BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Claude Howell, #159 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Claude Howell, #159
In this art history lecture from the Gwen Ward videotape collection, artist Claude Howell (1915 - 1997) discusses Romanesque and Gothic art with an audience assembled at St. John's Museum of Art in Wilmington.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Howell, Claude Interviewer:  Lecture Series Date of Interview:  n.d. Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes


[Please note: the audio quality of the source has degraded over the years, resulting in gaps in the following transcript.]

Claude Howell: Now I'll tell you what the next session will be. It's a continuation. We are coming with tonight with Romanesque which is really the end of the Middle Ages. And then we begin with Gothic. We only have one session with Gothic.

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: We will start with Gothic, which may seem strange to some of you, but I feel that the Renaissance begins in the Gothic world. It's the beginning of humanism and so the Renaissance is primarily humanistic. So then we will move to Italy and go through Italy first. We won't get through the Renaissance in the six sessions. We'll probably be several sessions on the Renaissance, because we have to go to Northern Europe. We have to do France, we have to do England, we have to do Spain down to the south, so it goes on forever. That, in turn, will become Mannerism and the Baroque period, which will probably be the next session. Then we get into the Age of Reason, the Age of Enlightenment. Then we get into the modern world. I don't know how long it's going to be.

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: I tried to figure it out, but every time I figure, it comes a little bit different. So I've just taken it a week or so in advance. The notes tonight are very, very sketchy, and they're not very long. Three pages. Well, you can get into ten or 12 pages, but the slides are astronomical. They just go on forever. So I feel I'd better not talk too much tonight, because I want you to see the slides. The period that we're going to talk about tonight goes from around the year 1000 up through the 12th century, into sometimes 1200 or 1300. It's a strange thing. I don't know what it is, but whenever I go into a museum, anywhere in the world, I always make a beeline for the same thing. Really knocks me over. Throws me up. And then I read the labels. Invariably it says, "the 12th century." Now that's not just in Europe. That is in Asia too. The Buddhas that I like come from the 12th century. Well, I began to wonder why, and it's not too strange, because Alexander the Great took Greek sculpture into India. It influenced Buddhism. They developed pretty much in the same timeframe as Western Europe, and they reached practically the same conclusions in the 12 century. And of course, it goes to Japan. Then, it's interesting, but, Alexander the Great, he brought Greek sculpture, Greek art, to India, from ___________. It went to China. The Chinese monks carried it over the Himalayas into India. It went out to the east-- no, west, into Japan. Then, in the 19th century, we became, in the West, very influenced by Japanese prints, you know, Matisse, Van Gogh, all those people. And then the United States became influenced by Europe. It had gone completely around the world. It's absolutely amazing. So it proves that after all, there is one world. They say, "East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet." I don't believe in that. I think it's very much the same thing. The emphasis is on different things at different times. The East is generally more spiritual and mystical than the West. This accounts for the Byzantine mosaics that we saw in not only Istanbul, but in Italy as well. The European influence is generally from the northern invaders, who bring with them an emotional feeling. So we get distortion from the West, the Celts and the Goths and all those people. That is emotional distortion. That is not the same as an abstraction. The Byzantine people, the early Christians, did not distort, but they abstracted. They got the essence of something. They were trying to get the spirit of a person, not the physical feeling. So art becomes very mystical in the early Christian and Byzantine period. Well, we've gone through all of that. And now, last week and the week before, we were talking about the inroads from the north. Well, what do you get? You get France, which is influenced by Italy, by the Romans. It's also influenced by the invasions. And a result of all of this, we call Romanesque art. I think it's some of the greatest art that's ever been produced. And if you want to have a nice vacation, do what I did one time. I flew to Germany, bought a Mercedes and saved enough money to spend four months driving it through France-- not Germany, through France. And I zigzagged all the way. And every now and then, we'd say, "Oh, we've been on this road before," but we've gone across it in a different direction. We went to see every single Romanesque church that we could think of. I saw all the great Romanesque shrines, and believe me, they are all over the country of France. There is Romanesque architecture and Romanesque art in Italy. It's also in Germany, a lot of it in Germany. There is Romanesque architecture and stained glass in England, but the very best is in France. So, if you don't have too much time, you can just eliminate all the other countries and go to France. It's hard to eliminate places like Florence. It's hard to eliminate some of the wonderful early Romanesque towns in Germany. It's hard to eliminate a lot of the Norman churches in England. They have a great deal to offer, and we'll see tonight that there are slight differences between the art of these various parts of Europe. We're beginning now to have not a racial difference, but a nationalistic difference between England and France and Germany, and Spain and Italy. They all have slightly different things that they consider the most important, not to mention Scandinavia. Well, the world was supposed to end in the year 1000. Well, it didn't end, and so people were very thankful, and it was a tremendous spiritual reawakening in Europe. And because of this, they began to build churches. And practically every little crossroads in France has a Romanesque church. People used to get so mad at me because they would say Claude, you don't have to see every one of them, and I said, "Well I want to." And so I insisted and we did. They said, "If you've seen one, you've seen them all." I said, "No, you haven't. They all are slightly different". Now there are several big change that have taken place. We have gone through a period of Byzantine and other Christian churches. We saw magnificent mosaics, but most of the paintings and the art, the moveable art, was fairly small. Last week, we were in the Middle Ages, the size of most of the pages, or the illuminations that we looked at, were 10 by 12 inches, that big. There were not big decorations. Very few large frescos, almost no stained glass. Mosaics had fallen out of fashion. It wasn't until we came to Germany, and saw the Gero Crucifix, that we saw a life size piece of wooden sculpture. That was Antoni [ph?]