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rengeek kit icarus

The perils of ahistorical fiction....

Poll #1196967 ...in a world without Christopher Wren...

While attempting to describe the medieval St Paul's Cathedral....

...look at period sketches and fudge.
109(23.1%)
...read the accounts of the 1878 excavation and fudge.
74(15.7%)
...pretend it's just Canterbury Cathedral with a taller (lightning-struck!) spire, and fudge.
25(5.3%)
...all of the above.
103(21.9%)
...just make up a medieval cathedral. Who's gonna notice?
22(4.7%)
...panic!
44(9.3%)
...fudge-covered ticky.
94(20.0%)


So I just deleted a page and a half of notes I'd used, dropping my wordcount for today 200 words. *sad.*

Comments

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*dons architect hat*

Fudge. You can Osterize (TM) details from contemporary structures and even your hairdresser won't know for sure. If you need precision for a plot point, go with the 1878 excavation.
I'd go for the images (potentially useful ones here), although which images you want will depend on whether you want it before or after Inigo Jones got to it.

There's also a good model of it in the Museum of London, although the photo leaves a lot to be desired.

*is art historian*

*goes back to lurking* :)
Thank you for the links!
...oh dear.

Mostly, I want the sense of a medieval cathedral rather than a Renaissance one, which is why I think I can get some vibe off Canterbury.

The stone just feels different in a medieval cathedral, you know? The antigravity isn't on. You can feel the brute force holding all that up there.
One forgets -- have you ever been to Britain or Europe, or stood yourself in any of the surviving cathedrals?
Yes.
St. David's Cathedral in Wales might be another good reference point - it's about 800 years old, and built on a much older site. Here: http://www.stdavidscathedral.org.uk/index.php?id=726
What jhetley said. *nod*
Salisbury Cathedral could also provide useful data. Thirteenth century, of course, but a beautiful structure. I seem to remember Wells as also having a very nice cathedral. And there's always Winchester as a model.
The vast majority of readers will never know the difference. Fudge.
But some of us live in England near a few cathedrals and would know. Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals are all within an hour of my house. Wells isn't that far away. St Paul's is just over in London. Christchurch Priory, with its long nave, is literally right down the road. ;)
Oh boy, vote for your favourite local cathedral. :) My experience is from fairly long-term submersion in one (Wells - 1180ish - 10 yrs attendance at the cathedral school) and the reaction on seeing others albeit briefly (York, Canterbury, New St Paul's) is how very different they can be. But then Wells has a number of unique features - the west front and the scissor arches for a start - so I'd say work from the old sketches and use structural knowledge of Canterbury and similar.

http://www.wellscathedral.org.uk/index.php

Not being a historian, I'm not sure about the different architecture styles, it appears that Wells was built largely in the 'new' Gothic style. It did once have a spire, but that burned down in the 1400s. However, if there are any features of a mediaeval cathedral you'd like close-up photos of, I can always run over and start clicking. :)
If we're pitching for cathedrals, I'm extremely fond of York Minster. It's the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.

Here's the Wikipedia entry. Here's an interactive map of it.

Outside the Minster is a little model of the cathedral in its surrounding area. I have photos of that in my Flickr photostream, here, here, here and here. And I have other general photos of the Minster here, in case you want to see some bits of Gothic architecture. From some angles, looking up, it gives me glorious vertigo.
What period?

(What would the POV notice?)
It's 1938. *g*
I'm always an advocate for a good panic.
Another option: Read Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle books and pick out all of his descriptions of St Paul's and call them "near enough for fictional purposes" :-)

So what you're suggesting is that I make second-hand guesses based on somebody else's guesses?

In all seriousness, that's an extremely bad idea, and a great way to write really terrible watered-down fiction.
Since nobody else has suggested it, I'll add Durham Cathedral for your consideration.

It's always felt more medieval to me than many of the others mentioned.
Eh, what are you complaining about? Most of the buildings I'm writing about were burnt or torn down before anyone bothered sketching them at all, and the archaeological excavation notes (if any) are in Danish. <sigh> I'm reduced to squinting at a 60-years-later 'map' enlarged to the point of pixellation and thinking, "Okay, now imagine that without the spire..."

(On the plus side, now that my Danish is improving, it turns out that there is in fact a startling amount of information of various sorts out there.)

Fudging is good. In fact, fudge is good. I should go and make me some of that.
As someone who had to do this with Greenwich Palace and the Tower of London (when it looked little enough like it does now), I'd say don't go with excavation reports unless you really have to. They're more than likely to give you a 19th-century ethos rather than a medieval one.

Architecture is a bitch. I took about twice as long as I should have with it. What was the Devereux Tower before it was the Devereux Tower? It goes on.
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