Built for beauty
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
Andrew Lane on church architecture websites
I GREW UP with a selection of Arthur Mee’s "King’s England" books at home.
It was to these that my parents would turn when looking up a parish church they
had visited. Later I discovered Pevsner’s "Buildings of England" — invaluable
reference books for a DAC secretary. But, in the age of the internet, when
Google is the first port of call for any enquiry, what has taken the place of
these well-worn volumes? If you are trying to distinguish a corbel from a
crocket, where do you start?
There are a number of websites that attempt to replace the county or area
guides — many produced by individuals. Such sites are of great assistance to
family historians, as well as tourists. For example, the site at
www.lancashirechurches.co.uk sets out to promote local churches with
straightforward navigation and clear images. Churches can be browsed by place,
picture, or from a county map. Periods of church architecture are listed,
including a comprehensive section on the Saxons.
An individual delight in church architecture is celebrated at the
www.churchcrawler.co.uk) website. This features an eclectic mix of churches
and cathedrals from the UK and around the world, with sections illustrating the
annual crawls by members of the ChurchCrawler mailing list.
Many sites provide resources for those wishing to discover more about church
architecture, whether for school projects, for "statements of significance" to
accompany faculty applications, or for personal interest. The website of the
Ecclesiological Society (
www.ecclsoc.org) — "for
those who love churches" — provides a wealth of information about current
issues, organisations involved in the care of churches, conferences, and much
Many architectural-history websites also contain substantial sections on
church buildings. The Understanding Buildings section within the Looking at
Buildings website (
www.lookingatbuildings.org.uk) features interactive graphics showing the
development of cathedrals and parish churches over the centuries. Links to a
comprehensive glossary back up this impressive site.
Interest in medieval church architecture is widespread — the New York Carver
http://www.newyorkcarver.com ) has pages about all things medieval,
including gothic geometry and an extensive list of resources for school
A project undertaken at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts
examines the 15th-century autobiography of Margery Kempe — Mapping Margery
The site offers a virtual tour of an imaginary but typical 15th-century East
Anglian church. The composite church attempts to give the viewer a sense of the
elements that make up a parish church of the period, using images from real
East Anglian examples.
Those who are interested in building churches for the future might find an
article at ChristianityToday.com interesting, entitled "Church Architecture for
the 21st Century — a futurist speculates about church buildings that will
embrace new ways of learning" (
www.christianitytoday.com ). The author lays out his Ten Commandments for
architecture for the post-modern church. New churches today are built to a
budget, whereas our ancestors built to the glory of God with little regard, it
often seems, to budgets, timescales or health and safety. This article urges us
to "provide the sky in which souls may soar", as we provide for the changing
needs of worshippers.
Despite the plethora of internet resources, many still like to keep their
favourite book on churches close to hand, especially when touring. It is
comforting to know that the Pevsner Architectural Guides
still available and that the King’s England Press (
) is reprinting Arthur Mee’s classic volumes.
Andrew Lane is Secretary of the Southwark Diocesan Advisory Committee.