Post 741 -by Gautam Shah
6 Abbey Saint-Denis After, Abbot Suger’s death —
Suger had close relationship with the Royals. He was consulted on many issues of governance and political nature. His administrative and oratory skills were admired. He was appointed as the Regent of France, and asked to look after the royal administration, when the King, Louis VII, departed to join the Second Crusade. The construction on Saint-Denis came to near stand still.
When Abbot Suger died in 1151, the western and eastern ends of the abbey were ready, but new Nave had only the foundations ready. St Denis abbey remained incomplete entity for eighty years. In 1231, Abbot Odo Clement, began work on the rebuilding of the Nave, and redefinition of upper structure of Suger’s Choir. The Nave and Choir were completed fifty years later, in 1281. The Nave with extensive glass windows and thin columns in Rayonnant Gothic style were awe inspiring. The spatial style became a trend setter for sacred church spaces across Europe. After 13th C very few changes occurred in the Abbey of St Denis, however some adjunct structures were built between 1701 and 1781.
Rayonnant Gothic architecture did not offer much in structural improvements. Builders were less concerned with rationalizing the structure, as the space perception was now an emerging issue. In a later phase of Rayonnant Gothic, the builders adopted geometrical patterns, which, over the years were to become complex. New architectural features such as mouldings, piers, rose windows, pinnacles and window traceries were added.
A third style of Gothic architectural design emerged around 1280. It was known as Flamboyant Gothic architecture. This was even more decorative than Rayonnant, and continued until about 1500 AD. The Flamboyant Gothic architecture was superfluous imposition of patterns. The tracery patterns had S-shaped flame-like curve motifs. Such motifs were imposed on masonry and other architectural elements.
The Structures perceived for St Denis Abbey were radically different well planned, but executed in haste. There were many underground vaults. The vaults were not substantial enough to bear the weight of the choir, so collapsed, (there was no mathematical calibration system, structures were designed through experience). These were replaced within a hundred years. Similarly, thin ambulatory columns required heavier replacement.
Suger’s successor, Abbot Eudes Clement, constructed a large new transept to replace the Carolingian nave with two important innovations. First, the old piers supporting the roof were replaced by pillars. Two, very large rose windows entirely filled the upper ends of the transepts.
It is believed that Abbot Odo, with the approval of the Regent Blanche of Castile and her son, the young King Louis IX, planned for the new nave and its large crossing to have a much clearer focus as the French ‘royal necropolis or burial place. That plan was fulfilled in 1264 under Abbot Matthew of Vendôme, when the bones of 16 former kings and queens were relocated into new tombs arranged around the crossing, eight Carolingian monarchs to the south and eight Capetians to the north.
The Abbey of Saint-Denis (1140) in Paris, was one of the earliest surviving Gothic structures. Other, near contemporary churches, were Notre-Dame de Paris (1163-1345) and Laon Cathedral (1112-1215). Gothic structures evolved out of Romanesque ones and lasted from the mid 12th C to late 16th C, in some parts of Germany.
7 Abbey Saint-Denis the changes in Glass —
Suger Abbot had marked preference for Blue and Red colour in stained glass compositions. The colours (Red -jasper Blue -sapphire), were the representations of passion, holy blood, and the colour of heaven, respectively. These two colours were too dark for interior spaces. During daytime the stained glasses on the exteriors are dead grey, and at night time the interiors are lifeless (in absence of significant street illumination). This required lighter and fewer colour shades, leading to adoption of Grisaille (monochrome) glass.
The use of a light-coloured grisaille, and white backgrounds, became more common in the 14th C. The stained glasses were over-painted and overlaid with fine traceries that emulated the curves in the compositions. The figures in the composition though in colours, the backgrounds were in white glass to allow more light. The lancet or narrow windows had a single figure, accentuating the vertical. The quality of the glass became much better, due to the improvements in the materials and the process of glass-blowing. The white glass became lighter in weight and more translucent. The interior walls were increasingly covered with dense tracery and decorations, competing with the windows.
The patrons were frequently pictured in the windows that they funded, praying or in the case of the craft guilds, shown at work. In the 12th and 13th C, the practice became very common. Donors like bakers, butchers, tanners, furriers, money-changers, and other professions were shown at work. There was marked preference for geometric motifs in areas with little religious importance. Many of the later day replacement have such motifs and lighter colours.
8 Abbey Saint-Denis during French Revolution —
Catholic Entity, the Abbey of Saint-Denis, was a victim of French Revolution. Due to its connections with the French monarchy and proximity to Paris, the abbey of Saint-Denis was a prime target of revolutionary vandalism. The anger was marked against the royal tombs. The tombs were opened and all the remains were dumped into mass unmarked graves. The cellars and building parts were used as grain storage. Its many architectural parts were damaged, destroyed or stripped off. Last service was held on Friday, 14 September 1792, and the order was dissolved the next day.
In 1790 during the French Revolution, the abbey was sacked and mostly destroyed, with only a small part of the Abbey surviving. Cluny Abbey was wiped off the map. Founded in 910, Cluny had been the largest church in Christendom until the completion of St. Peter’s 700 years later.
The revolutionary government, ordered the violation of the sepulchre, but agreed to set up a commission for identifying the monuments of historical interest for preservation. The church structure remained, ‘but was deconsecrated, its treasury confiscated and its reliquaries and liturgical furniture melted down for their metallic value. Some objects, including a chalice and aquamanile donated to the abbey in Suger’s time, were successfully hidden and survive to this day’.
The church was deconsecrated by Napoleon in 1806, and he appointed François Debret to restore the church as his family mausoleum. He added new windows to the transept depicting the renovation. The church was officially granted the status of ‘cathedral’ in 1966. It is now the world’s largest museum of medieval and Renaissance statuary. ‘Basilica’ is an honorary title given to many of the churches of all eras, popular for pilgrimage. A cathedrals are of superior rank.