he most striking and characteristic external feature of a church is its tower or spire. This is so attached to the popular notion of such a building, that any religious edifice wanting this essential mark would never generally receive any other appellation than that of chapel. Towers, attached to parochial churches, are most ancient in this country; they appear to have been erected from a very early period, and several Saxon examples yet remain. It is a feature of ecclesiastical architecture which the establishment never abandoned even in its most degenerate period.
A church tower is a beacon to direct the faithful to the house of God; it is a badge of ecclesiastical authority, and it is the place from whence the heralds of the solemnities of the church, the bells, send forth the summons. Let no one imagine that a tower is a superfluous expense, it forms an essential part of the building, and should always be provided in the plan of a parochial church.
Left: St. George's-in-the-fields. Right: St. Giles's, Cheadle.
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A tower to be complete, should be terminated by a spire: every tower during the finest periods of pointed architecture either was, or was intended to be, so finished; a spire is in fact an ornamental covering to a tower; a flat roof is contrary to every principle of the style, and it was not till the decline of the art that they were adopted. The vertical principle, emblematic of the resurrection, is a leading characteristic of Christian architecture, and this is nowhere so conspicuous or striking as in the majestic spires of the middle ages. The position of towers in parochial churches are various; they are generally placed at the west end of the nave, rising directly from the ground. This we will illustrate by three examples of Catholic churches now erecting; -- the first is St. Giles's, Cheadle; the second the large parochial church of St. George's-in-the-fields; the third St. Oswald's, near Liverpool. -- (See Plates IV, V, and VI.) ["Of the External Form and Decoration of the Church," pp. 21-22]
Pugin, A. Welby. The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England. "Republished from the Dublin Review." London: Charles Dolman, 1843.
Last modified 22 November 2004