Friday, January 21, 2011

Noble Simplicity: Guildford Cathedral

Br. Lawrence was kind enough to point me in the direction of a very good set of photographs of one of Britain's more overlooked modern Anglican cathedrals, Guildford, built from 1936 to 1961, with an interruption for World War II. Sir Edward Maufe designed it, and also one of my own favorite English deco-Gothic parish churches, St. Thomas, Hanwell. Overshadowed by more explicitly modernistic Coventry and elaborate Liverpool, it is nonetheless a really beautiful example of a modernized Gothic that nonetheless retains a sense of strength and decorum. While lacking the expressiveness of Comper's later work, it is still eminently serviceable and a good model for austerity done well. The delightful furnishings, like the font cover, do much to enliven it also. About the only things I can say against it are to remark on the rather bland dossal (a colorful one, or, even better, or gilt ciborium magnum in the Comper manner would really be amazing in that space) and the somewhat unfortunate boxy clerestory windows in the nave. The massing is simple but well-executed and if one looks there are quite a few clever integrations of sculptural elements here and there which help soften the austerity of the overall design. Have a look here.

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