Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A.W.N. Pugin, RIP

Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin died on September 14, 1852. He was born in London on March 1, 1812. His parents were emigres from the French Revolution and his father, Augustin Pugin was an architect. He set his son to drawing Gothic buildings. His interest in Gothic architecture led him to study the Catholic faith and A.W.N. Pugin joined the Catholic Church in 1835.

On the Continent, Eugene Viollet-le-Duc's career is roughly coterminous with Pugin's and both contributed to the revival of Gothic architecture. Viollet-le-Duc was more interested in restoration of Gothic cathedrals, churches, and castles throughout France. Pugin was convinced that Gothic was THE style for Christian buildings. He wanted not only to design churches and cathedrals in the Gothic style but to furnish them and decorate them throughout--designing every aspect of the building. Unfortunately, his patrons did not always have the money necessary to complete all that work.

When the Catholic hierarchy was restored in 1850 after emancipation in 1829, of course, Catholics had to build a new infrastructure: churches, cathedrals, convents, monasteries, schools, and seminaries--there was a lot of work to do! In collaboration with John Talbot, the sixteenth Earl of Shrewsbury, Pugin designed and built 14 chapels, schools, etc between 1836 and 1848 in Staffordshire. He also worked in Ireland, especially in County Wexford in the late 1830s and throughout the 1840s. He travelled on the Continent, visiting France and the Netherlands, but did not go to Rome until 1847--where the Renaissance and Baroque architecture of the churches disappointed him. (I think there is only one truly Gothic church in Rome, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.)

In view of all the churches and buildings he designed and completed, it's remarkable that he was only 40 years old when he died. He suffered from mental illness and tremendous stress--and perhaps syphilis, according to his major modern biographer, Rosemary Hill. His sons Edward Welby and Peter Paul continued his work in their partnership, Pugin and Pugin. E.W. Pugin also died at the age of 40, in 1875 and Peter Paul finished several of his works in progress and maintained the family style.

More here. Image source: wikipedia.

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