Posts Tagged 'UWA-P1-research_point'

UA1-WA:P1-p3 Research Point: The Romanesque arch in Britain

Research Points are an opportunity to delve more deeply into particular aspects of a topic. Given time constraints this post is the merest scratch on the surface rather than a full-scale dig.

Semi-circular arches were widely used in Roman architecture in entryways, arcades and tunnel vaults. All of these uses are seen in Romanesque architecture. Architects and builders in the Romanesque period pushed stone vaulting further, to develop groin and ribbed vaulting.

Looking for examples of usage in Britain in particular, I first turned to Early Medieval Architecture by Roger Stalley. In the page below are drawings based on photographs in the book:
* windows and blind arcade at Castle Rising (Norfolk) circa 1140
* the nave of Ely Cathedral, circa 1110-50, showing arcade, high gallery and passageway at clerestory level.
* Selby Abbey (Yorkshire) circa 1100-20. The great weight of the crossing tower caused visible settlement in the nave. Masons patched and partly blocked open areas, rather than more major dismantling/rebuilding work.
* Rounded ribs and arch at Durham Cathedral, with a pointed arch door in the background
* Intersecting blind arcades at Much Wenlock (Shropshire), the chapter house of a Cluniac priory, twelfth century.
Wanting to show the various vaulting developments, I found The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland ( This is a wonderful and scholarly resource. The glossary ( is particularly helpful with photographs and brief descriptions, while elsewhere on the site detailed descriptions of buildings and their features demonstrate how to put that new vocabulary to good use. The search function is limited – my tip is to search using Google, including britain romanesque crsbi in the search terms.

My drawings below, based on photographs on the site, show:
* The twelfth century bell-cote of St Edith, Shocklach (Cheshire). It doesn’t fit the terms of the Research Point, as the arches are pointed, but I’ve never heard the term “bell-cote” before and with my predilection for bells I couldn’t resist. (
* Transverse arches supporting a tunnel vault at Holy Sepulchre, Cambridge (Cambridgeshire) (
* The cellarer’s undercroft of Chester Cathedral, Chester (Chestershire) – “quadripartite groin vault with square transverse and longitudinal ribs dividing the bays”. (


Stalley, R. (1999) Early Medieval Architecture Oxford: Oxford University Press
The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland [online] Available at [Accessed 12 June 2013]

UA1-WA:P1-p3 Research Point: The Romanesque arch in Britain
Understanding Art 1 – Western Art.
Part one: Classical and religious art.
Project three: Religious art.
Topic: Research point – the semi-circular arch in architecture of Romanesque buildings in Britain


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