Archaeological Journal/Volume 1/Notices of New Publications: Collection of Architectural Ornaments of the Middle Ages

Collection of Architectural Ornaments of the Middle Ages in the Byzantine and Gothic styles. By Charles Heideloff, Architect, and Professor of the Polytechnic School of Nuremberg, Germany. With 64 Plates. London, Hering and Remington, 1844. 4to.

This is a valuable work, deserving to be better known, and the English translation of the letter-press, which now accompanies the plates, will greatly facilitate this object. It is desirable that English architects should make themselves acquainted with the foreign varieties of Gothic architecture, although it is seldom to be wished that they should imitate them: to architectural amateurs the comparison is so extremely interesting, that there is little fear of their neglecting any opportunities for investigating it. The work consists of a series of examples of capitals and other details of Byzantine and German architecture, corresponding to our Norman and Gothic, carefully drawn and well engraved at Nuremberg, where it was originally published in eight parts: the chief objection to the work, in its present form, is that this arrangement is still adhered to, instead of a chronological or systematic one of some kind, which would be much more convenient: the continual jump from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, and back again, is rather puzzling, especially for students.

The subject which this work naturally brings before the mind of an English antiquary or amateur of Gothic Architecture, is the comparative chronology of this style in England and in Germany; and here he will find on commencing, the same stumbling-block as in most other foreign works on the subject; the dates assigned to particular specimens are very inconsistent and unsatisfactory: in general, though by no means always, they assign dates about a century earlier than we should affix to similar buildings in England, after making allowance for the variation of style, or rather of the ornament and mode of working in each successive style, which might naturally be expected between one country and another; the same in kind, only greater in degree, as the provincialism which is so strongly marked between the different parts of the same country. Whether these authors are right in assuming this priority of date, may fairly admit of question, and it will generally be observed that those amongst them who have most carefully investigated the subject, have been the most ready to abandon the claim as untenable, and to acquiesce in the chronology adopted by the English authorities since the time of Rickman, as the most consistent with reason, and with ascertained facts: for instance, M. De Lassaulx in Germany, and M. De Caumont in France, in their recent works have adopted the English chronology, or have arrived at the same results.

So far as the work before us affords evidence, it is remarkable that in almost every instance in which an ascertained date is mentioned, it agrees with the received English chronology. For instance, the chapel of the Klostre Heilbronn, founded in 1135, (I. 4; and VII. 3, 4.); Walderich's chapel at Murrhard, the work of Abbot Herbot in 1180, (III. 1—3: and V. 1 — 3); Holy Rood monastery at Vienna, founded in 1134, (IV. 1); S. Michael's Schwabischall, built by Gebhard,
S. Walderich's, Murrhard. A.D 1180
bishop of Wurzburg, in 1156. All these agree perfectly in style with English buildings of the same periods, and although there is a marked national character, they would naturally be assigned to the twelfth century by any person acquainted with the general history of architecture, but ignorant of these particular examples.

On the other hand it seems impossible to reconcile these with the other examples of the same style given in this work to which such very different dates are assigned: without any apparent difference of style, we have several referred to the beginning of the eleventh century, and others to the eighth. The only ground for these strange vagaries appearing to be that the monasteries were founded at those periods; this very obvious mistake has been continually made, and is still persevered in to an extraordinary extent. The date of the foundation of an abbey or of a church is satisfactory evidence that no portion of it is earlier than that time, but none whatever that it is not later; it is at least as probable that in the course of ages every vestige of the original buildings of a religious establishment, which has greatly increased in wealth at a subsequent period, should have disappeared amidst repairs, restorations, rebuilding, and enlargement, without any distinct record of the fact, than that any given building was erected at a remote date in a style earlier by some centuries than that generally in use at the period.

The numerous buildings assigned to Charlemagne are in so many different styles of masonry as well as sculpture, that it is impossible they can all be of the same period: one of the best authenticated appears to be the portico or gatehouse of the abbey of Lorsch, in the Bergstrasse, engraved by Moller; the style of this is very late and debased Roman, such as we might expect to find at that period, before the arts of the Romans were quite lost: the addition of a staircase at one end of this building, in rude and clumsy Norman work, concealing part of the Roman cornice, was probably made in the eleventh century, and serves to confirm the impression that the rest is a genuine piece of work of the time of Charlemagne. If this is correct, then the Kaiserberg, (VI. 1, 2,) to which the same date is assigned, must have been rebuilt in the thirteenth century, the period to which the ornament clearly belongs.

