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Scott. To call the modern Italian style “ Grecian” or “ Classic,” is to give it a delusive name of honour; just as to call medieval architecture “Gothic” is, with many people, to give a dog a bad name and hang him. To talk about “Greeks and Goths" merely confuses the whole matter. If we may return epigram for epigram, we should say that the dispute is not between Alaric and Pericles, not even between Theodoric and Augustus, but between St. Louis and Cæsar Borgia, between Robert Grosseteste and Alexander VI.
But perhaps more formidable than this is the objection drawn from the supposed specially ecclesiastical character of Gothic architecture. This idea is a pure delusion, but it is one most widely prevalent; it is one that takes very various forms, and it is one to whose currency friends and foes have alike contributed. Mr. Spurgeon, as we have seen, thinks Gothic architecture was invented by the devil. We do not agree with the sentiment; but we decidedly respect its author for his plainness of speech. He puts a popular objection in its strongest and clearest shape. That Gothic architecture was invented by the devil is of course a natural inference from the very prevalent notion that it has something to do with the Pope. Gothic architecture is supposed to be a dark, gloomy, mysterious, in a word, Popish style; transubstantiation lurks in its deeply-cut mouldings, and the floriated wreaths of its capitals do but conceal such snakes-in-the-grass as the Immaculate Conception. As for its tracery, its mullions, transoms, cusps, and foils, they are confessedly only devices for keeping out the pure light of Protestantism. It is a style—has not the Premier himself told us? -fit only for a monastery or a Jesuit college. To be sure, the Jesuits,-men tolerably wise in their generation,-never themselves found out this special fitness for their purposes; but Lord Palmerston has said it, Mr. Tite has endorsed it, Mr. Coningham has cried “ hear, hear” to it: how can we venture to set ourselves against such a phalanx of artistic, historical, and theological authorities? Let us allow that it is Popish, if only the great political divine will give us an exact definition of Popery, in all its bearings, theological, political, moral, and artistic.
Now a “tu quoque” is confessedly not a high style of argument, but sometimes the temptation to it is too strong for human nature. When Mr. Coningham tells us that we are Papists because of our Gothic tendencies, we cannot help answering, “ You are another.” Very likely our theological discernment is less acute; we cannot see how a style of architecture can be of any particular religious creed; we do not see how a pointed arch can be more Popish than a round one, or a round arch more Protestant than a pointed one. Still, if there is
such a thing in the world as a Popish style,-if there are any architectural forms on which the mark of the Beast is indelibly impressed, -it is surely that very Revived Italian style which we are called upon to accept in the name of pure Protestantism. If English Gothic buildings are Popish because those who built them paid a very feeble and very unwilling allegiance to the Pope, what are we to call those which were built by the Pope himself?* The great patrons of Revived Italian were the Popes themselves, in the vilest period of the Popedom. The masterpiece of the style was one of the immediate occasions of the Reformation. The wrath of Luther was first stirred up by the sale of indulgences: the indulgences were sold to supply the means of building St. Peter's; St. Peter's is the great wonder and glory of Revived Italian architecture. If it were not sheer nonsense to talk of a style of architecture being either Popish or Protestant, we think our charge of Popery against the Revived Italian style would be unanswerably made out.