. Now we're going to find that art is flourishing in life size figures all over the outside, as well as the interior of the churches. Of course, it switches, it's climaxing in Gothic, and Gothic is so full of sculpture, that it begins to annoy you, because everything has a figure going this way or that way or somewhere. The whole thing looks like a wedding cake. It's just overly decorated. In fact, at the end of the Gothic period, it's called Flamboyant Gothic, which couldn't be more horrible. It is so flamboyant, it is so busy. It is worse than any Victorian house in the city of Wilmington. There's hardly an inch that it's not overly decorated. Some of the details are magnificent, but taken as a whole, it destroys the wonderful, simple form of the Gothic cathedral. Now there's a big difference between a Greek temple and a Gothic church, or a Romanesque church. We refer to the Romanesque church, or the Gothic church as being like music. The Greek temple is not. Do any of you have an idea of what the difference is. When you look at the Parthenon you see the whole building in an instant. It is symmetrical. You know exactly what the back's going to look like. You don't see it, but you know what it's going to look like. So there is no passage of time. When you look at a Romanesque church, you have to walk around it. You have to go in it. It is constantly changing, and it's like a progression of time in a piece of music. That's the difference. We do not react to anything which takes time the way we do if we see it in a painting. If we walk into a museum and see a painting on the wall, we see it, right then in front of us. But if we go to one of the new shows where there is an event built in and things are happening, it takes time, and we don't react the same way. We are now beginning to get into the way that we react to contemporary art. This is the first time when the modern world is beginning to put in an appearance. Now I doubt it's the people who lived then would have got this at all. This is the age of the monastery. The monks are still terribly important. The Roman Catholic Church is the church. The Roman Catholic Church is also the patron. We haven't gotten into the age yet of kingdoms and monarchies and people, governments, who commission art. We are going to see a few fortifications, a few chateaux tonight, but mainly, we're going to see churches. This is where the major art form is. Now let's look at some of the slides. Before the 11th century, all the monastic orders were Benedictine. But then, in Fr- Italy, we had St. Francis, and we begin to get the Franciscan religion of order. And St. Dominic, and he started the Dominican order. These are supposed to be reforms within the Roman Catholic Church. The patronage remains pretty much the same. Also, this is the time when the church is an abbey church. Do you know the difference between an abbey church and cathedral? Well, an abbey church is generally in a province out in the country. It is a sanctuary, rural. But the cathedral is in the center of a community, or a city. And I'm always furious whenever I go to Paris, because they have torn down all the houses in front of Notre Dame, so you can see it better. They have destroyed the feeling of Notre Dame, because it should be like a mother hen, which a whole bunch of little villages, all the villages are all meeting of houses, clustered around the big one, which is the center of life. The market day is always on a Sunday, and you go into church and you pray and you worship. Then you come out and you drink and you buy and you sell. So it's all one part of living. All of this is reflected in the art of this general period. Now in France, when they were beginning to build all these new churches, they first looked around. What did they see? They saw a Roman ruins, mainly in the southern part of France. You have Nîmes, you have Arles, you have Roman aguinas, Roman temples, Roman theaters. They are all there. And so they began to use the same architectural motifs which the Romans used. So Romanesque really means "like Roman." That's what it means. But they weren't building Roman aguinas and they weren't building Roman baths or temples. They were building Christian churches. So the use was different. You had to have a place in a Christian church for a congregation. They had used the Basilica church in the early Christian period, with the high nave in the middle, the two lower side aisles. The Romanesque architects used the same plan, but the churches were larger. Always, the arches were rounded. We're going to see lots of photographs of these churches, where you will see a rounded arch, and then a pointed arch. You can rest assured that the pointed arch is Gothic; the rounded arch is Romanesque. Well, what happens in arches? If you start with a rounded arch, you go up to the center, and you keep on going, and then you come back. You come back to the floor. This did not suit the Christian religion. So after about 100 years, they were trying to rectify this. They put a point in the arch. Then you start over here, you start over here, and you go up, and you stay up there. A church spire, it goes up to a point. Try looking down a church steeple. You can't do it. You always psychologically go to the top of the church steeple. Height, the aspiration to get to heaven. That's what it's all about, and that's the reason for the Gothic cathedrals. The Romanesque church, the Romanesque cathedral, is much heavier, more solid, much darker, and because of this, you have frescos. In the Gothic cathedral, you have the arches, which support the roof. The walls are not necessary, therefore you have stained glass. This accounts for the great period of stained glass during the early Gothic period. Now not all of the structures were religious. This is in northern Europe, and northern France, very close to Germany, and it is a fortress chateau. Look at the location. Always, they're on top of a hill, or practically impregnable. This is enormous. It's probably two or two and a half city blocks long. It took us all day to walk through this structure. It's also a museum now inside. The very early structures had square towers. These had rounded towers. You can date a building by whether it's got round or square towers. Do you know why the towers became round? Well, they used battering rams, and they could knock down the corner of a square tower. There's no corner to knock down in a round tower, and so they began to build them round. In France, you got a lot of snow, and the roof is always very steep, very pointy. You find that the towers are for fortification. The living quarters are in the center part. Big court there. ______________. Are they in focus?

