Gothic Architecture in England and France

By George Herbert West | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
NORMAN ARCHITECTECTURE, 1000-1175

ANY architecture which the Normans had in their northern home must have been, like that of the Saxons, of wooden origin. At any rate there is no trace of any stone building of theirs in France before the year 1000, when the Lombard or Comacine-Romanesque was brought to them from Cluny. In the year 1001 the great round church of St. Benigne at Dijon was begun by William of Volpiano on the foundations of a church of the sixth century. He was a native of the island of S. Giulio, on the lake of Orta, and came therefore from the Comacine district. As a young man he went to Cluny and studied under Abbot Majolo, and by him was sent to Dijon in 990, taking with him nine monks learned in all the arts, who were natives of his own Comacine district of Novara. He was well acquainted with the Lombard style, and more particularly with the Burgundian form of it as shown in the splendid abbey of Cluny. This famous abbey had already become the great school of art and architecture for Western Europe.1 Its daughter churches were springing up in every direction, but probably none of the early ones was so important as St. Benigne. The Carolingian or Comacine character appears in the plan, which was circular, and in some of the details of the crypt which still remains. The two upper churches were destroyed

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1
Great as was the influence of the Cluniacs in sending out organizers and artists, there was not strictly any Cluniac "style," as there was a Cistercian one. Both orders built in the Burgundian manner, but the former gave much freedom to local workmen and traditions, while the latter imposed a severe simplicity of plan and general arrangements, which was, however, more modified in England than elsewhere. Vide Bilson, The Architecture of the Cistercians, "Archaeological Journal," September 1909.

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