Sacred Sunday: 15th Century Gothic Stained Glass

Sacred Sunday Title

With the advent of Gothic architecture, stained glass flourished as the expansion of immense window spaces in Gothic cathedrals demanded a new approach to the medium. Red and blue remain the predominant color choice and the tendency to fuse white glass in the composition allowing for more light gives way to completely filling up of space with ornate designs consisting of darker glass. A wide variety of geometrical shapes emerge as narrative becomes more important and complex juxtaposition of events are recorded in compartmental sequences.

Decorative borders and foliage become more formalized and intricate while experimentation with more naturalistic and volumetric forms appears in figurative work. The flashed glass technique is introduced, offering glaziers a means to achieve a variety of color gradations in a single piece of colored glass. The emergence of the Rose Window at St. Denis Cathedral and Chartres Cathedral, both in France, greatly influences the field throughout Europe as providing a means to depict more complex ideas as embellishments in Biblical narrative become prevalent.

Toward the end of the thirteenth century a desire for more illumination surfaced with an increase in non-figurative windows and concentric patterning that incorporated more transparent glass. One of the finest examples of this shift in taste is York Minster’s Five Sisters Windows, a remarkable display of grisaille glazing. Grisaille glazing was first favored by the Cistercian Order under St. Bernard, who found that figurative windows distracted monks from religious responsibilities. This labor intensive technique consisting of complex formalized leaf-like forms relying on an intricate pattern of lead and a great deal of painted detail and crosshatching became widespread throughout England and France.

As the palette became increasingly lighter, horizontal layers of colored glass and grisaille, or band windows, were incorporated in the figurative windows. As widespread adoption of elaborate stone window tracery occurred, figurative groupings fall out of favor and the individual figure resurfaces, but now framed by architectural canopies. Stained glass witnessed its greatest diversity in design, style, palette and sentiment during the Gothic period. This diversity in approach combined with the skilled artistry that developed with the formation of regulated guilds and a wide array of technological advances elevated the medium to a position of preeminence that would remain unsurpassed.

Charles VI c. 1400 Stained glass window Cathedral, Évreux

Charles VI
c. 1400
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Évreux

The Royal Window in the choir of Évreux Cathedral is outstanding representative of the International (or Soft) Gothic style, developed by 1400. The donation by Charles VI was probably commissioned from a workshop in Paris. The king occupies the centre of the four-panel window. Shown kneeling in a small vaulted space, he turns, with St Denis near by, toward the Virgin. The artistic virtuosity and lavishness of these panels exceed everything that is known elsewhere in France from this period.

Jacques Coeur Window 1451 Stained glass window Cathedral, Bourges

Jacques Coeur Window
1451
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Bourges

Toward the middle of the 15th century, the influence of Flemish panel painting became increasingly noticeable in stained glass. In 1451, the rich and ennobled French merchant Jacques Coeur provided a liberal endowment for expensive stained glass to go in his chapel in Bourges Cathedral. The glass bears the stamp of Jan van Eyck’s style.

The central scene is divided into two panels. One contains the Archangel Gabriel, who is announcing the good news, the other contains the Virgin. Two further panels show the patron saints of the donor and his wife (not shown on the picture). The glass was produced by a workshop in the artistic tradition of the Paris school of stained glass, working to drawings by a Flemish painter.

The Annunciation c. 1450 Stained glass window Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Bourges

The Annunciation
c. 1450
Stained glass window
Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, Bourges

Charlemagne and King Arthur c. 1410 Stained glass window Town Hall, Lüneburg

Charlemagne and King Arthur
c. 1410
Stained glass window
Town Hall, Lüneburg

Lüneburg Town Hall conserves one of the very few examples of monumental stained glass with secular subject matter. The “Nine Worthies,” who include Charlemagne and King Arthur, were considered in the late Middle Ages as models of good government and were therefore often depicted in town halls.

Annunciation c. 1430 Stained glass window Cathedral, Ulm

Annunciation
c. 1430
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Ulm

After the mid 14th century, stained glass was increasingly found in urban parish churches. Enticed by commissions from leading citizens, glass painters came to towns where there had hitherto been no tradition of stained glass, for example to Ulm, where the choir of the minster was reglazed between 1390 and 1420. Around 1430-31, stained glass was provided for the chapel of the Besserer family on the south side of the choir.

The picture shows the Annunciation from the Besserer Chapel. Someone who was familiar with the output of the Master of Flémalle (Robert Campin) from Tournai must have worked on the Besserer commission.

Window with Saints 1440-47 Pot-metal and white glass with vitrous paint, 377 x 73 cm (each panel) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Window with Saints
1440-47
Pot-metal and white glass with vitrous paint, 377 x 73 cm (each panel)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

These three windows of stained glass are from the Carmelite church of Saint Severinus at Boppard-on-Rhine in Germany. They are part of an ensemble of six that were originally installed three over three to form a single tall window. After Napoleon invaded the Rhineland and secularised its monasteries, the stained glass of the church was removed and dispersed.

The three panels represent St Catherine of Alexandria with the wheel and sword of her martyrdom, St Dorothea receiving a basket of roses from the Christ Child (in the centre), and St Barbara holding the tower in which she was imprisoned.

Adoration of the Magi (detail) c. 1453 Stained glass window Cathedral, Berne

Adoration of the Magi (detail)
c. 1453
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Berne

The first stained glass window in the Gothic choir of the Berne Cathedral was provided by the Ulm workshop in 1441. However, subsequent work, such as the Adoration of the Magi on the north side of the choir, was made by local artists. The design was by a painter who worked in the tradition of the Master of the Upper Rhine, Germany active in 1410s. Another of his works included “The Garden of Eden” in Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt.

