Visit to a Gothic church – Manchester Cathedral
The main body of the Cathedral (particularly the outside) is in the Perpendicular Gothic style, however, there are many other developments to the church that make it a much more complicated building to read. This includes the Tudor wooden furnishings (for example, the pulpitum, choir stalls and the nave roof), also the medieval church was extensively restored in the Victorian period, and part of the building was also damaged by bombing during WWII and subsequently rebuilt. So the inside of the Cathedral is a real mixture of styles from different historical periods which makes it difficult to interpret purely from a Gothic point of view.
The outside of the Cathedral does have the appearance of a typical Perpendicular Gothic church. In particular the windows which are less intricate than previous incarnations of the Gothic style and incorporate a lot of strong vertical lines. The generous use of decorated finials gives the exterior a unified feel which belies the various editions/repairs that have been made over the years. The only thing that detracts from giving the viewer the idea that the church is from the Perpendicular Gothic period (late C14th to early C16th) is the Victorian restoration work which makes the church’s stone work look much younger.
The inside the church differs greatly from the exterior as there is no unified Gothic feel. There are parts that date from the church built around 1215, the new nave and the choir added in the C15th, we also have Tudor period ceilings and the reconstruction post WWII (most notably modern, and abstract, stained glass windows). The confusion of styles of the interior is added to by the Cathedral’s proportions and lighting. Even on a sunny day the interior does feel gloomy, much of this is because of the darkness of the interior itself. The stonework in the nave, the choir and the ceilings are all constructed from very wood or stone which seem to absorb the window light. Also the majority of windows are not stained glass which also means that the light that penetrates the building does not add any particular colour or drama to the building. The Nave in particular doesn’t feel typically Gothic due to its dimensions, it’s the widest one in England which makes the Cathedral appear shorter in length. Also the dark stone of the arches and the dark wood of the ceiling means the Cathedral lack that typical Gothic soaring to heaven feel that so many have.
The exterior has a unified feel of a Perpendicular Gothic Church which probably builds an expectation in the visitor for something similarly Gothic inside. However, Manchester Cathedral really is a game of two halves, as upon entering you realise there is so much more to this building. You don’t get that awe inspiring feeling of being transported from the earthly to the heavenly as you do in many Gothic Cathedrals. Instead what you get is a space that feels much more intimate, relaxed and personal.