Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bath — Abbey

Called the "Lantern of the West" by locals, Bath Abbey is a magnificent example of so-called Perpendicular Gothic architecture. This Anglican church formerly a Benedictine Abbey shows off an emphasis on vertical lines, high vaulted ceilings, gigantic windows with delicate tracery, and a colorful light and airiness from the stained glass. This architectural style followed the heavy and dark edifices of the Romanesque style, as well as the ornately carved Decorated Gothic style that covered available surfaces with statuary and geometric designs.

Gigantic windows dominate the walls of Bath Abbey.
Much of the abbey in its current form was built in the early 1500s, though it was "restored" (i.e., added to and "enhanced") during the Victorian era. Its western facade is most notable for ladders of angels climbing upward toward heaven.

The ladders go up the front towers framing the gigantic window. (Incidentally, the Roman baths are housed in the building on the right with faux-Roman temple facade.)
Angels climbing heavenward.
I'd be bummed if I had angelic wings but still had to climb ladders.
Not all the angels are going the same direction. Here's a bad angel being sent down from heaven.
Stepping inside the abbey, it's immediately apparent how much light streams through the stained glass. The interior is bright. The nave is narrow but tall, and your gaze is pulled upward toward the gorgeous fan vaulting of the ceiling.

The creamy Bath limestone accentuates the light and airy style.
Fan-vaulted ceiling in Bath Abbey's nave.
Delicate masonry in the fan vaulting.
The abbey's light comes from its many windows. Many, many windows: 52 of them. In fact, about 80% of the wall space in the Abbey is windows. It's remarkable to ponder how the immense weight of the stones making up the walls and ceiling are supported with so little substance.

The stained glass in the apse takes up nearly the entire height of the building.
A similarly large window in the transept.
King Edgar I was crowned in Bath in 973 A.D.
The abbey also boasts two organs, including this fine instrument:

The organist was practicing during our early morning visit.
Not everyone was impressed with the abbey. Jackson couldn't tear himself away from a Kindle game:

Until 1957, you had to rent these pews to have a seat, and if you weren't in your seat five minutes before the service it would be given away to the little people who had to stand in the back.
Next post we'll move ahead a couple of centuries to the fine Georgian architecture that dominates the city's downtown.

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