And then we head south (Dennis Aubrey)


In the ongoing chronicle of our upcoming trip, I started in the middle with the section on the Pyrénées, then went did a general post on our research, before finally starting the trip in Chartres.

Today I’m going to write about what comes after Chartres and up to the Pyrénées. I guess this sequence is kind of like the movie Memento in its disjointed structure. I hope this doesn’t create an “existential dread” like the movie, but I’ll stay on course after this.

We leave Chartres and head to Poitiers, or more accurately, Vivonne, just south of Poitiers. Vivonne is the home of our life-long friends, the Gayets and their home at Danlot. I have known Thérèse and Jean Gayet since the age of 12 and we have stayed in their home many times over the years. They even made a visit to my parents on Cape Cod in the 90’s. Jean passed away a few years ago, but Thérèse flourishes, a force of nature. She grew up in Poitiers and was the first to take me to Sainte Radegonde, one of my favorite churches.

Ambulatory chapel, Église Sainte-Radegonde, Poitiers (Vienne)  Photo by PJ McKey

Ambulatory chapel, Église Sainte-Radegonde, Poitiers (Vienne) Photo by PJ McKey

We visit with her at the house, a lieu-dit called Danlot. It has the distinction of an iron bridge crossing the Clain River to their house, a bridge built by Gustave Eiffel. Even as a boy I was fascinated by the place. The Clain River was the same that was followed by the Saracens in 732 on their way to the fateful meeting with Charles Martel. On the Gayet’s property was a hill with a field atop called the Champs d’Alaric, the fields of Alaric II, the chieftain of the Visigoths who was defeated and slain by the Frankish king Clovis at nearby Vouillé. Local legend had it that after his death, Alaric was buried under this mound with his enormous treasure. And of course at this time my family lived in Chauvigny, so redolent of history. Is it any wonder that I grew up immersed in a cloud of history and legend?

Danlot, Vivonne (Vienne)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Danlot, Vivonne (Vienne) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

We are going to spend three days in the area photographing a number of churches in the area. Our home base will be nearby Montmorillon, where we will have an apartment in the center of town overlooking the Église Notre Dame de Montmorillon.

From Montmorillon, we head to my omphalos, the center of my universe, Lacave and the church at Souillac. We stay in the hotel Pont de l’Ouysse, my favorite and one that I have been going to almost every year since 1986. At the Pont, we will have the great pleasure of a sojourn with our great friend Diane Quaid, an actress and hiker who will be in the area hiking the limestone causses for a week. We will have the opportunity to share the extraordinary cuisine of the Chambons père et fils during the visit. PJ will be hiking with Diane during this time, so I will be photographing alone. The following capital expresses my sentiments exactly.

Eglise Saint Pierre des Tours, Aulnay-de-Saintonge  (Charente-Maritime)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Eglise Saint Pierre des Tours, Aulnay-de-Saintonge (Charente-Maritime) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

But I will get a chance to photograph one of my favorite churches, Sainte-Marie de Souillac and a number of smaller churches to the east and south that we have not been able to before.

View from east end of choir,  Église Sainte Marie, Souillac (Lot) Photo by PJ McKey

View from east end of choir, Église Sainte Marie, Souillac (Lot) Photo by PJ McKey

After three days at the Pont, we head south towards Agen. We have rented a nice house for the five days we explore a cluster of churches between the cathedral town of Agen and Villeneuve-sur-Lot to the north. If time permits, we may even range a bit to the east to return to the great abbey church in Moissac and its famous cloister and tympanum.

Abbatiale Saint Pierre, Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne)  Photo by PJ McKey

Abbatiale Saint Pierre, Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne) Photo by PJ McKey

After Agen, we head toward the Pyrénées and a trip to the region with some of the oldest Romanesque churches in existence. From there, Provence!

Researching our 2017 trip (Dennis Aubrey)


PJ and I are now a mere 10 weeks from leaving for Europe and the excitement mounts as the preparations intensify. We have been diligently researching our target areas for the Romanesque gems that delight us. There are many places on the internet, both amateur and official Patrimony sites, where we glean the information. How do we collate it all? Since the very beginning of the Via Lucis project in 2007 we have used Google Earth as the repository of information. Except for a few glitches, it has worked beautifully – as you can see from this map, we are able to track both the churches that we intend to photograph (with the orange icons) and the ones that we have photographed (red icons).

