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19.04.02 Berryman/Kerr, eds. Buildings of Medieval Europe

19.04.02 Berryman/Kerr, eds. Buildings of Medieval Europe

This volume had its genesis as the session "Placing Medieval Buildings in Context," which was part of the 2016 annual conference of the European Archaeological Association held in Vilnius, Lithuania. The book publishes essays by eight of the session's nineteen participants. In their introduction, editors Duncan Berryman and Sarah Kerr note the number of contributions that address eastern Europe, an area outside the traditional canon of medieval architecture as European and American scholarship has traditionally defined it (1). This interest in expanding the field of inquiry is perhaps the strongest thread that unites the volume's otherwise disparate essays. The individual papers discuss a wide range of building types, from weighing houses to cathedrals to lower class urban housing. They span an equally wide chronological range. Many of the essays present recent archaeological investigations, either building archaeology or excavation projects, but several of the contributions integrate methods and approaches from architectural history. In its totality, the book testifies to the richness of medieval buildings as a subject of study and provides many potential directions for future research.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on Britain and Scandinavia; the second part on central and eastern Europe. As only one paper tackles England, the geographical organization strikes this reader as a division of convenience, but if the idea is to highlight central and eastern Europe as an area of particular interest, it works well enough. Part 1 begins with an essay by Ilari Aalto on Finnish brickmakers' marks in several buildings in the Turku region of Finland. Like masons' marks, brickmakers' marks assigned production of a finished brick to an individual craftsman, presumably as a means of calculating wages. Aalto argues that these marks were part of a larger symbolic language used to represent saints and their attributes. Moreover, he suggests that brickmakers may have adopted the symbols of their namesakes in a manner comparable to some personal seals. Stuart Whatley considers the medieval and early post-medieval weighing houses at Gammel Strand in Copenhagen, Denmark. Whatley suggests that the Gammel Strand weighing houses physically represented the economic fortune of the area. Consequently, the lavish post-medieval example demonstrates the increased wealth of the city in comparison to the late medieval example, which suffered from flooding and damp conditions.

Robin Gullbrandsson presents the results of an inventory of medieval roof constructions in the Swedish Diocese of Skara made in 2014-2015. The essay surveys a variety of roof structures and discusses their geographic and chronological ranges. A particularly popular construction in this area was the Romanesque crossed strut-beam truss. The final essay of part 1, by Martin Huggon, concerns English hospitals. Huggon argues that they shared an underlying grammatical structure that divided religious and secular functions. He ambitiously aims for an interdisciplinary approach that draws from both the fields of archaeology and art history. Huggon's attention to spatial organization and layout, and especially his consideration of subsidiary structures, offers a fruitful framework for the analysis of building complexes. However, this reader found the essay's references to Krautheimer's concept of architectural iconography somewhat beside the point. Whereas Krautheimer demonstrated that copies of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem conveyed their connection to this monument though extra-visual means, it seems to me that Hoggon's hospitals are not so much symbolic copies of each other (or some other exemplum), but rather equal participants in a general decorum governing an architectural type. That said, there is much of value in this study and the author's attempt to unite the functional and the symbolic. It was one of the more provocative contributions to the volume.

The second part of the book comprises four essays on buildings of central and eastern Europe. Part 2 begins with an essay on the early Byzantine settlement of Caričin Grad (Justiniana Prima?) by Miriam Steinborn. Steinborn applies the concept of the household as developed by archaeologists Richard R. Wilk and William L. Rathje to a small domestic structure known as building 23. Although the limited number of archaeological finds from this structure do not clearly define much about its function or habitation, the study of this modest building provides an essential perspective for a more general understanding of the larger settlement. Daniela Marcu Istrate considers three churches in the city of Alba Iulia in central-southern Transylvania. This paper traces the history of Christianization, first under the influence of the Byzantine Empire and then from the Latin West. Istrate highlights how the Orthodox church presents a local variant of the Byzantine pattern of a Greek cross inscribed in a square.

The final two essays of the volume both focus on secular structures. Josip Višnjić surveys the architectural development of the fortifications of Petrapilosa, Croatia. Recent archaeological and remediation efforts have provided a wealth of new data about this structure and the history of military architecture in Central Europe. Pavel Vařeka examines the early evidence for the three-compartment rural house, which comprises three distinct functional zones, one dedicated to daily living, one dedicated to agricultural production, and one dedicated to traffic between the other two parts. He argues that the development of this house type was the result of a synthesis between the building practices of the German and Slavic worlds.

In many respects, this book evokes larger trends in the study of medieval building: an emphasis on areas outside traditional canonical centers, an integration of ecclesiastical and secular subjects, a stress on the lived experience of architecture, and an attention to interdisciplinarity. Taken as a whole, the volume tends more toward the archaeological than the art historical, and in some cases, the presentation of the archaeological evidence obscures the interdisciplinary interests and methods of the papers. Most importantly, however, Berryman, Kerr, and their eight contributors successfully present new avenues through which we can think about medieval buildings, whether they are newly excavated or not.