Romanesque architecture in France

Romainmotier (Switzerland), former monastery church St. Peter and Paul. Around 1030. Nave looking west

Romainmotier (Switzerland), former monastery church St. Peter and Paul. Around 1030. Nave looking west

Romanesque architecture in France

The establishment of the French Kingdom after Charlemagne
After the death of Charlemagne in January 814, the huge empire fell into the hands of Louis the Pious, only to be split up in 843 amongst his three sons in the Treaty of Verdun. Lothar gained the imperial crown and the Middle Kingdom, which included a broad strip from Friesland to Provence dividing East and West Francia, Lombardy, Friuli and Italy as far as the Duchy of Benevento. Charles the Bald was granted West Francia which, with the exception of the easterly areas, and Normandy and Brittany in the north west, corresponds to the France of today. He also received parts of what are today Belgium and the Netherlands. By 875, however, Charles was able not only to obtain the imperial crown for West Francia, but also to extend his imperial boundaries as far as the Rhone, the Duchy of Vienne including the towns of Vienne and Arles, and part of the Jura and Burgundy including the towns of Basle, Geneva and Besangon.

Tournus (Saone-et-Loire), former abbey church St. Philibert. After 1020.

Tournus (Saone-et-Loire), former abbey church St. Philibert. After 1020.

These boundaries remained stable for a long period, and the young French kingdom, whose roots stretched back to the pre-Carolingian period of the fifth century, was able to consolidate its position.
The Roman occupation of Gaul had brought Christendom to the area by the second century, and the Frankish kingdom soon had a close relationship with the Church. King Clovis I (481-510) converted to the Catholic faith and was baptized during the Christmas of 497. This alliance of Church and kingdom was to prove its worth in the following centuries.
Sources in the ninth and tenth centuries report the founding of numerous monasteries, whilst many towns saw the building of the new cathedrals of the early Christian period. It must be remembered that these churches were still in the Roman tradition: large basilicas, naves with flat ceilings and transepts with semi-circular apses. The prototype was still Old St. Peter’s in Rome.
Reports circulated of miracles at their graves, which often lay within monasteries or even led to the founding of new ones. The faithful made pilgrimages to these monasteries, and important new pilgrimage routes developed. The growth in pilgrimages, which brought large numbers of pilgrims to the monasteries, created a need for lodgings and particularly for devotional objects of all kinds. It increased their income considerably, but required an efficient organization. Ways were sought of directing the pilgrims so that those coming in and out of the church did not cause disturbance detrimental to the liturgy of the monks in the choir. It was below the main altar that the saint’s tomb would almost always be situated.

Tournus (Saone-et-Loire), former abbey church Saint-Philibert. After 1020. Nave west towers from south-east

Tournus (Saone-et-Loire), former abbey church Saint-Philibert. After 1020. Nave west towers from south-east

