Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Troyes, Champagne-Ardennes, France


Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Troyes, Champagne-Ardennes, France

Nave of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Troyes, Champagne-Ardennes, France.

     The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul is located in Troyes, a town in the Aube district of the Champagne-Ardennes region of France.  The town dates to the Roman occupation of Gaul.  The town grew up on the Seine River where a number of roads came together including the Via Agrippa.  At the end of the Roman Empire, the town went by the name of Tricassium, from which the name of Troyes was derived.  Apparently the town was the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop from the 4th century.  Several churches must have existed on the site of the present cathedral.  A Romanesque cathedral was significantly damaged by fire in 1188, but it must not have been completely destroyed because it was about 20 years later before the Gothic rebuilding began in approximately 1208.

     Money and politics seem to have played a significant part is the progress or lack thereof in the building of the church.  Thibaut III (also known as Theobold III), Count of Champagne, ruled from 1197 to 1201, his death.  He seems to have been instrumental in raising money and enthusiasm for the Fourth Crusade called by Pope Innocent III in 1198.  Money and debts accrued to pay for the crusades removed money that would have been available for building and rebuilding churches.  The lack of money impeded the economy of Champagne and left no money for patronage of major building projects such as the Cathedral.  After the death of Thibaut III, his wife, Blanche of Navarre, ruled as regent for 21 years since her son, Thibaut IV, was born shortly after his father's death.  The rule by Blanche of Navarre and the succession of her son, Thibaut or Theobold IV, was contested during almost the whole period of the regency.

     Given the chronic problem with money, the Troyes Cathedral was built incrementally. The east of the cathedral was built first including the choir, apse, radiating chapels and transepts. The hand of two master masons has be identified in the choir area built up to about 1220. Then the upper portions of the choir were built by a third master mason. Building was disrupted by two additional problems.  The first was a "whirlwind" that destroyed the upper portions of the choir in 1228.  Contemporary accounts say the church was destroyed, but subsequent rebuilding proved that there was major damage but not total destruction. 

     The following year, in 1229, a league of barons allied to King Louis VIII of France waged a war against the Count of Champagne, Thibaut IV (also known as King Theobold I of Navarre).  This conflict may have caused further damage to the newly rebuilt church or, at the very least, drained away even more money that could have been used for the construction and glazing of the cathedral. This war further depleted the economy of Champagne. The romantic version of the conflict explains the war as jealously over a supposed relationship between Thibaut IV and his cousin Blanche of Castile who was the widow of Louis VIII.  Blanche was a granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Thibaut IV was a great-grandson of Eleanor of Aquitaine.  The more likely conflict was money and the status of Jews living in Champagne. Champagne had a prosperous Jewish population.  Blanche of Navarre as regent had gained significant income from higher taxes imposed on the Jews in return for guarantees of safety.  This money then helped her finance the conflicts over succession of her son as Count of Champagne.  Once Thibaut IV became King of Navarre on the death of his uncle-in-law, his position politically and financially became too strong to assail.  He did have to buy-off other claimants to the rule of Champagne.
     Because of the step-wise completion of the Troyes Cathedral, construction apparently halted after the eastern half of the church was built for some years.  Construction of the remainder of the cathedral including nave and towers continued through the 16th century.

     The Tree of Jesse stained glass window was made in all likelihood for the eastern axial chapel of the Cathedral of Troyes during the first period of construction. The window seems to have been made in two periods, before the storm on 1228 and then after the storm of 1228.  The older glass is dated to about 1210, and the younger glass is dated to 1230-1240.  It  is possible that some of the glass was damaged during the collapse of the choir and took some time before repairs would have been put in place.  The reconstruction of the choir took precedence over continued glazing of the windows.  

     As noted in the earlier blog, the present Jesse Tree window at Troyes lacks the prophets usually found in Jesse Tree windows. The window is mostly a 19th century reconstruction that is located in a position of the north side of the choir in Bay 31 or window # nXVII.  The central Jesse Tree is white with white mandorlas with red accents surrounding the four kings, Jesse, Virgin Mary and Christ Jesus.

Jesse Tree window from Troyes Cathedral Bay 31. Jesse is reclining on his bed.  King David is playing a vielle.  King Solomon is writing in a book or playing a cithara.  Two generic kings of Judah hold scepters. Virgin Mary is holding a palm branch. Christ is enthroned with his right hand in blessing and holding a book, the Gospels.

Original 13th century glass in Jesse Tree window at Troyes as estimated by Professor Elizabeth Pastan.

     In the above image, Professor Elizabeth Pastan has drawn the putative original glass in the current mostly 19th century Jesse Tree window.  Parts of  Jesse, and Kings David and Solomon are original as is part of the generic king of Judah, the Virgin Mary and Christ Jesus in majesty.

