« PreviousContinue »
half-literary, half-philosophical crusade now carried on against the claims of the Christian revelation in this country. The aim of the parties engaged in this enterprise is to reduce all historical creeds to the same level, as varying indeed in the degrees of their goodness or badness, but as being alike of merely human origin -leaving our race to such moral intelligence as it may possess, as its only guide in all time to come. Because an external revelation is not necessary to awaken the religious sentiment in man, or to give him his capacity for becoming a religious being, it is concluded that such a revelation cannot be needed to give a wiser culture to that sentiment, a nobler elevation to man's religion. Against this widely prevalent, but most pernicious of all possible delusions, we enter our solemn protest. Nor do we know of any work by which sound-hearted Christian men may better serve their generation than by exposing and resisting this error to the utmost. So far from Discourses on the Evidences' having lost all aptitude and value, as Mr. Carlyle and his disciples intimate-it is by demonstrating that the sacred Scriptures are historically truthful, and that the doctrine set forth in them is worthy of the origin they claim, that the great need of the age must be met. For the battle now is, not so much with the bald atheism of the first French Revolution, as with an ethical theism, allied with all the trappings of philosophy and taste, and which can only be met by showing that the results of this theism do not meet the need of humanity, and that the adaptation of the contents of the New Testament, com bine with its historical proofs, to settle its divine origin. It is only as this shall be done that we may confide in the stabilit of our Christianity; and to prevent the doing of this is, accord ingly, the great aim of the antichristianism of the times.
Art. II. (1.) The Seven Lamps of Architecture. By John RUSKIN.
London, 1849. 8vo. (2.) An Analysis of Gothic Architecture. By RAPHAEL and J.
ARTHUR BRANDON. 2 vols. London, 1847. 4to. (3.) An Attempt to discriminate the styles of Architecture in England,
from the Conquest to the Reformation ; with a Sketch of the Grecian and Roman Orders, 8c. By the late Thomas Rick
MAN, F.S.A. Fifth Edition. London, 1848. 8vo. (4.) The Symbolism of Churches and Church Ornaments : a Trans
lation of the first Book of the Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, written by WILLIAM DURANDUS. With an Introductory Essay, Notes, and Illustrations, by the Rev. John Mason NEALE, B.A., and the Rev.BENJAMIN WEBB, B.A. Oxford. 8vo.
Our readers scarcely need to be apprised that, for one building of significance in the Greek or Roman style now appearing among us, we have a hundred in the Gothic; and these not in the lath and plaster construction, which would soon die out with all its errors, but in enduring materials. The churches and chapels which are sending up their spires, or displaying their mullioned and foliated windows on all sides, will remain to be judged by our posterity. It is of immediate importance, therefore, that we should avoid mistakes in Gothic architecture. We should be trusting extravagantly in the power of criticism if we thought it able to revise, in the first effulgence, the glories which it describes. The office of the critic is an humble-for the most part—a negative one. If he guides the artist into any truth, it is chiefly by warning him against the falsehood which is its opposite. But this office he may, and before he can build beautifully again, he must perform. Let us consider how well or ill we are supplied with the needful criticism upon the architecture which England alone, of all nations, is making a true effort to resuscitate.
To begin with the claims of those who make the loudest pretensions, let us hear what the high symbolical interpreters of mediæval architecture have to say. Of English critics in this kind, Neale and Webb are perhaps the most noteworthy. They express a lively and just sense of the deficiencies of previous commentators.
“Those writers who, as Grose, Milner, and Carter, lived before the details of Christian art were understood, seem to have placed its perfection in a thorough knowledge of these; experience has proved them to be wrong. . . . Others, again, have sought for an explanation of
the difficulty in mathematical contrivance and mechanical ingenuity;
What, then, is the one more axiom, with which the shortcomings of the writers named are to be supplied ? Simply this: 'A catholic architect must be a catholic in heart.' Messrs. Neale and Webb, we fear, have not discovered the Gothic enigma. We heartily believe that the truly great artist, in any kind, must be a religious man, and that his works, however indirectly and unostentatiously, must be religious works. But surely no one, unless he be a very high churchman indeed, needs to be told that something more than catholicity in heart is required to constitute a great artist.