From the middle of the ninth century onwards, rectangular ambulatories were created in Auxerre and Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. These led around the saint’s tomb in the crypt, allowing the pilgrims to descend the stairs from one side aisle and return up via the other. In both these churches the ambulatory was extended to include a round or octagonal lady chapel behind an aisled approach. Before the middle of the ninth century the crypt at Saint-Philibert-de-Grandlieu on the Atlantic coast was extended to house the relics of St. Philibert, later taken to Tournus. The crypt had a rectangular ambulatory with echeloned chapels on its eastern arm. The first crypt at Tournus, which was built in the years after 875, must have been similar. These first ambulatories were gradually adapted to the curvature of the end of the choir. Early examples are the choirs of Clermont- Ferrand and Saint-Maurice-d’Agaune. During the second half of the tenth century the monks in Tournus erected just such an ambulatory with rectangular radial chapels, which enclosed a chapel in front of the confessio with a nave and two side aisles. It was built around 1000, but largely demolished after the French Revolution.
It was the monastery of Cluny and its priories which were to remain influential in the development of the nave over the following century. In 948, only a few decades after the completion of the first church, the monks of Cluny began the construction of a second, larger church (Cluny II). It was not consecrated, however, until 981, probably because of difficulties encountered in the construction. Its form is only known from excavations and written sources. It also had a choir with chapels in echelon, the first example of its kind and one which was at first widely imitated. The function of the individual rooms has never been completely explained. The echeloned chapels in Cluny II consisted of seven symmetrically arranged apses. The central three had a semi-circular termination, and were slightly staggered one to another. Their deep, probably barrel-vaulted forebays were connected with each other by colonnades. On each side of these three chapels, and set back slightly, there was a chapel with a rectangular termination. Finally, on the very outside of each of these there was a small apse on the transept wall. The elevation of the nave must have had two storeys. Above the arcades was a barrel vault without transverse arches. Small windows pierced its base, making it the first known example of a vaulted church with an illuminated vault.
Thus it was that by around the year 1000 both architectural features characteristic of Romanesque architecture had been developed, namely the ambulatory with radial chapels and the illuminated vault. The latter was then still in its early stages of development, and over the following century was to undergo continual improvement and perfection. It was not until about 120 years later that the barrel vault was superseded by other forms of vaulting, including those based on Gothic design principles.

Payerne (Switzerland) former abbey church. Around 1040. Nave looking east

Payerne (Switzerland) former abbey church. Around 1040. Nave looking east

Several buildings from the years after the turn of the millennium have either survived or are known about in sufficient detail: the great basilica of Saint-Benigne in Dijon with its curious choir apex rotunda and the small church of Saint-Vorles in Chatillon-sur-Seine, both in the territory of the duchy of Burgundy; in northern France the basilicas of Montierender, Sainte- Gertrude in Nivelles and Saint-Remi in Rheims and, in the deep south of France in the former province of Narbonensis, Saint-Martin-du-Canigou.
Burgundy – the problem of barrel vaulting
In 989 the monastery of Cluny had been reformed, and it may be assumed that William of Volpiano knew and appreciated the vaulted basilica which had just been completed there. Nevertheless, he decided on an “old-fashioned”, unvaulted construction. This was partly because of lack of space, but it must also be remembered that Saint-Benigne was already 500 years old, possessed numerous relics and was a famous destination for pilgrimages – in other words, a place of tradition.The central apse was, however, substituted by a huge choir apex rotunda dedicated to the mother of God.
It is a three-storeyed rotunda with a nave and two aisles. The continuous central shaft opens upwards into a circular opening at the apex. Eight columns enclose this central shaft, whilst there are sixteen between the first and second ambulatory and twenty-four engaged columns on the outer wall. Both ambulatories are barrel-vaulted. In the outer ambulatory the semi-circular barrel vault is interrupted in every third bay by a groin vault. In the last storey there is a single wide ambulatory, vaulted with a quarter circle barrel vault. In the north and the south, semi-circular projecting staircases are added to the exterior of the rotunda. In the east, a small chapel is added, the forerunners of which are said to date from the sixth century and stood on the Gallo-Roman cemetery.
The atmosphere in this rotunda is that of a giant crypt and the impression of space is confusing and mystical because of the multiplicity of aisles and storeys. It would not be right, however, to draw a comparison with the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem as there is too little harmony in the building. It is more likely that this particular design solution was dictated by the presence of the centuries-old tombs of saints and dedications to patron saints. Similar situations are known to have arisen at other places and, as with the example of Saint-Benigne, they were not imitated because of the individual nature of their solutions.

Dijon (Cote-d’Or), Abbey church Saint- Benigne. After 1001. Reconstruction of nave and cross-section through the rotunda (above), View into rotunda (below)

Dijon (Cote-d’Or), Abbey church Saint- Benigne. After 1001. Reconstruction of nave and cross-section through the rotunda (above), View into rotunda (below)

The ground floor of the rotunda was like an extensive crypt underneath the whole transept and half of the nave. Here, in a prominent position on the dividing line between the transept and choir, was the tomb of St. Benignus.
The nave may have had three storeys: arcades above square piers, galleries, clerestory and flat ceiling. Even this nave initially found no imitators. The second church at Cluny had shown that illuminated barrel vaults were possible, albeit with a limited width of nave and minute windows. However, it was to be several centuries before Cluny, with its third church, once again dared to vault the huge nave and four aisles with barrel vaults over the clerestory.

Vault constructions after Cluny II
Around the year 1000 the bishop of Langres, Bruno de Roucy, commissioned the complete renewal of what was probably a Carolingian construction in Chatillon-sur-Seine. A nave and two aisles with four bays is still standing, as well as a projecting barrel-vaulted transept and the remains of a chevet with five chapels, also with the original barrel vaults. Today there is groin vaulting in both nave and aisles, the former dating, however, from the seventeenth century. Originally there must have been a barrel vault here, possibly with small openings at the base of the vault. The exterior, which would once have been very attractive with its clearly demarcated parts, is dominated by a crossing tower; but only the first floor remains with its blind arches between flat lesenes.
Between 1020 and 1030 the monks of Saint-Philibert in Tournus had a new nave and aisles built. In 1007/8 their church had been damaged by the Hungarian invasions, but was repaired again and consecrated by 1019. In the mean time the monks must have found their broad nave with its flat ceiling quite old-fashioned, and they decided on the construction of a narrower nave with vaulting. The eastern parts were narrower than the older nave, and so they began in the west in front of the church with three bays of a nave, which was adapted to the width of the choir. The nave bays, with giant round pillars at their corners, were square, whilst the side aisle bays were the corresponding rectangular shape. When these first bays were complete up to the level of the arcades, it was decided to leave the old outer walls standing, and to try to vault a wider nave. The narrower bays which had just been erected were to become the narthex. Because, however, the very long rectangular aisle bays were difficult to span with groin vaults, the groin vaulting was used in the square nave bays and the side aisles were covered with a quarter-circle barrel vault. It is possible that the original nave project was abandoned because there was greater confidence that they would be able to vault a wider nave. It is equally probable that the monks realized that their bay divisions with square nave bays was unsuitable for a barrel vault.

Chapaize (Saone-et-Loire), former priory church Saint-Martin. Around 1030, nave wall

Chapaize (Saone-et-Loire), former priory church Saint-Martin. Around 1030, nave wall

This experience was to benefit the small church of Saint-Martin in Chapaize, a priory which was independent of Tournus (photos, p. 123 below). The ground plan and shape of the piers, as well as the dimensions of Saint-Martin, are virtually identical to those of the narthex of Tournus. The bays on the other hand are so constructed that they form transverse rectangles in the nave and squares in the side aisles. This means that the powerful piers stand closer together. The elevation is of two storeys: arcades, pointed vaults with small windows which pierce the barrel vault, and groin vaulting in the side aisles. Semi-circular responds over round piers articulate the upper wall and carry the transverse arches. In the twelfth century the original round barrel collapsed (the upper walls are still remarkably slanting even now) and was replaced with the pointed barrel still existing today. The transept is as low as the side aisles and three apses, the central one of which is larger, form the choir. Saint-Martin is also articulated on the exterior by round-arched friezes, and the high crossing tower with two bell storeys, one over the other, is visible from a great distance. In Saint-Martin in Chapaize, built around 1030, shortly after the narthex ground floor at Tournus, there is a clear sense of the greatness and influence of a Cluniac church of the eleventh century. Today it stands empty, except for simple rows of benches and a small altar.

Chapaize (Saone-et-Loire), former priory church Saint-Martin. Around 1030.

Chapaize (Saone-et-Loire), former priory church Saint-Martin. Around 1030.