Google Earth database of churches

Google Earth database of churches

Each individual marker contains information on the churches that is important for our research – descriptions from the sponsoring Patrimony organization (in France, this would be the Patrimoine de France), relevant descriptions from expert sources (like the famed Éditions Zodiaque), links to other sites, and photographs. We often include address information (even though the icons are precisely placed over the chancel crossing of every church, if possible) and hours and rules of visitation.

Google Earth entry detail

Google Earth entry detail

We have also been developing the same database for Romanesque churches in England, Spain, Germany, and Italy. Those are, of course, much less exhaustive than the French database. Our French Gothic database is also under early stages of construction. If these seem like exhaustive databases, consider the real numbers. Our French database consists of about 1080 Romanesque churches, which represents less than 25% of the total number found in the country.

Based on these maps, we plan our itinerary for each trip. There are a couple of provisos – we must always stop in Lacave in the Lot to stay (and eat) at the Pont de l’Ouysse. As I have mentioned before, this is my omphalos, the center of my spiritual universe and I have gone there every trip since 1986. The Pont de l’Ouysse is always our “splurge” place but it is worth every penny. Second, we must stay at the Crispol in Vézelay. Vézelay is critical, of course, because of the presence of the magnificent Basilique Sainte Madeleine on top of the hill. But we must also go because across the valley is the Crispol hotel, run by the equally magnificent Paule Schori. She is a force of nature and has become a dear friend. We are so delighted to be spending three days with her again this year.

Hotel Crispol

Hotel Crispol

Finally, we are making one small two-day detour that has nothing to do with Romanesque churches at all. We are going to drive from Sisteron in the Provence through the old Alpine roads to the tiny Italian town of Chiomonte. Why would we do this? Part of it is to drive the old roads that I remember from my childhood. Chiomonte is known for the seven old fountains that adorned the chemin royal of the country. But our reason to visit is the Ristorante e Affittacamere Al Cantoun. The restaurant is a small building in an old private square. The young chef is Paolo Aiello and his Piemontese cooking is spectacular. We stayed there on our way into Italy in 2015 and again on our way back to France – we can get as excited about finding a great new restaurant as an old Romanesque church!

Ristorante Al Cantoun, Chiomonte

Ristorante Al Cantoun, Chiomonte

So the trip is planned, the lodging all booked, car reserved, airplane tickets purchased. We land in Paris on April 19 and go directly to Chartres, where we will spend two days photographing the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres. More on that in the next post!

A trip to the Mountains in May (Dennis Aubrey)


PJ and I are planning another mammoth photography session in France and Spain this year. We’ll be gone about two months and will photograph most of the southern periphery of France, through the Pyrénées and up through Provence. We will, of course, visit our favorite spots in Chartres, Poitiers, Vézelay and the Souillac, but this is primarily new territory for us. The new stuff begins south of the Dordogne, where we will spend a week between Villeneuve-sur-Lot and Agen. From there, we head to the mountainous border between France and Spain, the Pyrénées, where we will spend a full month.

We begin our trip in virgin Pyrénées territory for us, the extreme southwest of France. In the area around Vic-en-Bigorre ①  we are planning to photograph eight important churches, most of which are part of the Compostella pilgrimage route. We are particularly excited to photograph the mosaics at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption de Lescar.

The Pyrénées section of the trip

The Pyrénées section of the trip

From Vic-en-Bigorre, we head southwest towards the main route into Spain at Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port, but will be using Oloron-Sainte-Marie② as our headquarters. This will be the base as we explore the last French churches on the Compostella route before the Roncesvalles pass.

From Oloron, we make a short drive to Luz-Saint-Sauveur③. The purpose here is to shoot the Église Saint-Savin in Saint Savin and see the Vierge noire des croisades. She is no longer a Black Madonna, but is a compelling vierge romane. In Luz itself is a Templars’ church, Eglise des Templiers de Luz with its own vierge romane.

Next is Bagnères-de-Luchon④ in the Haute-Garonne which we will use to explore a line of six mountain churches in Bonnemazon, Cazaux Frechet, Mont, Saint Aventin, Cazaril-Laspènes and the Spanish town of Bossòst.

Église Saint Julien et Sainte Basilisse, Jujols (Pyrénées-Orientales)  Photo by PJ McKey

Église Saint Julien et Sainte Basilisse, Jujols (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by PJ McKey

After Bagnères-de-Luchon, we leave France briefly and drive south to the Val d’Aran⑤ in Spain. This is one of two narrow valleys in the Pyrénées region of Spain with a string of beautiful Romanesque churches. The other, the Vall de Boí, is only about fifteen miles south of here but we don’t have the time to shoot there and we are saving these spectacular churches for a later trip. In the Val d’Aran we shoot nine churches, if possible, arrayed on an approximately twenty mile east-west line. Nine churches is a lot to photograph in three days, but we have been offered the logistics assistance of our very kind AirBnB host in the town of Escunhau.

