William of Sens

(fl. c. 1174—1180)

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(fl. 1174–d. c.1180).

French architect of the Gothic choir from the main crossing eastwards, including the western transept, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent (1174–84). As his name suggests, he had worked at Sens Cathedral (begun c.1140), which had some elements similar to those used at Canterbury, and he knew Notre-Dame, Paris, and other Gothic buildings in Rheims, Soissons, Arras, Cambrai, and elsewhere in North-West France, notably Notre-Dame-la-Grande at Valenciennes (1171). After he fell from the scaffolding in 1177 he was in incapacitated and was succeeded by William the Englishman who completed the choir vaults, eastern transept, Trinity Chapel, circular chapel at the end of the choir called ‘Becket's Crown’ or the ‘Corona’ (1184), and introduced the triforium-gallery previously used at Laon. Among influential motifs used by William of Sens were shafts of Purbeck marble set against light Caen limestone, and sexpartite vaults which draw the bays into pairs. The prestige of Canterbury ensured the swift adoption of the new style throughout England.

J. Harvey (1987);Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, xii (1949), 1–15;Pevsner : BoE, North East and East Kent (1976);Stubbs (ed.) (1879);G. Webb (1965)

Subjects: Architecture.

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