“Infinity made imaginable” The Glories of English Gothic Architecture

Dr David Oldfield

GothicFor over 700 years, the delights of Gothic Architecture were sustained in England as in no other country.  From its auspicious beginnings circa 1180 in medieval churches and cathedrals, the Gothic style of building maintained its unbroken hold of the English imagination until the end of the 19th century.  Whether it be Early English or Victorian, our images of England are shaped to a large degree by this continuous Gothic heritage.

Our course will explore the various phases of Gothic Architecture in England through the centuries.  Case studies of individual cathedrals, such as Canterbury, Salisbury and Lincoln, will allow us to explore in depth the causes and effects of such grand enterprises.  An assessment of contemporary documents will further our understanding of the historical context.  Most important of all, however, will be the on-site investigations of Gothic buildings. Cambridge is blessed with a range of outstanding buildings in the Gothic style, including King’s College Chapel which is one of the most splendid examples of late Gothic architecture in Europe.  An afternoon excursion will take us to Ely Cathedral and its splendid display of different medieval Gothic styles.  Norwich Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral are short train journeys away. Such visits will not only enhance your enjoyment of architecture in general but also enrich your understanding of the problems and solutions encased in each particular building.

This course is aimed at: Students from any discipline with an interest in Gothic Architecture. If you’re interested in this course, you might also like to consider taking The Development of the City from 1890 to 1990, or From the Battle of the Styles to High Modernism: The Making of the Modern Movement in Architecture 1890-1941.

Pre-requisite knowledge required: None.

Transferable skills: Academic writing, visual and critical analysis.

Pre-Arrival Reading:

Strongly recommended, but not mandatory

Paul Binski, Becket’s Crown: Art and Imagination in Gothic England 1170-1300, 2004

Peter Draper, The Formation of English Gothic, 2006

Christopher Wilson, The Gothic Cathedral, 1992

Jonathan Alexander and Paul Binski, Age of Chivalry, 1988

Chris Brooks, The Gothic Revival, 1999


1 Final Essay (2,500-3,000 words): 50%

1 Final Exam: 50%

Lecture Hours: 12 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 15 hours)

Seminar Hours: 8 x 1 hour 15 minutes (total 10 hours)