the golden section

I have just come across this term the ‘golden section’ in relation to Italian art in the Renaissance. The description in AWHOA didn’t really make any great sense to me so I thought I would look on the internet to see if there was a better explanation. to be honest it doesn’t get much easier especially when you see this diagram!


More research required, apparently its something to do with the  Fibonacci sequence which i vaguely remember from school 30+ years ago but don’t remember anything about.



The Differences between the Italian and Northern Renaissance


  • Portraits tend to be head on
  • Classically influenced art
  • Lots of conceptual art
  • Lots of art concerned with wealth and power
  • Exploring the forces behind nature
  • Painting, Sculpture and architecture all part of the Renaissance
  • Subject Matter:  Classical mythology, religious scenes
  • Painting media: Fresco, tempera, oil
  • Rejection of Gothic


  • Portraits tend to be slightly at and angle to the side
  • no major classical influence
  • Realistic subjects, everyday life
  • Naturalistic subjects
  • Only painting part of the Renaissance
  • Subject Matter: Domestic interiors, portraits, religious scenes
  • Painting media: oil on panel
  • Embraced Gothic for much longer

Did and interest in Humanism mean a movement away from Christianity?

The idea of Humanism (that people are rational) became widespread as part of the Renaissance. The idea came out of the study of humanities (history, language, poetry, etc…) of the classical world. People who studied humanities had a much broader education and so were more rounded and had a strong moral ethic. There was an emphasis on the individual being part of their community and civic duty.

Humanism was a break away from more traditional learning which had been dominated by the clergy. This led to a more flexible approach to thinking about things that was not rooted on past traditions. Humanism was a direct development of urban living where the church’s control was diminished because of the development of civic society and commerce. It was also an age when science started to become more influential on how people thought (for example empiricism and critical thinking).

So to say that Humanism was  a movement away from Christianity is probably a too simplistic view of things. Humanism was more a realisation that Christianity provided one way of looking at things but Humanism showed that there were also many other ways just a useful and valid. It is probably more accurate to say that Humanism provided an alternative to Christian thought. I do not think that any Renaissance Humanist would have called themselves Atheist and it must be remembered that Classical Humanist writings had proved strong influences on many Christian thinkers of the past (for example, St Thomas Aquinas).

Assignment feedback

Overall no. 2 was satisfactory, again I have been advised to widen my reading which I think will be easier when covering the next assignment The Renaissance. My writing skills have apparently improved which us good but I do need to improve my skills of interpretation. All together not too bad but plenty of room for improvement.

Manchester Cathedral – the Choir

During the period 1422-1458 the construction of the Manchester Cathedral choir was undertaken. It is considered by many to be on of the finest examples in the country and probably the most celebrated feature of the Cathedral.


The intricate carving of the Choir is in a Gothic style which very much echoes the external architecture of the Cathedral, in particular the numerous finials.


The misreicords in the Choir are particularly fine, there are 30 different ones in total depicting many different things from two people playing backgammon through to flora and fauna. Here are a couple of examples.


They show a real flare, personality and rebellious nature which the is a departure from the rest of the choir which is very intricate and composed as you would expect in a religious building.











Manchester Cathedral stained glass windows

The older stained glass windows in the Cathedral were lost as the consequence of a direct hit from a WWII bomb. Now all the stained glass in the church dates from the 1970s onwards. The windows are very colourful and abstract in nature, here are a couple of examples. All the windows were created by Antony Holloway and were specifically designed to emphasise the Cathedral’s squareness and width.

The first one above is the Creation Window from 1991 and the depicts the chaos then order of Genesis. it includes key elements from the creation story (the sun, moon, stars, plus humans and the serpent. The second picture is the St George Window from 1972 elements for the dragon can be seen as well as his the Saint’s red cross.

The windows at first seem quite random in design but elements do emerge to the viewer the longer they are viewed (especially if you know the window’s name). The most abstract window is the Revelation Window 1995 (below).


The blocks of colour suggest the new Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation. Below you can see how the modern stained glass works with the Gothic vaulting.


I think that because the windows are so abstract they retain a timeless quality which doesn’t date them to a particular. The window above is the St Mary Window from 1980. Because it doesn’t specifically feel 1980s in design i think it does compliment the Gothic ceiling adjacent.

Some information for this post is from the Manchester Cathedral publication “A Wall of Light” which is available from the Cathedral.




Visit to a Gothic church – Manchester Cathedral (short version) – longer version to follow.

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.