View all news

Exploring the enigma of Bristol Cathedral

Press release issued: 12 March 2012

The Medieval art, architecture and history of Bristol Cathedral is the focus of a new book by researchers at the University of Bristol.

The Medieval art, architecture and history of Bristol Cathedral is the focus of a new book by researchers at the University of Bristol.

The study, edited by Jon Cannon and Beth Williamson of Bristol’s Department of Historical Studies, offers a detailed analysis of the architecture of Bristol Cathedral (then St. Augustine's Abbey) during the Middle Ages.

From its Romanesque chapter house to its Perpendicular cloister and extraordinary 14th-century east end – potentially one of the most revolutionary works of architecture of the entire Middle Ages – the Cathedral boasts examples of each of the main architectural styles but has been little studied compared to many other English cathedrals.

Jon Cannon said: “Bristol Cathedral, formerly the abbey of St Augustine, is a remarkable building.  To medievalists it is an enigmatic and compelling place, filled with important work of various periods, work that raises a range of important questions about style, patronage and the intentions behind medieval architecture.

“Conversely, to the wider public, the cathedral is not well-known compared to others; this spectacular building tends to hide its light under a bushel. Yet its remarkable, and controversial east end alone is one of the most significant structures of its period in Europe.”

This book aims to remedy the neglect.  Highlights include the most detailed discussions to date of the later medieval history and architecture of the church and its community, and detailed papers on the dating, attribution and historiography of the east end.

Essays also explore the various components of the Cathedral's fabric as well as the role of patronage in the development of its architectural style, the life of the later medieval abbey, and its subsequent conversion to a Cathedral, as well as Pevsner's pivotal work in drawing attention to its importance.

In their introduction and epilogue the editors draw out the wider themes and lessons suggested by the building, themes that will be of interest to all with a serious interest in the study of medieval art.

The Medieval Art, Architecture and History of Bristol Cathedral: An Enigma Explored, edited by Jon Cannon and Beth Williamson is published by Boydell & Brewer, £55

Contributors: Roger Leech, John McNeil, Sarah Boss, Christopher Wilson, Jon Cannon, Paul Crossley, Julian M. Luxford, James G. Clark, Joseph Bettey, Cathy Oakes, Beth Williamson.

Jon Cannon teaches medieval architectural history at the University of Bristol and elsewhere.

Dr Beth Williamson is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Bristol.

More news