The Architecture of the English Medieval Cathedral (Online)

Overview

Attracting millions of visitors every year from all corners of the globe, England’s cathedrals rank amongst the greatest achievements of medieval culture. They also provide important insights into the country’s religious, social and architectural heritage.

In this course you will explore the architecture of the English cathedral from its relatively humble beginnings in the Anglo-Saxon period to the turbulent impact of the Reformation in the 16th century and beyond. Placing these developments against a rich historical and cultural backdrop, you will examine fixtures and fittings and decorations that help us to understand how these buildings originally appeared, and engage with the dynamic story of changing architectural style.

Cathedrals have long been the centre of their community, occupying an imposing position in the landscape. Their rich architecture reflects changing fashions in stylistic taste and evolving religious ideas. Ultimately, each – from Winchester cathedral to York Minster – is an attempt to evoke an experience of Heaven on Earth.

This course will explore the English medieval cathedral as a developing institution which survived over a thousand years of religious upheaval and historical change, focusing on the multifaceted architecture of these truly great churches.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

The course is broken down into 10 units over 10 weeks, each requiring approximately 10 hours of study time. The following topics are covered:

Week 1: Opening themes
•    Time
•    Culture
•    Place
•    Cathedrals and other churches
•    Great churches

Week 2: Looking at cathedral architecture
•    Looking at buildings
•    Form and style
•    A cathedral plan
•    The cathedral in three dimensions
•    The cathedral interior
•    Light and liturgy
•    Change over time

Week 3: Architecture and worship
•    The function of a church
•    Architecture and liturgy
•    Medieval Christianity
•    The Eucharist
•    Fittings: screens, doors and altars
•    Other forms of worship
•    Ideas about the afterlife
•    Shrines, tombs and lady chapels
•    Architectural symbolism and decoration
•    Ancillary buildings

Week 4: the Anglo-Saxon cathedrals, c.600 - c.1070
•    Medieval society
•    Medieval time: the modern view
•    Landmark events
•    Case study I: Canterbury
•    Time: the medieval view
•    The roots of the cathedrals
•    The later Anglo-Saxon cathedrals
•    Case study II: The old minster, Winchester

Week 5: The Romanesque cathedrals: Normans and Angevins, c.1066 - 1250
•    Architecture and invasion
•    Romanesque cathedral architecture
•    Conquering: the 1070s
•    Conqueror: the 1080s
•    Conquered: the 1090s
•    Case study III: Durham
•    The Romanesque achievement

Week 6: From Romanesque to Gothic, c.1110 - c.1200
•    12th century cultural developments
•    Romanesque in the 12th century
•    Gothic origins and understanding Gothic
•    Style in the late 12th century
•    Developments in form
•    The pattern of building, c1170 - c.1250
•    The late 12th century rebuilds and ‘cathedralness’
•    Case study IV: Lincoln

Week 7: The Early English cathedrals, c.1200 - c.1270
•    Early English building patterns
•    Understanding Early English
•    The Episcopal style
•    The screen façade
•    Innovations
•    Cast study V: Salisbury

Week 8: Decorated cathedrals – the later Middle Ages, 1250-1350
•    The decorated style: development and patterns of building
•    Understanding Decorated
•    Polygonal spaces: Lady Chapels and chapter houses
•    Cast study VI: Exeter
•    Inventing perpendicular

Week 9: The perpendicular cathedrals, c.1350 - c.1530
•    Architecture and society: the late medieval period
•    Perpendicular cathedrals: the pattern of building
•    Understanding perpendicular
•    Perpendicular bell towers
•    The cage chantry
•    Iconography and meaning
•    Cast study VII: Winchester (and Bath)
•    Late or Tudor perpendicular

Week 10: The Reformation and afterwards
•    Reformation and dissolution
•    Case study VIII: York and its saints
•    The impact of reform
•    The cathedrals, c.1550 - c.1850
•    From the 19th century to the present day

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.

Certification

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. 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.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting the final course assignment. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.

Fees

Description Costs
Course Fee £300.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00

Tutor

Mr Jon Cannon

Course aims

This c

This course aims to introduce students to the extraordinary architecture of the medieval English cathedral, exploring its development over time. 

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  1. understand the rich architectural story of the medieval English cathedral
  2. analyse how the architectural style developed over time
  3. distinguish ‘great churches’ from other types of church, and outline the specific role and attributes of the cathedral church
  4. name the key localities and features of a cathedral church and their associated functions and histories
  5. examine how medieval monastic and secular communities functioned, and how this impacted the resulting buildings

Learning outcomes

This course aims to introduce students to the extraordinary architecture of the medieval English cathedral, exploring their development over time. 

You will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  1. understand the rich architectural story of the medieval English cathedral
  2. analyse how the architectural style developed over time
  3. distinguish ‘great churches’ from other types of church, and outline the specific role and attributes of the cathedral church
  4. name the key localities and features of a cathedral church and their associated functions and histories
  5. examine how medieval monastic and secular communities functioned, and how this impacted the resulting buildings

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/english-language-requirements

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.