Bamberg cathedral, founded in 1004, and the original building completed in 1012, may be considered as a more doubtful case. The style of that obscure period is not easily ascertained: it is possible that the same style continued in use for two centuries from this period to the end of the twelfth, but it seems hardly probable that ornaments so nearly identical as those at Bamberg and others, here engraved side by side with them, acknowledged to belong to the latter period, can be the work of the same age. The trefoil arch (I. 4) is found abundantly in the churches on the Rhine, in the rich Romanesque or Byzantinesque, which M. de Lassaulx has convincingly shewn to belong to the very end of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth century; and all the ornaments here engraved from Bamberg appear to be of later character than those found in the interesting church of Schwartz-Rheindorf, opposite Bonn, which is recorded in a cotemporary inscription behind the Altar to have been commenced in 1148 and consecrated in 1151.

In England it is pretty clear, from a variety of evidence, that the masonry of the early part of the eleventh century was so bad that such buildings as were erected of stone at that period would scarcely stand above sixty years; and the more usual material for buildings of all kinds was wood: even quite at the end of that century the works of Lanfranc at Canterbury, of Remigius at Lincoln, and of Gundulph in the white tower, London, are still extremely rude, and the joints of the masonry wide enough to admit two fingers, while the principal part of the ornament is cut with the hatchet. Some parts, such as the capitals at Canterbury, cut with the chisel, have evidently been worked at a subsequent period, some of the caps being still left half finished, and others not even commenced, but left ready for carving. In Germany the state of the arts, both of masonry and sculpture in stone, may have been much more advanced, but no satisfactory evidence of this has yet been produced.

St. Sebald's, at Nuremberg, is assumed to be of the eleventh century, from its resemblance to Bamberg, having no records of its own: it bears an equally close resemblance to the other examples before mentioned as undoubtedly of the twelfth century, and this date would appear far more probable.

Subsequently to this period the dates appear to be all well authenticated, and the style to agree with what might be expected at those dates.

Of the thirteenth century we have a capital from Denkendorf, still Byzantine, (II. 2); two curious capitals from Lilienfeld, in Lower Austria, (IV. 1); a very beautiful piece of sculpture in relief of a knight and his betrothed, from the head of a doorway at Rotweil, in the Black Forest, (VI. 5); and a richly carved wooden chair, or throne, with the arms of king William of Holland, crowned in 1247, probably in this very chair; the ornament agrees with that period, and it is a highly interesting specimen of early oak carving.

Of the fourteenth century, M. Heideloff gives no specimens, unless perhaps some of the beautiful ironwork (II. 3, and III. 5) or the wooden panels (V. 8, and VI. 8) may be of that period.

Of the fifteenth century, however, he has numerous and beautiful examples of sculptured ornaments, both of stone and wood; some good and characteristic crockets, (I. 5, II. 5, and IV. 6).

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Crockeus from the Oratory at Urach A D 1472.

A very rich piece of sculpture in wood, said to have been the oratory of Count Eberhond, at Urach, in 1472, with various details of it on seven plates, (IV. 2—8); these are quite luxuriant, and in general appearance more like what in England would be called Decorated work, though the profiles of the mouldings would mark the fifteenth century here as well as there; nor was it unusual in England for the ornaments of wood-work of that period to resemble at first sight the style of the preceding century. In Germany, however, there is a boldness and vigour in the sculpture throughout this century which we do not find at home; witness the panel from a stall in St. George's, Tubingen (III. 6). Our Perpendicular style is peculiar to ourselves; the German work of the same period is much more free and bolder, and rather resembles the French Flamboyant, but still has a distinct national character of its own. One marked peculiarity is the studied resemblance to twigs, or branches of trees, preserved in the tracery, with the continual recurrence of stumps as if cut off: this is very distinctly shewn in the specimen from Aix la Chapelle (VI. 4).

Of the ornaments of the sixteenth century, M. Heideloff also furnishes a number of beautiful specimens, but rather of furniture than of architecture; such as the stamped leather from the panels of a state carriage in 1555 (I. 6, 7), from a book-cover (II. 3). In wood-work there are also numerous and beautiful examples, from desks, stalls, &c.

Altogether this work is a fit companion for Mr. Shaw's Specimens and other beautiful works. The coloured door which forms the frontispiece is an excellent example of the rich effect of Polychrome. i. h. p.