The prejudice against Gothic architecture as being Popish, or worse than Popish, “ Puseyite,” is utterly unreasonable, and is belied by facts. Yet we are not in the least surprised at its existence. A large and zealous class of Gothic revivalists have only to thank themselves for it. Mr. Pugin, among the Roman Catholics, and the Cambridge Camden school in the Church of England, took up the subject in a way which could have no other result. Gothic architecture was put forth as exclusively Christian and Catholic; every other style was loathed as heathen. The details of mediæval architecture, and of mediæval ritualism, were studied by the same persons, and treated of in the same books, not as matters of legitimate antiquarian study, but as equally demanding imitation in the nineteenth century. Mr. Paley, whose brain was far less heated than those of some of his brethren, could not put forth his valuable treatise on mouldings, the very driest and most technical portion of the whole subject, without a dedication talking about “ the cause of Catholic art. Messrs. Webb and Neale translated the frivolous and stupid reveries of Durandus, which became the gospel of one generation of “ ecclesiologists." There was no beauty without symbolism, and no symbolism without beauty. In short, the publications of the Cambridge Society and its leaders contained at least as much polemical theology as they did antiquarian information or artistic criticism. Mr. Freeman, in the contemporary Oxford Society, never went these lengths, and always rejected the
* In the same way, at this very moment, the extreme Ultramontane party ng English Roman Catholics—the Oratorians, for instance-object to Gothic'; those who, though Roman Catholics, have not ceased to be Englishmen, the school of Mr. Pugin, prefer it.
“symbolical theory.” In his History of Architecture, he always gives historical and artistic considerations their primary place, and frequently protests against the extravagances of his allies. Yet even his book is often disfigured by irrelevant ecclesiastical matters, of which he seems glad to make a kind of retractation, both in his preface, and in his later work on Window Tracery. A very large body of the students of Gothic architecture took it up on this kind of polemical ground. It was not architecture, as architecture, that they cared about, but what they rather affectedly called Ecclesiology.
It is very true that all this time Gothic architecture was being steadily studied and advanced by men against whom no charge of the kind could possibly be brought. Mr. Rickman, being a Quaker, was certainly not a Roman Catholic. No charge of Popery or “Puseyism,” that we ever heard of, has been brought against Dr. Whewell, Professor Willis, or Mr. Petit. Yet Professor Willis is the great master of the constructive, and Mr. Petit of the æsthetical, branch of the subject. Mr. Petit, indeed, has since changed sides; he is perhaps the only apostate whom we have to mourn. While every other student of ancient Gothic art wishes to see it revived in modern works, he alone admires the old ones so much, that he cannot bear to see them profaned by modern imitations.* We deeply lament the loss of such an ally; but it does not lessen the value of his past services. Mr. Parker, indeed, who may rank alongside of them as the master of purely antiquarian detail
, may possibly have incurred suspicion as the publisher of much Anglo-Catholic divinity; but we do not think that all Exeter Hall combined would scent out any Popery in the Glossary of Architecture. The labours of all these distinguished men were known and honoured by real students of the subject; but they did not make so much noise in the world as the high “ Ecclesiological” school. The revival of Gothic architecture, and the revival of what were called “Popish practices,” went hand in hand. The two were advocated in the same books, and were practically carried out in the same buildings. The churches which most successfully carried out a particular style were not uncommonly arranged and decorated in a particular manner. Of course, the two things had really nothing to do with each other; but it would have been a marvel indeed if they had not become confused in popular estimation. That Gothic architecture has any necessary or probable Popish tendency, is one of the most ludicrous of fal
* Mr. Petit seems also, from the concluding chapter of his splendid Architectural Studies in France, to have been led away by some misty and incomprehensible ethnological theory about " Goths." There is no greater pity in this world than when an able man leaves a subject which he fully understands, to write nonsense about one which he does not.
lacies; but that a great many people thought so was in very truth the fault of no one so much as of one influential section of the Gothicists themselves.
But, besides those who think that Gothic architecture is something Popish or Puseyite, fit only for a monastery or a Jesuit's college, there is another class who willingly admit that Gothic is a good style for churches, but who deny that it is a good style for houses or Foreign Offices. This misconception is a fallacy quite as great, and also quite as natural, as the last. It arises from several causes.
