Introduction

The present research is part of a wider study on Wells Cathedral carried out by the Department ofArchitec-ture and Civil Engineering of the University of Bath and constitutes a synthesis of the author's MPhil given at the University of Bath under the supervision of Dr D. D'Ayala and Mr. M. Wilson-Jones.

The decision to investigate the crossing and the central tower of Wells Cathedral in particular arises from the singular, inspirational quality of the Scissor-Arches, and an instinctive need to try to explain their insertion from both a formal and an engineering point of view. The analysis of the bibliographical sources highlights the lack of information on the crossing and the central tower, in contrast with a vivid debate on the remodeling of the east end in the first half of the 14th century. However, an observation by Draper (1981) about the reasons for remodelling the east end, pointed me in the right direction. Draper affirms "the setting out of the eastern extension at Wells was designed to make provision for the shrine of the de Marchia in the bay behind the high altar. His tomb was, in fact, placed in the south transept and is usually dated shortly after the bishop's death in 1302." The heightening of the central tower could have been motivated by the desire to create a landmark consonant with a place of Pilgrimage. However, the fact that the lady Chapel was intended partly as a shrine for the holy body ofWilliam de Marchia may also suggest a liturgical aspect to the scissor-arches, for they act as a screen separating the laity from the east end. For anyone entering from the west end or the north porch the scissor-arches constitute the main focus of attention, yet, their shape and

Figure 1. The nave, the Scissor-Arches and the crossing.

the presence of the oculi in the triangular spandrels allows visual contact with the east end beyond. In the Salisbury version, by contrast, this visual contact is absent. At Wells, consequently, during the solemn liturgical procession, the laity, who had to stay in the nave, could perceive what was going on in the final stages of the processions in the east end.

Linking the heightening of the central tower with the remodeling campaign of the east end demanded an in-depth analysis of the debate over this section of Wells Cathedral, as well as the execution of a fresh architectonic survey in the attempt to establish a chronological sequence. The results of my survey at Wells point to a revised chronology, one which offers a new reconciliation between the physical and the documentary evidence as well as art-historians considerations.

Figure 2. The elevation section of the central tower obtained from the architectonic survey. It is divided in three main portions, i.e. the first row of arches, the second row of arches, and the heightening of central tower.

Figure 3. The structural section of the first row of arches (left) and the structural section of the second row of arches.

Figure 2. The elevation section of the central tower obtained from the architectonic survey. It is divided in three main portions, i.e. the first row of arches, the second row of arches, and the heightening of central tower.

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