How to Read a Cathedral

Ref: C3741401

Starting with an introduction to the planned course programme, we will then consider the building of the English cathedrals in the medieval period, identifying first the Norman architectural style and then the Gothic styles now known as the Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular. These contribute to the natural sense of awe in entering these soaring buildings, but how were the cathedrals built in the forms that survive for us to see today? We will take a close look at medieval building methods, and at the fascinating way these architectural styles co-exist as a result of the building history of many of the English cathedrals. We will look closely at examples such as Winchester, Ely and York. There will be a visit day on May 8th and the final session will conclude with a discussion of the key architectural features.

Course aim

This course will take a fresh look at the English medieval cathedrals, concentrating on how to recognise the key architectural styles, through which we can identify the historic periods in which building work took place.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • recognise the key styles of English Norman and Gothic cathedral architecture
  • in a cathedral with work of various periods, identify each of these through their respective architectural style
  • identify, in a given building, the key architectural features which distinguish cathedrals (and major abbeys) from other churches

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • Presentations with images and colour notes provided for each session

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • Useful background reading - Jon Cannon - Cathedral - published by Constable

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Further visits to study cathedrals covered in this course first hand

Download full Course information sheet

How to Read a Cathedral


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  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
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  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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