(d. 1180, Sens)


French architect (French: Guillaume de Sens). He was the master-mason who built the first structure in the Early Gothic style in England.

William is one of the first cathedral architects to be known by name. Exact knowledge of his contribution was preserved in the report of an eyewitness, the monk Gervase, who described the destruction by fire (1174) of Canterbury Cathedral's choir and its subsequent rebuilding by William. He was already famous at that time as a leading builder and "most subtle artisan" of Sens. Called to Canterbury in 1175, he was given the task of using the remaining foundation of the choir and extending it toward the east. He was also described as a "craftsman most skilled in wood and stone" who devised ingenious machines for lifting stone. William seems to have brought sculptors and glaziers with him to Canterbury.

William probably planned the whole choir, as well as other structural alterations, including the flying buttresses copied from Notre-Dame, which may still be seen on the north side. It is the interior design that is most significant, however. Here William introduced sexpartite vaulting, the form of the high arcades, and columns of stone in contrasting colours. His innovations at Canterbury are considered an early step toward the High Gothic practice of "dissolving" the walls between supporting verticals.