The pretty little church of St. Peter and Paul also has dimensions incredibly similar to those of Cluny II and the Tournus narthex. This church is to be found in the upper reaches of the small river Nozon, in the area of Burgundy now in Switzerland.
Gregory of Tours reported that St. Romanus and his brother, Lupicinus, had founded a small monastery which after an eventful history was made over in a will to Cluny in 928. It was not until a century later, after two smaller preliminary constructions, that a new building was constructed in Romainmotier under Abbot Odio of Cluny. With its nave and two side aisles with round piers under round-arched arcades, it echoes Tournus and Chapaize, and probably more directly Cluny II. One example of an advance in Romanesque architecture is the broad supporting pieces in the arcades. The aisles support barrel vaulting which is pierced on both sides by lunettes, whilst the nave has been rib-vaulted since the late thirteenth century. The lower transept, projecting only slightly, still has the original vaulting. This explains the features on the upper wall, where there are traces of the arches which used to spring from the still existing small corbels. It is apparent that there was a desire to avoid windows which pierced the barrel vaults, and so the high windows in the transept are placed beneath broad curved undersurfaces which spring from small corbels on the upper wall and pierce the round barrel. These arches at the same time reduce the radius of the barrel by at least a yard. Deep barrel forebays, connected by two colonnades, were situated in front of the semicircular apses. The latter were altered in the Gothic age and their original forms are only just recognizable. The articulation of the exterior is typical of the first half of the eleventh century with its blind-arched friezes between flat lesenes and a beautiful crossing tower with two storeys. The double-storeyed narthex with its nave and two aisles with cruciform piers and groin vaulting over supporting beams in both nave and aisles dates from around 1100. The upper storey has round piers with sculptured imposts. The ground floor has groin vaulting throughout, and in the eastern part there is a small semi-circular recess which extends into the nave.

Tournus (Saone-et-Loire), former abbey church Saint-Philibert. After 1020. Nave looking east

Tournus (Saone-et-Loire), former abbey church Saint-Philibert. After 1020. Nave looking east

Around 1050 the monks of Saint-Philibert in Tournus had modernized and vaulted their old nave (photos, p. 125). The nave was wider than originally envisaged when it was constructed between 1020 and 1030, making the bays square. Narrow and very steep round arches spring from strong round piers. The ceiling is a round barrel vault with small windows at its base. As in Chapaize, engaged columns are fitted to the wall above the imposts of the piers, which supported the transverse barrel arches, in alternately laid bricks.The side aisles were groin-vaulted with the inner cells towards the nave slightly sloping in order to support the barrel vault. The nave has not survived in this form as the barrel vault collapsed very soon after its construction. Around 1070/80 the collapsed transverse arches were renewed or replaced without alternately laid bricks (the old arches are therefore still recognizable) and the nave was covered as a temporary measure with transverse barrel vaults. The impression of space which resulted is extremely unusual, and must have seemed so even to contemporaries. Although the nave is certainly significantly brighter, as the transverse barrel vaults are pierced by large windows, nevertheless the continuity of the space, the even progression of identical sections along the nave, is significantly interrupted. Despite all the different attempts to explain them, the transverse barrel vaults at Tournus can really only be seen as a solution to a particular problem. They found no imitations elsewhere.

Paray-le-Mondial (Saone-et-Loire), former monastery church of Notre- Dame. First half of eleventh century. Nave and choir

Paray-le-Mondial (Saone-et-Loire), former monastery church of Notre- Dame. First half of eleventh century. Nave and choir

