On a Wing and a Prayer

On a Wing and a Prayer: The Cathedral Builders

by Keith Cattell
Thursday 26 May 2016

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In a fascinating talk, Keith Cattell traced developments in the construction of cathedrals from the early days of Christianity to the present. He began by looking at the Roman basilica, the town hall of any ancient Roman settlement, which consisted of a rectangular hall with a semi-circular apse at one end – and which was the basic design of the earliest churches. The church of the emperor Constantine in Trier, Germany – constructed in the mid-fourth century – follows this pattern.

From this starting point, Keith traced the development of cathedral building, explaining where English and French designs diverged. (The French continued to use the semi-circular apse, for example, whereas English builders began to construct rectangular ends to their cathedrals.)

Keith laid emphasis on the problems encountered by the builders who proceeded basically by a process of trial and error using only the most primitive tools and equipment. He also illustrated examples where architectural styles changed over the time taken to build a cathedral, leading to differences between the different parts of the building.

Keith concluded by bringing the topic completely up to date by considering the Cathedrals in Liverpool, Barcelona and elsewhere.

The audience was completely engrossed, and the talk made a very satisfying conclusion to the 2015-2016 season.

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