Experimentation with groin vaulting

Experimentation with groin vaulting

Vezelay (Yonne), Sainte-Madeleine. After 1120. Nave looking eastwards with Gothic choir

Experimentation with groin vaulting

Parallel to the large buildings of La Charite, Saint-Etienne and Saint- Benoit, which were erected under the patronage of the monastery at Cluny, there were several smaller churches, such as Sainte-Trinite, Sainte-Croix and Sainte-Marie in Anzy-le-Duc. The elevation does, however, take account of progress. In the arcades, these carry the underarch supports, whereas in the nave and aisles they combine with the underlying responds to carry the stepped transverse arches. It is possible that barrel vaulting was intended here with windows at the base, but the plans were subsequently changed, and the nave and aisles were groin vaulted. In this way it was possible to retain the genuine basilica cross-section whilst putting larger windows in the upper wall. This is also an unwitting (?) anticipation of the Gothic design principles.

The transept and main apse are barrel vaulted whereas the forebays of the subsidiary apses, opening out onto the main apse, act as an extension of the side aisles and are groin-vaulted.
What had been obvious a century earlier during the vaulting at Tournus between 1020 and 1030 had now been recognized at Anzy-le- Duc, namely that groin vaulting in the nave solves all the problems of the clerestory. Nevertheless it is only a small group of buildings in Burgundy which exploit this discovery. The most important are Saint-Lazare in Avalon and Sainte-Madeleine in Vezelay (photos, right).
Founded in 858 by Girard de Rousillon, this monastery, like Cluny, was directly subordinated to Rome. In 1104 the eastern parts of the Carolingian structure were replaced with a new structure, followed in 1120 by the nave which still stands today. The elevation is different, however, and is similar in appearance to Anzy-le-Duc.
Like Anzy-le-Duc, Sainte-Madeleine is groin-vaulted in both the nave .ind aisles. Because of the bigger windows the interior is considerably brighter than with barrel vaulted naves. The transept which is aisleless is only Romanesque in its lower parts, the upper parts belonging to the same period as the Gothic ambulatory.

Vezelay (Yonne), Sainte-Madeleine. After 1120. Nave looking eastwards with Gothic choir (above), view of exterior from south-west, ground plan

Vezelay (Yonne), Sainte-Madeleine. After 1120. Nave looking eastwards with Gothic choir (above), view of exterior from south-west, ground plan