Reims- Flying Buttresses

  • It is tempting to imagine that the nave of Reims Cathedral was originally planned to have a cross-section very similar to that of Soissons Cathedral, with simple blocky buttress uprights whose inner margins would rise directly above the inner margins of the wall shafts below, as shown at left. The lower set of flying buttresses would intersect the clerestory wall right at the springers of the main vault. The choir, seen at right, would have had a similar system, but extended to span the double aisles. The heights of the inner and outer uprights in the choir are used here to set the upper and lower surfaces of the nave uprights, respectively. The overall height of the main vessel is here shown as exactly twice the height of the side aisles, as would be seen in the Reims elevations drawn by Villard de Honnecourt.

Geometrie, Proportion, und Vermessung in der Liebfrauenkirche

  • Thank you. It is truly a pleasure to be in Trier once again. I first visited this city nearly 25 years ago, as a student. I was just beginning to learn about German Gothic architecture, but I already knew that the Liebfrauenkirche was “Ein Schlüsselbau der europäischen Gotik.” So, I consider it a great privilege to participate in this conference, and I thank Andreas Tacke, Stefan Heinz and their colleagues for their kind invitation. The title of my talk today is “Geometrie, Proportion, und Vermessung in der Liebfrauenkirche”

Neue Erkenntnisse zur Geometrie und Proportion von Liebfrauen

  • Vielen Dank. Es ist wirklich eine Freude wieder in Trier zu sein. Ich habe diese Stadt vor nahezu 25 Jahren als Student zum ersten Mal besucht. Ich fing gerade an, über Deutsche Gotische Architektur zu lernen, wusste aber bereits, dass die Liebfrauenkirche “Ein Schlüsselbau der europäischen Gotik” war. Ich empfinde es daher als grosses Privileg, an dieser Tagung teilzunehmen, und ich danke Andreas Tacke, Stefan Heinz, und ihren Kollegen für ihre freundliche Einladung. Der Titel meines heutigen Vortrags lautet “Neue Erkenntnisse zur Geometrie und Proportion von Liebfrauen”…

The Renaissance Myth of Gothic License

  • Today I will critique the idea, popularized in the Renaissance, that Gothic buildings like Strasbourg Cathedral, seen at left, are chaotic and disorderly and that architectural harmony depends on the use of the classical orders, seen at right as shown by Serlio. Mine might seem like an unnecessary project, since the Gothic tradition has had many champions in the intervening centuries, but it’s my sense that this myth of Gothic disorderliness continues to shape the writing of art history even today, contributing among other things to the vexed position of architecture in discussions of the Northern Renaissance. Although I am speaking in broad terms about the Gothic and Renaissance design traditions, I recognize the fuzziness and permeability of such categories. I use these terms not only because I find them genuinely helpful in trying to grapple with the complex patterns of European architectural production, but also because this basic framing has figured so prominently in the historiography of the period. For sake of clarity, I will briefly outline my theses before going on to consider that historiography and its consequences.

Relativizing the Lateness of Late Gothic Architecture: Contrasting Approaches

  • I’m grateful to Alice and Kyle for organizing this session, since I share their sense that the lateness of Late Gothic deserves reassessment. Because I love Gothic architecture, I have long been frustrated by the way its later history has often been relegated to the margins of art-historical discourse. Today I aim to show how this situation has arisen, discussing various contrasting approaches to this fascinating material. I will address this topic in three steps.

Changing Geometries in the Reims North Transept

  • I’m delighted to participate in this session, especially since it was during a childhood visit to Reims that I first fell in love with Gothic architecture. Enthralled by the cathedral, I bought a guidebook in which I found the famous illustration by Viollet-le-Duc seen at right, showing the building idealized and completed with seven spires. My discovery of this image planted the seed that grew into my dissertation on Gothic spires, and my first book. Although Reims figured into that book, it was not at center stage. And since no original design drawings for Reims Cathedral survive, I largely passed over it in my more recent book on the geometry of Gothic drawings. This, therefore, is my first talk on the building that was my first love. That, by itself, makes me pretty excited. But I am excited for more substantive reasons, too, since I’ve recently begun to resolve some of the questions that first fascinated me all those years ago. In particular, I think I now understand the geometrical design principles that governed the layout of the cathedral in both plan and elevation. And this, in turn, has given me a new perspective on the development of its north transept, a part of the building that has always confused me. The image at left, as many of you have probably guessed, shows a version of the north transept that I have PhotoShopped, in the somewhat permissive spirit of Viollet-le-Duc, to reflect what I think may have been the design intention in the early thirteenth century.