The Roof Of The Nave Of Norwich Cathedral

Roof of Norwich Cathedral

Begun in 1096 and completed in 1145, it is built in flint and mortar and faced off with limestone brought from Caen in the Normandy region in France.

There was originally a flat wooden ceiling in the Nave, taken out in the 1400s, but I couldn’t find out whether the vaulted roof was there all along or whether it was built then and replaced something else.

To my untrained eye it looks like a simple form of fan vaulting, but maybe it’s not. The structure of roofs is complicated, as you can read from this extract about the structure of fan vaulting:

The fan vault would seem to have owed its origin to the employment of centerings of one curve for all the ribs, instead of having separate centerings for the transverse, diagonal wall and intermediate ribs; it was facilitated also by the introduction of the four-centred arch, because the lower portion of the arch formed part of the fan, or conoid, and the upper part could be extended at pleasure with a greater radius across the vault.

Norwich cathedral is quite a narrow building when you are there admiring the architecture, and it is positively small compared to some cathedrals – a pipsqueak compared to The Chapel At King’s College Cambridge

Why Visit

One reason why I visit these buildings is that you can actually go inside them, unlike lots of modern cathedrals to finance.

Another is the way sound travels in the spaces inside. There is a lovely, airy and yet muffled quality to the sound. A door closing, a voice, the sound of feet on the stones.

I remember a builder I know lamenting the Building Regulations that meant that modern buildings were ‘as tight as a drum’. Bang the walls of your house and see how they resound?

And then of course the main reason I visit is that the buildings are often beautiful.

side nave at Norwich cathedral


The cathedral has got lovely vernacular buildings all around outside and a grassed area. And the whole setting is a notch down from the bustle beyond the walls.

Actually it is not that much of a bustle. Norwich feels a bit depressed, like many English towns bypassed by the arterial throb of modernity.

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