Between 1040 and 1050, contemporary with the first nave vaulting at Tournus, another large church was built in this mould; the second abbey church at Payerne (figure, left). Odilo of Cluny cited Adelheid, the daughter of Rudolf II of Burgundy, as the founder of this tenth century abbey. In her second marriage she married Emperor Otto the Great and since 991 had been the regent for her grandson Otto III who was not yet of age. It cannot be discounted that it was her parents who founded the abbey, for the grave of Adelheid’s mother Bertha was at Payerne, where one of the monks’ duties was to pray for the salvation of her soul. The new imperial monastery was subordinate to Cluny. The whole royal family of Burgundy, which spanned the Jura mountains, had long had close ties to Cluny. The change in plan must have happened quickly. A westblock with one bay was erected with the Michael chapel in the upper storey, and the old tenth-century nave was enclosed. For this reason the north and south walls of the nave do not follow the axis of the building. The square nave piers were then constructed, and powerful projecting columns added. Stepped responds in the side aisles echo these projecting columns. Initially the crossing was planned for the sixth bay, but finally it was built in the seventh. The final stage of the building was the square crossing and the high projecting transept with its chevet of five chapels. All the previous examples of this type of elevation discussed either collapsed or were modified. This is therefore the oldest preserved example of the barrel vault above high, slender arcades and windows which pierce the foot of the vault. As at Tournus, the barrel vault has transverse arches. The exterior is reminiscent in its articulation and decoration of the other churches discussed, but has been modified by later additions.
For the first time a consistent rhythm has been achieved in the nave which, together with the smooth transition from the responds to the transverse arches, foreshadows the Gothic style.
The models for the third church at Cluny
The nave of Tournus and the abbey church of Payerne had long since been planned and completed when Hugo of Semur ascended the abbot’s throne at Cluny in 1049. His new church of Sainte-Croix-Notre-Dame at La Charite-sur-Loire was inspired by Cluny priory, but is nevertheless very much a product of its own age (photos, p. 126).
In 1056 the Duke of Nievre founded a monastery which lay in a very favorable position on the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela. Documents from 1107 and 1135 have survived referring to a first church in the style of Cluny II and a modification in the style of Cluny III. The only parts surviving from the Middle Ages are the transept (today with pointed barrel vaults above a clerestory) with its squinch cupola, the four outer apses of the chevet (which originally had seven), an ambulatory with chapels and a west tower. If one knows those buildings which were constructed under Cluniac influence during the eleventh century and one is also aware of Hugo’s ideas for Cluny III, these few remaining parts are sufficient to imagine the original church.
In line with the customs of the time, a chevet with seven chapels was erected initially. As in Payerne, there were colonnades in the forechoir, a two-storey clerestory in the main apse, and the narrow, steep transept with windows high up under the barrel vault. Without doubt, the second church of Cluny was the inspiration for La Charite. The ground plan of the nave, probably with four aisles, extended westwards with ten bays. With its size it is clearly recognizable as the immediate forerunner of Cluny III. Similar to Cluny III, La Charite must have had a three-storey elevation right from the outset, consisting of arcades, blind triforium and clerestory; it is not, as was mistakenly assumed, the result of a reconstruction in the first half of the twelfth century referred to in the consecration document of 1135. It is surely unlikely that such a recently constructed building would be rebuilt from the foundation walls upwards.

La-Charite-sur-Loire (Nievre), former priory church Sainte-Croix-Notre- Dame. 1056-1107.

La-Charite-sur-Loire (Nievre), former priory church Sainte-Croix-Notre- Dame. 1056-1107.

