lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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Statics and Aesthetics

Around 1338, in the crossing of Wells Cathedral, these two concepts joined in a harmonious union.

I am referring to the famous scissor arches. The identity of their creator is not entirely certain. He was probably a master builder named Joy, a truly fitting name, as his architectural work has brought so much of it to the cathedral's visitors.

 

ScherenboegenWells Cathedral - Scissor Arches

 

The scissor arches' purpose, however, was not solely to bring joy, but also to save the tottering crossing tower. It is incredibly exciting that the genius master knew how to combine the practical with the beautiful.

There are purists among the specialists who are less pleased. Alec Clifton Taylor has said: "Just think it away".

You can find lesser known and less spectacular predecessors of the scissor arches in Salisbury, built around 1320, having the exact same function as in Wells.

 

(Clifton-Taylor, Alec, The Cathedrals of England, Thames & Hudson, London, 1967 and 1986)

 

 

 Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)

 




Cows on the Tower

 
 
Medieval buildings are often rich with whimsical elements, conceived by architects and sculptors.   Particularly peculiar was the idea in 1200 to decorate the towers of the Gothic Laon Cathedral with 16 sculptures of cows.
 
    IMG 5465  

This idea found its imitators in Bamberg, during the first half of the 13th century. The so-called "Cathedral Cows" on Bamberg Cathedral's Gothic western towers - also copies of the Laon towers - are smaller and intended to represent mules.

 

In both cases, the intention was probably to create a monument for these beasts of burden, which had worked so hard to assist with the erection of the church.

 

 

  Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)  




The head tops all

That is what the medieval artist in Stralsund must have thought when he painted the octogonal pillar in the nave of the Church of St. Nicholas.

To finish the figure, he placed a terracotta male head on the capital frieze, on top of the painted body's shoulders. The church is decorated with more of these figures. The ornamentation of the capitals themselves is modern.

  Strals Nikolai0623 modAP2  

Despite the Protestant iconoclasm of 1525, the Council Church of St. Nicholas is richly decorated with medieval and modern objects and art works.

The church, right next to Stralsund's beautiful town hall, was first mentioned in 1270.

 

 

Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)

 




The smallest cathedral in the world

What an unusual superlative. Cathedrals are usually known for their great size and grandeur.

The mere 60 m2 base area of the church of Sveti Križ (Church of the Holy Cross) in Nin, Croatia, is shaped like a Greek cross with a rotunda in its center. The arm of the cross that lies opposite the entrance, which also features a belfry, originally functioned as the presbytery. Except for blind niches, the building nowadays is entirely undecorated.

  Crkva svetoga Kriza14 jklein pg  Picture: Konstantin Zurawski, Köln
   
 
To answer the question whether the church originally hosted a bishop's throne - which is the criterium to call a church a 'cathedral' - we have to go back to the 9th century. Large structures were rare, especially in more rural regions. Stone buildings were seldom seen as well. Nin, however, was the first royal seat of Croatia and the bishops there played a very important political role. Bishop Gregor of Nin is believed to have been chancellor of the Kingdom of Croatia.
 
  Crkva svetoga Kriza17 jmodAP Picture: Konstantin Zurawski, Köln

 

The size of the building was also not unusual, as an example from another remote region in Europe proves. The Church of St. Lawrence was approximately the same size.

Is the claim therefore credible?

There is no historical proof for the presence of a bishop's throne. Nevertheless, there exists documentation on bishops in this center of power. These bishops must have had a bishop's church. There are no traces of other stone buildings from this period in Nin. The only remaining alternative would have been a wooden church.

We cannot answer the question regarding the correctness behind the statement at the top of this article.

Yet, we grant this honorable structure and the young EU-Member state this title nevertheless.

 

 

Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)

 




Knotted Columns

   
are rare and can be found mostly in Italy.
 
 
They are usually designed to represent two columns knotted together.
 
 
Many mystic notions surround these Romanesque sculptural works. Knots were regarded as symbols for 'holding' and 'connecting'. Knotted columns, more specifically, were associated with defensive magic and Freemasonry. 
 
 
  Grópina 016 klein  Tos1(1)
San Pietro, Gropina, Tuscany
 
 
 
At the beautiful parish church of San Pietro in Gropina, southern Tuscany, a knotted column is exactly placed at the apex of the exterior dwarf gallery of the choir. The church's interior features a second knotted column as decoration of the altar.  
 
 
  S Quirico OrciaSüdtosk small 043Tos1(1)
San Quirico, Orcia, Tuscany
 
 
 
Knotted columns are usually found at the entrances of buildings, for example on the portal of San Quirico in Orcia (also southern Tuscany).   In Germany they can be found at Würzburg Cathedral.  
 
 
All this raises one question: what would the ancient Greeks think of these art works by their medieval colleagues?       
 
 
 
Translation Erik Eising (M.A.)