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William of Sens

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A twelfth-century French architect, supposed to have been born at Sens. He is referred to in September, 1174, as having been the architect who undertook the task of rebuilding the choir of Canterbury cathedral, originally erected by Conrad, the prior of the monastery, and destroyed by fire in that year. A document written by one of the monks of the monastery, describing the fire, tell us that William of Sens was asked to rebuild the choir. In 1179 or 1178 the architect, in consequence of a fall, had to abandon the work, and returned to France, being succeeded by another architect known as "William the Englishman", who completed the eastern portion of the church, and finished it in 1184. Viollet-le-Duc believed, from the close analogy between the twelfth-century part of Canterbury cathedral and that portion of Sens cathedral constructed about the same time, that the tradition associating the name of William of Sens with Canterbury cathedral was well founded, but he was not able to add very much to our knowledge beyond a statement that his death occurred within a few years after his return to France. Various histories of Canterbury cathedral refer to him, and all the available information respecting him was reproduced by Viollet-le-Duc in his work on French architecture and in a monograph on the cathedral at Sens.


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