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The east end held the altar and choir, or quire, which were used by the clergy during daily masses. Although medieval British churches are basically oriented east to west, they all vary slightly.When a new church was to be built, the patron saint was selected and the altar location laid out.Construction of the current church building was begun circa 1108, and was essentially completed around 50 years later.
Entrance, Southwell Minster chapter house (photo: Necrothesp) Because the Southwell Chapter House is relatively small, it does not require a center column to support the roof as a larger area would.
The octagonal room is topped by a vault carried not only on ribs that reach to the center, but also on cross ribs that span between the main ribs.
The arcade on each side separates the nave from the side aisles, which allow people to move through the church to smaller side chapels.
Above the first tier is a second arcade with smaller arches defining the gallery, and above that is another arcade – smaller still – which includes windows and is known as the clerestory.
The nave is in the Norman, or Romanesque, architectural style.
It is delineated by simple rounded – Roman – stone arches springing from heavy round stone columns.
The ceiling of Southwell Minster is a wooden barrel vault.
The arches, column capitals, window surrounds, and portals are decorated with carved patterns that are geometric and straightforward.
These intermediate ribs are known as tiercerons, and signify a further development into the more complex and decorated vaults that are an integral part of the English Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic styles.
As a whole or in its individual parts, Southwell Minster is a brilliant example of medieval architecture in England and its rapid development over 200 years.