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: This should be very sharp. Is that better? All right. I'm going to tell you what this is. It's the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, which is southern France. For 100 years, there was a division of the popes, and some of them lived in Avignon, and some of them lived in Rome. Well, there were several different popes. The ones who were very religious built a very simple structure. The ones who were more worldly built a very grand and glowing structure. It is filled with marvelous frescos by Italian painters. We'll see one. The town is all around it, the town of Avignon. Notice that most of the arches have points, but very low points. They're not the lanky, tall, thin points that we associate with Gothic architecture yet. You'll see the crenellation at the top. This also was to withstand a siege. The cathedral is the tall tower on the left. You could spend a day going through this building, it's so big. And it has been beautifully restored. The last time I was there, a lot of it had been opened we- so that you could get into it, but you couldn't see it 20 years ago. A lot of crenellation was I thought [inaudible]. So I got a postcard that I bought when I was there the first time, and the crenellation wasn't there. Now it is. So France is doing a wonderful job in getting their buildings back to what they were. For a long time after the war, there was no money, because I saw it then. But now they have the know-how, the have the research and they have the money, and the buildings, frankly, are much better than these here. Now this is in Angers, which is out in the beginning of Brittany. The pattern on the ground, they're all flowers by the way. The French do such wonderful things with the landscape, architecture. This is a very early fortified chateau. There was a ______________ at a time ___________ and she wondering in all that beautiful garden. On the inside, are the most wonderful tapestries, some of the great tapestries in the world, the apocalyptic tapestry. The entire structure is practically a museum of very early art. Very gloomy. Notice how few windows there are. These are not religious structures. And this is one of my favorite temples. This is the fortress of Saint André, in Avignon, near that place, Avignon, which is right across the road from Avignon. Because now the popes was, and spanning the river, which is the Rhône River, between the Palace of the Popes and this building was the, "Sur le pont d'Avignon, on y danse, on y danse." Do you know that song? Have you heard all the words? I even heard it in Indonesia this summer. The bridge went between these two structures. It is a very simple, very massive. You can see the people down there. The top of the towers always come out, and there's a very good reason. You're throwing hot oil down through the opening, or you could shoot your bows and arrows, or whatever it was, at the end. This is the only entrance, this one door, which is practically impregnable. When you get in, there's a courtyard, mainly its massive walls. It's on the top of a high hill. You can see it from miles and miles. All these structures that we're seeing date from the 1100s, 1200s, and 1300s. I keep going to far. Excuse me. Now this is an earlier one. See the tower, the structure here? Squarish? You could knock that down. And in the center, this place call the donjons. And it's not dungeon. It's D-O-N-J-O-N. And it is the keep. It's the strong fortified section of the fortress. It's where people lived and it was also the last to fall in the event of an attack. Now these are big places, because all the farming and the people who worked and lived outside these walls, during an attack, they all would move inside, and everybody would live in there. So it became almost like the beginning of a town. And this is one of the most beautiful. Here the water acts in the same capacity as the mountain, the tall _________. This is Sully, S-U-L-L-Y. It's down on the Loire River, and that is probably the most beautiful tower of France. It's built not only with the wonderful later chateaux, but early chateaux like this, as well as the greatest of the Romanesque churches. I don't know what this is used for. We could not get in. There would be a drawbridge and on the other side, the only access is this. There are also swamps and all these watery ____________. And a wonderful garden outside where those trees are, a formal garden.

Q: How did they manage to build that? Is the water there?

Claude Howell: I doubt it very much. These are moats and they were dug, by hand too. And then they would divert the water from the stream into the moat. Often they would put fish in. Now we're getting into some of the various forms of Romanesque art before we get with churches. This is a reliquary. Now a reliquary might horrify some of us, but it has certainly caused a great deal of great art to be created/ This is the head of St Augustine, and St. Augustine's lanes are in them, the relics of St. Augustine. At the bottom, you have enamel on gold with precious gems. There are also precious gems at the base of the neck, and this is enamel and copper. It was almost ____________ in Spanish. You see, even in the painting, and in that sculpture, you'll find the influence of classical work. This is from southern France. The closer you get to Italy, the more classical input. The closer you get to the north, the more distorted emotional, elongated, attenuated figures come in. Here we have another reliquary, and this is Sainte Foy, F-O-Y. And her bones are in this. That is completely covered in precious stones, and it is gold on wood. But there's an awful lot of gold there. And it's about four feet high. It's big. It's in the treasury of the church or the cathedral at Conques, C-O-N-Q-U-E-S, which is a hill town in southern France, and one of the great churches in Christendom. This, of course, is the great treasure of that particular church. Notice that it's very early. You can tell, because there's no movement to it. It's frontal. The hands go straight out. Her head's perfectly straight.

