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Church Architectural Styles and Terminology

Architectural Styles

This is the period between c600 and the Norman conquest in 1066. The still surviving churches mainly date from c966-1066. Look for primitive looking sturdy towers with two bell openings, narrow doorways and windows with round or triangle-headed arches. Also look for herring-bone masonry. Examples of these churches in Lincolnshire are at Stow and Bracebridge.

This is the period between 1066 and c1190. Its other name is ‘Romanesque’. Look for round arches, massive cylindrical pillars, and carved round-headed doorways. Examples of these churches in Lincolnshire are Deeping St James, Sempringham, and Whaplode.

This period dates from c1180-1280. It has two other names: ‘Early Gothic’ or ‘First Pointed’. Look for pointed lancet windows, chamfered pointed arches, clustered pillar, and foliage carved capitals. Examples in Lincolnshire are Kirkstead, Weston, and Lincoln Cathedral.

This period dates from c1280-c1350. Look for elaborately carved sculpture on surfaces, complex window tracery, and decorative ‘ogee’ arches. Aisles were made wider and porches were added. Lincolnshire has many churches from this period. Examples are at Heckington, Swineshead, and Stamford.

Dating from c1350-1550, this was the newest style of English Gothic at the time. It used straight rather than flowing lines. Look for very large windows, high arches and angel roofs. There were wide aisles and large naves. Examples in Lincolnshire are Louth, Tattershall, and Theddlethorpe.

From 1158-1603 (Elizabethan or Tudor period) and during the 17th century (Jacobean/Stuart) church building was somewhat at a standstill. This was an era of large and colourful monuments. During Tudor times church building was influenced by Renaissance styles. Examples are found in Lincolnshire at Brocklesby, Edenham, Hainton, and Snarford. From 1485-1689 churches were influenced by the Italian style.

This period dates from 1715-1837. The style was considered ‘classical’ in that it copied styles of ancient Greece or Rome. Box pews and high pulpits are found in many of these churches. In Lincolnshire visit Cherry Willingham, Gainsborough, Moulton Chapel, and Well.

Dating from 1837-1901 during Queen Victoria’s reign there was a flurry of church building. Most used the Gothic Revival style which imitated medieval churches. Examples in Lincolnshire are Nocton and Spalding St Paul’s. The Victorians also restored and changed the style of many older churches. Brant Broughton and Laughton are examples.

Some Basic Church Terminology

Aisles: a section on one or both sides of a central space called the nave; usually separated with pillars and arches.

Ambulatory: walkway usually behind the high altar or leading to a chapel.

Apse: part of the church at the east end that protrudes outward in a semi-circle.

Arcade: row of arches supported on pillars.

Ashlar: smooth-finished masonry cut into square blocks.

Aumbry: small cupboard built into church wall. Usually held items used in communion.

Box pews: pews that are enclosed with a door.

Brasses: memorials that are engraved on brass/copper/zinc alloy known as ‘latten’; rich families used them to honour deceased members.

Capitals: heads of columns or pillars.

Chancel: where the main altar of the church is located; usually at the east end.

Clerestory: raised central section of a nave or chancel that has windows to give extra light.

Corbel: projecting block of stone or timber that supports something above it.

Crocket: leaf-like ornament to decorate pinnacles or araches in gothic architecture.

Cruciform: shape of a cross.

Font: vessel to hold water for baptisms.

Gallery: extra seating was provided in a balcony above the main body of the church with stairs to climb up.

Gargoyle: carved stone animals, people, or fanciful beasts used for decorative or water spout purposes.

Lady Chapel: a church chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Lancet: narrow window with a sharp pointed arch at the top.

Lychgate: roofed and gated structure at entrance to churchyard where coffins passed through.

Minster: name for a church that was a mission headquarters and mother church of the surrounding area.

Misericord: carved bracket on underside of hinged choir-stall seats; designed to give support to choir standing for long period.

Nave: main section of the church where the congregation sits; usually at the west end and center.

Ogee: moulding that is shaped in a continuous double curve, convex below and concave above.

Pier: column supporting an arch.

Pillaster: column projecting from a wall for decoration.

Piscina: stone basin used for washing vessels for Holy Communion services; usually in the chancel wall near the altar.

Pulpit: platform used for preaching.

Reredos: painted or carved screens used as a backdrop to an altar.

Rood: the cross of Christ

Rood Screen: divided the chancel from the nave; often carved and traceried.

Sedilia: set of seats recessed in niches in the chancel; used by the priests and other church helpers.

Tracery: intersecting stone ribs in decorative forms; supported glass in an upper part of a window.

Transepts: arms of a cruciform church projecting north and south where chancel and nave meet.

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