Last summer, twelve students and one professor shared an unforgettable experience called English Gothic Live, a course on medieval and medievalist architecture which we studied on site while based at the University of Warwick. One of the course requirements was for each student to write a blog entry, and we will be posting all of those here over the coming weeks.
Today [July 28] we visited Southwell Minster and it was honestly one of the most memorable visits of the entire trip. One thing that I’ve said almost everyday throughout this experience is that there is no possible way to comprehend the scale and magnitude of these monuments in a classroom. The fact that we are physically up close and personal with these buildings is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I count myself extremely lucky!
One of the coolest things about Southwell Minster, in my opinion, is the clear indications of the various construction periods throughout the site. Something you learn very quickly while studying Gothic architecture is that these buildings have very messy and choppy pasts. Most of the medieval buildings have had numerous building campaigns and Southwell is a rare treat in that it is quite clear where one style begins and another ends. To walk about the site and discuss as a group up close and personal how the fabric of the building displays signs of Perpendicular, Decorated and early Gothic, as well as Anglo-Norman Romanesque formal elements was just the coolest and most interactive way to experience the architecture!
Another aspect of Southwell that simply can’t be expressed properly through photos is the amazing sculpture present there. No camera will ever compare to having your nose inches away from the leaves of Southwell and the other numerous sculptural features of Southwell’s chapter house. The artistry and mastery of the stone is simply incredible, and to be able to examine it up close is an experience that I will cherish for a long time… Until I can’t take it anymore and come back!
While signs of various architectural styles are visible on the exterior, the same is true throughout the interior. Walking through the Anglo-Norman Romanesque nave and experiencing that transition into Gothic as you pass through the screen is, simply put, a mind-blowing experience.
The final aspect that made my experience at Southwell unforgettable, the most important of all, was the presence of Professor Peter Coffman. Professor Coffman is so passionate about the subject that he teaches that it is simply impossible to not catch the bug and get excited about what he is showing you. Having him take us through the building and explain to us in such detail and with such love for the architecture was truly a priceless asset and I cannot thank him enough for the experience!
As I’ve said that pictures are no comparison to experience, so too my words cannot do justice the immense pleasure that this trip was! If anyone reading this ever has the opportunity to jump on board and live this English Gothic experience, I implore you to do so. You will certainly not regret it!