indebted for the magnificent structures of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, adapted, what circumstances had made almost essential to a cathedral in the imagination of Christian worshippers, to the purposes of ornament; and with the master hand of genius, gave beauty and use to what was not, for itself, chosen, either for its use or beauty.
It may be objected that the great outline of a Gothic cathedral does not constitute Gothic architecture; and we answer, nor the minute details. Clustered columns do not exclusively belong to it; they are to be found in Egyptian archi. tecture, as may be seen in the plates to Pocock; in Norman architecture ; and possibly in every other in the world, where architecture was not established on certain and universally received principles; nor is the pointed arch peculiar to it, as we have shewn ;-to the perfection of Gothic architecture the union of all its forms and parts is essentially wanting. At any rate, we think it must be admitted, that with the grand outline of a cathedral, its aisle, side aisles, and their relative proportions, its tower, its choir, its transepts, its galleries, the Saracens can have nothing to do; their mosques were not formed from the basilicæ; their piety could not stretch out the navis causidica; no superstitious reverence of theirs could have preserved, or even given, to their mosques, those forms which distinguish our cathedrals. Spires they had not-clustered columns, and pointed arches, if they had them, of which proof is so absolutely wanting, that we ought to presume they had them not, were not their peculiars, and what then remains of Gothic architecture will amount to very little. Of this little, however, and of the details of our cathedral architecture, we must say something; and if we cannot prove a negative, and that they did