Q: These are big.

Claude Howell: It was enormous.

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: Well, look how big the hand is, compared to the size of the figure. Realism or naturalism was never their concern. Then we get into some sculpture. And here, we've got the same frontality. The Christ is way too big, but look at the figure of the Christ Child and the Virgin. It's one solid tower. They never do anything to destroy the simplicity of the geometric shape. This is very much like some of the Byzantine paintings that we've seen. The folds in the cloth become beautiful abstract shapes. This is not a distortion as much as it is an abstraction. There is a wonderful feeling of serenity here, and of certainty. There never is any question, like we have in so much of our contemporary art. There's an assurance here, and they are certain of their faith. This is the Age of Faith that we're in now.

Q: Where is that?

Claude Howell: Where is it?

Q: Yes.

Claude Howell: It's now in the museum, and I'm not sure which museum it is. Roberta, could you pull that slide, so they can find out which museum it's in? It's upside down. I mean, the label will be upside down. There are quite a few of these--

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: One, just one. No, Cluny.

Q: And the date?

Claude Howell: It would be 12th century. Some of the greatest pieces of sculpture are either in the Cluny museum in Paris, or in the Louvre in Paris. There's very few of them are still in the church. The churches can't afford to keep them. A museum can pay something like $5 million or $10 million for one of these things, and the church cannot afford to house anything of that value.

Q: Can you go back, Claude? See if you can move it. Thank you.

Claude Howell: This is a similar one. You'll notice there is no crown on the head of the Virgin, and yet, she is still the mother of Christ. When we get to the later area, which is Gothic, the crown will be on her head, rather than on Christ's head.

Q: The proportions of the figure are very off.

Claude Howell: They're very strange.

Q: Looks just like a man.

(overlapping conversation)

Q: What is he holding?

Claude Howell: He's blessing. He's blessing them.

Q: With the other hand. What is in the other hand?

Claude Howell: Oh, the Bible.

Q: Oh, I couldn't see it.

Claude Howell: Now here's another type of sculpture. This is called a gisant. It's a French word, G-I-S-A-N-T. And what it really is, is a tombstone. It's over the coffin of the person. This happens to be Richard the Lionhearted, and that's where his tomb is. And it was not only carved, it was painted. It's in the abbey at Fontevraud, which is where Eleanor of Aquitaine retired to. Now Eleanor of Aquitaine if you ever ran into - she was by far the most fascinating woman who ever lived in history. She was the mother of kings, she was the wife of kings. She used to have affairs with kings. She was into every bit of intrigue for about, I would say, pretty close to 100 years. There are four of these lying on the floor in the abbey. There's Blanche of Castille, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionhearted, and I've forgotten who the fourth one is. But we will now see Eleanor. There she is. Typically Romanesque. Do you see the simplicity of the shape again? Never anything that protrudes. This is very close to archaic Greek art, not like the classical Greek art in Rome. When Katharine Hepburn played Eleanor, she went to the Abbaye de Fontevraud, and stayed there a long time. She tried to absorb the feel, so she could get into character. Now this is a figure from a tomb. This is not of the deceased. This is a standing figure, which is not a gisant. The gisant is a reclining figure. Look at this one, a simple column. But look at the feeling. You are beginning to get a little bit of the northern emotional quality in this. This is in Auqun, A-U-Q-U-N, and now in a museum. It came from the cathedral.

Q: Looks sort of oriental.

Q: Yes. Same. Do you know who he is?

Claude Howell: Yes, I think it's Jeremiah. Look at the folds in the cloth. How simple, but how expressive they are. Now you probably recognize this. This is done by ladies and it's a tapestry, embroidery, done by the ladies of Queen Matilda's court. I can't remember exactly how long it is. I think it's something like 130--

Q: 200.

Claude Howell: Two hundred and something?

Q: A hundred and eighty-seven feet. It's 19 inches wide.

