Monday, 12 January 2015

Gothick Churches
The United Kingdom and Ireland : 1

Church of S' John the Evangelist, Ballinasloe (1840).
Before that period of architecture began in England and on the Continent known as The Gothic Revival, architects had been dabbling for almost a century in "Gothic" for domestic, civil and ecclesiastical buildings.

Buildings of this type generally are described by the term Gothick, which has become a sort of perjorative. These buildings generally lacked the sophisticated expression of form and decoration of Gothic Revival buildings and sometimes their proportions were not all they might be.

Nevertheless, accepted as they are, there is much to admire. This post concerns a Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion) church in the town of Ballinasloe in County Galway, Ireland, dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist. This church was built in the year 1840 at the very end of the Gothick period and designed by the architect Joseph Welland.

Saint John the Evangelist is a modest stone building of good proportions with a tower rising slightly behind (rather than projecting from) its western facade. All the details are very simple, although lacking the finesse of mediaeval churches of the Early English period.

Western facade of the Ballinasloe Church.

Perhaps the most obvious tell-tale that this is Gothick is the cruciform design, which was typical of churches of this period. Mediaeval English churches (at least of those in the Gothic period as distinct from the earlier Norman and Saxon periods) were not cruciform in this manner. More likely, they had an aisle, or two aisles abutting the nave, beyond which transepts might extend. But hardly ever is to be found a pair of transepts projecting from a one-room mediaeval nave. Such a form of church became more common after the Reformation in England, when "Gothic" came less and less to be used for church building as Catholic worship was rejected.

Building anew in the Gothic style is now a difficult matter. It is expensive and architects who understand the "grammar" of Gothic are somewhat rare. Perhaps the pared-back style of the Gothick period might be considered anew? A building which is done simply and well is much to be preferred to something very elaborate which fails miserably.

Interestingly, the Catholic parish of Ballinasloe has a later church design by AWN Pugin himself and what a fine building it is! To be discussed in another post.