Adoration of the Magi (detail) c. 1453 Stained glass window Cathedral, Berne

Adoration of the Magi (detail)
c. 1453
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Berne

Transept Window 15th century Stained glass window Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice

Transept Window
15th century
Stained glass window
Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice

This Gothic style window with fined coloured glass is on the end wall of the right transept of the church. The cartoons for St Paul and the upper part are attributed to Bartolomeo Vivarini, those for the Virgin, St John the Baptist and St Peter to Cima da Conegliano, and those for the lower part to Gerolamo Mocetto.

The Creation 1490s Stained glass window Duomo, Milan

The Creation
1490s
Stained glass window
Duomo, Milan

This stained glass panel in the Cathedral Museum in Milan was executed for the apse of the Cathedral. The Cathedral Committee, on account of a competition announcement, selected three glaziers, Franceschino Zavattari, Maffiolo da Cremona, and Stefano da Pandino, and commissioned to execute the three apse windows; but without assigning a precise stained glass to each glazier.

Artists arose from obscurity and began to be patronized by a new wealthy mercantile class. Individual artists were sought out across regional boundaries for specific skills and traits. Glass work was no longer anonymous and begins to be attributed to specific artists and workshops. Additionally, the depiction of artists and glass guilds within windows reflects stained glass’ increasingly elevated status.

Taste for jewel-like color, open space no longer constrained by architectural divisions and an increase in secular usage reflects new riches. Architecture is emphasized less as it takes on a new organic quality, foliage becomes more loose and warmer colors are used while greater attention is given to textile rendering. Images depicting secular activities such as masonry and glazing were juxtaposed next to sacred imagery.

During the sixteenth century a rise in the production of glass panels for private contemplation and personal devotion ensued, thus the narrative stained glass window now served as moralizing images. Beginning in the sixteenth century with the Reformation, the creation of religious imagery had severe penalties and glass makers had to seek secular commissions like moralizing roundels or heraldic panels in order to make a living.

Decline and Destruction

Political upheavals and religious unrest jeopardized the survival of stained glass beginning in the sixteenth century, making decline and destruction eminent. Calvinist iconoclasm ended production in the North, while Reformation attacks on Catholic churches destroyed a tremendous amount of glass, particularly in England. In 1547 the Dissolution of the Monasteries ordered the destruction of all decorative glass in churches. In 1633, many of the glass factories in Lorraine, France were devastated by war. From 1642 through 1653 the Commonwealth of England destroyed thousands of stained glass windows.

Concurrent with the widespread destruction, Renaissance styles began to take precedence over Gothic style. Murals and frescoes were in higher demand and Italy was quickly becoming the cultural center of Europe. With the emergence of enamels in the sixteenth century, glaziers began to imitate Renaissance painters and applied thick coats of enamel to the surface, as if painting a canvas. Also, transparent glass gave way to heavily painted opaque glass. The more this was practiced, the more distant old stained glass techniques became.

The artistry and skill, that had reached their zenith during the Gothic period, became a lost art. During the nineteenth century Sir Joshua Reynolds and other luminaries completely disregarded the medium and continued using enamel in this vein. For approximately two hundred years stained glass fell out of favor due to massive destruction, religious iconoclasm, preference for Renaissance styles, the rise in enamels usage, and a lack of knowledge of old techniques. Stained glass was not widely produced and did not again receive critical attention until its revival in the nineteenth century.

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Sacred Sunday: 16th Century Architecture

Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, 1502, by Bramante. This small temple marks the place where St Peter was put to death.

Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, 1502, by Bramante. This small temple marks the place where St Peter was put to death.

By the 15th century, Gothic architecture in Christian building began to give way to a newer design – Renaissance architecture. This new wave of creativity in building design is considered to be the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe. It demonstrated a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, and if you remember your high school art appreciation class, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture.

Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschias one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities. The style was carried to France, Germany, England, Russia and other parts of Europe at different dates and with varying degrees of impact.

Italy of the 15th century, and the city of Florence in particular, was home to the Renaissance. It is in Florence that the new architectural style had its beginning, not slowly evolving in the way that Gothic grew out of Romanesque, but consciously brought to being by particular architects who sought to revive the order of a past “Golden Age”. The scholarly approach to the architecture of the ancient coincided with the general revival of learning. A number of factors were influential in bringing this about.

Chiesa dell'Incoronata: Interior of the dome 1586-88 Photo Piazza Garibaldi, Sabbioneta

Chiesa dell’Incoronata: Interior of the dome
1586-88
Photo
Piazza Garibaldi, Sabbioneta

This church has an octagonal plan and is topped with a dome and contains the bronze mausoleum of Vespasian Gonzaga whom Leone Leoni (1509-1590) made a statue of in bronze, dressed as a Roman emperor.

Galleria degli Antichi: Exterior 1583-84 Photo Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Exterior
1583-84
Photo
Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Interior 1583-84 Photo Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Interior
1583-84
Photo
Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Sabbioneta is about 30 kms north of Parma. Built in the 1580s, this Italian town is the work of Vespasiano Gonzaga. His plan was to create the ideal city and base it on the ideas of ancient Athens and Rome. When Vespasiano died this dream died with him. The Galleria degli Antichi was built between 1584 and 1586 by Duke Vespasiano for his collection which contained mostly ancient marbles purchased from collectors and dealers of Rome and Venice.