     If art historians are correct that the Tree of Jesse window was located in the easternmost chapel of the Cathedral.   Apparently the window was removed in 1779 when a sculpture, Descent from The Cross, was installed in the chapel.  Further, some panes of what appeared to be Jesse Tree stained glass was noted among the broken glass found after the French Revolution.  According to written descriptions from the first half of the 19th century, some of the Jesse Tree panels appeared within other windows of the ambulatory chapels.  In 1869, the restored Jesse Tree window was returned to the choir, without the prophets.  The Victoria and Albert Museum acquired ten Jesse Tree prophet panels in 1881.
    As far back as 1958, the art historian Dr. Louis Grodecki noted that the prophet panels in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London "were of similar quality as that of the stained glass of Troyes."  Professor Pastan in her examination of the window at Troyes and the prophet panels in London, makes a solid argument that the Victoria and Albert museum panels are the missing panels from Troyes.  Her argument has four points: (1) the height of the Troyes' king panels and the height of the prophet panels are the same (2) the width of the original king panel plus two prophet panels fit the size of the axial chapel windows with space for leading and armatures, (3) the glass at the Victoria and Albert and the Cathedral of Troyes have similar pitting and aging, and (4) the palette of colors used in the prophet panels and the Troyes Cathedral Jesse window are the same.  The color palette is quite different from the 19th century restoration glass.
     Professor Pastan comments that there are some problems with her attribution.  There are differences in the styles and size of the prophet figures, between the prophet figures and the kings, differences in the handling of the cloth, drawing the hair, and the standing positions of the prophets (contrapposto positions). 

    Yet the relationship between the prophet panels is confirmed by the fact that two sets of the figures use the some cartoon but are mirror images.  These are Daniel and Aaron, and Abacus (Habakkuk) and Helpas (Helias or Isaiah).

Top of the Jesse Tree lancet window at Troyes Cathedral.  Detail of Christ Jesus and St. Mary holding a palm branch.

Generic king of Judah.  This is a 19th century replacement panel

Generic king of Judah.  Note that head is a different scale than the remainder of the body.  The head is a 19th century replacement.

King Solomon playing a cithara, a type of lyre.

King David bowing a waisted vielle.  Mostly 13th century glass.

Two panels of prophets from the Victoria and Albert.  Note that Aaron (top) and Daniel (bottom) are mirror images.  The Daniel is spelled backward, undoubtedly an error that occurred when the cartoon was reversed. 

Helpas or Helias, the Vulgate Latin for Isaiah (top) and Abacus or Habakkuk (bottom) are mirror images though it would appear that two different persons did the painting because of differences in handling of the material of the clothing, hands and other details in the panels.

Two unidentified prophets with similar, mirror image designs.  These prophets are not identified though the designs of the window and border are virtually identical to the other panels.  Again, it appears as though the figures are painted by two different persons because of the difference in details. 

Professor Pastan noted that Ezekiel, spelled EXECHYEL, in the stained glass panel, is stylistically similar to Daniel, Helpas (Helias or Isaiah), Habakkuk and Aaron.  There are enough differences though to suggest that they were made by different artisans and perhaps at somewhat different time periods.

Another two prophets that appear to be reversed cartoons.  The top prophet is unidentified and the bottom panel is Moise or Moses.

 Roboan is Rehoboam who was King of Judah and not a prophet (though the "prophet" part of the scroll is a repaired section).  Professor Pastan pointed out the fact that this panel appears to be most similar to King David and Solomon from the remaining Jesse tree  when  comparing size and style of the figure.  None of the other prophets are quite the same the Rehoboam.

      A reconstructed Jesse Tree might look a bit like the picture below if panels at the Victoria and Albert Museum could be married to the Jesse Tree panels at the Cathedral in Troyes.

I cannot say that I am very pleased with this effort.  So I will probably try again with the reconstruction.  So, if you come back again, you will probably see another picture.


Brad Lenz, Henrietta Miers, Crystal Terry, and Hanna Wiegers. "Troyes Cathedral: Stained Glass, God instructing Adam & Eve at the Tree of Knowledge. "<http://sites.duke.edu/medren290stainedglass/> (August 16, 2015)

Elizabeth C. Pastan. "Fit for a Count: The Twelfth-Century Stained Glass Panels from Troyes." Speculum, (Apr. 1989) 64: 338-372.

Elizabeth C. Pastan. "'And He Shall Gather Together the Dispersed' The Tree of Jesse at Troyes Cathedral." Gesta (1998) 37(2):232-239.

Charles T. Little, "Membra Disjecta: More Early Stained Glass from Troyes Cathedral, Gesta, (1981). 20(1) 119-39.

Stephen Murray, Building Troyes Cathedral: The Late Gothic Campaigns, (1987) Indianapolis: University of Indiana,  He also has a  very useful website: Mapping Gothic France.  <http://mappinggothic.org/>

Louis Grodecki. "De 1200 a 1260".in  Marcel Aubert, Le vitrail francais (1958) Paris: Editions 2 monde.

V & A: Search the collections

Painton Cowen, Therosewindow.com 
http://www.therosewindow.com/pilot/Troyes%20cathedral/images/w31-CAN_2209-11.JPG (Augsut 15, 17, 18, 2015).

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