Bela Zsolt Szakacs

title.none: Bos and Dectot, eds., L'architecture gothique (Bela Zsolt Szakacs)

identifier.other: baj9928.0402.040 04.02.40

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Bela Zsolt Szakacs, Central European University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Bos, Agnes, and Xavier Dectot, eds. L'architecture gothique au service de la liturgie. Series: Recontres Medievales Europeennes, vol. 3. Turnhout: Brepols, 2003. Pp. 162. ISBN: $33.00 2-503-51426-X.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.02.40

Bos, Agnes, and Xavier Dectot, eds. L'architecture gothique au service de la liturgie. Series: Recontres Medievales Europeennes, vol. 3. Turnhout: Brepols, 2003. Pp. 162. ISBN: $33.00 2-503-51426-X.

Reviewed by:

Bela Zsolt Szakacs
Central European University

"A majority of scholars have preferred the perilous borderland of architectural iconography to the study of church planning in relation to its liturgical function-- a field difficult to hoe because of the art historian's ignorance of the history of what has been called the external liturgy. Serious publications of early date concerning the interplay of liturgy and church building are lacking [...]. The need for more work seems to me as urgent as ever, and I sometimes wonder whether I ought no to try myself." These words were written by Richard Krautheimer in 1969 as a postscript to his brilliant study on Early Christian transepts, originally given as a lecture in 1954 (Richard Krautheimer, Studies in Early Christian, Medieval, and Renaissance Art. New York-London: New York University Press,1969, p. 67). He was at that time 72 years old, and, although he lived for another quarter of century, he left this task for the next generations.

A significant step towards this direction took place when the Fondation Singer-Polignac organized a conference in 2002 in Paris. This was the third of a series, titled as Rencontres Médiévales Européennes, started in 2000. The organizing association, headed by Monique Cazeaux, is intentionally interdisciplinary and international. Although the scientific advisory board consists of French scholars, they invite foreigners for their meetings as well, and the interdisciplinary character is evident by simply looking at the two previous titles so far published: L'abbé Suger, le manifest gothique de Saint-Denis et la pensée victorine (Brepols, 2001) and Rhétorique et Poétiques au Moyen Âge (Brepols, 2002). The illustrious names of the organizers of and lecturers at these conferences and the speed with which the materials are published (within a year) make this series remarkable.

This volume was edited by two archivist-palaeographers: Agnès Bos from the Musée national de la Renaissance (Écouen, directed by Alain Erlande-Brandenburg, one of the organizers and the speakers), presently working on Late Gothic churches of Paris, and Xavier Dectot from the Musée national du Moyen Age (Musée de Cluny), preparing the catalogue of the museum's eleventh-twelfth-century sculptures. The proceedings have been well-edited; especially helpful are the indices of the place- and person's names, usually missing from conference publications. Fortunately, the discussions of the lectures have been also published. Strangely, the titles of the papers listed in the table of contents differ from the real titles (in four cases of the seven): maybe the authors changed the titles in the meantime which was not followed by the editors. The cover illustration, although not analyzed by the speakers, is very successful: this is the famous picture of the Master of Saint Gilles in the National Gallery of London, representing Saint Gilles celebrating the mass in the church of Saint-Denis. This image condenses the main subject of the present volume: while the first meeting of the Rencontres dealt with the influence of the School of Saint-Victor on the architectural ideas of Abbot Suger at Saint-Denis, this time the central subject was the functional reason of the new architecture (9, introduction of M. Cazeaux).

During the two sessions of the conference, nine lectures were given by the most respected scholars of different fields. Strictly speaking, only one of them focuses on architectural questions. In his paper, Alain Erlande-Brandenburg formulates an interesting hypothesis concerning the origin of the Gothic sanctuary of Saint-Denis. He clearly points out the connections to the rebuilding of the churches of Saint-Germain-des-Prés of Paris and Saint-Remi of Reims. As a predecessor, he mentions the Abbey church of Fleury, where Suger was educated. Here a similar ambulatory system was developed over a crypt, dated to the late eleventh-early twelfth century. This close connection seems to question the originality of the plan utilized at Saint-Denis by Suger. The author sees the novelty of the new sanctuary at Fleury in its centralized character. He describes the predecessors of such unification of centralized and longitudinal buildings from the Antique and Early Christian times (the ground plan quoted as that of S. Agnese of Rome is in reality that of SS. Pietro e Marcellino, fig. 9 on p. 35). He reconstructs at Fleury a centralized mausoleum at the east built by Abbot Odon (930-943) similarly to Saint-Bénigne of Dijon. Although the arguments so far published are not enough to judge this interesting hypothesis, the next volume of the respected Croatian periodical Hortus Artium Medievalium will contain an article dedicated to this problem (note 39 on p. 25). Thus, the author underlines one aspect of the very complex problem of the sanctuary of Saint-Denis: the unification of the centrally planned east end with the basilical nave; naturally, the Romanesque ambulatories built on the pilgrimage routs and elsewhere should be taken into consideration, too. Although this is basically a formal problem, it is also connected to functional questions. The author regularly marks the places of altars in the newly built sanctuaries. In the discussion, the inconsequences of the building process is also connected to the eventual changes in the liturgical requirements. Certainly, the concrete needs and changes of liturgy in the time of Suger could not be analyzed by the famous art historian; this would be the task of the historians of liturgy. All the other papers approach the problem from this functional-symbolical side.