Claude Howell: Yes. It tells you the complete history of the Norman Conquest. I read it's practically the only historical record of that particular time. So historians go crazy over this. But on top of that, it's a wonderfully expressive work of art. It unfolds and it constantly makes beautiful new designs as you unfold it. I have a book that in seven ha flipping pages. The pages are accordian and you can throw it on the floor, and the whole book becomes the tapestry. It's great. Then you get a whole different feeling from it. Look how stylized water is. Boats are stylized. People are stylized, but yet you know exactly what is going on. Now these great churches also needed a lot of church vessels, and this is the chalice. Gold, silver, precious stones. This is the chalice of Abbot Suger. Abbot Suger was responsible for the building of Saint Denis, which is now a suburb of Paris. It's maybe ten miles away. And the church at Saint Denis is considered by most art historians to be the first Gothic structure in the world, because they began to point the ribs, and make a lot of innovations. Saint Denis was the royal church of France. During the revolution they got in and just mixed up all the bones of all the French kings. A lot of the tombs are still around, but the bones are mixed. They're crazy ain't they? Now, you have a lot of stuff like this of bone parts seen from the passion. Nothing was too simple for them to use to turn it into a work of art. Notice we haven't seen a framed picture. And we won't. This is the cover for a book of out of in very.The crucifixion of the _______. It's about ten inches high which is a good size for a piece of [inaudible]. I look at this from the side, but they look like they're the same kind of bones to me. Now, we're getting to a painting. This is in the ax of the rounded ag-bone [ph?] at the end. And I think you can see that this comes from byzantine art, but there's a little bit more of a humanistic quality to it. The people are not quite so much spirits. They're a little bit more of flesh and blood here. Look how close in feeling the Madonna and child here is to the piece of sculpture we just saw. They carry through in every [inaudible]. Now, I like this one. You know why it is kind of vague. This is Catalan, C-A-T-A-L-A-N. Barcelona is really the headquarters for Catalan art. There's a marvelous museum, a Catalonian museum, in Barcelona filled with paintings like this. Sometimes they're frescos. Sometimes they're illumined manuscripts. The colors of Spanish that we still see today, you know, it's not too much different between these colors and colors you see in a poster advertisement in [inaudible]. It's that same soft and exuberant, mystical, fanatical quality that seems to come through in all of Spanish Art.

Q: What, are Catalonians in the news this year? The people of Catalan were in the news this year.

Claude Howell: I don't know.

Q: Yes, and it had something to do with the fact of how unique they are and how proud they are of their heritage.

Claude Howell: They are--

Q: And they won't connect themselves with Barcelona--

Claude Howell: With anything.

Q: Yeah.

Q: Is this a religious depiction?

Claude Howell: Yes, yes. It--

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: I don't know. I can't figure out what it is. I think a scene from the apocalypse. That's the only thing I can come up with. But they're demons. They're all marvelous. Look what is painted on top of, a checkerboard. See? This is some of the most exciting abstraction that you've ever seen. You just leave your mind thinking [inaudible]. And it's so contemporary feeling. Now, this is quite different. This is English. This is the Bible of varied saints and generally that's divided into two scenes on each page. This is small, about ten by twelve inches and it is refined. A wonderful feeling for nature. This is in the world. We didn't see very much in the Byzantine world that was in this world. You had no backgrounds. Here you have a blue sky. You have an indication of nature where it's a tree.

Q: Big down at the bottom.

Claude Howell: This is another one from that same Bible. Wonderful sense of composition always, and yet it is not animalistic. It is realistic, but not naturalistic. There's a big difference. You know what people are doing, but the colors are more of that flat color. Now, this reminds me of one of the Russian icons. It's the trend and undoubtedly it was influenced by someone who had seen byzantine art. It's an illumination. It's a manuscript. You can see where the little commas are painted. And a ceiling. They may have seen one of the mosaics, one of the ceilings with the angels, but they have turned this into something quite different.

Q: I like it.

Claude Howell: It's more pattern than anything else. Now, here we have Christ in the mandolin again. They love that shape. This is a fresco. And you see all those little white things? That's where they had attempted to restoring. Sometimes they nicked it over and over and over again. They're trying to take off an upper layer probably just over-painted with something else at one point. A lot of the early frescos are like that. It's a pity. Now we saw the Palace of the Popes. This is one of the few paintings that we've seen that has not been religious. This is a fishing. And here they have a fish pond. You see the fish in the pond and two men fishing. And this is in the quarters built by the afite [ph?] pope, not the religion pope. And it was painted by Simone Martini who was an Italian painter. He hired [inaudible]. It's in very bad shape, but it's one of the few actual landscapes that we have from this early period. Now, we haven't seen this. This is quite different. This is English. It's Charlevet enamel and it's a mixture of metal and enamel which is burned. I don't understand the process, but usually there are only two or three colors. Very abrupt changes from one area to another. Now, where do we have something that is in this that we see every day in the newspaper? We do the same thing. You see the words?

Q: Uh-huh, the balloons.

Claude Howell: The comic strips. This is where the comic strip comes from. It comes from the little line drawn where the people talk. This happens over and over again. They're writing angels speaking [inaudible]. It's the same thing. Now we're going to get into architecture. We will first go to a few other countries. This is English. We talked about English being horizontal rather than perpendicular and we mentioned the perpendicular style. You see all the little vertical panels? The feeling is horizontal, but it's divided up into hundreds of little panels. Also you don't get the two high towers on the western end of the English cathedrals. They generally are more towards the side.

Q: What cathedral is this?