Palazzo Albrizzi 1590s Photo Rio di San Cassiano, Venice

Palazzo Albrizzi
1590s
Photo
Rio di San Cassiano, Venice

This palace, built in the 16th century in Venetian Gothic style (at that time becoming an outated and misplaced style), overlooks the canal San Cassiano at the Ponte delle Tette. On the façade there is a three-mullioned central arched window, flanked by pairs of single lancet windows with projecting stone cornices which act as a small roof.

Between 1690 and 1710 the interior space was totally redefined with an excessive use of decoration and stucco-work, which makes the palace one of the most ostentatious in Venice.

San Giovanni a Carbonara: Cappella Caracciolo di Vico 1516 Photo Via San Giovanni, Naples

San Giovanni a Carbonara: Cappella Caracciolo di Vico
1516
Photo
Via San Giovanni, Naples

The Cappella Caracciolo di Vico has a central plan and is covered by a dome. This is one of the most notable products of the architecture of the sixteenth century in southern Italy. Begun in 1499 and completed in 1516, this is a remarkable structure, with great equilibrium among its various elements, revealing, at a very early date, the presence in Naples of the earliest forms of the Roman Renaissance. The design should be ascribed to an architect who was well informed concerning the work then being done by Bramante and Sangallo. The tombs of Nicolantonio and Galeazzo Caracciolo is the work of Annibale Caccavello (1515-1595) and Giovanni Domenico d’Auria (d. 1573).

Italian architects had always preferred forms that were clearly defined and structural members that expressed their purpose. Many Tuscan Romanesque buildings demonstrate these characteristics, as seen in the Florence Baptistery and Pisa Cathedral.

Italy had never fully adopted the Gothic style of architecture. Apart from the Cathedral of Milan, (influenced by French Rayonnant Gothic), few Italian churches show the emphasis on vertically, the clustered shafts, ornate tracery and complex ribbed vaulting that characterize Gothic in other parts of Europe.

The presence, particularly in Rome, of ancient architectural remains showing the ordered Classical style provided an inspiration to artists at a time when philosophy was also turning towards the Classical.

Renaissance style places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity and in particular ancient Roman architecture, of which many examples remained. Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings.

Next week, we head to Rome for 12th century mosaics of the church San Clemente on Sacred Sunday.

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Sacred Sunday: 15th Century Architecture, Part 2 of 2

This is the final part of a two-part series on 15th century architecture. While last week focused on Italy, this part will bring you various structures in Great Britain and mainland Europe. Some architecture is Christian in nature; others were inspired by such design or were designed and built by those associated with 15th century Gothic cathedrals and churches.

Exterior view 1446-1515 Photo King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England

Exterior view
1446-1515
Photo
King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England

King’s College Chapel is the chapel to King’s College of the University of Cambridge, and it is considered one of the finest examples of late Perpendicular Gothic English architecture. The chapel was built in phases by a succession of kings of England from 1446 to 1515, a period which spanned the Wars of the Roses. The chapel’s large stained glass windows were not completed until 1531, and its early Renaissance rood screen was erected in 1532–36.

The picture shows the King’s College Chapel (partially obscured by the Gibbs’ Building), seen from the Backs (a picturesque area where several colleges of the University of Cambridge back on to the River Cam).

Side view 1446-1515 Photo King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England

Side view
1446-1515
Photo
King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England

Interior view 1466-1515 Photo King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England

Interior view
1466-1515
Photo
King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England

During the 14th and 15th centuries Gothic architecture ceased to be international and split into definable regional styles. In England the first Gothic style (Early English) was succeeded by Decorated and Perpendicular styles. The King’s College Chapel, shown here, represents the Perpendicular style at its most lavish, with vast windows divided by grid-like mullions and that uniquely English speciality, the fan-vault.

Interior view 1466-1515 Photo King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England

Interior view
1466-1515
Photo
King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England

View of the fan-vault 1466-1515 Photo King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England

View of the fan-vault
1466-1515
Photo
King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England

Exterior view 1490-1512 Photo Cathedral, Sens, France

Exterior view
1490-1512
Photo
Cathedral, Sens, France

The Sens Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Sens) was one of the earliest Gothic buildings in France, and the largest of the early Gothic churches. The choir was begun in 1140. As was typical in cathedral construction, work progressed westwards, building the nave, with the west front completed around 1200. The structure was finally completed in the 16th century.

During the 14th and 15th centuries Gothic architecture ceased to be international and split into definable regional styles. In France, this is characterized by its curvilinear, flame-like window tracery – hence the name Flamboyant.

Exterior view 1490-1512 Photo Cathedral, Sens, France

Exterior view
1490-1512
Photo
Cathedral, Sens, France

The picture shows the south transept with its huge Flamboyant window.

Town Hall 1448-65 Photo Grote Markt, Leuven, Belgium

Town Hall
1448-65
Photo
Grote Markt, Leuven, Belgium

Leuven is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region, Belgium. It is located about 25 kilometres east of Brussels, close to other neighboring towns such as Mechelen, Aarschot, Tienen, and Wavre.

The first stone of the Town Hall was laid in 1439, the designer was the architect Sulpitius Van der Vorst. He died shortly afterwards and architect Keldermans continued his work. When Keldermans died in 1445 a third architect, Mathijs de Layens, continued the construction from 1448 until 1468. It was Mathijs de Layens who gave the flamboyant Gothic look to the building. He is therefore also considered the creator of the town hall.

This building is a superb display of decorative sculpture.

Belfry
completed 1486
Photo
Cloth Hall, Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Its port, Zeebrugge, is an important center for fishing and European trade. The city-center Markt features horse-drawn carriage rides and 17th-century houses converted into restaurants and cafes, as well as the 13th-century belfry with its 47-bell carillon and 83 meter (272 foot) tower with panoramic views. The immensely tall  belfry dwarfs the surrounding buildings.

The belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower in the historical center of Bruges. It is one of the city’s most prominent symbols. It was added to the market square around 1240, when Bruges was prospering as an important center of the Flemish cloth industry. After a devastating fire in 1280, the tower was largely rebuilt. The octagonal upper stage of the belfry was added between 1483 and 1486.

Main ward of the hospital c. 1450 Photo Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, France

Main ward of the hospital
c. 1450
Photo
Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, France

The Hôtel-Dieu was founded on 4 August 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, the Duke’s Chancellor, and his wife Guigone de Salins, when Burgundy was ruled by Duke Philip the Good. It was intended to be a refuge for the poor. The main ward, called the Room of the Poors, measures 50x14x16 meters. On the ceiling, the exposed painted frame is in an upside down boat-skiff shape and in each beam are sculpted caricatures of some important Beaune inhabitants. The pieces of furniture were brought together in 1875 by the son in law of the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc. Each bed could welcome two patients.

The hospital at Beaune is one of the largest and best preserved of medieval hospitals. Originally there would have been simply rows of beds without canopies.

Beaune is the wine capital of Burgundy in the Côte d’Or department in eastern France. It is located between Paris and Geneva.

Old Town Hall: Clock c. 1410 Photo Old Town Hall, Prague, Czech Republic

Old Town Hall: Clock
c. 1410
Photo
Old Town Hall, Prague, Czech Republic

Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, and is nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires.” It is known for its Old Town Square, the heart of its historic core, with colorful baroque buildings, Gothic churches and the medieval Astronomical Clock, with a popular show. Completed in 1402, pedestrian Charles Bridge is lined with 30 statues of saints.

The fantastic clock on the Old Town Hall of Prague was made by Magister Hanus, the university astronomer. The big outer ring, with Arabic numbers, relates to the Bohemian 24-hour day (which began at sunset), and the face with Roman numerals to the motions of the stars and planets. The smaller ring shows the position of the sun and moon in the Zodiac. At the top, at each hour, the mechanical figures of the Apostles, Death and allegorical Virtues process out of one opening and into another.

The mechanism of the clock was renewed in the 16th century and its face had been restored on a number of occasions in later times.

Next week, we return to Italy for 16th Century Architecture for Sacred Sunday.

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Sacred Sunday: 13th Century French and German Cathedral Architecture

Exterior view begun 1225 Photo Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Beauvais

Exterior view
begun 1225
Photo
Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Beauvais

Saint Peter’s of Beauvais (Beauvais Cathedral) symbolizes the height of architectural endeavor in Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages. Ambitious and gravity-defying, the cathedral boasts the record for the highest ceiling in a Gothic choir in the Christendom (48.50m).

The cathedral also shows the ambition of the builders who were unable to complete it. Starting construction in 1225, the cathedral was meant to be the greatest church in the kingdom but over the centuries construction experienced many problems and structural collapses. What exists today – the choir and the transept – is impressive enough for us to dare to imagine what the finished project would have been.

The vault collapsed in 1284 and had to be rebuilt, supported by a dense cluster of flying buttresses.

Exterior view begun 1225 Photo Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Beauvais

Exterior view
begun 1225
Photo
Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Beauvais

Interior view begun 1225 Photo Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Beauvais

Interior view
begun 1225
Photo
Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Beauvais

Exterior view after 1254 Photo Cathedral, Reims

Exterior view
after 1254
Photo
Cathedral, Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims (Our Lady of Reims) is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims, where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. That original structure had itself been erected on the site of some Roman baths.

With its Radiant Gothic façade of unequaled dimensions, its interior characterized by soaring vertical heights, the richness of its sculpture and the technical quality of its construction, the Cathedral of Reims remains one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic art.

Unusually the names of the cathedral’s original architects are known. A labyrinth built into floor of the nave at the time of construction or shortly after included the names of four master masons (Jean d’Orbais, Jean-Le-Loup, Gaucher de Reims and Bernard de Soissons).

The picture shows the west façade of the cathedral. here everything is subordinated to aesthetic unity and upward movement, including window tracery and sculpture. Work on the west façade took place in several phases, which is reflected in the very different styles of some of the sculptures. The upper parts of the façade were completed in the 14th century, but apparently following 13th century designs, giving Reims an unusual unity of style.

Interior view after 1254 Photo Cathedral, Reims

Interior view
after 1254
Photo
Cathedral, Reims

Interior view after 1254 Photo Cathedral, Reims

Interior view
after 1254
Photo
Cathedral, Reims

Exterior view c. 1230 Photo Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Laon

Exterior view
c. 1230
Photo
Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Laon

The Cathedral of Laon (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Laon), in the Picardy region of France, dates from the 12th century. Laon Cathedral is known for its imposing towers, its beautiful Gothic architecture, and its importance as a major stop on the medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago in Spain.

Construction on the Cathedral began around 1160, on the site of an ancient basilica that had burned down in 1111 during an insurrection. The new cathedral was completed in 1230. The second half of the 13th century saw the start of work on the side chapels. Considerable reconstruction was done in the early 14th century on the south and north façades.

The picture shows the west front of the Cathedral which retains a certain Romanesque solidity and depth.

