Astoft

 

Romsey Abbey,  Hampshire
12-13th century


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Interior
Continued from exterior

Click on photos to enlarge.
Notes in italics from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight by Nikolaus Pevsner and David Lloyd (1967)
Yale University Press, New Haven and London.



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We start again in the retrochoir or ambulatory. Here it is at once evident that the Norman building went on E two bays wide. Tripartite responds. Capitals some with primitive leaves but others livelier, with trails, animals, and faces at corners. To the W, i.e. the E arcades of the chancel, they have plain big scallop capitals instead. The ambulatory is rib-vaulted, but the ribs lack supports in the form of shafts; so groin vaults were probably intended at first. The rib profile is a half-roll and two half-hollows (cf. Winchester Cathedral transepts, after 1107). ... Wall painting, S side of N arch ...


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The chancel aisles have four bays, the fourth also belonging to the retrochoir. These fourth bays are extended by apses in the thickness of the wall, i.e. not visible from outside. The apses have broad unmoulded ribs, which is surprising. The walls have tall blank arcading. Chip-carved arches. ...
A piece of a Perp screen is used as the reredos of the SE apse. In it a small, very valuable piece of Anglo-Saxon C10-11 sculpture. Christ crucified with two Angels on the arms of the cross, the Virgin and St John below and Longinus and the Soldier with the sponge yet lower. The composition is typically Saxon in that it is loose and lively, not hieratic like Romanesque pieces. ...


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The chancel aisles are essentially the same, but in the W bays the ribs do not stand on shafts. Most capitals are of the big-scalloped kind, but one on the N and the corresponding one on the S tell stories. They are of two crowned men and an angel (signed Robertus me fecit), of two seated men with a monster-head between (signed Robert tute consule qs.), and of a battle, with a King helped by an angel in a fight with a bearded man. The style is very close to that of the Canterbury crypt. In the S aisle also some decorated capitals. ...


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The chancel itself is of three bays with a straight two-bay end. Arcade, gallery, clerestory, no vault, but the main beams supported on mighty mast-like shafts which separate the bays. The arches have big scalloped capitals and zigzag in the arch itself. Above, a billet frieze runs round the masts too. The gallery arcade is very strange. A twin opening per bay; decorated sub-arches, the super-arch with two rolls. The hood-mould again runs round the masts. But the odd thing is that the tympanum of the super-arch is left open, and that here a colonnette stands on the shaft between the two sub-arches. There is no parallel to this. ... The clerestory is in stepped tripartite groups, but above the low side-pieces are blank arches to the height of the middle arch, and they have pairs of small colonnettes on their side towards the middle arch. The upper E wall is, as we have already seen, of c.1270-80. The windows have ample Purbeck-marble shafting, and the arches have big (renewed) stiff-leaf sprays.


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The crossing piers have tripartite responds to the N and S arches, to the W all shafts are shaved off, to the E the shafts start high up on brackets with heads etc. These anomalies are probably connected with screen and pulpitum. The crossing arches are in three steps. Inside the tower are shafts up the angles and on each side three twins. The columns between the twins stand on brackets.



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Chancel and south transept from within crossing pier


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Transepts: South transept above, north transept below. East walls first column, end walls middle column, west walls last column.
The transepts continue the system of the chancel, though of course varied by the fact that the end walls and the W walls have different elevations. ... The gallery N bay on the E side of the S transept has big zigzag - the only one so far, but cf. the gallery windows of the S transept externally. Also the same bay has its tympanum solid, which has not occurred before. ... Of the end walls little need be said. The clerestory is tripartite, though externally it does not appear so. The W walls differ, as we have seen, by the placing of the big stepped tripartite window groups. Below the higher one in the S transept is some blank intersecting arcading.   


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In South transept: Purbeck marble effigy of a slender lady wearing a wimple. Her head under a three-dimensional pointed-trefoil arch. The effigy is C13, as is obvious from the stiff-leaf border. - The Canopy with its ogee top can therefore not belong to her. Big cusps with leaf motifs and sub-cusps. Crockets on the arch. Early C14.
In North transept: Painting. This large board is that uncommon survival, a complete reredos, bad but rare. Nine upright saints in the top row. Below Christ rising from his coffin, the soldiers, two censing angels, and the donor, an abbess.


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The Romsey nave continues the system on the E parts. Altogether, with the exception of the Gothic W bay, the building is impressively uniform. Even the motif of the column standing in the gallery tympanum is carried on with. ... But at this moment a change of plan occurred in the elevation. The first two bays of the nave are separated by a giant round pier the height of nave and gallery together. ... When at Romsey the change of plan had been decided on, the S side was evidently done first; for here alone the arch of the arcade bay still has zigzag. After that it is given up .... On the N side the arch is caught up by a fragmentary multi-scalloped capital that runs round the arcade and aisle sides. The gallery continues the billet frieze at sill level. The sub-arches have zigzag in the first bay, but are plain in the second bay. Also the sill course stops going round the masts. In the clerestory only the very E responds and first piers are still Norman (round S, polygonal N - last picture), and the high middle arch is still Norman. Then at once the clerestory turns Gothic. ...
The second nave pier is not a giant column but a compound pier, and no more giant columns follow after that. So the new plan was given up. ...


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The next bays of the nave, i.e. Nos 3 and 4, show development of a very telling kind on gallery level. Capitals appear with trumpet-scallop and decorated trumpets, which came in only about 1170 or so, and the arches, though still round, are finely moulded; transition to the E.E. (Early English).


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The fourth bay on the N side is a problem. It is different from all others. The ribs of the bay have decoration with a kind of crenellation motif. The pier at its W end, i.e. between bays four and five, has double shafts to all sides. The capitals are decorated. The arch has zigzag at r. angles to the wall, a Late Norman motif, as we have seen. The wall frieze runs round the exceptional pier. The pier ends at the level of the springing of the gallery arches with capitals with trumpets and a square abacus. Why all this display in this one place?


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The Nave continues Norman only to here. The last three bays are entirely E.E. But we must remember that at clerestory level the E.E. starts already at half a bay from the crossing, and in the gallery at least with the arches of bays three and four. This is again the way medieval buildings proceeded. The last three bays have piers with a triple shaft and two subsidiary shafts to each side. The bases, curiously enough, are of Purbeck marble. The capitals are moulded, except for some stiff-leaf on the N side. The arches are pointed, with a big chamfer and fine mouldings starting vertically. Hood-moulds with stiff-leaf stops. No more billet frieze at gallery sill level. The gallery now has trefoiled sub-arches and a quatrefoil pierced through the tympanum. The blank arches above the low parts of the clerestory triplets change from round to pointed. ... All of these things take one to about 1230, and that was the end of the building. A consecration date is not known.



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