We then return to France and drive northeast to Saint-Lizier⑥, a town with a population of 1500 souls but boasts two cathedrals that testify past prominence.

Exterior of Eglise à Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines, Saint Genis-des-Fontaines (Pyrénées-Orientales)

Exterior of Eglise à Saint-Génis-des-Fontaines, Saint Genis-des-Fontaines (Pyrénées-Orientales)

From Saint-Lizier we continue southeast to the Ariège⑦. Centered on the town of Luzenac is a cluster of four beautiful Romanesque churches.

After Saint-Lizier we are back in familiar territory, the Pyrénées-Orientales, Catalan country. We stop first in Angoustrine-Villeneuve-des-Escaldes⑧. This is at the west end of the long valley that extends from the Mediterranean coast near Perpignan to the heart of the mountains.

Our next stop is a favorite, Prades⑨, home to the music festival founded by Pablo Casals. The Romanesque heritage in this part of the world is astounding, but one of the highlights is that we will return to the Abbaye de Saint-Martin du Canigou and visit with our friend, Sister Anne-de-Jésus.

PJ and Sister Anne-de-Jésus, Abbaye de Saint-Martin du Canigou, Casteil (Pyrénées-Orientales)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

PJ and Sister Anne-de-Jésus, Abbaye de Saint-Martin du Canigou, Casteil (Pyrénées-Orientales) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

From Prades we return to Spain for a week. We’ll spend a couple of days relaxing in Cadaqués⑩ on the Mediterranean.

Cadaqués, photo by Covetotop

Cadaqués, photo by Covetotop

We then return to work and head west to the small town of Besalú①①, home to no less than five churches. There are many eminent churches in the region but we are intrigued with La Vall de Bianya, a narrow east-west valley filled with Romanesque churches.

We are particularly excited that we will get to meet our WordPress friend Covetotop, whose blog is the best chronicle of the Catalan countryside that we have found. At his suggestion we will dine at the Restaurant Can Roca in Esponellá, just outside of Besalú.

Restaurant Can Roca, Esponellà. Photo by Covetotop

Restaurant Can Roca, Esponellà. Photo by Covetotop

This will end our month in the Pyrénées and we proceed to the Provence for a week. There we will continue our strict diet of Romanesque churches, fine food, and wonderful local wines.

The Precarious Madonna – Amuse Bouche #36 (Dennis Aubrey)


We have often remarked how revered are the vierges romanes and especially the vierges noires in rural France. Notre Dame de Vassivière in the Puy-de-Dôme is no exception, in fact she has two homes. Since 1547, the statue has spent the winters in the Église Saint André de Besse in the town of Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise. Each summer on July 2, the feast of the visitation, she is carried up to her remote summer home at the isolated Chapelle Notre-Dame de Vassivière, a journey of about five miles due west. The statue is carried on a litter by the faithful in a festival called the Montée and returned on September 21st, the feast of Saint Matthew, in the Dévalade. Her return to Besse is accompanied by fireworks and gunfire.

View from the Chapelle Notre-Dame de Vassivière, Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by

View from the Chapelle Notre-Dame de Vassivière, Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by

The current version of Notre Dame de Vassivière is a copy of the original, burned in the Revolution in 1804. Five years later, Napoleon re-established the veneration of the statue and the copy was made. In 1881, the crowning of the vierge was celebrated by 30,000 worshippers.

PJ and I were anxious to photograph Notre Dame de Vassivière and when we visited in September of 2008, the chapel was almost empty. The Dévalade was scheduled for three days later, but we could not stay. She was on her spot high on the wall of the chapel. We took the pictures and then ventured to ask the gardienne if it were possible to take the statue down for photography. She thought for a moment and then agreed – PJ and I were absolutely delighted. We were delighted for only a moment, however. The woman came out with a rickety ladder and handed it to us. We were to take the priceless artifact down ourselves!

Notre Dame de Vassivière, Chapelle Notre-Dame de Vassivière, Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

Notre Dame de Vassivière, Chapelle Notre-Dame de Vassivière, Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

Now the ladder was not only rickety, but it had only about five steps. I would have to climb all the way to the topmost step and stretch my full length just to reach the vierge. Then I would have to lift her off her shelf with just my arms and bring her down! The sculpture was only 30″ high but it was solid wood and weighed at least 40 pounds.