Interior view c. 1230 Photo Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Laon

Interior view
c. 1230
Photo
Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Laon

The picture shows the nave in four tiers, with clerestories, triforium and tribune under sexpartite vaulting.

Lavatorium 13th century Photo Monastery, Maulbronn

Lavatorium
13th century
Photo
Monastery, Maulbronn

Maulbronn Monastery in Baden-Württemberg is the best-preserved medieval Cistercian monastery complex in Europe. The monastery was founded in 1147 under the auspices of the first Cistercian pope, Eugenius III. The main church, built in a style transitional from Romanesque to Gothic, was consecrated in 1178 by Arnold, Bishop of Speyer. A number of other buildings – infirmary, refectory, cellar, auditorium, porch, south cloister, hall, another refectory, forge, inn, cooperage, mill, and chapel – followed in the course of the 13th century.

Outside the refectory stood the ‘lavatorium’ or washing place, a fountain.

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Sacred Sunday: 11th and 12th Century European Cathedral Architecture

Interior view c. 1050 Photo San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Interior view
c. 1050
Photo
San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Italy remained closest to the classical language of architecture. San Miniato al Monte in Florence uses Corinthian columns and marble veneer.

Exterior view c. 1080 Photo Saint-Nectaire, Puy-de-Dôme

Exterior view
c. 1080
Photo
Saint-Nectaire, Puy-de-Dôme

This Romanesque church was built in the middle of the twelfth century in honor of St. Nectaire by the monks of La Chaise-Dieu. It was built on the site of the shrine erected by Nectaire Auvergne on Mount Cornadore. It features 103 magnificent capitals. In the mid-nineteenth century, the church was still surrounded by walls, a cemetery, a castle and a small chapel. These parts were destroyed shortly after, at a church restoration. Now surrounded by forests, the church was in the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century, at the heart of a densely populated region, where wood was scarce.

The building is a typical church of the Auvergne, with an octagonal crossing tower and a round apse with radiating chapels.

Pantheon of the Kings of León 1063-1100 Photo Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, León

Pantheon of the Kings of León
1063-1100
Photo
Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, León

The Royal Pantheon in the basilica is a funeral chapel of the kings of León. It is one of the examples of surviving Romanesque art in León. The columns are crowned with rare Visigothic capitals (re-used Roman capitals), with floral or historic designs. The 12th century painted murals are in an exceptional state of preservation and consist of an ensemble of New Testament subjects along with scenes of contemporary rural life.

Chapter house c. 1100 Photo Monastery, Osek

Chapter house
c. 1100
Photo
Monastery, Osek

The Cistercian monastery in Osek was the spiritual centre of the region of Northern Bohemia between Decin and Karlovy Vary. It has a history of more than 800-year.

The picture shows the chapter house where the abbot presided. The administrative matters were settled here.

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view 12th century Photo Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

The 12th-century Romanesque church at Conques, in central France, was a stopping-place on the road to Compostela. The church contains the relics of Sainte-Foy, which arrived in Conques through theft in 866.

The original chapel was destroyed in the eleventh century in order to facilitate the creation of a much larger church as the arrival of the relics of St. Foy caused the pilgrimage route to shift from Agen to Conques. The second phase of construction, which was completed by the end of the eleventh-century, included the building of the five radiating chapels, the ambulatory with a lower roof, the choir without the gallery and the nave without the galleries.

The third phase of construction, which was completed early in the twelfth-century, was inspired by the churches of Toulouse and Santiago Compostela. Like most pilgrimage churches Conques is a basilica plan that has been modified into a cruciform plan. Galleries were added over the aisle and the roof was raised over the transept and choir to allow people to circulate at the gallery level.

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view 12th century Photo Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Façade c. 1150 Photo Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, Provence

Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Façade
c. 1150
Photo
Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, Provence

The façade of the church bears witness to the presence of Roman temples in the vicinity.

Interior view 1140s Photo Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

Interior view
1140s
Photo
Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

The picture shows the east end of the abbey church of Saint-Denis. The technique of Gothic architecture allows spaces to flow freely into one another instead of being compartmentalized.

Exterior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Durham

Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral was built between the late 11th and early 12th century to house the bodies of St. Cuthbert (634-687 AD) (the evangelizer of Northumbria) and the Venerable Bede (672/3-735 AD).

It attests to the importance of the early Benedictine monastic community and is the largest and finest example of Norman architecture in England. The innovative audacity of its vaulting foreshadowed Gothic architecture. The Cathedral lies within the precinct of Durham Castle, first constructed in the late eleventh century under the orders of William the Conqueror.

Interior view 1100-20 Photo Cathedral, Durham

Interior view
1100-20
Photo
Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral has thick circular piers with incised (and originally painted) patterns and one of the earliest rib-vaults in Europe.

Exterior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Ely

Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Ely

Ely Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon. It has a cruciform plan with central crossing tower, and it was likewise one of the largest buildings under construction north of the Alps at the time.

The construction was started in 1081 and was completed in the 1180s. The 66 m high west tower of the cathedral represents the last, profusely ornamented, stage of Romanesque. The porch and upper parts are already Gothic.

Interior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Ely

Interior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Ely

Exterior view c. 1150 Photo Abbey Church, Maria Laach

Exterior view
c. 1150
Photo
Abbey Church, Maria Laach

Maria Laach Abbey is a Benedictine abbey situated on the southwestern shore of the Laacher See (Lake Laach), in the region of the Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. The church exemplifies a particular German form of Romanesque with apses and round towers at both east and west ends.

