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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  July 2006

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION July 2006

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Subject:

Re: Dark Ages

From:

Jon Cannon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 27 Jul 2006 00:43:27 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

> 'i recall that the great u.s. architectural historian Robert Branner
came to Indiana back in '67 and gave a lecture to some very gullible
first year graduate students wherein he floated the idea (i don't know
whether he ever published it) that the gilt facades of identifable
Parisian monuments (the cathedral and Ste. Chapelle) which we see in
15th c. Books of Hours were accurate reflections of *real* gilding
applied to the actual buildings themselves.  
the basic idea was that the Ste. Chapelle (in particular), with its
rich, flat and metal-work-like exterior decoration, was to be seen as a
giant Reliquary and that, as such, gilding it would be quite normal.'
-- Indeed - it's a great idea, regardless of the reality. 

>'"romanesque", in general, is more or less "Brutalist".'
-- not sure: I think it *can* be 'Brutalist': c1080 Winchester and c1090
Durham, especially the former, fit that bill. But a lot of Romanesque is
more, how can I put it, articulate than that. It seems to me.   

> 'the term seems to me to be one which may have spontaneously generated
itself in an afternoon Tea Time at the Courtauld --which is not to say
that it isn't useful, or even valid.'
-- curses, I thought I made it up all by myself! 
-- I wouldn't dare be part of what we call the 'Courtauld Mafia' --
though the library is a fine place to while away an hour or two with a
laptop -- if you can get in without membership of said mafia, which
ain't easy... 

>'i've always assumed (in an "undemonstrative" way) that these were
painted as well, the carving serving to guide and emphesize the
painting, as we frequently find in the detailed articulation of
sculptural drapery.
-- it's long been assumed, but once again it seems without basis, and
for the same reasons (see below)

>'presumably David Park's hypothesis is based on his not finding any
traces of original polychrome in these buildings.
a good, thorough 19th c. cleaning might have removed all traces of that,
i suppose.'
-- I think it's a bit more clever than that. It's about finding traces,
often minute, and dating them, and looking for what's underneath them,
also minute, and in comparable locations where there should be traces,
and finding a consistent enough pattern to say (as at Durham) 'big
expensive repaint sometime late c12/ec13, nothing c11'

>'in a slightly different context, it is worth noting that current
thinking has it that the interior of "Gothic" buildings were frequently
covered with paint.
-- in any case the paintlessness is a bit of a chimera: what's more the
point is that tastes in paint varied hugely, and related in a general
way to tastes in architecture. The
all-over-white-with-fake-ashlar-in-pink held sway well into the c13 (at
Salisbury the combination of this and large amounts of grisaille glass
complements the architecture very well); the rich-gold-green-polychrome
we think of as covering these churches is more specifically late
c13/c14. Ste Chappelle being but one.

> 'it seems that they were painted white, with imitation "stonework"
(which did not follow the courses of the stones themselves) picked out
with red lines, perhaps with some shading.  the keystones and bosses of
the vaults (which are mostly foliate) were also painted and/or gilded.
-- Salisbury, for just one, very similair: and figurative scenes in
roundels in the vault, but only in the eastern half of the church I
think. 

>'you are talking about a carved "pulpitum" (jubé) in England in the
11th c.?
-- 12th c. The Durham pulpitum would not have gone in until the nave was
ready enough (?1120s or later): carved fragments from it survive. But I
told you this in the Great Crockett Jube Bunfight of earlier in the
year... you mean you have forgotten? (*starts to sob quietly*).

>'the Bayeux "tapistry" did not Suck itself out of its Own Fingers,
apparently, but stood at the end of a very long and rich tradition.
yet more evidence of the massive losses, in all media, which we must,
methodologically, take into account.'
-- Indeedy-do-dah. And the e c11 very fine and enormous carved fragments
from Old Minster at Winchester suggest that long richly coloured (I
presume!) narratives could even then be in stone or textile. 

> "monumental" is a relative term, and what passes for "monumental" in
one period might not necessarily be "monumental" in another.
-- precisely why we have to think of Romanesque churches with flat
effigies, bas reliefs on the floor, and probably not in the church at
all, with shrines being the only 'tombs' standing up table or altar like
-- the effect of this is *so* different from a late Gothic church filled
with canopied tombs and 3d effigies. 

> it is one thing to note that "new" buildings were, de facto, "empty"
of "Richness", at least until they "filled up".
it's quite another to posit that this "emptiness" was the expression of
some sort of deliberate aesthetic choice (much less one which was driven
by political considerations).
-- but if everything - colour scheme, scale of surviving fittings -
consistently suggests the latter, I can't see what’s wrong with it. A
high gothic church might have a chevet packed with tombs the size fo
small buildings; an early c12 one would have all tombs that were not
shrines outside the church altogether. That's just one example: they all
add up to the same thing...

.. leaving aside for the sake of argumentativeness the fact that 99% of
what decorated said buildings has vanished forever. Oh well, the
discussion's fun anyway...

Jon

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