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South of the Scottish border the photographer George Washington Wilson was very active, and I particularly like this stereo view of the York Minster, one of the finest Churches in all of England built in the Gothic style. I have not personally visited any of these marvelous architectural gems but researching the images from our archive felt like being there!

The enlarged single view photo above (enlarged by us) derives from the stereo view below (image from our archive) with, on the back, the blue label from Wilson. In my opinion the real view must be awesome, but the photograph is a clear tribute to the skill of the photographer conveying the depth of the Nave (middle part of the church) shown here.  And yes, I like the phrase by Le Corbusier turned book title Quand les Cathedrales etaient blanche” referring to the building period of the White Cathedrals, those pure monuments to a greater glory intended, even though I do not know what the real color of this Cathedral was when it was built.

The Cathedral was designed to be one the finest  in the land, and was completed over a 200 year period from 1220 through 1472. This was about the same time the Westminster Abbey Cathedral was built on the foundations of earlier ransacked churches. The forward vision to continue over 200 year period was a tribute to the commonly held religious beliefs, and  to the communal spirit in building for the greater good. Those were the ages of the Master Stonemasons, free masons, respected as laid down in the laws of the Magna Charta of 1215. There were no pictures then of the great French cathedrals available, but maybe some of those traveling masons had surveyed some of those cathedrals, or the Kings (of French descent) had their men, perhaps traveling monks, make plans of the lay-out of these cathedrals.

york nave stereoThe Minster is also known as Saint Peters, in the past the Church sat within its own walled precinct, known as the Liberty of Saint Peter.
The word Minster, incidentally, derives from Latin and in old English is written as Mynster meaning “monastery”, an honorary charter title,  from the Anglo Saxon period. The Archbishop of York was officially recognized by the Pope (as head of the Roman Catholic Church) in the year 732 A.D.  In wikipedia we will find an excellent explanation of this title and its further implications.

The architectural term Gothic has a special explanation in relation to English architecture where we can distinguish three different Gothic styles: Early, Decorative and Perpendicular. It is not unusual to find churches built in the Romanesque or Norman style converted in part to the Gothic style over a period of hundreds of years. The Gothic style of building started around the middle of the thirteenth century.

We will cover a number of other churches before we come to deal with those other vestiges of power, the castles and the centers of learning for the privileged, the world re-known universities with their magnificent libraries and the invention of the more modern “wunderkammer”, borrowing a German language phrase used in the Middle Ages to describe a private individuals great scientific room containing “natural wonders” and applying the term to that new invention in the nineteenth century: the Museum or the Wunderkammer for the Masses.

The Cathedral of Ely or the” Ship of the Fens”, is in Cambridgeshire and was built on the ancient remains of churches dating back to the Seventh Century A.D.

(From our archive) A deep brownish toned albumen print mounted on board with the title number 1000 Ely Cathedral C.N. with C.N. standing for the  as yet unidentified photographer by me. It depicts the Nave of the Cathedral, on the right is the organ. A beautiful print which emphasizes the architectural details, where the light from the windows and coming from above floods the rich carving of the chancel arches and stalls. The image size measures 5.5″x8.5″ ( 14.5×21.5 cms).

The church with its towering presence sits in the flat fen lands, originally on an island with lots of water surrounding it, it was drained during a later period by Dutch engineers.

ely cathedral planThe building is cross-shaped (cruciform) with a transept on the west side in the Romanesque style. It has elements of the early and later decorated Gothic style.

The albumen print  above (from our archives) is unsigned but is a part  interior view of the Lady Chapel dedicated to the cult of the Virgin Mary built in the Decorated Gothic style over a 30 year period starting in 1321. The rather dark image which makes it look like a vault was taken before any major restoration  and is thus perhaps a way of dating the image.

The image below, from our archive, shows us the peculiar arches with their square bases of the Norman Nave. It is surely a marvelous architectural view. The power of the perspective view on mind’s imagination was certainly well understood by this nineteenth century photographer, not just showing both sides from a far away point of view like the one on the top of this post, but  instead opting for detail and perspective in a single image.

The marble floor visible above is a an early Victorian addition (1869) and this will help us to date the image. On the south side of the Cathedral, is Bishop West’s Chantry Chapel. Completed in about 1535, just a few years before Henry VIII’s men destroyed parts of the Cathedral, this Chantry is also Gothic, but its beautiful ceiling, not visible in the picture, represents an early example of the Renaissance style. The picture shown below, from our archives, is clearly labeled and has the initials of George Washington Wilson (GWW) as well as his archive number 7651.

One of the mid-seventeenth century Bishops was Mathew Wren whose nephew Christopher Wren, one of England’s great architects, would be responsible for adding a Gothic door to the north side of the Cathedral of which unfortunately we do not have a picture. There is so much more to see and learn on the web about these beautiful Cathedrals just go to Google and give it a try!