Little as the essay of Neale and Webb is to the purpose, it is very much more so than the work of Durandus, to which it forms an introduction. Durandus wrote when English-Gothic was just bursting into blossom. The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum' was the third book which appeared after the discovery of printing. It was preceded only by the psalters of 1457 and 1459. How much it was to the taste of the time—and this is a most remarkable circumstance—is proved by the fact that forty-three distinct editions were called for between 1459, the year of its first publication in print, and the year 1500. We assure our readers that the following extract, describing the symbolism of bells, is a fair average specimen of the matter of the · Rationale,' and of its applicability to the purposes of the Gothic architect :
You must know that bells . . . do signify the silver trumpets by which, under the Old Law, the people were called together unto sacrifice. For just as the watchmen in a camp rouse one another by trumpets, so do the ministers of the church excite each other, by the sound of bells, to watch the livelong night against the plots of the devil. Wherefore our brazen bells are more sonorous than the trumpets of the Old Law, because then God was known in Judea only, but now in the whole earth. They be also more durable, for they signify that the preaching of the New Testament will be more lasting than the trumpets and the sacrifices of the Old Law. ... Again, bells do signify preachers . . . also the cavity of the bell signifieth the mouth
of the preacher, according to the saying of the apostle, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. The hardness of the metal signifieth fortitude in the mind of the preacher. . . . The clapper doth denote the tongue of the teacher, the which, with the adornment of learning, doth cause both Testaments to resound. . . . The striking of the bell denoteth that the preacher ought first of all to strike at the vices in himself for correction. ... The link by which the clapper is joined or bound unto the bell is moderation. ... The wood of the frame upon which the bell hangeth, doth signify the wood of our Lord's cross; which is on this account suspended on high because the cross is preached by the ancient Fathers. The pegs by which the wooden frame is joined together or fastened, are the oracles of the prophets. ... The hammer affixed to the frame by which the bell is struck signifieth the right mind of the preacher. ... The rope hanging from this, by which the bell is struck, is humility in the life of the preacher; the same rope also showeth the measure of our own life, &c.'
Lest the amusement of our readers should unjustly confine itself to the symbolizing tendencies of their forefathers, we subjoin a passage from Mr. Lewis's · Illustrations and Descriptions of Kilpeck Church, Herefordshire, with an Essay on Ecclesiastical Design':
• The cross is made up of three parts—the Head, the Heart, and the Body; these divisions answer to the nave or body of the church, for the Faithful or Catechumens; the holy place, chancel, or choir, for the Priest to preach to the faithful when communicants; and the most holy place, or Holy of Holies, for the Priest alone. We see in this arrangement a thorough knowledge of the subject; for, by the three divisions, our church is made to be Unity in Trinity as it ought to be. The Trinity in the Unity, and the Unity in the Trinity. . The nave being the commencement of the church would, in the language of the designer, be read the Father, and being the first part, is of none.
The chancel or cross (and which is, as it were, made to rise out of the nave) is of the nave alone; and the Holy of Holies is of the nave and of the chancel, proceeding from them. Thus it is that the ecclesiastical designer translated the creed into his own language, and informed the community, through his varied forms, divisions, and arrangements, upon the doctrine of the Holy Trinity'
No man in his sound senses will look to becoming an architect by adopting the “Rationale' or the Account of Kilpeck Church' for his text books. We need scarcely call attention to the fact, that all this kind of symbolization is subsequent to the architecture, of which a certain school of writers pretend that it is the basis. All the forms referred to by Mr. Lewis, in our last quotation, existed in the ancient Basilica, of which the Gothic church is the direct descendant.
That the mediæval architects did symbolize, and that to a
very great extent, is, nevertheless, not to be doubted. To quote again from the introduction to the “Rationale:'
• Many Norman and early English mouldings refer to various kinds of martyrdom. Those which do so, occur more frequently on doors than anywhere else; for it is written, We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. ... In the early ages of Christianity, it was a matter requiring no small courage to make an open profession of Christianity... and this fact has left its impress in the various representations of martyrdom surrounding the nave doors of Norman and the first stage of early English churches; as well as in the frightful forms which seem to deter those who would enter. But in process of time, as the world became evangelized, to be a member of the visible church was an easy matter; the difficulty was transferred from an entrance into that, to the so living, as to have part in the communion of saints ... and therefore in the late early English and decorated, the symbols . are transferred to the chancel arch.'
The endless repetition, openly, or more or less concealed by modifications of outline, of the equilateral triangle, in what is termed the Decorated period of Gothic architecture, is not to be accounted for by any principle of construction, or of properly architectural effect; and there are many and unmistakable instances of curious literal translations of scriptural passages into Gothic ornament. One example, which we pame in preference to others, because we have not seen it elsewhere noticed, is the representation of the saints, as constituting the stones of the house of God. The strings of sculptured figures, seen more particularly in Gothic doorways, the most effective position for such symbolism, will occur to most of our readers.
But interesting as this kind of symbolism may be in itself, it has absolutely no part at all in the properly artistical character of the buildings among the accidents of which it is more properly to be reckoned. Symbolism of this sort can, and in Gothic architecture constantly does, co-exist with artistical expression; but the two things are not the less essentially diverse. This remark, however, is intended to apply only to that species of symbolism which we have been considering hitherto. shall presently show that certain kinds of expression, which would be artistical anyrohere, become symbolical when they are in peculiarly appropriate positions.
Dr. Boisserée, and others of less note in Germany and France, have pursued the subject of Gothic symbolism in a more learned, and therefore a less extravagant vein than that of the English writers whom we have quoted. The second volume of Michelet's History of France' contains a really re