Exterior view c. 1160 Photo Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, Toro

Exterior view
c. 1160
Photo
Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, Toro

The Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Great) is a church in Toro, Spain. It was begun around 1100, and was finished in the mid-13th century. It is one of the most characteristic examples of transitional Romanesque architecture in Spain. The crossing tower is a Spanish specialty – an octagon of repeated arches with four tourelles at the corners.

Refectory 1180-1200 Photo Monastery, Alcobaça

Refectory
1180-1200
Photo
Monastery, Alcobaça

Monasteries were places of peace and order in the disturbed medieval society, organized round a routine of liturgy, work, study, and regular meetings, in which a man could spend his whole life. In the refectory, during meals a monk read from the raised pulpit.

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Sacred Sunday: Building The Greatest Cathedrals

York Minster

Gothic Cathedrals are intricately designed architectural features with Biblical influence, which date back to 1144 and possibly even earlier.

The architecture used to make these magnificent buildings took a very long time and it involved many different forms of talent, and skill as well as hard to find materials. They are a beautiful representation of our history.

The origin of Gothic cathedrals and architecture was started by the abby church of Saint Denis, which was a vision of Abbot Suger, who also invented the form of architecture called the façade, and the rose window. Suger wanted to create a physical representation of the Heavenly Jerusalem, a building with a high degree of linearity that was filled with beautiful light and color.

The first construction that was truly Gothic was the choir of the church, made in 1144. This intense building was made of thin columns, colorful stained-glass windows and a sense of verticality with an eerie look added to it from all of the angular and intricate designs. The choir of the church established the elements that would later be elaborated on during the Gothic period. Gothic architecture at this time was adopted by Northern France, and it later spread out through France, the English, the Low Countries, parts of Germany, and Spain all of which were interested in its curious features.

The characteristics of Gothic architecture are stone structures, large expanses of glass, clustered columns, sharply pointed spires, intricate sculptures, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses. One of their main characteristics is the ogival, or pointed arch. At this time the pointed arch was one of the newest technologies, and because of it many other features were developed basing off it. The pointed arch was used in every location in Gothic cathedrals where a domed shape was called for, both structural and decorative. Gothic openings such as doorways, windows, covered passages and galleries have pointed arches. A major external feature of the Gothic cathedrals that involved the pointed arch is slots that also contain statuary. Pointed arches lent themselves to elaborate intersecting shapes which developed within window spaces into complex Gothic tracery forming the structural support of the large windows that are characteristic of the style. Most of the architecture in Gothic cathedrals has a sense of verticality suggesting a goal to the Heavens.

The detailed sculptures were highly decorated with ethereal statues on the outside and beautiful rich painting on the inside. Both usually told Biblical stories, emphasizing visual typological allegories between Old Testament prophecy and the New Testament consisting of designs such as snarling stone gargoyles frozen in a sneer of ferocity.

Ribbed vaults, unlike the semi-circular vault of Roman and Romanesque buildings, can be used to roof rectangular and irregularly shaped devices such as trapezoids; vaulting above spaces both large and small is usually supported by richly molded ribs.

Flying buttresses or arc-boutant, is usually on a religious building, used to spread the thrust of a vault across an intervening space, like an aisle, chapel or cloister, to a buttress outside the building.

Because of the flying buttress’s presence the walls containing all the heavy decoration can contain cut-outs, such as for large windows, which would otherwise seriously weaken the vault walls and cause them to collapse.

Gothic cathedrals use mainly limestone as a material, and they demand such a large amount of it that usually people had to build quarries to be able to make them. Some Gothic cathedrals, mainly in northern and eastern Germany, and southern France, used brick instead of limestone. The hard sticky material used to help keep the bricks and other materials together is called mortar, which is kind of like an older form of cement. Another material used in Gothic cathedrals often is wood, which holds up the roofs, flying buttresses, and the doors. They use many different kinds of wood because they only used the types of wood that were easily available.

Gothic architecture came and then went over the years, and later began to reappear in our world, showing up more and more in little ways. In England, some discrete Gothic details appeared on new construction at Oxford and Cambridge in the late seventeenth century. At the Archbishop of Canterbury’s residence Lambeth Palace, a Gothic hammerbeam roof was built in 1663 to replace a building that had been sacked during the English Civil War. In England in the mid-eighteenth century, the Gothic style was more widely revived, first as a decorative, whimsical alternative to Rococo that is still conventionally termed ‘Gothick’, of which Horace Walpole’s Twickenham villa “Strawberry Hill” is the familiar example. Then, especially after the 1830s, Gothic was treated more seriously in a series of Gothic revivals, sometimes called Victorian Gothic or Neo-Gothic. The Houses of Parliament in London are an example of this Gothic revival style, designed by Sir Charles Barry and a major exponent of the early Gothic Revival, Augustus Pugin.

Another example is the main building of the University of Glasgow designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. In France, the towering figure of the Gothic Revival was Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who outdid historical Gothic constructions to create a Gothic as it ought to have been, notably at the fortified city of Carcassonne in the south of France and in some richly fortified keeps for industrial magnates.

Viollet-le-Duc compiled and coordinated an Encyclopédie médiévale that was a rich repertory his contemporaries mined for architectural details but also include armor, costume, tools, furniture, weapons and the like. He effected vigorous restoration of crumbling detail of French cathedrals, famously at Notre Dame so that the building could be presrved for a longer period of time, many of whose most “Gothic” gargoyles are Viollet-le-Duc’s. But he also taught a generation of reform-Gothic designers and showed how to apply Gothic style to thoroughly modern structural materials, especially cast iron. It is not easy to decide whether these instances were Gothic survival or early appearances of Gothic revival, because many of the previously made cathedrals have either rotted or were torn down for another reason, although there are still some left.

