Period & Description
The term ‘Norman’ applies to Romanesque architecture in Normandy and the British Isles during the 11th and 12th centuries. It has largely been replaced by the term ‘Romanesque’ as a description of architectural style.
In Canterbury the Norman style can be defined as running from the time of Archbishop Lanfranc c1070 when it superseded Anglo-Saxon, to the rebuilding of the Cathedral Choir by William of Sens in Early English (also known as Transitional Gothic), which began in 1174.
The main characteristics of Norman architecture are rounded arches, barrel, groin and simple rib vaulting on massive, regularly spaced piers. Detailing consisted in variations on the chevron in continuous bands or incised on columns. Capitals in cushion and scallop form were widespread, but notable exceptions are the wildly imaginative carved capitals in the Cathedral Crypt.
The two main phases of Norman building in the Cathedral are those carried out under Priors Ernulf and Conrad (1096 to 1126) and Prior Wibert (1153 to 1167). The former phase saw the construction of the western crypt and choir. The lower walls of the choir survived the fire of 1174 and provided the platform for the subsequent rebuilding. Prior Wibert added the treasury (now the vestry) and the water tower. He heightened the east transept stair towers and embellished the exterior with much decorative arcading. He was also responsible for the Aula Nova with its surviving staircase and arches.
Eastbridge hospital has a Norman undercroft and there are Norman features in a number of parish churches near Canterbury e.g. St. Peter Bekesbourne, St. Mary Fordwich (the font), St. Stephen Hackington, St. Mary Nackington, St. Mary Patrixbourne, St. Nicholas Sturry (the tower) and St Nicholas Hospital Harbledown.
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