First of all, a little thought will show that, as it is nonsense to say that a style of architecture, as such, is Christian or Heathen, Catholic or Protestant, it is equally nonsense to say that it is good for ecclesiastical buildings, and bad for civil; or good for civil, and bad for ecclesiastical. We say, without the least hesitation, if Gothic can be shown to be the best style for a church, it follows that it is the best style for a Foreign Office; if Italian can be shown to be the best style for a Foreign Office, it follows that it is the best style for a church. To many people, we have no doubt, this sounds like a paradox; it is in reality a truism. The belief to the contrary arises from not realising what a style of architecture is. A style of architecture is not determined by the shape or proportion of the buildings which are built in it, but by its construction and its d tail. It is not of the esssence of a Gothic building to be long, tall, and narrow, like a mediæval church; it is not of its essence to have narrow windows, and those obscured by stained glass. You may
build a church as mediæval as you please in proportion and arrangement, whose style shall be as remote from Gothic as may be wished. St. Eustache at Paris is in composition a mediæval temple of the noblest kind, but it is most certainly not Gothic in style. St. Paul's Cathedral has all the parts of a mediæval minster hardly less fully developed than St. Peter's Abbey. Cardinal Wiseman would at once find an ecclesiastical use for many parts of it which now stand wholly empty, or garnished only with figures of Neptune and Britannia, which certainly do not seem in their places. On the other hand, a building may be of any shape you please, and yet be purely Gothic. The proportions of Westminster Hall are as different as may be from those of Westminster Abbey, yet both are Gothic alike. Not to go beyond the limits of ecclesiastical structures, the huge broad brick churches of Aquitaine and Languedoc--such as the glorious cathedral of Alby, without aisles or transepts, but with a single vaulted body of enormous span—are as purely Gothic as Westminster or St. Ouen’s. Yet in shape and proportion they differ almost as much from an English or from a French cathedral,
as do the domical churches of Perigueux or Byzantium. But, in reality, you may, if you like, build a square meeting-house which shall be as purely Gothic as York Minster. It might be more difficult to build a semicircular Gothic lecture-room, though we believe there are Gothic architects ready to accept the challenge; but in any case you might avoid the difficulty by making it polygonal, which is practically the same thing as circular. A Gothic building is one which, when an arch is wanted, employs by preference the pointed form, and which accompanies that form by an appropriate system of detail.* It must not leave any square edges to its jambs; they must be moulded, or, at the very least, chamfered. It may not require any pillars; but if it does, they should be clustered or octagonal rather than round. It may not require any decorative shafts; but if it has any, their abaci should be round or octagonal rather than square. Its windows may be of any size or shape; if the position allows it, an arched, and therefore a pointed, head is desirable; if it is more convenient to make them square, round, or triangular, square, round, or triangular they may be. They may be narrow, they may be wide; only, if they are wide enough to require divisions, those divisions should take the form of ornamental tracery. Finally, its roof may be of any kind; but a stone vault is the best in any position which allows it.+ It is evident that all these things may exist in a building of any shape, and designed for any use. It is undoubtedly true, that it is in a great minster that Gothic architecture has the best opportunity of displaying its highest powers. But so it is with every other style. In every style its churches or temples, whether Christian or heathen, are its noblest works. A Gothic building, an Italian one, or one of any other style, is distinguished by its mechanical construction and its artistic details; things which are altogether independent of the use of the building, or of its proportion, which must mainly depend upon its use.
The merits of a style of architecture are its beauty, its constructive reality, its practical convenience, its comparative cheapness, and lastly, its nationality. We hope shortly to show that in none of those is Gothic surpassed by Italian, while in most of them Italian is surpassed by Gothic. But what at present we wish to insist on, is, that whichever of the two is
* This definition is worked out at large in Freeman's History of Architecture, pp. 300 et sqq. The general positions laid down are quite sound; but the writer has clearly had ecclesiastical buildings too exclusively before his mind.
† It is curious to see how the stone vault is almost confined to the highest and the lowest efforts of Gothic art--to its grand churches, and to the subordinate parts of domestic buildings. The cause is, because they are physically the highest and the lowest. The proportions of rooms in a house would hardly ever admit of a vault. A great hall is too broad, a small one is too low.