Cathedral is a Christian church which contains the seat of a bishop, thus serving as the central church of a diocese, conference, or episcopate. Although the word “cathedral” is sometimes loosely applied, churches with the function of “cathedral” occur specifically and only in those denominations with an episcopal hierarchy, such as the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and some Lutheran and Methodist churches. In the Greek Orthodox Church, the terms kathedrikos naos (literally: “cathedral shrine”) is sometimes used for the church at which an archbishop or “metropolitan” presides.

The term “metropolis” (literally “mother city”) is used more commonly than “diocese” to signify an area of governance within the church. The word cathedral is derived from the Latin word cathedra (“seat” or “chair”), and refers to the presence of the bishop’s or archbishop’s chair or throne. In the ancient world, the chair was the symbol of a teacher and thus of the bishop’s role as teacher, and also of an official presiding as a magistrate and thus of the bishop’s role in governing a diocese.

In the video below, take a dazzling architectural journey inside those majestic marvels of Gothic architecture, the great cathedrals of Chartres, Beauvais and other European cities. Carved from 100 million pounds of stone, some cathedrals now teeter on the brink of catastrophic collapse. To save them, a team of engineers, architects, art historians, and computer scientists searches the naves, bays, and bell-towers for clues.

This NOVA episode (originally aired October 5, 2011 on PBS) investigates the architectural secrets that the cathedral builders used to erect their towering, glass-filled walls and reveals the hidden formulas drawn from the Bible that drove medieval builders ever upward.

Gothic cathedrals were well made buildings from long ago. They were made so perfectly that some still stand today because of their unique features, some of which are now used for reparing other buildings similar to them. With all of their history and beauty they truly are a magnificent addition to our past.

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Sacred Sunday: 13th Century Stained Glass (Romanesque and Gothic) – Part 1 of 2

Based on remains found at Pompeii and Heraculaneum, stained glass was first used by wealthy Romans in their villas and palaces in the first century A.D. At this time stained glass was considered a domestic luxury rather than an artistic medium. It began to be regarded as an art form when Constantine first permitted Christians to worship openly in 313 A.D., as they began to build churches based on Byzantine models. The earliest surviving example of pictorial stained glass is a Head of Christ from the tenth century excavated from Lorsch Abbey in Germany.

Romanesque Period, 12th Century

By the ninth and tenth centuries, as the demand for churches increased so did the production of decorative stained glass windows. Early Romanesque style stained glass was influenced by the linear patterning, abstraction and severe frontality found in Byzantine Art. Most church windows depicted individual monumental figures with few tiers in lozenge shaped groupings. The relatively small windows of the period were designed to admit as much light as possible. Thus, images made with predominantly red and blue glass were then surrounded by white glass. King Hezekiah from Trinity Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral, England dated 1220 and Charlemange Enthroned, c.1220 from Strasbourg Cathedral, Austria reflects the classic monumentality and Byzantine derived infused bands of color and an emerging tendency to look at the Imperial past for inspiration.

Gothic Period, 13th – 14th Century

With the advent of Gothic architecture, stained glass flourished as the expansion of immense window spaces in Gothic cathedrals demanded a new approach to the medium. Red and blue remain the predominant color choice and the tendency to fuse white glass in the composition allowing for more light gives way to completely filling up of space with ornate designs consisting of darker glass. A wide variety of geometrical shapes emerge as narrative becomes more important and complex juxtaposition of events are recorded in compartmental sequences. Decorative borders and foliage become more formalized and intricate while experimentation with more naturalistic and volumetric forms appears in figurative work. The flashed glass technique is introduced, offering glaziers a means to achieve a variety of color gradations in a single piece of colored glass. The emergence of the Rose Window at St. Denis Cathedral and Chartres Cathedral, both in France, greatly influences the field throughout Europe as providing a means to depict more complex ideas as embellishments in Biblical narrative become prevalent.

Toward the end of the thirteenth century a desire for more illumination surfaced with an increase in non-figurative windows and concentric patterning that incorporated more transparent glass. One of the finest examples of this shift in taste is York Minster’s Five Sisters Windows, a remarkable display of grisaille glazing. Grisaille glazing was first favored by the Cistercian Order under St. Bernard, who found that figurative windows distracted monks from religious responsibilities. This labor intensive technique consisting of complex formalized leaf-like forms relying on an intricate pattern of lead and a great deal of painted detail and crosshatching became widespread throughout England and France. As the palette became increasingly lighter, horizontal layers of colored glass and grisaille, or band windows, were incorporated in the figurative windows. As widespread adoption of elaborate stone window tracery occurred, figurative groupings fall out of favor and the individual figure resurfaces, but now framed by architectural canopies. Stained glass witnessed its greatest diversity in design, style, palette and sentiment during the Gothic period. This diversity in approach combined with the skilled artistry that developed with the formation of regulated guilds and a wide array of technological advances elevated the medium to a position of preeminence that would remain unsurpassed.

Tree of Jesse c. 1200 Stained glass window Cathedral, Canterbury

Tree of Jesse
c. 1200
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Canterbury

The picture shows the overall view of the west window depicting the Tree of Jesse.