It has often been asked why, in contrast to other abbots and bishops, Abbot Hugo did not start the construction of the new church until he had been in office for forty years. Apparently he wanted to test out the architectural concepts for his great and ambitious new project, and, as we shall see, in several places at once, before he finally felt able to show his contemporaries the greatest and most perfect building in Christendom. In La Charite after 1107 it was only the three central apses which were replaced by an ambulatory and side chapels and consecrated in 1135.
In Nievre, not far from La Charite, the building of the abbey church of Saint-Etienne (figure, above) started in 1063 and the consecration took place in 1097. Nievre was also a significant station on the pilgrims’ route to Santiago and was also a priory of Cluny. It is therefore no surprise that the building constructed in Nievre differed from the traditional type of Cluny II. A nave and two side aisles with six bays is attached to a projecting transept with a square crossing, a semi-circular apse on each side and an ambulatory with three chapels.
One forebay is missing. The elevation once again has three storeys. Over the comparatively low arcades there are gallery arches of approximately equal height, into which large tympana are set, leaving only narrow openings. A small window with a steeply sloping sill in each bay forms the clerestory. Evidently they did not yet have great faith in their vaulting techniques. The piers are cross-shaped, but on each side of the square central part, engaged columns are fitted which in both the nave and the side aisles link up smoothly to the transverse arches and in the arcades to the supporting arches. Groin vaulting is used in the side aisles, whilst in the galleries there is quarter barrel vaulting which is supported by the nave walls. The transept wings are separated from each other by a strainer arch which is lower than the crossing arches. A set of five arches breaks through the wall above, a motif which is reminiscent of Carolingian buildings such as Germigny-des-Pres and one which was imitated and can still be seen today in the Romanesque transept of the cathedral of Saint-Cyr-et-Sainte- Juliette in Nievre. On each side of this strainer arch two rows of windows pierce the walls of the transepts. The choir also has three storeys, but the high galleries have been replaced by sigificantly lower blind arches. Colonnettes highlight the high windows.
The exterior is different to elsewhere. Whilst it is still true that the composition of the building is predominant, and that was to remain so for the whole of the high Middle Ages, it is not the only determining feature in a building. Small block friezes articulate the building horizontally and surround the round arches of the ever larger windows. A set of blind arches on short colonnettes, a dwarf gallery, decorates the high wall of the end of the choir, behind which is the vaulting. The crossing tower is low and octagonal, whilst both the west towers were destroyed in the French Revolution.

Nevers (Nievre), former abbey church of Sainte-Etienne. 1063-1097. Nave and choir

Nevers (Nievre), former abbey church of Sainte-Etienne. 1063-1097. Nave and choir

Although Nievre is an example of a perfect basilica with a clerestory, Abbot Hugo chose the elevation with the blind triforium, since he wanted a ceremonial, elegant architecture, and therefore a continuity of space which was not to be broken by too many strong contrasts of light and shadow. The wide galleries of Saint-Etienne were to be influential, on the other hand, in the churches along the pilgrims’ route to Santiago.
After vaulting had been successfully executed in 1097 in Nievre and by 1107 in La Charite, the monks of Tournus tried out this technique in the upper floor of the three-bayed narthex. The side aisles were completed with quarter barrel vaults as in Saint-Etienne, where there are two windows in each bay and a round barrel vault. The intermediate floor was dispensed with and the upper floor of the narthex may only have been built towards the end of the eleventh century. At the same time the construction of the two splendid west towers was completed. These rise above the high front and have become the symbol of the town.
Saint-Benoit had been founded in 651 and since around 672 had been in the possession of the relics of St. Benedict of Montecassino. These relics were amongst the noblest treasures in France in this period. Odo of Cluny (927-942) had reformed this monastery during the first half of the tenth century. An ambulatory with only two radial chapels and a deep forechoir bay was built over a crypt. This ambulatory is flanked by two chapels, each with an east apse and crowned by towers. In front of the long choir there is a projecting transept with two apses in the east wall. Above the square crossing is a dome resting on squinches. As at Saint-Etienne, the elevation of the choir has three storeys: arcades, blind triforium, windows framed by colonnettes and a round barrel vault. The ambulatory and side aisles of the long choir are also barrel vaulted. In its ground plan and elevation it strongly anticipated the choir of the third church at Cluny, which had been under construction since 1089. It is only the transverse arches under the barrel of the forechoir, which strongly articulate and give rhythm to the interior, and the absolute perfection of that concept that are still lacking here. For that reason there can be no doubt that it was not only the will of Abbot Guillaume that was instrumental here. Saint-Benoit is the third large building on which Hugo of Cluny was testing his architectural concepts. The result proves the viability of this method of procedure: all the details and motifs, all the shaping of the interior volume are to be found in the “test buildings.” Yet no other church even approaches the third church at Cluny in effect, perfection of execution, or consistency of conception.
The latter differs only slightly from the choir. The slope of the ground was compensated for by an area of wall between the arcades and blind triforium, which remained empty. Like the long choir barrel vaulting, the vaulting of the nave remained unarticulated and had only one transverse arch which was not complemented by any responds on the nave wall immediately below. The massive two-storey west end of the church is enormously impressive. On the ground floor there is a hall opening in three directions with nine bays and massive piers supporting groin vaults. The church is above all famous for its capitals and small reliefs on the exterior. The upper floor is similarly articulated, but is closed and has three apses sunk into the east wall.

