Only two graphic documents survive to tell us about architectural design in the Romanesque period of church architecture: the 9th-century plan for the monastic complex at St.-Gall and the 13th-century sketchbook/portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt. The sketchbook comprises 33 leaves in various bound booklets gathered together in a leather binding. Villard left about 250 drawings of architecture, sculpture, nature, and technology along with comments about almost all of them. The portfolio describes what Villard saw but offers us very little description of Villard himself.
A facsimile of a study of the Sketchbook is available at:
Fortune sits at the center of six spokes,
the world at her feet as she turns the wheel.
On her right, three figures ascend toward
power, imagining themselves destined to be
sovereign, powerful, enthroned, seated
above Fortune, having conquered her.
On Fortune’s left, three figures fall from grace,
dragged under and around the wheel feet first,
useless scepter in hand, eventually crumpling
as the figure is ground under the wheel.
Seven figures, but only Fortune is anchored.
When the secular wheel of fortune blooms into
a cathedral rose window with petal-lobes around
an oculus, then, for purposes of faith, Fortune
may be replaced by Christ, who is also set
for the rising and falling of many.
22 verso and 23 recto
Dreams of spires touching the sky and canyon-
like naves and vaults that arch like the bowl
of the Genesis firmament were pipe dreams
until the incarnation of mechanics and technology
that allowed for the music and poetry of cathedrals.
A frame saw for cutting stone.
A saw that saws by itself.
A guide to attach spokes to a wheel
a wheel that uses a system
of pulleys to raise stone
high in the air.
Stone fulcrum and lever to raise
a sleeper beam until
the lever has reached
its highest potential
whereupon it is wedged up,
the fulcrum relocated,
and the process begins again.
It was not enough to create temples in the
imagination. Instead, imagine the cathedral,
then innovate until stone and wood
became levers and fulcrums and scaffolding
and wheels that could create stone walls
and wooden trussed roofs and round windows.
Without pulleys there would be no clerestories.
But there would be neither pulleys nor clerestories
without the intention to build to the glory of God.
27 verso and 29 recto
In worship, clergy and choir sit,
for prayer and chant
each in a separate
seat, a choir stall.
Side by side, habit by habit,
a row -- maybe rows -- of duplicate
vestments making indistinguishable
from the congregation
by the end of the row of stalls.
How much is that separation
worth to you?
Villard first sketched
Une legiere poupee
:easily made: facile, in fact.
An end for a row of stalls
outwardly curved wood with a swirl of leaves.
A tiny capital at the top
beneath a multilayered cornice.
Easy to make.
Easy to separate
Two leaves later and simple
une bone poupee.
A poppit – stall end – that is
bone, that is, bonne.
Not just good,
but :as good as possible:
Mirroring spirals swirl out --
no regard for straight wood grain.
Covered in leaves, the two swirls
touch and spring out: a fountain
of leaves with branches.
"Si vus volez bien ovrer
dune bone poupee a uns estaus
a cesti vus tenes."
:If you have occasion to make
an excellent poppit for stalls,
take this design:
Pay no mind to the cost
in money or in labour.
clergy and congregation
is worth any cost.
Variations on a theme:
hoops or circles
over two Gothic lancets
From the outside
too close to see them fly --
from the inside
are key --
How much lancet?
What size circle?
How many columns?
What is too narrow?
1:3 was golden:
height to width.
It is as if they stand --
three stalwarts --
backs entirely straight
feet shoulder-width apart
heads up eyes forward
one arm extended
touching the shoulder
of the one standing nearest
fingertips barely touching
that one’s shoulder
in order to keep adequate
distance between them.
it isn’t ‘as if’.
That is what they
Lynn Miller is a candidate for the MFA in Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. Her education and employment live at the intersection of art, faith, and education. She has served at various times in her life as a museum educator, a pastor, a freelance artist, and an art educator.
The Ekphrastic Review
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