Claude Howell: It's a Lincoln, I believe. Now, can you see where the bottom part of this building is Romanesque. The top of the tower is Gothic. This is English too. Now, look. There is no feeling of height here. You go up that curve. You come right back down to the floor. This means that the weight of the roof is held up by the arch which also means that you can have a glass window. Which doesn't. It's not a load bearing wall. It also gives a tremendous quality of lightness to the interior. I bet some of you have seen this. It's a chapel in the tower of London and it is pure Romanesque. Look at the absence of sculpture, of decoration. There's nothing like as much decoration in English architecture as in French. Also you don't have pews in a cathedral whether it's Romanesque or Gothic. Sometimes you don't have chairs. Now this is in Germany, and in Germany you have a number of steeples. This is the cathedral Speyer, S-P-E-Y-E-R. Often they will put this kind of like a blind arcade on the exterior. It's a panel built into the wall, but it acts as a decoration. Notice the steep roof in Germany. And I used to think they were crazy that they put one window at the bottom and three at the top, but it's to lighten the load of the wall as it goes up. That's why. This is the abbot's end of the church. At the front end, the west end, there would be two towers and the tower over the parsonage. I think this [inaudible]. This is Romanesque, but it's in Norway. And they built the stay churches out of wood.

Q: Now, why is that Romanesque?

Claude Howell: It came right during this one century, during he 11th century.

Q: But it certainly doesn't have the characteristics of Romanesque.

Claude Howell: No, and it has no characteristics of roman architecture. You see, this is almost purely Tutonain [ph?].

Q: And they're very mirror in the side. I mean, they're starting to [inaudible].

Claude Howell: Now we get to the classical world and this is probably the most complete cathedral complex that there is. This is Pisa and of course you see the leaning tower, then the baptistery filled with great art. Typical of Italian Romanesque are all these grand archaves on the exterior and the emphasis on the horizontal. Even the leaning tower of Pisa, the emphasis is on the horizontal rather than going up. I know that it's the most famous tower in the world because it's leaning, but it would probably be the most beautiful tower in the world even if it wasn't leaning. It is so good and portions are so wide. The baptistery we saw in Provence. That's where it came from, early Christianity. It simply was quite effectively a baptistery. There are the decorations. Here's another side of it. The tower is now the campanili and the dome is over the parsonage. Also typical of Italian Romanesque is the zebra striping of the strips of marble on the sides, and they're in color. The dark ones are green. By the way, at the top there's no railing to keep you from falling off. I did it one time, I'll never do it again. You can see where they-- it's been leaning a long, long time before it was finished and the top-- they tried to change the direction just a little bit. This is the Miniato in Florence. And there were brothers whose name was Cosmati, C-O-S-M-A-T-I, and they began working in colored patterns of marble. On the exterior of the buildings, on [inaudible] this is Cosmati work. Do you see there is a geometric design made out of colored marble. So what you are looking at here is a problem in geometry, very decorative.

Q: Are those actually doors?