PJ and I looked at each other, swallowed and made our only possible semblance of a plan – she would hold the ladder while I climbed, and as I descended, she would help secure the madonna. Gulp! And so we did. Climbing the ladder was an adventure. I am a very large man and the ladder was probably rated for someone half my weight when it was new. Now, it was a miracle that it was holding at all. PJ said she felt “abject fear” as I began moving the statue from its shelf. It became clear that the crown was not really secured and we would have to be extremely steady not have the gold crown come tumbling to the ground. I was in a state of fear and PJ was busy with her own calculations; if all went wrong, should try to save me, the vierge, or the crown?

Somehow we made it down without a disaster and placed the vierge on the altar for our photo session. The photographs were worth the effort, we figured, even though we would have to get the statue back up later.

Dennis photographing Notre Dame de Vassivière,  Photo by PJ McKey

Dennis photographing Notre Dame de Vassivière, Photo by PJ McKey

We did manage to return Notre Dame to her lofty perch on the wall of the chapel, gave a small prayer of grateful thanks for our own personal deliverance, and returned to Issoire for an aperitif! We earned it on that particular day.

Notre Dame de Vassivière, Chapelle Notre-Dame de Vassivière,  Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise (Puy-de-Dôme)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Notre Dame de Vassivière, Chapelle Notre-Dame de Vassivière, Besse-et-Saint-Anastaise (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

This is part of a series of posts featuring an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized appetizer to whet the appetite of diners. Each of these will explore a single interesting feature of medieval architecture or sculpture. To see other amuse-bouches, follow this link.

Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne – Guest Post by Jong-Soung Kimm


Cologne had been settled in the Roman times, and it was made the provincial capital of Germania inferior in the first century AD. It was the seat of a bishop going back to the earliest Christian era, and Charlemagne elevated the position to that of archbishop during his reign. Cologne is also a veritable cradle of the Rhenish Romanesque architecture which flourished in the 11th century. There are twelve Romanesque churches in the historic center of Cologne dating from this period, most of which suffered devastating damages during WW II. The restoration work lasted until the 1990’s for some of the churches. Sankt Maria im Kapitol which measures about 100 meters long and 40 meters wide, is the largest and most notable of the twelve, and is considered to be one of the finest achievements of the building art of the Salian dynasty (aka Frankish dynasty 1024~1125).

The original Sankt Maria is said to have been built in the 8th century by Plectrudis, wife of Pippin as a convent church for noblewomen on the foundations of a Roman temple and an earlier church built in Merovingian times. The present Sankt Maria im Kapitol was begun in 1040, and consecrated by Pope Leo IX in 1049. Although the main body of the church had been substantially completed by 1065, the construction continued toward the late Romanesque period, the architecture gradually acquiring a Lombardy style in its exterior design.

As illustrated by the plan, Sankt Maria in the Kapitol district of Cologne has the trefoil-shaped, three-apse east end. While there are two other churches of trefoil plan in Cologne, it is Sankt Maria which epitomizes the geometrical logic and the formal resolution of the trefoil-shaped triapsal plan to the fullest extent. The aisles are groin vaulted, whereas the nave had initially been built with flat timber ceiling, but rebuilt with sexpartite vaulting starting in 1219, one of the earliest on the present day German soil.

Plan, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia)

Plan, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia)

In Sankt Maria the chancel is located at the junction of the easternmost bay of the nave and the crossing, with an 18th century rood screen. The eastern apse of the trefoil plan is the primary zone for the choir, while the northern and southern apses with entrances at centers are left free of seating today. Inside the space of Sankt Maria im Kapitol, one feels a distinct sense of movement north-south as well as east-west.

Nave to chancel, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave to chancel, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The nave elevation scheme shows that in place of piers with capitals, there are very wide piers with relatively thin cornices forming a nave wall with half-round arched openings rhythmically punctuating the plane. The nave elevation also shows what the restoration architects must have agonized, then finally chosen as a visual record of the compound piers of the sexpartite nave vaulting of the early 13th century. How gratifying would it have been if the sexpartite vaulting were reconstructed in the post-WW II restoration!

Nave elevation, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave elevation, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view from the ambulatory at the southern entrance toward the northern apse shows that the rood screen for the chancel straddles the western column line of the crossing, and is constructed of two sets of four columns, one set on the nave side, and the other on the crossing side, and an organ loft is placed within the thickness of the main arch.

Northern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Northern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The axial view of the eastern apse accurately conveys the rich spatial layering of the ambulatory and the apse. The stained-glass-fitted clerestory windows describing a semi-circle of the apsidal space appear to be from the Gothic period.

Eastern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Eastern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

An oblique view toward southeast from the ambulatory of the northern apse shows how logically the master builder worked out interlocking of the structure at every turn.

Ambulatory to eastern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Ambulatory to eastern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The 45-degree view toward southeast shows the entry to the chapel at that re-entrant corner of Sankt Maria indicated on the plan.

Re-entrant corner chapel, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Re-entrant corner chapel, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view of the crossing toward northeast eloquently shows how the trefoil plan creates a rich spatial interplay.

Crossing, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Crossing, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The oblique view toward the entrance of the southern apse rewards visitors with wonderfully sculptural and generous space. The columns forming the trefoil apses of Sankt Maria im Kapitol are adorned with cushion capitals, which are not proportioned in accordance with the classical architecture, but are reminiscent of Byzantine precedents. They also bear certain resemblance to those of St. Michael in Hildesheim, but more cubic and taut.

Entrance to southern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Entrance to southern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Finally, the axial view looking up to the vaulting of the eastern apse shows an oven vault joined to barrel vaults at the short bay, and the dome at the crossing.

Vault, eastern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Vault, eastern apse, Sankt Maria im Kapitol, Cologne (North Rhine-Westphalia) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

With its unique trefoil, three-apse plan, clarity of spatial organization and unity of form in its execution, Sankt Maria im Kapitol is justly considered a highpoint of the Rhenish Romanesque architecture of the Salian dynasty.

Location: 50.934600 6.958380

This article on Sankt Maria im Kapitol is the twentieth that Mr. Kimm has written for Via Lucis. We are so grateful for his enormous contributions to our site. For more information on Jong-Soung Kimm, please select this link.

Trier Cathedral – A Guest Post by Jong-Soung Kimm


In 326 A.D. Constantine the Great traveled to the West after many years of residency in Constantinople to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of his reign as the first Christian Roman emperor. He stayed in Rome and started construction of the great St. Peter’s Basilica. He also traveled across the Alps to Trier (Augusta Treverorum, Trèves in French), his one-time home, to lay foundation stones of a major church, on the site of the palace of his mother Helena. The Cathedral St. Peter of Trier is the oldest cathedral in Germany, and Trier had been one of the seven Elector-Archbishoprics of the Holy Roman Empire. Trier Cathedral, as befits its importance in the Western history, is a unique work of architecture which fuses the early, mature and late Romanesque styles with the early 4th century Roman nucleus. The Constantinian church is said to have been about four times as large as what comes down to this day. Extensive damages to the church in the 5th and 9th centuries left it in ruins, but the Cathedral was rebuilt starting in 1035 in the early Romanesque style, then the cross rib vaults were constructed in the late Romanesque style in the 12th century.

The plan shows that Trier Cathedral is laid out in general as a basilica plan with the nave and side aisles, eastern transept and two apses, with some unusual architectural features. The existing part of the 4th century Roman basilica, about 42-meter square structure shown in black on the plan, forms the core of the Cathedral. The square bay (B) in the center, about 18 meters to the side, was joined by rectangular bays (A) on all four sides. The center square bay had become the Crossing of the Transept which was finished flush with the outer walls to the north and south. The nameless master builder of the 11th century building workshop, quite brilliantly expanded the structure by adding another square bay, and a rectangular bay to the west, setting up the rhythm of A – B – A – B – A for the nave itself. Then a somewhat shorter rectangular bay for the Chancel was built to the east. The eastern and western apses which are as wide as the nave were joined later to the nave thus formed.

Plan - Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate)

Plan – Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate)

The western façade of Trier Cathedral facing Liebfrauenstrasse and a spacious square presents a one-of-a-kind Romanesque Westwork. At the outer corners, two cylindrical stair turrets are placed forward of the cubical blocks for the western towers of different heights above, as the turrets and tower bases are connected diagonally. In front of the towers, on axes with aisles inside, are the tall entrance bays with significant upper story arches and relief. At the center flanked by the entrances is the very wide half-round western apse, completed in 1196. Stair turrets pulled forward, stepping of entrance bays with the somewhat squat towers behind, and the very wide half cylinder apse in the middle all contribute to making the Westwork of Trier Cathedral quite different from other well-known works of the Carolingian and Ottonian architecture which have taller, and flush Westwork.

