Friday, 19 June 2015

More Medieval Posts Coming

In 2003 I did a four month trip through Western Europe, taking photos (which I've now digitized) and gathering information about medieval sites.  More recently I've returned to some of those sites (I just got back from 10 days in Paris), and new ones, taking copious more photos than my film camera - and pocketbook - could support 12 years ago.  I've now got a pretty sizeable collection of photos and info for a variety of sites in numerous countries, and I'd like to start using that information in my Friday blog posts.

A few years ago I took an extra university course, for which I did an essay on Notre-Dame de Amiens in France.  The point of the essay was to prove that the sculpture on the West facade was used to teach Biblical stories to the illiterate.  It's not a revolutionary idea, in fact, John Ruskin wrote a book called The Bible of Amiens that says that very thing in 1885, which you can read online.  To illustrate my essay, I did a diagram showing the entire West facade's sculptural program.  When planning my recent trip I dug that diagram up and decided to digitize and expand on it.  I added the sculpture from the transcepts and then did another page with the floor plan and interior features of interest (marking medieval stained glass, sculptures, etc.).  I ended up with a single page that contained all the major sculpture and features of the cathedral.  I then did this for the other major churches I visited (Cathedrals in Paris, Chartres, Laon and Reims as well as the royal chapel Sainte-Chapelle and the Basilica-Cathedral Saint Denis).  My trip showed some errors and omissions which I'll be addressing, but I intend to upload my finished copies to my blog for anyone interested in travelling to those sites or looking at images of them on the internet.

I'll likely be using a lot of specific architectural terms when talking about the cathedrals.  Originally I was going to write up a glossary on my blog, but I found this excellent one by Athena Review and figured I would just send people there to learn the vocabulary.

Earlier this year I started a column on medieval plants, which my research for France halted.  I'll be starting that up again soon.  I also want to do posts on the cathedrals I visited last week, and possible some others I've visited in the past.  I may or may not do sculptural and floor plan sheets for those.  It will really depend on time and source material.  For the French cathedrals I either had guide books that contained a lot of the information I was looking for or was able to find similar guidebooks either online or at the library to help me out.  That may not be the case for the other cathedrals I've got detailed pictures of.

Before the trip I also had the idea of doing posts about saints.  It doesn't help to know that a particular sculpture is of Saint George if you don't know anything about his life (or more often in the case of the older saints, death).  Even the Apostles were often illustrated using stories not found in the Bible, making them harder to identify if those stories are unknown.  I'll be using the Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, which has been translated into English in a two volume edition by William Granger Ryan, as my source for saints lives.  Compiled in the mid 1200s it was roughly contemporary with the building of the Gothic cathedrals.  I'll be illustrating those posts using photos of sculpture, fine arts, and stained glass.  Many saints will be familiar (like St. Nicholaus) and were/are still widely popular, others are local to the areas in question (like St. Remi).

If there's interest, I may also do comparative posts on how specific stories were illustrated on Gothic cathedrals or how stories were illustrated over various media.  The Last Judgement is a particular fascination of mine so I've got quite a collection of imagery for it.

No comments: