(active 1230s in Wells)

Exterior view

begun c. 1230
Cathedral, Wells, Somerset

English Gothic went its own way in the construction of west fronts. Only relatively seldom do we see the twin-towered fronts so common in France. In their place English cathedrals and monastery churches were content with a simple straight façade, or else they competed with each other in the construction of lengthy showpiece fronts, the so-called screen façades. Such a façade is only indirectly connected with the nave opening up behind it. The façade extends across the whole building, and the towers are either set back at the sides, or rise up from just behind the wall of the façade.

West-end portals play no particularly noteworthy role in English architecture. In contrast to French portals, they cower insignificantly in the lower areas of the façade and are not decorated with sculpture. One reason for this is that the main entrances to English churches lay at the side, mostly on the north, where a lavishly decorated porch marks the portal.

The most beautiful English screen façade is to be found at Wells. The towers stand at the side of the nave and boldly protruding buttresses divide the building vertically. Several rows of blind arcading, one above the other, run across horizontally. Statues are spread over the whole façade, they consist of reliefs on the surfaces of the spandrels, life-size figures of saints on the buttresses and enthroned above them all, Christ presiding over the Last Judgment.

The photo shows the west front of the cathedral. At the dedication in 1239 it was still not complete. The towers were completed c. 1400.

View the ground plan of Wells Cathedral.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.