Architectural Development in the English Medieval Cathedrals


There is a natural sense of awe in entering these soaring buildings - but how did their architecture develop through the medieval period? How did change from the massive thick-walled Norman structure of the early 1100s surviving at Ely to the extraordinarily slender Gothic work of Salisbury’s Lady Chapel in the early 1200s occur? We will trace this progression - both in building methods and in the features which distinguish the varying architectural styles. Numerous examples will be given, beyond the cathedral churches featured in the session titles. Sources of inspiration will be considered, in examples such as the revolutionary Gothic architecture of Abbot Suger’s church of St-Denis near Paris with its impact at Canterbury.  

We will examine this evolution of cathedral building styles, from Anglo-Norman architecture to the introduction of the Gothic style, with its development into the distinctive forms we now call Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular. A particular fascination in these English cathedrals is how differing styles frequently co-exist in one church as a result of selective rebuilding, for instance in the replacement of Anglo-Norman choirs with new Gothic work.

Programme details

Course begins: 19th Jan 2022

Weekly titles - with key examples included, amongst others, in each session 

Week 0:  An Introduction to Teams

Week 1. Introduction - Elements of Cathedral Architecture

Week 2. Early Anglo-Norman – Canterbury and Winchester

Week 3. Later Anglo-Norman – Ely and Durham

Week 4. Early Gothic – Canterbury and Wells

Week 5. The Early English Style – Lincoln and Salisbury

Week 6. French High Gothic Influence - Henry III's Westminster

Week 7. Decorated Gothic – Exeter and York

Week 8. Perpendicular Gothic – Gloucester and Winchester

Week 9. Perpendicular Gothic – Canterbury and York

Week 10. Ultimate Perpendicular - the Royal Chapels 


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course fee £229.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Mr Keith Hasted

Keith's initial research focus was Italian Renaissance palace architecture, and he has since developed a special interest in the architecture of cathedrals, not only in England but also in mainland Europe. He has taught courses over a number of years in the OUDCE weekly programme and Summer School and for the WEA.

Course aims

To take a fresh look at the English medieval cathedrals in order to track the development of their magnificent architecture and the evolution of their building methods  

Course Objectives:

To enable students to -

Recognise the successive key periods and styles of English cathedral architecture

Identify the influences which drove this development of cathedral architecture

Teaching methods

Weekly recorded lectures

Weekly online discussion sessions

Illustrated notes provided

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

Understand the key periods and associated styles of architecture in the medieval English cathedrals

Recognise how this architecture evolved over the medieval period - from Anglo-Norman to Perpendicular Gothic.

Identify the sources of influence, both international and within England, which drove this stylistic and structural development.


Students should have gained the following skills:

Recognition of the key architectural styles of the Norman and Gothic periods.

An understanding the evolving methods employed in constructing these remarkable buildings.

Assessment methods

Course members are invited to prepare an assignment as a short essay of no more than 1500 words. The subject for this assignment is as follows:

Choosing a particular element of medieval cathedral architecture (this might for example be vaulting above the great spaces, or the development of stone tracery in window design)  assess how this element evolved over the medieval period, giving examples from individual cathedrals or great abbey churches and identifying sources of influence in design. Consideration can also be given to the evolution of building methods and choice of materials (for example in the construction of high vaults, or of tracery as the size of windows increased with the move toward the great English east and west cathedral windows).

A preparatory plan for the essay, of not more 500 words, should be prepared for discussion with the tutor during the course.  

Assessment will consider how the student has linked specific examples from individual cathedrals to the general development of architectural styles over the medieval period, from Anglo-Norman to Perpendicular Gothic.

Alternatively a small number of shorter pieces, which might for example look at individual cathedrals, of no more than 1500 words in total, can be prepared during the course. The content will be discussed with the tutor in the first course tutorial. 

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


Each course will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

No prior experience is needed for this course.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)