Gothic and Norman Churches

Churches in Medieval England were determined by their
architecture. The splendid architecture of the churches
stood for greater faith in God. Medieval churches and
cathedrals were superbly built. They cost a lot of money,
which was collected in the form of taxes by the church.

The two main architectural styles of churches in Medieval
England were the Norman and Gothic architecture. Norman
architecture was dominated by a round shape style. The
Normans used barely skilled Saxons as laborers and the tools
they used were limited to axes, chisels etc. The churches
and cathedrals built by the Normans tended to use large
stones because they considered the Saxons not skilled enough
to cut the stones to shape.

Norman walls and pillars had stone on the outer surfaces but
rubble inside. Pillars were effectively hollow until the
central core was filled with rubble. This method of building
was not particularly strong, so they made their walls much
thicker than later styles of building made of cut stone that
fitted together with the blocks surrounding it thus creating
its own strength.

Norman churches had highly decorative doorways with
concentric arches that receded into the thickness of the
wall. Windows were built in a similar way but they remained
small and let in little light because the walls with large
window spaces could not hold up the weight of the roofs.
That was the reason they had large pillars too.

The ceilings and cathedrals were vaulted. These vaults
allowed the weight of the roof to be evenly distributed
throughout the pillars and walls as the main points of the
vaults rested on the tops of the pillars. The Normans used
three styles of vaulting: barrel, rib and cross. The
architecture used by the Normans must have been successful
as so many of their churches and cathedrals still exist.

Gothic churches, on the other hand, were fundamentally
different from Norman buildings. Gothic churches and
cathedrals have large towers and spires. In fact, Gothic
architecture developed from Norman architecture. Gothic
churches were built with shaped stones and they had solid
walls and pillars and were much larger than Norman ones.

Pointed arches were another development that strengthened
church buildings. This allowed a much greater weight to be
carried when compared to a Norman rounded arch. Gothic
cathedral had much larger roofs compared to Norman roofs.
Therefore, they were a lot heavier. To ensure that the walls
and pillars could take such a weight, the architects in this
era developed what were known as buttresses. These were
additions to the main part of the cathedral that allowed the
extra weight to be transferred to additional parts of a
cathedral rather than run alongside the nave and then down
into the foundations. The architects simply spread the
weight to other points in the building.

Flying buttresses could easily resist the outward pressure
of the massive roofs. Thus, Gothic architects could use
larger windows. The Normans had been limited to using small
slit windows. Now cathedrals and churches could have large
stained glass windows.

Norman architecture is usually seen as being 'dumpy' due to
their more limited knowledge of building, whereas Gothic
architecture is a marked improvement on the Norman
architecture. However, both Gothic churches and Norman
churches are distinct styles reflective of Medieval England.

-Delise Fanati

Delise Fanati is the administrator and delegate of QC Church, your online source for all of your church needs. Star your church admiring at: