The Benedictine Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants – A Guest Post by Jong-Soung Kimm


Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The Monastery was begun in 992 outside the walls of Girona when Ramón Borrell, count of Barcelona deeded to the monks the right over the property of Sant Pere. Borrell made further donation the following year to put the fledgling monastery on firmer footing. In 1117 Ramón Berenguer III of Barcelona merged the monastery with the Abbey of Sainte-Marie-de-Lagrasse in present day France, although Sant Pere kept its own abbot and a large degree of autonomy. Sant Pere was never a large community as it was not the parish church, and only baptisms were held at the church. The control of abbots over the monastery ceased in 1339 when King Pero III of Aragon made Girona a duchy of the kingdom of Aragon. It began to decline in importance in the 15th century, and was absorbed into other monasteries in 1592.

The Romanesque church that we see today dates from 1130. The western façade with a prominent, 3.5-meter diameter rose window and an unusual, squared top is thought to be a carryover from a previous church.

Western facade, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Western facade, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The church is built on the basilica plan of nave and two aisles, the crossing which is the same size as a typical bay, short north and south transepts, but with unusual deviations. The north transept has apses both on the east and the north faces, and a stair turret to the campanile; the south transept has two small apsidal chapels in tandem.

Plan, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Illustration by Jong-Soung Kimm

Plan, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona)

The nave is composed of four bays defined by substantial rectangular piers with semi-cylindrical pilasters with well-proportioned capitals, which in turn support sturdy transverse arches for the barrel vault.

Nave, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

A short bay to the east of the crossing framed by two pairs of columns with very delicate and elaborate capitals, precedes the chancel. These capitals for the chancel arch columns are thought to be the work of different artists than the stone carvers for the nave. Some of them have been attributed to the master of Cabestany. The chancel itself is laid out in a semi-circular plan divided into seven sectors, slender colonnettes separating each, and there are three windows on the curving chancel wall.

Chancel, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Chancel, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The oblique view looking up at the intersection of the nave vaulting and the chancel shows the oven vault for the chancel. The barrel vault continues over the crossing in the same direction as the nave, ending with a diaphragm wall with a quatrefoil oculus over the entry bay to the chancel.

Chancel entry bay, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Chancel entry bay, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The level difference between the nave floor and the chancel is much less than at some early Romanesque churches with crypts underneath, presumably because of the terrain sloping away toward the east. The nave floor is raised at the easternmost bay by one step, while another step raises the level of the crossing, and there are four steps to the level of the entry bay to the chancel. Finally, one additional step completes the gentle ascent to the chancel floor. The view from the north aisle toward the southeast illuminates the pure geometry of the nave arcades well, and also shows that each pier is set on a cross shape base.

Nave piers, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave piers, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The nave elevation scheme shows that the semi-circular tops of clerestory windows extend higher than the springing of the barrel vault.

Nave elevation, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave elevation, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view from the south transept toward the crossing and the north transept shows the north-facing apse (Photo 8), and the view from the north aisle toward the south transept shows the two apsidal chapels in tandem (Photo 9).

View from south transept, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

View from south transept, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

View from north transept, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

View from north transept, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view looking straight up to the nave vaulting shows the high caliber of masons building the curving surface on the one hand, as well as the logic with which the master builder brought together all constituent parts toward a harmonious architecture on the other.

Nave vault, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave vault, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

As mentioned earlier, the terrain slopes away toward the east, making the apse and the campanile stand tall seen from the east. The exterior of the apse is built in a smooth semi-cylindrical shape, while the campanile is built on an octagonal plan, and it has two tiers. The upper tier of two stories feature double arches divided by columns, decorated with Lombard bands.

Chevet with campanile, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Chevet with campanile, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

In 1362 when the city walls were expanded to include Sant Pere within its walls, the campanile of the monastery was rebuilt for more defensive function. The cloister, while relatively small in size, is an excellent example of Catalan Romanesque architecture. The northern gallery attached to the church wall dates from 1154, while the other three galleries from 1190. The capitals of the columns have motifs very similar to those in the cloisters of Sant Cugat del Vallès, or those in the Cathedral of Girona.

Cloister, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Cloister, Monastir Sant Pere de Galligants, Girona (Girona) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The fact that the former Monasterio de Sant Pere de Galligants has been the home of the Archaeological Museum of Catalonia in Girona since 1857 is a measure of poetic justice, as it is one of the most “classical” and quintessential Catalan Romanesque churches.

Location: 41.98888 2.82638

For more information about our guest writer, Jong-Soung Kimm, please see this link.

The Hidden Presence – Saint Martin d’Artonne (Dennis Aubrey)


We have stated the intent of Via Lucis Photography to digitally document the Romanesque churches while trying to capture the hidden presence of medieval spirituality. PJ and I often discuss whether a church is “alive” or not. Sometimes that is a matter of an active religious life – churches like those of Thuret or Heume l’Eglise. Other times it is because of the efforts made to preserve a great monument, like Brioude or Fontenay.

But other times it is because there is a certain animus in the church that can only be described as the hidden presence of the spirituality that motivated the builders. These artisans were not working to express a personal vision and they eschewed sentimentality and individualism. Instead, they were intent on describing in stone the mystery of the liturgy of their faith and religion.

Église Saint Martin, Artonne (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

Artonne is a small town in the Puy-de-Dôme, just fifteen short miles due north of Clermont-Ferrand. The eleventh century church, the Église Saint Martin, is a collégiale, originally a collegiate church maintained by a group of secular priests living a communal life. Saint Martin is currently undergoing a very necessary restoration, as can be seen in this shot of the south side aisle.

Side aisle, Église Saint Martin, Artonne (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

One can readily see the peeling plaster, mold and crumbling stonework that mark the 900 year age of the structure. The ambulatory is blocked off by chairs because parts of the vaulting are starting to fall off and pose a danger to visitors.

Ambulatory, Église Saint Martin, Artonne (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

It is also possible to see the results of some pretty heavy-handed restoration that compromised the look of the church.

Poor restoration of the arch, north side aisle, Église Saint Martin, Artonne (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

But it is only necessary to look closely at the church to see that this was a special place with a special meaning to those who built it. Artonne has a population today of 770 souls and it is hard to imagine there being many more than this in the eleventh century when the Saint Martin d’Artonne was constructed. The church shows a loving care and attention to detail on the part of the builders that is almost inconceivable by today’s standards.

Nave, Église Saint Martin, Artonne (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

When the canons were sitting in their stalls in the chancel during services, they would have looked back through the nave at the western entrance of the church and seen the same things that we see today. They would have felt the sheltering hands of God as demonstrated in the great stones that raised their church, and they would have looked at the soaring arches of the ogive barrel vault and known that this church invited them to their Heaven and their Lord, to whom they dedicated their lives.

View of nave to the west, Église Saint Martin, Artonne (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Location: http://goo.gl/0fQDyP

Mapping Change (Dennis Aubrey)


Many people have asked us the location of the churches are that we write about, so about three years ago we started a project that showed all of the churches on Google Maps. We did this for France, Spain, and Germany. We used selectable layers and the solution worked well; readers were able to follow a link to the map, see the church in situ, and explore other churches in the region.

Unfortunately, Google decided to change the Maps API and it is no longer possible to use the maps in this way anymore, so we have explored other options. Just this week we found Mapbox and it seems to be a workable replacement. We imported a KML file from Google and loaded it up and all of our churches were there! It seemed simple, but we then had to rebuild all of the links (each site linked back to the article describing the church), we had to convert the index page to reflect the new map link, and we had to go back and change the link on all 146 articles that linked to the map in the first place. Aaaaghh.

Map

But the job is mostly done and you can now see the results. Each marker shown indicates a church for which we have done at least one article and links to that article. Of course if you click the France page under “Featured Churches” you get the index page as usual. Hope you enjoy this and happy explorations.

Via Lucis Gigapan tests (Dennis Aubrey)


A couple of years ago, PJ and I spent a holiday weekend in Providence, partly just to have a nice getaway but also to shoot at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in East Providence and Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral downtown. It was, as always, a pleasure to shoot in these beautiful structures, but we also tried out the Gigapan Epic Pro camera system.

Gigapan Epic Pro

In case you don’t know, the Gigapan is a robot-controlled camera mount that allows for ultra-high resolution stitched panoramas for the web. The two that we did at the churches were 40 images and 48 images. That means that we shot 8 rows x 6 columns of full-frame high resolution photos that were stitched into a single image. For the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, that meant an image that measured 269,568 x 179,712 pixels. Printed at 300dpi, that would be an image 90″ x 60″.

Gigapan set up at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church

By using the Gigapan viewer online, one can look at the image at very high resolution. When you go to the links, make sure to zoom in to see the incredible detail available in the image. In the Saint Stephen’s church image you can zoom into the thermostat to the right of the altar near the two icons. At full resolution, you can read the time on the thermostat!

Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, Providence, Rhode Island

Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral, Providence, Rhode Island

Here is the link to the Saint Stephen’s shot and here is the one for the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Cathedral.

We rented the unit from Lensrentals.com in Cordova, Tennessee. Based on this single transaction, we were quite pleased by the service and the quality of the rental equipment. The one-week rental allowed us to evaluate the technology before making a decision to buy or not. We’re not sure if we are going to make these panoramas a regular feature of Via Lucis, but are interested in hearing from you on the matter. Let us know what you think!

Salvation and the Covenant of Abraham – A Purim Repost (Dennis Aubrey)


In honor of our friends Ilene, Vincent, Ethan and Julian in White Plains, I would like to make this post for the festival of deliverance, Purim. On a day that celebrates a victory over Persian enemies, we illustrate a medieval victory over hatred and fear.

South tympanum of Eglise Abbatiale Saint Pierre, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne (Corrèze) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

The small town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in the Corrèze features a central medieval core that remains almost intact. The Église Abbatiale Saint Pierre is the heart of the enclave and is entered from the south instead of the west portal. Over that portal is a magnificent tympanum. Because of the importance of visual detail in this post, I am posting a link to a larger version of the photo that will open in a separate window.

The iconography of the tympanum is beautiful and unique, featuring the Second Coming of Christ. His figure is unusual; bare-chested and showing the wounds of his Passion, Christ is flanked by angels blowing trumpets. Behind are workers on the cross; it is as if He had just descended from the crucifixion. Apostles and angels are arrayed around him, but the most interesting figures are those below. First, there is a group of seven figures (four on the right, three on the left). At their feet we can see the dead rising from their tombs just above the horizontal line. This is a wonderful visual representation of the relationship of life, death and a Hell represented by apocalyptic beasts rending the bodies of the damned. Below that (not shown in this photo) is a second layer of Hell with demons waiting for the damned to arrive.

The seven living figures, however, carry an important meaning. Normally, the iconography would suggest that these men represent souls waiting for judgment, but this is not the case. They are clothed while the bodies leaving the tombs are naked. It is clear that these seven are living people. They are presenting to the risen Christ their claims to salvation. While four are either praying or pointing toward Jesus, three are lifting up their robes.

Detail of the Beaulieu tympanum (Photo by Dennis Aubrey)

Henry Kraus in his book The Living Theatre of Medieval Art convincingly demonstrates that these three are Jews, “raising their hems in order to show that they were sons of Abraham, who by his circumcision sealed his people’s covenant with the Lord.” This is a wonderful illustration that the Jewish people were eligible for salvation during the Middle Ages, based on this great covenant.

There are many sad examples of persecution of Jews during this period of intense religious belief, but no lesser figure than Bernard of Clairvaux sounded a clarion call against their mistreatment.

Bernard of Clairvaux with a model of the Abbey of Clairvaux

At the time of the Second Crusade, a monk named Raoul in Mainz sparked anti-Jewish riots. Bernard came to Mainz to defend the Jews, calling Raoul arrogant, without authority, a preacher of mad and heretical doctrines, a liar and a murderer. “The Jews must not be persecuted, slaughtered, nor even driven out. Inquire of the pages of Holy Writ. I know what is written in the Psalms as prophecy about the Jews. ‘God hath commanded me,’ says the Church, ‘Slay them not, lest my people forget.'” This carved stone tympanum in the Dordogne echoes the words of the great reformer.

Color and Saint Austremoine (PJ McKey)


Every time we visit Saint Astremoine in Issoire, I cannot help but think of the impression it must of made in times less cluttered by man-made visual stimuli. This year during our visit I found myself in the south side of the ambulatory transfixed by the riot of patterns and color. I always try to capture what I’m experiencing but inevitably fall short. The camera can’t capture my emotional response to certain colors, to being surrounded in this place.

South side aisle, Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

Saint Austremoine is joyous. The colors sing and there is nothing somber or fearful. This is a church that can only be experienced.

Ambulatory, Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

A trip into the crypt really felt like a descent into harder times. It evokes the seriousness of a martyr’s death and the burden of man striving for the light.

Crypt, Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

It was pure relief to go ascend into the church and emerge once again in the land of the living color.

Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy de Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

If you are interested in a previous post on this church, follow this link.

Location: 45.543522° 3.250213°

Saint Michael’s Church, Hildesheim (Jong-Soung Kimm)


Situated on the Michaelshugel at the western edge of the historic core of Hildesheim, St. Michael’s Church (Michaelskirche) was built between 1010 and 1031 as the abbey church of a Benedictine monastery. Bishop Bernward, a tutor and adviser to Otto III, founded the monastery, and is believed to have had a strong influence on the architecture of the church. Bernward travelled to Rome in 1001 as part of Otto’s entourage, and stayed in his palace near the Early Christian basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill.

Saint Michael’s Church, Hildesheim ( Niedersachsen, Germany) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

St. Michael’s Church has both eastern and western chancels, and two transepts. Square towers at both the east and west crossings and cylindrical turrets at the four transepts, combined with apses at both ends of the church create a harmonious, yet very sculptural and dynamic massing. As two entrances are located on the south side of the church, an unusual arrangement, the south aisle functions as a sort of indoor narthex. The structure is conceived in a geometrical relationship of parts to the whole so that the nave is three times as long as the square crossings, and the aisles are about two thirds of the nave in width. Square piers at the third points of the length of the nave alternate with two cylindrical columns between the piers, endowed with very simple cubical capitals, a characteristic of Ottonian architecture in the Lower Saxony called Dreiachsigem Stutzenwechsel.

Saint Michael’s Church, Hildesheim ( Niedersachsen, Germany) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

This photograph from the north aisle looking toward the raised western chancel above the crypt, clearly conveys the complexity of the interior organization. It also shows the contrast between what remained after the bombing in March, 1945 and what was rebuilt after the war, as well as the most recent renovation to coincide with the thousand year celebration in 2010. To the credit of the German experts for the post-war rebuilding, Bernward’s original design had been restored where possible to the spiritual spatial ambiance experienced today.

Saint Michael’s Church, Hildesheim ( Niedersachsen, Germany) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The choir screen at the crossing of the north wing of the western transept shows some original stone carving dating from Bishop Adelog’s rebuilding after the fire of 1186, some obviously new plastering within round arches and contemporary cabinet work.

Saint Michael’s Church, Hildesheim ( Niedersachsen, Germany) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The western chancel is the more spacious, with ambulatory which is screened off to the general worshippers. Bernward died before witnessing the completion of his grand enterprise in 1022, and his successor, Bishop Godehard transferred his remains to the crypt after the consecration of the church in 1033. The view from the raised western chancel toward the east conveys the feeling of a solemn spatial quality of the quintessentially Ottonian Romanesque St. Michael’s Church.

Saint Michael’s Church, Hildesheim ( Niedersachsen, Germany) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Today, the main altar is located in the eastern chancel at the crossing. When the Reformation was adopted in Hildesheim in the mid-16th century, St. Michael’s Church became Lutheran, although the Benedictine monastery continued its existence until the beginning of the 19th century when it became secularized. This photograph shows the elevation organization of the north transept clearly. Set in front of the center column is the bronze “Column of Christ,” one of the treasures of Michaelskirche.

Saint Michael’s Church, Hildesheim ( Niedersachsen, Germany) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The photograph shows a prominence given to the apsidal chapels at the eastern end. The double story chapel terminating the north aisle looks as significant as the central chapel on the axis.

Saint Michael’s Church, Hildesheim ( Niedersachsen, Germany) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Another of the treasures of St. Michael’s Church is the painted oak ceiling over the nave measuring 8.7 by 27.8 meters, dating from around 1230, named the “Root of Jesse,” a genealogical tree of Jesus. It is made of over 1,300 oak planks, painted with meticulous craftsmanship, marvelously restored in time for the millennial celebration in 2010.

Photographic note: All pictures were taken with the 21mm Super-Angulon for Leica on Canon 5D with an adapter.

Location: 52.152970° 9.943703°

This is a repost of a post from April 2012. For more information about our guest writer, Jong-Soung Kimm, please see this link.