Christ Church Cranbrook is a towered late English Gothic Revival Church. This was the type of church architecture favored by George Booth. It was inspired by the old Gothic parish churches found in the Kent, England, countryside, the area from which Booth’s family came. As he planned Christ Church Cranbrook, he used these churches as the models for the church he was to build.
Gothic architecture originated in France during the Middle Ages, developing out of the earlier Romanesque style. Romanesque churches are characterized by rounded arches, thick walls, and small windows. In contrast, height is important in Gothic churches, arches are tall and pointed, walls are thinner and contain large windows to help reduce their weight and to bring in more light, and buttresses, often flying, help to redistribute weight and provide additional support. There is copious delicate and intricate decoration, both interior and exterior.
Gothic architecture was predominant from the 12th to the 16th centuries in Europe. Gothic Revival architecture began in the mid-18th century as a response to the rise of Evangelicalism in the church, which led to simpler and plainer architecture. Gothic Revival architecture, on the other hand, was closely tied to a wish for pre-Reformation style churches and more Anglo-Catholic styles of worship. By the end of the 19th century, other styles began to affect this architecture.
The Arts and Crafts movement was one such style that enhanced the Gothic style. It was highly admired by Booth for its emphasis on beauty, utility, superior craftsmanship and individual design. Booth hired many Arts and Crafts artists to work at Christ Church Cranbrook.
Having chosen an architectural style, Booth then needed to find the best architect with whom he could work to oversee the planning and building of the church. He chose Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, considered one of the best Gothicists in America. Goodhue was also heavily involved in the Arts and Crafts Movement. However Goodhue died suddenly, with the project barely started. Oscar Murray, a principal in Goodhue’s firm who had been working on the project with Goodhue, then became the chief architect and designer of Christ Church Cranbrook.
The Gothic architectural features that can be seen at Christ Church Cranbrook include pointed arches and ceilings. The arches are tall and narrow, and they draw the eye upward and toward the altar at the front of the building. There are buttresses, although not flying buttresses as found in many Gothic churches. These help support the walls and ceiling by redistributing the weight. The side aisles of the church are colonnaded, with lower ceilings, while the narrow center of the nave is very tall and pointed. The north aisle leads to St. Paul’s Chapel, a side chapel, while the south aisle leads to the passage to the carillon tower and community rooms. Windows in the nave are large and have stone tracery. Windows on the sides of the nave have a kind of painted glass called grisaille that is seen in European Gothic churches. There are stained glass windows at the East (altar end) and the West (narthex and entrance to the church). In addition, there are stained glass windows in St. Paul’s Chapel and in the Baptistry by the entrance. The building is constructed of grayish sandstone from Berea, Ohio, with lighter limestone trim. The exterior walls are rough-cut, and the roof is slate-covered.
Both inside and outside, there is room for the intricate and delicate decoration for which Gothic architecture is noted. Much of this was done by artisans of the Arts and Crafts movement. There is carving and statuary on the outside of the building as well.