One of the most important differences between French and English Gothic architecture concerns the relationship between the arcade piers and the articulation of the rest of the elevation above. In France there is always some connection between the two by means of vault shafts integrated with the pier or set on its abacus, while in England there is often a clear break between the vault shafts corbeled into the arcade spandrel or set still higher in the elevation and the piers below. The reason for this English departure from French tradition was not the result of misunderstanding or carelessness but rather a deliberate aesthetic decision closely connected with the development of new pier forms difficult to integrate with continuous vault shafts. This inventiveness in pier design was unique to Early English Gothic, and the English masters clearly preferred to emphasize these new and often complex forms by separating them from the rest of the elevation and particularly from any attachments that would have compromised their autonomy. The analysis of this development reveals an essential difference in the architectural thinking of French and English masters, with the former emphasizing the integration and subordination of individual parts in a scheme of overall visual logic and the latter emphasizing the separation of individual parts in elevations that allowed for greater variety and richness in the designs of those parts.
- Copyright 1987 The Society of Architectural Historians