The next study, written by Franĉoise Gasparri, discusses the historical problems of the period of Suger. The title, the renewal of Rome, underlines the main lines: the Gregorian reform, the political history of the early twelfth century until the rule of Innocent II (+ 1143) is presented in detail, especially from the point of view of the Italian activity of Suger. The essay is rich in facts, based on written sources quoted in footnotes, and it also discusses the intellectual milieu, the twelfth-century Renaissance with its representatives and forerunners (e.g. Desiderius of Montecassino). The architectural and artistic heritage of the late eleventh and twelfth centuries (especially the donations of popes Callixtus II and Innocent II) is nicely described together with its impact on the building activity of France. Although liturgy is not analyzed in detail, the author provides a lot of information on the political and intellectual background of the activity of Suger.

Liturgy is the subject of the next two studies. Fr. Anselme Davril OSB offers a general overview of medieval liturgy, the basic structure of the office, the mass, and the procession. At some points, the author refers to the specialities of Cluny and Fleury, and is open to problems which have artistic consequences: especially interesting is the difference in liturgical and art historical terminology of the choir (67), the usage of the bells (72), the different roles of the participants, the routes of the liturgical movements, and the required equipments. During the long and vivid discussion, Père Gy mentioned that there are no Books of Hours before the thirteenth century (79). However, there are eleventh century Books of Hours known from Zadar (Oxford, MS. Canon. Liturg. 277 and Budapest, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára, K. 394, cf. Rozana Vojvoda, "Vecenega's Book of Hours: a Manuscript Study with Special Stress on Decorated Initials," in Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU 8 (2002), 9-35).

Much more specific is the article of the only foreigner participant, Arnold Angenendt from Münster. This logically composed, well-based study (with the largest number of footnotes in the volume) is focused on the offering of gifts during the mass in the convents of the twelfth century. However, it offers more than the title, discussing also other kind of donations as well as other periods (e.g. the thirteenth-fourteenth-century development, 99-100). Here again the architectural consequences are only briefly mentioned and without references (89, with the interesting example of Salzwedel where a house was built for the gifts nearby the church).

The nicely written essay of Alain Michel focuses on liturgical speaking and sacred spaces. It widens the horizon from the ancient Greeks and Jews to the twelfth century's Hildegard of Bingen, also referring to key monuments at Chartres (111) or Amiens (113). However, the use of these general ideas is limited in explaining the liturgical aspects of church architecture.

The longest study of the volume is written by Dominique Poirel on "the Gothic angel." It clearly proves that during the twelfth century a radical change can be detected in angelology: a shift from the ideas of Gregory the Great (which influenced basically monastic authors) to those of Pseudo-Dionysius (mainly connected to the secular church). The author bravely poses the question of whether there is any kind of relation between these changes and the appearance of the new, Gothic style in architecture (117). He himself "opens the debate" (137) with three aspects: the role of light, the use of materials; and organization of spaces. The connection between the representatives of this new theology, working at the School of Saint-Victor, and the building of Saint-Denis has already been discussed in the first volume of the series, edited by the author of this essay.

The article is illustrated with two color plates, the only ones in the book. They complete the argumentation of the author, although not analyzed in the main text. The first miniature from Hildegard of Bingen's Scivias (from the Rupertsberg Codex, which, we can add, has been lost since the Second World War) represents the nine choirs of angels, which follows, according to the author's comment, the order of Gregory the Great (although the identification of the single choirs cannot be done simply on the basis of the illustration). While Hildegard is at least mentioned among the authors following Gregory (123), the second plate, the opening historiated initial of the Bamberg Song of Songs (the correct signature is Staatbibliothek Bamberg, Msc. Bibl. 22; see Kaiser Heinrich II. 1002-1024: Katalog zur bayerischen Landesausstellung 2002, Bamberg. Ed. by Josef Kirmeier et al. Augsburg: Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte, 2002, no. 138, pp. 31-311 and Abb. 23, pp. 54-55) is even not mentioned in the text at all. This miniature depicts the arrival of the blessed in Heaven which is populated by the angelic choirs. Here, the celestial and terrestrial hierarchy is represented together; therefore it can be regarded as a nice illustration of Dionysian ideas (similar to the interpretation of Henry Mayr-Harting, Ottonian Book Illumination (London: Harvey Miller, 1991), vol. II, pp. 44-45 with note 73). However, it can also be interpreted as the introduction of man into the vacant place of the tenth angelic choir, which is a Gregorian idea. This explanation is even more probable as the manuscript originates from a monastic workshop (most probably Reichenau) and from a period long before the twelfth century (ca. 1000; the eleventh -century date given by the author is too vague).

The last article is written by Anne-Marie Deschamps, director of the famous ensemble Venance Fortunat. She points out that there is no study on the connection of sound and architecture in the Middle Ages. She discusses two points: the emergence of written polyphony and the liturgical drama. She asks whether the evolution of the music is not provoked by the Gothic architecture and the rites adopted to these spaces (147). This is just the opposite question which is usually posed by art historians: how the liturgy influenced the organization of architectural spaces? She also mentions the choir screens and the extreme height of the new cathedrals, which certainly modified the acoustic circumstances. The conductus and the liturgical drama can also be relevant from the point of view of the usage of the architectural spaces (see also in the introduction, p. 11). This lecture, extremely rich in inspiring ideas, was completed by a concert given by members of the ensemble Venance Fortunat. We can only regret that the printed version of this conference can document only the written program of this event.

To sum up, during this conference a lot of interesting ideas were formulated on the connection of architecture and liturgy. However, the basic question, formulated by M. Neveu during a discussion (whether the development of the liturgy determined the development of the architecture (80)) remains unanswered. It is clear, that the competence of art historians and students of liturgy does not allow the one to penetrate the other's field. During a one-day conference only some relevant questions can be posed, without final answers. For more profound results, a longer research project should be organized with the participation of scholars in different fields. Only a vivid and prolonged discussion can help to find concrete common points in the history of liturgy and architecture, for which the present essay collection can be a provocative starting point.