Friday, 3 April 2015

Church Towers : 1

church tower
A muscular tower:
Saint Michael and All Angels, Bothwell Tasmania.
It may be argued convincingly that the most identifying feature of a church is its tower. And even though this feature signifies firstly that the building is the House of God, towers remain a potent symbol of community life. There is such a variety in the design of church towers as will afford us many posts on the subject.

Church towers originated in ninth century Italy, but obviously the tower as a fortification existed long before they became part of church architecture. Nevertheless, many communities came to appreciate the defensive advantages of having a tower in their midst and indeed the term belfry is of teutonic origin and means a defensive place of shelter. In most places, however, mediaeval church towers were simply intended to accommodate bells, an altogether different meaning of the word belfry. In Italy the term is campanile.

The tower under discussion in this post is of the Anglican Church of Saint Michael and All Angels in Bothwell Tasmania (Australia) and looks very much like a defensive place of shelter. This church was built in stages between 1887 and 1923 to the design of Tasmanian architect Alexander North a Gothic Revivalist of no mean ability. The tower of the church, which abuts the chancel, was the last to be built and is distinctive for its robust design.

Although in that muscular vein of the later period of the 19th century Gothic Revival, this squat and robust tower is at least reminiscent of Norman architecture. Four square turrets support this tower and each turret is flanked by two unstepped buttresses, creating clean lines and a keep-like appearance. The pyramid-shaped terminations to these turrets enhance this castle-like feeling (although those four celtic crosses atop are perhaps a little "twee"). No tracery or crenellations break-up the solid parapet of this tower. The eight louvred openings clearly indicate the true purpose of this tower.

church tower
The Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, Bothwell, Tasmania.
The tower and porch of this church are the most successful features of its exterior.

The church seen from the south east.
A semi-circular turret, which serves as the stairwell to the tower,
is well-placed against the east wall

and also serves as the exterior entrance to the vestry.