Claude Howell: Yes, there are three doors there. it's typically a-- the Romanesque structure with the aisles on the nave, the two side aisles. There are columns down to separate the three. The opals at the far end. During the renaissance, it was covered in frescos, great paintings [inaudible]. Now, this is the baptistery in the city of Florence. This built in 1000s. and it's even earlier than the cathedral. What you see in the foreground in the right is the tower that Jotto designed, but here again you've got the geometric marble pattern. It's an octagonal building and, of course, the wonderful doors of paradise are right on that side of the building. And the entirety is covered with wonderful art, great mosaic scenes. If you're lucky enough to get in it-- the difficulty in Italy is you can't ever get in the church. It's closed either or a holiday or for lunch or for something, a feast day. We had planned to go in one day and I said, "Look the door is open," and we ran to in and we went in it because I was determined to get back in there and see that. Donatello's Mary Magdalene is one of the pieces of sculpture that's in this building. Now, we're in France and this was started very early about 600 or 700. It wasn't finished for several hundred years. It's Monza Michelle [ph?] and it's unbelievable. And if you start at the bottom and you climb to the top, you are worn out. The very top is gothic. You'll see where they had to add a lot of buttressing and walls to keep it up. It was built on the water, but then they kept adding and adding and adding to it. The time to go there is in the middle of the winter when there aren't any tourists. If you go in the summer it's just thousands, but go in the middle of winter. There's not a soul around and it's just like you've stepped back into the middle ages. There were two of us and we were absolutely alone as we walked up the tower [inaudible]. This is the interior of the chapel. You see that it's still Romanesque this far up it. Now, I want you to notice particularly the columns. The columns have breaks in them. Not many, but a few. When we get to the gothic cathedral, everything is going to go up, up, up, up. This has horizontalness. Here is a horizontal right here. That's a horizontal. That's a horizontal. That all is going to disappear and everything will be absolute perpendicular. Unbelievable. You see how heavy Romanesque can be? Not as heavy as it could be but it's solid. I'm going to go a little faster here. This is one of the great churches of Europe. It used to be the greatest church in Europe. It is the Madeline in Vesla [ph?]. Now, this is the first time we've seen a pilgrimage church. There was a legend, a French legend, about three Marys and when they didn't complain they weren't condemned to sail for seven more years on the sea. One of them was Mary Magdalene and somehow they got to Vesla and she died and her-- they found the remnants of her figure, her bones. And so this became-- they put it in a [inaudible]. This became so famous that Richard the Lionhearted started his crusade from the courtyard right here in front of this church. This was the major shrine in western Europe. Well, later on they discovered that they weren't really the bones of Mary Magdalene, so the church became forgotten. And because of this it was saved because nothing happened to it. And then they had an enterprising young priest, about 100 or so years ago, who re-found the bones of Mary Magdalene. And so now it has become a very popular place again. It's amazing what has happened. It is undoubtedly the most exciting structure in Europe. It really is. The temple. I'll show you what the temple is. It is this half circle right here. There're two of them. This is a reproduction. Veolator Duke [ph?], the great art historian, put that up about 150 years ago, but on the inside is the original and this is the greatest sculpture. And every capital in there is different and it's all very exciting. Notice there are no spires. They never got around to putting the spires. Notice the heavy buttresses. This is because this church is so large it had to accommodate hundreds of pilgrims. Here we have the interior and every one of these is absolutely a magnificent sculpture on both sides. On top of that you get the zebra striping of the stone. It's a pink and almost a pale white. But all those capitals broke the verne which this won't happen in gothic architecture. This is the wonderful temple of Christ in majesty; the saved on one side, the damned on the other. You are looking into the church through the door. This is one of the capitals. They'll tell a whole story just on one capital. Some of the heads are lost. No attempt here at good proportion. Now, this is conque where the reliquary that we saw of St. Florence is house now. This is pure Romanesque church still surrounded by the usual panels. This is the interior of that church. This is one of the styles there. Even though here's height, it's not the soaring spiritual height that you get in gothic. And this is the temple at Cannes. Sometimes the damned are very entertaining. Now this is Toulouse, and this is in southern France, and this too is a pilgrimage church. Therefore, it is gigantic. Pure Romanesque tower over the cross. This is from the apps end. There's another shot of it. This probably was better because, you see, this is the center part of the cathedral. This is the cross and this is the crontept. This is the cross. That's where the tall tower generally is in the early Romanesque church. And the interior. Now, this church has got several towers that they have the [inaudible] which we have even in the Roman buildings. Then they add another row of windows which is called the triflorian. It's even to let in more light. This is the front end. It's the apps end, the center, and the nave. This happened to have five instead of three of them. That's because it had to accommodate thousands of people. You know why Toulouse was such a great pilgrimage church? I was on the route from northern Europe to Spain, to St. James of Compostela which was the great shrine in northern Spain. And they would come to this church to stay a week or two on the way. All crusaders came. Now this gets very classical. This is in [inaudible] and you'll see that the figures on the side are almost like roman sculpture. Much more naturalist. Same shield and [inaudible]. And the cloister. Her again you have marvelous sculpture. This is where you get some of the great sculptures in the world in these cloisters. You can spend just a day in some of these churches examining all the different perspectives. And I love this, don't you? The flight into Egypt.

Q: [inaudible]

Claude Howell: And the next one. The dream of the Rise.

(overlapping conversation)

Claude Howell: That is a capital of one of these guys. Those two are two of my favorite pieces of sculpture. They're not only columns. They are in a little room at-- you find a broken down door at the end of the church. You find a broken down stairway and you go up into this room and there they are sitting on the floor.

Q: Is this still Oton? This is still an Oton?

Claude Howell: No, this is in Auton, A-U-T-U-N which you never would know [inaudible]. Now, we come to a different type of church. This is called a hall church because it doesn't have any criss cross in the ceiling between one column and another. It is just like a barrel vault. And because of that, this entire barrel vault is painted. This is [inaudible] and this is undoubtedly the greatest Romanesque painting in existence today. The last time I was there I was so disappointed. The entire ceiling was covered with a flatform. You couldn't see a thing. But years ago I went there, right by myself, in the rain, worse day than today, and I was sitting there by myself and a little boy came in with a candle and then the priest came in. And then before long the wedding party came in, the bride and the groom came in-- a wedding. And we followed them in the rain to the little inn where we were staying and we were invited to the reception and danced with the groom and bride. But I still had time to look at that ceiling. It is so exciting. Now, typical of a Romanesque church too is color. You know, we have gotten into the notion in recent years that churches should be very white. I think this is from the puritanical background that so many of us have. All these are bright red, blue, yellow, green, orange. They're sprite; they're zigzagged. Every inch is colored. And it's a wonderful interior. This is a detail from that ceiling. And this is another detail. It's in very bad shape. These were taken before they were restoring it. And I'm glad they were restoring it because it was badly needed it. These are two scenes from the apocalypse. But it's the entire history of the Old Testament and it's a gigantic painting. Now we find still a different type of Romanesque church. This is called a dome church of Acrycan. St. Mark's of Byzantine is even later than these, but this stems from the influence from the byzantine world. Look how many domes there are. One in the south, one over each end of the cross, one over the apps are half-domes. There's very little decoration in this church and the light on the insides is sort of a flat grey. I didn't particularly like the light in it, but the exciting thing are all the domes. There're five or six of the little churches. They all occur in Academia. The reason they occur there is because one of the crusades that had been in Constantinople ended up in this part of the world. They came back home and this is what they built. Now this is like a piece of lace. This is in Pointier and that entire facade is one piece of sculpture. I mean, lots of different stones, but the whole thing is carved. It used to be quite a wonderful quiet little town and this was in the middle of green grass. The last time I was there I just nearly died right across the street. The traffic was horrendous. It was just awful. But the building itself is still beautiful. Look at the painting on the commons here. This is inside that church. This is the exterior. It took about a day. Pure Romanesque. Now along the Loire River you will find a lot of beautiful small villages, maybe 2,000 or 3,000 at least. They have wonderful churches like this. This is San Benoit and then there's the [inaudible]. This is the absent because I think the perhaps it's more interesting than the front in many cases. This is the front, the west end, of Sens, S-E-N-S, with wonderful stained glass windows. You can see the beginning of gothic architecture here. It's very early. This is the interior. You see that instead of in hall church there's a crisscross between the columns? Now, out in the country on the road is a tiny little village called Tavant, T-A-V-A-N-T and the crypt is filled with paintings like this. And it's from the 11th century. It's so small that it's locked. It has a caretaker who lives down the street. You go to him, he'll lend you the key, you go and unlock the door and you carry a flashlight. It's very dark. And then this is what you see. It's worth it. Here you get a little of the feeling of the action. And here you get a lot of it.

