POINTED ECCLESIASTICAL ARCHITECTURE—THE CHURCHES OF ST. OUEN, ST. MACLOU, ST. PATRICE, AND ST. GODARD.
(Rouen, June, 1818.)
In the religious buildings, the subject of my preceding letters, I have endeavored to point out to you the specimens which exist at Rouen, of the two earliest styles of architecture. The churches which I shall next notice belong to the third, or decorated style, the aera of large windows with pointed arches divided by mullions, with tracery in flowing lines and geometrical curves, and with an abundance of rich and delicate carving.
This style was principally confined in England to a period of about seventy years, during the reigns of the second and third Edward. In France it appears to have prevailed much longer. It probably began there full fifty years sooner than with us, and it continued till it was superseded by the revival of Grecian or Italian architecture. I speak of France in general, but I must again repeat, that my observations are chiefly restricted to the northern provinces, the little knowledge which I possess of the rest being derived from engravings. No where, however, have I been able to trace among our Gallic neighbors the existence of the simple perpendicular style, which is the most frequent by far in our own country, nor of that more gorgeous variety denominated by our antiquaries after the family of Tudor.
So long as Normandy and England were ruled by the same sovereign, the continual intercourse created by this union caused a similarity in their architecture, as in other arts and customs; and therefore the two earliest styles of architecture run parallel in the two countries, each furnishing the counterpart of the other. Whether or not the decorated style was transmitted to England from the continent, is a question which cannot be solved, until our collections of continental architecture shall become more extensive. After the reign of Henry VIth, our intercourse with Normandy wholly ceased; and, left to ourselves, many innovations were gradually introduced, which were not known to the French architects, who, with nicer taste, adhered to the pure style which we rejected. Hence arose the perpendicular style of pointed architecture, a style sufficiently designated by its name, and obviously distinguished from its predecessors, by having the mullions of its windows, its ornamental pannelling, and other architectural members and features, disposed in perpendicular lines. Finally, however, both countries discarded the Gothic style, though at different aeras. The revival of the arts in Europe, in consequence of the capture of Constantinople and of the greater commercial intercourse between transalpine Europe and Italy, gradually gave rise to an admiration of the antique: imitation naturally succeeded admiration; and buildings formed upon the classical model generally replaced the Gothic. Italian architects found earlier patrons and earlier scholars, in France, than amongst us, our intermediate style being chiefly distinguished by its clumsiness.