lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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Halls carried by a single pillar



They are not common, but often impressive.

Examples of these structures illustrate the developments in medieval architecture over a period of about 400 years.


 Cuxa modAP 2 065Crpyt Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa


Here you see a 11th-century crypt in the monastery of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa in the Pyrenees. This mighty round space with a diameter of 9 meters originally supported a chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity, which has not survived. The pillar is said to have a diameter of 1,8 meter - an imposing, mystical and impressive concept.


 Wells chapterhouse 5 7modAP Chapter House Wells Cathedral


And here the chapter house of Wells Cathedral, the first structure built in the pure English Gothic style. Although the construction of the cathedral already began in the 12th century, the chapter house was built 100 years later.

There are no hints of weight and heaviness. Every element is directed towards the heavens.

32 ribs rise from one single slender column in all directions, and enfold in an elegant fan vaulted ceiling.



Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)


Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of the Cistercian Order.


You would be correct in objecting to this statement. However, this misconception has been repeated again and again.

Bernard, who would later be canonized, was one of the most extraordinary men of his century. His reputation as the founder of the Order, however, is unearned. He was the Order's fourth abbot.

The actual founder of the Order was Robert, who wanted to return to the true Rules of St. Benedict, which had been neglected in Cluny. After a number of disappointments in conventional Benedictine abbeys, he founded a monastery in Molesme. In 1098, after some internal troubles, he and 21 monks moved to Cîteaux, also in Burgundy. Pope Paschal II confirmed this Order, named after the 'original' monastery.

Bernard entered the monastery in 1112, as a novice, together with 30 companions. Stephen Harding was the abbot at the time. Already in 1115, Bernard became abbot of the newly founded Clairvaux Abbey. It is only later that he would be elected as head of the entire Order.

The erroneous notion that Bernard founded the Cistercian Order is likely related to the fact that the extraordinary expansion of the order began when Bernard entered it. While four or five monasteries existed in 1112, there were 365 at the time of his death in 1153. Fontenay is one of the oldest.


Fontenay evtl 0001



Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)


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.)


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