After the disastrous fire at Canterbury Cathedral in 1174, the cathedral was rebuilt. In the rebuilt church the windows at ground level were given narrative cycles and the clerestory windows enthroned figures of the ancestors of Christ. This impressive program is no longer in its original position, but in the course of time the glass finished up in the southwest transept and the great west window.

Tree of Jesse (detail) c. 1200 Stained glass window Cathedral, Canterbury

Tree of Jesse (detail)
c. 1200
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Canterbury

This detail of the west window in Canterbury Cathedral represents Aminadab in the center.

Rose window 1200-10 Stained glass window Cathedral, Lausanne

Rose window
1200-10
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Lausanne

The rose window in the south transept of Lausanne Cathedral in Switzerland retains a large proportion of its magnificent glass, which depicts a cosmology of the world as people imagined in the 13th century. The Sun, Moon, Earth, sign of the zodiac, and the four elements represent the entire world. Depictions of themes such as the seasons and the labors of the months symbolize the passing of time.

St Eustace (detail) 1200-10 Stained glass window Cathedral, Chartres

St Eustace (detail)
1200-10
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Chartres

The picture shows a scene from the St Eustace window in the north aisle of the Chartres cathedral. The window is made up of large and small circles arranged around central squares. The first picture in a square shows the saint riding out to hunt. The picture frame serves as a terrain for the deer as sit plunges away from the riders who storm into the frame from the left. In his ability to suggest powerfully built bodies under the drapery, the artist reveals a mastery of line and color.

The Good Samaritan and Genesis 1205-15 Stained glass window Cathedral, Chartres

The Good Samaritan and Genesis
1205-15
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Chartres

The master who was responsible for several stained-glass windows in the southern side aisle of the nave in Chartres cathedral cannot be pinned down in the shape of a single artist. Rather, the windows can be assumed to represent the combined efforts of a large workshop.

Few visitors to France’s 13th-century cathedrals are aware of the complex religious programmes which lie hidden in each pane of their colourful windows. As in the illuminated manuscripts of the same era, so-called typological schemes were particularly popular. These juxtaposed episodes from the Old Testament with the events in the New Testament which, as “types”, they foreshadowed. This concept lay at the heart of the artistic programme governing the side aisles at Chartres: the north-facing windows, which lie in the shade, are dominated by episodes from the Old Testament, in which God reveals himself to Israel. The windows on the south side, on the other hand, are devoted to the themes of resurrection and salvation.

This detail is taken from a lancet window and is related to the overall programme in a particularly subtle theological way. Starting from the donors portrayed at the base of the window, the painting leads via the parable of the Good Samaritan to the Fall and the Expulsion from Paradise to, at the apex, Christ in Glory: the journey thus leads from Creation to the end of the salvation story.

North Rose Window c. 1220 Stained glass window Cathedral, Chartres

North Rose Window
c. 1220
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Chartres

The picture shows the north rose window of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Chartres. The Cathedral was rebuilt after a fire occurred in 1194.

South Rose Window c. 1220 Stained glass window Cathedral, Chartres

South Rose Window
c. 1220
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Chartres

The picture shows the south rose window of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Chartres. The Cathedral was rebuilt after a fire occurred in 1194.

Miracles of the Virgin c. 1220 Stained glass window Cathedral, Chartres

Miracles of the Virgin
c. 1220
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Chartres

This scene, recalling the earlier “cult of the carts” when the populace had supposedly carted stones to help in the building of the old cathedral, depicts a newly installed fund-raising statue of the Virgin on the main altar and urges the beholder to give generously.

Charlemagne's Dream c. 1220 Stained glass window Cathedral, Chartres

Charlemagne’s Dream
c. 1220
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Chartres

Departure of the Prodigal Son c. 1210 Stained glass window Cathedral, Bourges

Departure of the Prodigal Son
c. 1210
Stained glass window
Cathedral, Bourges

The picture shows a detail of the window representing the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The pane depicts the Prodigal Son at the beginning of the story. A typical noble of the 13th century, he rides out at his gray horse, his falcon on his hand. He wears a purple gown whose fine folds play round his body, and a splendid cloak with fur lining.

The colour range of the window includes red and blue, with white, various shades of purple, yellow, and green predominating in the figurative areas. The figures have delicate, slender bodies that are surmounted by large heads with protruding skulls.

Scenes of the Story of St Nicasius 1200-25 Stained glass window, 70 x 79 cm (each panel) Musée du Louvre, Paris

Scenes of the Story of St Nicasius
1200-25
Stained glass window, 70 x 79 cm (each panel)
Musée du Louvre, Paris

This stained glass window from the region of Soissons consists of eight panels assembled in two large medallions, on above the other, relating the martyrdom of Nicasius, archbishop of Reims, and his sisters Eutropia, both beheaded by the Vandal army that besieged the city in 1407. Their bodies were buried in the cathedral. The style of the figures and the overall composition are characteristic of early thirteenth-century Gothic in northern France.

Esther Window (detail) 1240s Stained glass window Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Esther Window (detail)
1240s
Stained glass window
Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

The detail of the Esther Window in the upper church of the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, represents Esther and Ahasuerus.

The iconographic program of the cycles on the windows in the Sainte-Chapelle covers the history of the world in hundreds of scenes, from the Creation up to the arrival in Paris of the relics of the Passion that Louis IX (1236-70) acquired for his chapel. The pictures are full of allusions to the French monarchy, associating it with the kings of the Old Testament and with Christ. The life and deeds of Queen Esther are held up as a mirror to queens as they attend mass in the palace chapel.

 

Next Sunday, it’s the final part to 13th Century Stain Glass

 

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