The Cathedrals of England and Wales, Vol. 1 of 2

The Cathedrals of England and Wales, Vol. 1 of 2

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Excerpt from The Cathedrals of England and Wales, Vol. 1 of 2: Their History, Architecture, and Associations; With a Series of Rembrandt Plates and Many Illustrations in the Text

No apology need be offered for yet another work upon those monuments of "petrified piety" which among material things arc the chief glory of our land. The great age of architecture, indeed, is past, never probably to return; but none the less is it true that never were our cathedral churches so prized and treasured as they are now. In this respect the present generation need fear comparison with none of those that had their little day when architecture was a living organism. The Early English builders felt no compunction in making away with the Norman work of their predecessors, and although, out of deference to some great master-builder whose influence survived his death, an unfinished scheme was occasionally continued in accordance with the original conception, the same indifference to earlier work which characterised the creators of the first Pointed style was betrayed by those who built in the later styles, and most of all by the Perpendicular builders. That this should be so was inevitable. While the Gothic was passing through its predestined phases it was not to be expected that men would properly appreciate work which they looked upon, rightly or wrongly, as but rudimentary. Theirs was the joy of creation; and the sense of antiquity which is now so sedulously cultivated only became possible when the period of evolution was succeeded by an era of comparison and imitation.

Yet we of these later days may easily plume ourselves over much upon our reverence for the work of past ages. Admirable as are the pious zeal and liberality that have made possible the restorations recorded in the following pages, who can maintain, on a survey of church restoration as a whole, that it has not been carried too far? In many instances the architect has indulged in reconstruction when reparation would have sufficed.

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