Q: Is he asleep?

Claude Howell: This is Jeremiah. This is on the front door, the side of the front door at Meiotic [ph?]. There are several churches, Meiotic and Sutac, and they are about as distorted as you can get. Not extract. And look at this one. Isn't that the same? And look at that. Demons. Still realism coming from this, from the figures of these churches. I'm going to go very fast because it's about time to go. Look how large the heads are. I'm picking these because there were 5,000 others.

Q: Where's is that?

Claude Howell: They are all so good.

Q: Where is that?

Claude Howell: This is Praia Lemonia on the water. And that's the apps. Now, we're going to get into the glory of late Romanesque and early gothic architecture, and that's the stained glass. You'll notice that stained glass, as time goes on, gets worse and worse and worse until we have what we have today, which is awful. The picture is made of flat pieces of colored glass. Now, Tiffany was the one who messed things up. He started painting the pictures on the glass. And when you do, destroy the luminosity. Here the color [inaudible]. The blue and the red, when seen from a distance, are- look purple. Well, this is what influenced the impressionists and the classicists when they put a dot of blue and a dot of red and you saw purple, this same idea. They also realized that if you divide something with a black line it's going to be more intense. Marvelous windows. These are from the 12th century. Now we come, we began with what I said were probably the most incredible buildings in the world [inaudible] what is undoubtedly the most glorious building, Chartres Cathedral. I don't know what happened, but I can't stay in this building longer than five minutes because I dissolve into tears. I go outside even if it's raining and, you know, get a hold of myself and then I go back in. It started in the Romanesque era. This is a Romanesque style. That is gothic. See the difference? Look at the buttressing. It's a combination of architecture, stained glass, and sculpture. This is the interior of Chartres. See all the glass? Most of it is still intact.

Q: How do you spell the name of this?

Claude Howell: Chartres, C-H-A-R-T-R-E-S.

Q: How long did it take to build that?

Claude Howell: It was an amazingly rapid construction. It was about 20 or 30 years. There's an old wives' tale that says [coughs] excuse me-- that they took so long. Most of them were built pretty rapidly. They were added to over a period of 100 or more years, but actually the structure was close to done. You see they still hadn't gotten the perpendicular yet.

Q: [inaudible]

Q: Did they maybe ever clean the stained glass at all?

Claude Howell: They have worked on it. They don't want to take that nice patina off. They had worked on it though. This is the famous royal portrait. And you look at all the figures on the side, they probably are about 12 feet high. Look how long they are from the sides. There's great patience corroded on persistence. And the wonderful Christ in the mandola, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John around the figure of Christ. Many, many books have been written about the sculpture of this one building. [inaudible] The folds and coils are excellent. They don't hide, but they exist in their own way.

Q: Claude, what does Mandala mean?

Claude Howell: It's a--I can't get it. Anyway, it's a shape like this and faces in them. That is a mandola and it's a religious shape. So that's it means, Joe.

Q: Thank you very much.

Claude Howell: This is one of the windows. It is 42 feet wide. Now that's pretty big. And there're innumerable windows. It's not the real world when you go in. It's kind of like the [inaudible]. Gather closer. You see how little drawing there is? Did any of you happen to hear [inaudible], hear that wonderful lecture last year on stained glass? By the way, he has moved to Wilmington and he'll come here [inaudible]. He's probably the greatest stained glass person in the world today. He lives down in Wrightsville Beach. He's worked for 40-something years on the windows at the national cathedral. He's a hero [ph?]. Now, when you were looking at this one before, that whole area outside there, the crisscross, is purple. That's where you get the red and the blue merging. And this has been called by many people the most beautiful window in the world. It's the Virgin of the______. The virgin is a beautiful woman. Look where the crown is. And Christ of the passion [inaudible]. Notice how simple the drawing is. No shading, just a few lines. And that is it.


Claude Howell: I hope you all enjoyed that. I had a hard time talking.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign