Art History Lab

Discovering the Majestic and Iconic Medieval Architecture of England

Medieval architecture is one of the most fascinating and important aspects of history. From grand cathedrals to majestic castles, medieval structures showcase the ingenuity and creativity of the human mind during a remarkable period in time.

In this article, we will explore the different types of medieval structures and examine the various architectural styles used during the Middle Ages.

Types of Medieval Structures

Religious Medieval Architecture

Religious architecture was a dominant feature during the medieval period, and it was among the first structures constructed during this period. One of the most common religious architectural forms in the Middle Ages was Christian churches.

The church was the epicenter of the medieval community and its design was crucial to the daily lives of the people. Most medieval churches were designed using a Latin cross plan, which bears remarkable similarities to the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.

This design was supposed to reflect a hierarchy of importance, with the crossing at the center of the church being the most important part. Cathedrals were also prevalent in the Middle Ages and were the most substantial religious structures.

They usually had a grand entrance and were characterized by soaring heights, intricate design and varied stone gargoyles. Churches and cathedrals were furnished with beautiful stained glass windows which were used to illustrate biblical stories.

Additionally, churches and cathedrals possessed an altar which was considered the holiest spot in the building. Indulgences were also granted to those who gave to the church; this was a popular way to finance the building of these beautiful structures.

Military Middle Ages Architecture

Military architecture was also important during the Middle Ages. Castles were used both as residences and fortifications to protect their inhabitants from war.

They were built using the most innovative technology at the time, with thick walls made of stone and towers that served as visual lookouts. Cross-shaped windows were used to deter attackers; the narrowest side of the cross faced the enemy, and the widest side faced the castle.

The top edges of the wall were lined with battlements, which provided shelter for defenders during the battle.

Medieval-Style Houses

Medieval-style houses were typical in the period, and they varied widely in architectural design. Manor buildings were grand houses that belonged to the aristocracy and were designed to reflect their affluence.

They had large halls, living quarters for the lord and lady, and guest quarters. Additionally, almshouses were established to provide accommodation for the elderly poor people in the community.

Town halls were built specifically for local administrative functions and ceremonies, while bridges were built to help people cross over rivers and make transport easier. Residential houses followed a charming medieval architecture in their design, which included exposed wood beams and conical roofs.

Medieval Architecture Styles




Romanesque is one of the first medieval architecture styles. It originated before the 10th century from the developments in Christian architecture.

The style is characterized by large pillars, semicircular arches, and solid pilasters. Pre-

Romanesque had a range of subcategories in different regions such as Norse architecture, Trachtenberg, Italian, northern, Russian Church architecture, Spanish, and Byzantine.


Romanesque is a style that emerged in Europe between the 11th and 12th centuries. This style was influenced by the Roman Empire and was characterized by barrel vaults, massive piers, rounded archways, vividly colorful tapestries, sculptures, and rounded arches.


Romanesque style was mainly applied to church architecture and was a precursor to the Gothic style.

Gothic Architecture

Gothic architecture emerged in France during the 12th century. Gothic style architecture is characterized by pointed arches, ribbed vaults, slender columns, high ceilings, large windows, and sculptures.

The style is well reflected in the many cathedrals built during the Middle Ages across Europe.


Medieval architecture is truly stunning, unique and beautiful. The different types and styles of medieval structures vary greatly in design, purpose, and function.

From the grand religious edifices like cathedrals to the military fortifications such as castles, medieval architecture stands the test of time and continues to inspire awe and wonder in modern times. The Middle Ages left behind an impressive legacy of stunning and historic buildings that continue to captivate people around the world.

Among these are a number of very famous medieval buildings, each with its own story to tell. Let’s explore some of the most remarkable medieval structures to be found in England.

York Minster (York, England)

The Gothic cathedral of York Minster is one of the most iconic medieval buildings in England, and it is a must-visit for anyone exploring the country’s rich history. The cathedral is famous for its intricate stained-glass windows and towers, particularly the Great East Window, which was completed in 1408.

The west towers of the cathedral originally served as a watchtower for the police force in the city. The striking nature of this cathedral has inspired awe among visitors for centuries.

Berkhamsted Castle (Berkhamsted, England)

The ruins of the Berkhamsted Castle in Hertfordshire are the remnants of a once great structure, built during the Norman period. The castle was built to protect the retreating armies of William the Conqueror during the 11th century.

The castle saw its fair share of civil conflict over the years, resulting in it falling into disrepair. It was granted legislative protection in the 20th century and is now a well-maintained historical landmark.

Lincoln Cathedral (Lincoln, England)

The Lincoln Cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is known for its stunning stained glass windows and huge bells. The cathedral also boasts an intriguing legend known as the Lincoln Imp, which is said to have been turned to stone by the building’s angels.

As the tallest building in the world during its time, and having the largest floor size of any cathedral in Europe, the Lincoln Cathedral still stands as a testament to craftsmanship in the Middle Ages. White Tower (London, England)

The White Tower is one of the most famous of all medieval buildings in London, and it’s also one of the most prominent landmarks in the Tower of London complex.

This defensive tower was erected during the Norman period and acted as the center of royal power for over 500 years. It served a variety of purposes over the years, including as a jail for prisoners of war from various countries.

Today it has been restored to much of its original condition through restoration efforts. The tower gets its name from the practice of whitewashing it which was carried out to increase its visibility and to appear as a symbol of power.

All Saints Church (Hampshire, England)

All Saints Church, located in Hampshire, is another significant example of Norman construction, having been built in 1270. The

Romanesque arches and designs of the church were created by Flemish artisans, providing a perfect example of the thriving international trade that defined the period.

The church has undergone refurbishments over the centuries although it still continues to preserve much of its original architecture. Durham Cathedral (Durham, England)

The Durham Cathedral is a masterpiece of Norman architecture, known for its original craftsmanship and beautiful stained glass.

The cathedral served as the seat of Catholic power in the north of England and has witnessed numerous coronations over the centuries. The cathedral is still the resting place of many great historical figures and continues to be an important attraction.

It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. Dover Castle (Dover, England)

Located in southeastern England, Dover Castle is a stunning fortress that played a critical role during numerous sieges throughout history.

The site served as a strategic point throughout Roman times and continued to be of strategic importance throughout the medieval period. The Roman-era lighthouse, fortifications, and battlements were all added throughout various historical periods.

Today, visitors can tour the castle and witness the site’s significance in European history. Westminster Abbey (Westminster, England)

Westminster Abbey, also known as the Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster, is one of the most famous medieval buildings in England and is the site of numerous royal coronations.

The abbey was originally constructed during the Norman period, and it was expanded and renovated over the centuries, ultimately resulting in the amalgamation of Norman and Gothic architectural styles. The Abbey is full of stained-glass windows, tombs of various historical figures, and other intricate sculptural work.

It continues to be an important symbol of British architectural history.


These famous buildings from medieval England are just a glimpse of the many significant architectural accomplishments of the Middle Ages. From cathedrals and castles, to fortresses and churches, these priceless structures stand as a testament to time.

The structural ingenuity and historical significance of these medieval buildings continue to inspire, educate, and fascinate visitors from all over the world. In conclusion, medieval architecture is a captivating and significant part of our history.

The different types of medieval buildings, such as cathedrals, castles and churches, all hold unique and fascinating stories that continue to inspire awe and wonder to visitors. The article highlighted various famous medieval buildings in England, such as Westminster Abbey, York Minster, and the White Tower, all of which serve as examples of the impressive feats of craftsmanship and ingenuity of the Middle Ages.

Overall, studying medieval architecture provides a vital understanding of the past and how it shapes the present and future.

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