schemes. His given reason was pragmatic enough: his Menai bridge (1819–1826) had almost been destroyed by crosswinds; it was nearly 579 feet (175 meters) long, and Telford believed that nothing over 600 feet (184 meters) was feasible—the 700 feet across the exposed Clifton Gorge was out of the question. The committee then asked him to submit an alternative design, but the three-span bridge carried on soaring Gothic spires that he produced was unsuitable, even comical. A second competition followed in October 1830, and Telford resubmitted that design, only to see it again rejected. The twelve entries were reduced to four finalists, and Brunel’s proposal, modified so that the main span was only 630 feet (192 meters), was placed second. He went to Bristol to meet the committee and convinced them with arguments about the practicalities and the esthetic quality of his tower design. He was appointed as engineer in 1831.

Brunel had an eye for the stunning landscape, with its high wooded cliffs, and his “Egyptian” towers, although not his favorite stylistic alternative, complemented the drama of the place. He had intended to have them inscribed with hieroglyphs and crowned with sphinxes, but the cost was prohibitive. There were delays for other reasons, including the 1831 Bristol riots associated with the Reform Bill, but lack of funds was the main problem. Work did not start until 1836. More financial shortfalls caused an interruption in 1853, and the piers stood untouched for some years, even being threatened with demolition. Reusing chains from another of Brunel’s works, the demolished Hungerford Suspension Bridge (1841–1845) in London, the Clifton Suspension Bridge was finally opened in 1864, although the original design was not followed completely. Brunel had died five years earlier.

See also

Menai Suspension Bridge; Royal Albert Bridge

Further reading

Body, Geoffrey, 1976. Clifton Suspension Bridge: An Illustrated History. Wiltshire, UK: Moonraker Press.

Vaughan, Adrian. 1903. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Engineering Knight-Errant. London: John Murray.

Cluny Abbey Church III


The town of Cluny in eastern France’s Burgundy region was important because of the Benedictine abbey jointly founded in 910 by Abbot St. Berno of Burgundy and William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine. The third convent on the site, the great Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul known as Cluny III (mainly 1088–1130), was the largest church, monastic or otherwise, in the world until St. Peter’s, Rome, was completed in the seventeenth century. Cluny III was the high point of Romanesque architecture in France, and, heralding the Gothic, it emphasized the continuity of architecture. Its form and detail repudiate the idea of a succession of discrete styles, each somehow frozen in time.

The reformist Benedictine community that originally occupied a Gallo-Roman villa in Cluny eventually developed an innovative system of centralized ecclesiastical government: by the fourteenth century the abbey controlled over 1,450 Cluniac foundations or priories from England to Poland to Palestine, which together could boast a complement of over 10,000 monks. After the pope himself, Cluny’s abbots were the most powerful clerics in the Roman Catholic Church and were at the epicenter of religious influence in Europe.

Two earlier abbey churches—the first, dedicated in 927, was succeeded by a larger building in 955–981—were replaced at the end of the eleventh century by Cluny III, which commenced soon after the other monastery buildings had been rebuilt (1077– 1085). The new church was over 440 feet (136 meters) long; the narthex and towers added in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries brought the total length to 600 feet (180 meters). The barrel-vaulted ceiling, especially acoustically suited to the Cluniac uninterrupted sung liturgy, soared 98 feet (30 meters) above the floor. There were double transepts and double aisles to both the nave and choir; the chevet end had five chapels. The ceiling of the crossing under a central tower was 119 feet (36 meters) high. Yet Cluny III was remarkable not just for its size.

Its form, emerging over more than a century, demonstrated the perpetual development of Western