Medieval Church Architecture

beverley  (40)

Decorated: Richly crocketed ogee arches at Beverley Minster

Many will know the Shire library of well-illustrated introductory handbooks, widely seen for sale in bookshops, museums and historic attractions. My contribution to this fine brand distils many years of teaching (and many obsessive months looking for well-lit examples of various diagnostic details to photograph) to introduce the newcomer to the main styles of medieval architecture: Anglo-Saxon, Norman/Romanesque, and the Gothic styles known as Early Gothic/Transitional, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular.

The main aim of the book is to show people how to recognise each of these styles, but the book also serves as a general introduction to medieval churches and the ways in which architecture developed during the period c. 9/1000-1500/50. The focus is on those motifs that are most diagnostic, that is, most foolproof and easy to recognise; I hope the approach taken, for example distinguishing between overall developments as evidenced in ‘great churches’ and other kinds of building, is both innovative and effective, providing a unique perspective on the subject.

There is a huge thirst for this information, which hugely deepens appreciation of everything from the grandest cathedral to the most humble parish church, and enables one to date the architectural features within it. When I first stumbled on this lifelong obsession at the age of about 11, there were several such manuals from which one could learn the difference between crockets and finials, ballflower and stiff-leaf: as far as I know there is nothing remotely as detailed or accessible on the market today.

You can buy copies from me by emailing me at They cost £8.95 + £2.50 p&p. Or you can get them from all the usual places: indeed Amazon have kindly enabled you to Look Inside, though I have to say the pages chosen are neither the prettiest nor the most representative!: The ISBN is 0747812128. The book is available from July 2014.

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