Architectural Studies

Norman Architecture: Castles & Cathedrals

[We will visit the Tower of London and the Iffley Church, but we won’t venture as far north as Durham Cathedral.]

Romanesque architecture in England is generally termed Norman architecture since the style spread through the Anglo-Saxon lands along with their military occupation by the forces of William the Conqueror, who took the crown of England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The most famous Norman buildings are castles, such as the Tower of London, and cathedrals, such as Durham Cathedral.

More recently, scholars have preferred to use the narrower term “Anglo-Norman.” This helps distinguish the English style from Norman architecture elsewhere, such as Normandy itself (in northern France) and Sicily (where the Normans also seized power). Further, this term acknowledges the influence of Anglo-Saxon stylistic traditions, often termed Insular art or Hiberno-Saxon art, stretching back to the early middle ages.

[Note at 8:31 occurs my first error (yet realized by me): the Chapel of the White Tower was dedicated to John the Evangelist not John the Baptist.]

The Tower of London

Here are two short excerpts from BBC documentaries about the Tower of London.

Tower of London (Marc Morris, BBC, Castle, episode 1, 2003, excerpt, 8 mins.):

Tower of London (Dan Jones, BBC, Secrets of British Castles, episode 2, 2015, excerpt, 3 mins.; enjoy the recent footage of the Tower of London, which was cleaned in advance of the 2012 London summer Olympics):

Durham Cathedral

Note that in the video below Jonathan Glancey suggests that William the Conqueror’s deployment of the Norman style specifically tapped into an imperial past, traced sequentially through the Roman, Byzantine and Carolingian empires. But the specific channels of stylistic influence for Romanesque and Anglo-Norman architecture, as well as the specific region where the style first emerged, remains a topic of debate.

Durham Cathedral (The Guardian, 2011, 9 mins.):


Anglo-Norman Architecture Quiz

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