Pugin was the first who deftly expounded the true principles of what he not inaptly named Christian art. No man of his day was better fitted to undertake the task. He was by profession an architect. He wrote with considerable ability. He entered on the subject with the full information of an earnest student, and with the zeal of a religious enthusiast. There was, however, one drawback to his efforts. He blended his theological convictions with his theories on art, and the result was that the two became identified in the public mind. He had both causes deeply at heart, but he would have served both better by keeping the subjects distinct. As it was, he sometimes offended the communion he had left by needless allusions to his faith, and sometimes alarmed his fellow-Churchmen by the undue importance which he attached to the style of ecclesiastical decoration. Time has proved that the revival of Gothic architecture is due no more to the teaching of Rome than that of Geneva, and at the present day the pointed arch is almost as much in vogue among Dissenters as it is with Ritualists. The decision of a Parliamentary Commission in 1836 - that the new Houses were to be mediaeval in character - gave great impetus to the growing taste; and though the Palace of Westminster may not have realised the highest qualities of the architecture which it is popularly supposed to represent, it has at least proved an excellent school for the encouragement of ancient art. It has educated many a sculptor, stonemason, metalworker, decorator, and cabinet-maker, who would otherwise have grown up ignorant of every phase of ornament save that which had reached him by a perverted tradition. Barry, to whose talent are due the merits of the general design, wisely entrusted to Pugin the design of those details which were to enrich his structure. Judged by the light of a maturer taste, they may appear deficient in artistic quality. But it is certain that at that time no one could have designed better.

Pugin's active and brilliant career was suddenly interrupted by a melancholy end. But, long before he died, his principles had spread far and wide among the lovers of art - had been adopted and acted on by many of his professional brethren.

In the mind of the general public the spirit of mediaeval design is chiefly associated with what has been called 'ecclesiastical sentiment.' But the Gothic revival is not confined to Church architecture. Indeed, if we reflect on the subject, it would seem absurd so to limit its extension. In the best ages of art there was but one style of architecture at one time for every sort of building, whether ecclesiastical or domestic. Some of the best examples of Old English Gothic which exist are certainly either churches or monastic buildings. But at the time they were raised they did not differ in style - they only differed in shape and feature - from the structures by which they were surrounded. If it be urged that dwellings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are not suited to our notions of comfort in regard to arrangement of rooms, light, and ventilation, the answer is, that all these requirements are perfectly compatible with the spirit of ancient art, and that the old designers, as time went on, never hesitated to avail themselves of the march of science, slow as it was in their day.

Mr. Ruskin has eloquently described to us the poetry of mediaeval art; Pugin and other writers have shown its practical advantages. It remains for the rising generation of architects to profit by the labours of these able apologists, and to show their patrons that the prevailing taste has not been called forth by the whims of a clique or the blind passion of an antiquary, but that, while based on the sound artistic principles of early tradition, it may be adapted to the social habits and requirements of the present age.

Street Architecture Part 5 5