Romanesque architecture in France

Paray-le-Mondial (Saone-et-Loire), former monastery church of Notre- Dame. First half of eleventh century. View of exterior from north-east

There was a nave and four aisles (total length 614 feet, length to transept 242 feet, transept 237 feet, height of nave 97 feet, width of nave 49 feet), eleven bays, a transept with the same width as the nave and with two eastern apses to each arm, a long choir, also with four aisles, and an ambulatory with five radiating chapels, which was flanked by a second lower transept, also with two eastern apses to each arm. We know what the church must have looked like from extensive excavations, a large number of picture sources and, not least, from both the churches that anticipated it and the churches that were to emulate it subsequently. The details, however, are still very much a matter of debate.
The elevation of the nave had three storeys: slim arcades with pointed arches, a blind triforium with three arches in each bay, and a clerestory with a similar pattern. In the case of the latter, the arcades formed the frame for the arches of the outer aisles and for the windows of the inner aisles. Recessed piers with semi-circular or fluted responds supported the transverse arches of the pointed tunnel vault and articulated the interior volume evenly and harmoniously. The square crossing was crowned by a small blind gallery with a cupola. This in turn was surmounted by a square crossing tower. The steep transverse arms, which extend over nine bays, were each surmounted in the second and eighth bays by two towers over domes on squinches. The elevation of the two outer bays was similar to that of the nave. Only the tower of the southern transept and the adjoining southerly bay escaped demolition (figures, p. 128). Towards the east, and adjoining the first transept, were two choir bays which repeated the pattern of the nave elevation. Adjoining this in turn was the second transept with another square crossing and a further octagonal tower above a dome resting on squinches. In the second transept it was only the central three bays which were as high as the nave or the large transept. The two adjoining bays on either side were low and must have had the appearance of chapels. The eastern termination of the church was formed by a further bay with the same elevation as the nave and the ambulatory, and with an annular barrel vault and lunettes. Only flat fluted responds decorated the wall between the arcades and the clerestory and there was no blind triforium.

Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire (Loiret), former abbey church Saint-Benoit. Columns of narthex

Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire (Loiret), former abbey church Saint-Benoit. Columns of narthex

This church could therefore be divided into two zones: on the one hand, the nave which bordered on the gigantic, but which was clearly structured, and on the other hand, the eastern parts with their incredibly complex juxtaposition of a whole variety of spaces and structures. It was, of course, the eastern parts which were reserved for the use of the monks. Both zones were held together conceptually by the uniform elevation throughout.
The decoration must have been of a truly magnificent splendor. Apart from the utterly beautiful capitals, which everywhere attracted the eye, all the arches, windows and cornices were surrounded by sculptured ornamental strips and all the responds were fluted. In addition there would certainly have been murals, carpets, colouring of all the architecture, huge radial chandeliers which shed a mystic light, figures of saints, incense, golden liturgical vestments, and gleaming golden or silver ornaments set with precious stones. Above all there was the singing which must have been such an essential part of the liturgy, even at the time of Cluny II, but certainly during Cluny III.
It is necessary to have some idea of how the people lived in the early and late Middle Ages in order to understand the intoxicating effect of such a multi-faceted work of art which would have appealed to all the human senses. Light and warmth only came from the sun, as firewood and candles were expensive and only available to the few. Music was unknown, save for the shepherd’s flute and the simplest songs, and pictures of any kind only existed in monasteries. Colorful clothing was not permitted to the ordinary people, and their living quarters were dark and gloomy. Not even the lower nobility on their country estates lived a much more privileged or comfortable way of life. It is therefore not surprising that the faithful saw in Cluny an image of the heavenly Jerusalem, and considered it all to be a miracle.

Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire (Loiret), former abbey church Saint-Benoit. Around 1070-mid twelfth century, western view of narthex

Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire (Loiret), former abbey church Saint-Benoit. Around 1070-mid twelfth century, western view of narthex

No secular building of the period could even bear comparison with Cluny. On the one hand, secular rulers were constantly obliged to invest large sums of money in soldiers and military equipment, and on the other hand, the Church forbade the faithful from accumulating wealth or splendor. As a result, large and generous donations were made to the Church and monasteries.
The third church at Cluny, much as it impressed its contemporaries, was not emulated by many. One reason for this was the founding of the Cistercian Order which scorned pomp and ornamentation and returned to simplicity and work. Another reason was that although the question of barrel vaulting had been solved and the form perfected, the future belonged to the rib vault and the Gothic style. Already before the consecration of Cluny III, the perfect sexpartite vault had been built in Caen, and between 1140 and 1144 Abbot Suger in Saint-Denis erected the first Gothic building. Nevertheless, with its strict structuring of all the parts and with its constant repetition of the basic unit of measure, the third monastery church at Cluny already possessed one of the essential properties of the Gothic.

Anzy-le-Duc (Saone-et-Loire), Sainte-Croix-et-Sainte-Marie. 2nd half of eleventh to early twelfth century, nave wall

Anzy-le-Duc (Saone-et-Loire), Sainte-Croix-et-Sainte-Marie. 2nd half of eleventh to early twelfth century, nave wall

Anzy-le-Duc (Saone-et-Loire), Sainte-Croix-et-Sainte-Marie. 2nd half of eleventh to early twelfth century. Nave with crossing tower

Anzy-le-Duc (Saone-et-Loire), Sainte-Croix-et-Sainte-Marie. 2nd half of eleventh to early twelfth century. Nave with crossing tower

Cluny (Saone-et-Loire), former monastery church Saint-Pierre-et-Paul (Cluny III). 1089-1131 Southern transept

Cluny (Saone-et-Loire), former monastery church Saint-Pierre-et-Paul (Cluny III). 1089-1131 Southern transept

Cluny (Saone-et-Loire), former monastery church

Cluny (Saone-et-Loire), former monastery church

Ground plan of whole site, reconstruction of its state around 1150 A Monastery church В Lady chapel С Infirmary D Refectory E Pantry F Palace court G,H,I Hospices and stables К Novitiate L Cemetery chapel M Extension to dormitory (?) N Abbot’s chapel 1 Old church la Old Galilee 2 Chapter house 3 Parlour 4 Camera 5 Dormitory above 6 Latrines 8 Calefactory 11 Well 12 Monks’ kitchen 13 Lay kitchen 14 Cellar 15 Room of the almoner 19 Cemetery 32 Bakery 36 Guesthouse for women 37 Guesthouse for men 41 Stable and store house 42 Latrines

Ground plan of whole site, reconstruction of its state around 1150
A Monastery church
В Lady chapel
С Infirmary
D Refectory
E Pantry
F Palace court G,H,I Hospices and stables
К Novitiate
L Cemetery chapel
M Extension to dormitory (?)
N Abbot’s chapel
1 Old church la Old Galilee
2 Chapter house
3 Parlour
4 Camera
5 Dormitory above
6 Latrines
8 Calefactory
11 Well
12 Monks’ kitchen
13 Lay kitchen
14 Cellar
15 Room of the almoner
19 Cemetery
32 Bakery
36 Guesthouse for women
37 Guesthouse for men
41 Stable and store house
42 Latrines

Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire (Loiret), former abbey church Saint-Benoit. Choir

Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire (Loiret), former abbey church Saint-Benoit. Choir