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The Department regrets to announce the death of Professor Paul Crossley, a graduate of the Department and Slade Professor in Cambridge University, 2011-12

last modified Jan 06, 2020 09:40 AM

He was a distinguished medievalist specializing in Gothic architecture in Europe, and taught principally at the University of Manchester and at the Courtauld Institute. He was 74.

Paul Crossley’s loss will be lamented by all those who valued his charismatic warmth as a teacher and intellectual leader, his love of humour as a teaching technique, his wit and his lightly-worn erudition.  He was truly an ambassador for his field, and the extent of admiration for him is reflected in the international festschrift presented to him in two volumes in 2011. Though trained in the empiricist tradition of the Courtauld and Cambridge, he throughout his professional life showed a true interest in the life of the mind and in the pursuit of ideas, and he was often at his most adroit intellectually when addressing traditions of thought. He showed particular sympathy to those outside the normal run of enquiry in architectural history.

Paul Crossley was educated at Downside School, 1958-63 and went up to Trinity College, reading Law for the Part I and History of Art for the Part II, graduating in 1967. He subsequently affiliated to the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland in order to pursue his first and abiding interest in the Gothic architecture of Eastern Europe. His PhD, The Architecture of Kasimir the Great. Church Architecture in Lesser Poland 1320-1380 was supervised by Professor Peter Kidson, Courtauld Institute of Art, and Professor Lech Kalinowski, Jagiellonian University, Cracow (1973). He went on to lecture at Manchester University’s Department of History of Art (from 1981 Senior Lecturer) before going to the Courtauld Institute in 1990 as Senior Lecturer (from 2001 Professor).

Having retired he became Slade Professor at Cambridge, lecturing on Gothic architecture.  He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 1987, a Fellow of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (Polska Akademia Umiejtnosci) 1999 and a Fellow of the British Academy. He served as Editor of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes.

At the Courtauld he supervised twenty-five PhD students, many of whom have gone successfully into academic life.

He published extensively especially while at the Courtauld Institute. Amongst his books were Gothic Architecture in the Reign of Kasimir the Great. Church Architecture in Lesser Poland 1320-1380 (Biblioteka Wawelska, 7) (Cracow, 1985);

Gothic Architecture (Pelican History of Art) (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2000) (substantially re-written text of Paul Frankl’s original edition, with methodological introduction, chapters on the current state of research in the field, and extensive and completely new notation), and as editor, Medieval Architecture and its Intellectual Context. Studies in Honour of Peter Kidson (with Eric Fernie) (Hambledon Press, London and Roncerverte, 1990) and Architecture and Language. Constructing Identity in European Architecture 1100-1600 (with Georgia Clarke) (Cambridge University Press, 2000). His many published papers embraced the history of the English Decorated Style, the iconography of medieval architecture, sacral space, ritual and the development of Gothic architecture outside France.

Paul Crossley loved an outing, and once showed the writer of this memoir round Prague for several days, gaining entry to locked and obscure buildings solely by speaking Polish to their guardians and then beaming at them expectantly, and always successfully. I was his friend, and succeeded him as a lecturer at Manchester when he departed to London in 1990.  I can attest personally to the encouragement Paul showed to those younger than himself who admired his affection for ideas and for people, his charm, and his impatience with academic and personal humbug.

Paul Crossley recently succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease and died unexpectedly last week while in care.


- Paul Binski

Emeritus Professor of the History of Medieval Art

Cambridge University

15 December 2019