Western facade, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Western facade, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view from the northeast shows the Cathedral ensemble with myriad structures accumulated over the centuries. It also shows what might be described as half of the twelve-sided eastern apse joined to the end wall of the nave, the tall gable of the northern transept, and more vertically proportioned eastern towers. The octagonal Baroque chapel at the eastern end with its own crypt is not shown on the more diagrammatic cathedral plan.

View from northeast, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

View from northeast, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The longitudinal view toward the eastern choir shows the nave appearing not as long as its length of about 80 meters, probably due to absence of a rhythm set up by regularly spaced piers and columns in a normative Romanesque church space.

Eastern nave, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Eastern nave, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The nave elevation scheme of the western of the two square bays illustrates this point further. Here, the relatively narrow south aisle reads as lateral expansion of the nave space itself, rather than appearing as continuation of a linear “aisle” running parallel to the nave in the east-west direction. The aisle space here has been made into a sort of shallow narthex for the door from the adjoining Liebfrauenkirche of mid-13th century.

Nave elevation, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave elevation, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

A closer view of the crossing toward the eastern chancel shows that the steps to the choir starts at about the midpoint of the crossing, and a very elaborate Baroque altar is placed high up in the six-sided apse with ornate Gothic ribs on the vault ceiling.

Eastern chancel crossing, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Eastern chancel crossing, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view from the raised eastern Choir looking west conveys the unique spatial character of Trier Cathedral faithfully. As said earlier, due to the lateral expansion of the nave space at the square bays and absence of a rhythm, the sense of sweep lengthwise is halted at these two points. From the entrances on either side of the western apse, the sense of movement toward the eastern chancel is subdued. The nave is a calm and deeply contemplative space of worship.

View from eastern choir, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

View from eastern choir, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view looking straight up to the nave vaulting shows the rectangular bay at the midpoint of the Cathedral with an ornate Baroque organ loft, and the Crossing to the east (down), the “narthex” bay with gallery above to the west (up). Trier Cathedral is 26 meters high at the crown of the nave vaulting, and the width of the nave is about 18 meters.

Nave vaulting, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave vaulting, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view of the eastern Choir looking north shows on the left a generous Gothic arch with well-lit gallery above, and a well-crafted choir screen. It also shows on the right an opening leading to the northeastern stair tower, and a gallery at a mezzanine level.

Eastern choir, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Eastern choir, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view of the north aisle at the western square bay opposite the “narthex” on the south side, looking east accurately conveys the feel of expansion of the nave space, as the relatively narrow aisle space beyond reads as a separate spatial compartment, rather than a linear continuation of the north aisle.

North side aisle, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

North side aisle, Dom Sankt Peter, Trier (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

One special treasure of Trier Cathedral, although rarely put on public view, is the Holy Tunic of Christ, which legend relates was worn by Christ shortly before he was crucified, and was subsequently brought from Jerusalem by Helena (later St. Helena) when she made pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and was entrusted to the new church of her son.

Location: 49.756221 6.643821

For more information on Jong-Soung Kimm, please select this link.

Mainz Cathedral – a Guest Post by Jong-Soung Kimm


Strategically situated as it is at the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers, Mainz had already been settled in the Roman times, and it formed the northernmost frontier of the empire. Along with Speyer and Worms, Mainz is one of the three Imperial Cathedrals (Kaiser Dom) on the Upper Rhine, constructed under the patronage of several Holy Roman emperors of the Salian (1024~1125) and Hohenstaufen (1138~1266) dynasties as symbols of the imperial power over the papacy. Mainz was one of the seven elector-archbishoprics of the Holy Roman empire, the coronation site for several emperors, and was better known in the English-speaking world by its French name Mayence until the recent history.

Archbishop Willigis laid the foundation stone for the earlier Ottonian-design Mainz Cathedral in 975. Willigis had been in the service of Otto the great at the same historical moment as when Bernward of Hildesheim was also in Otto’s court. Willigis was appointed as the Archbishop of Mainz by Otto II in that year. After more than three decades of building campaign, the Cathedral was consecrated in 1009. On the consecration day, however, a fire destroyed the bulk of the Cathedral. Although Willigis began the process of rebuilding, he passed away two years later, and two successive archbishops were not effective in re-building. It was left to Archbishop Bardo to oversee construction of the main body of the Mainz Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1036. It lasted less than half a century, as another major fire destroyed the Cathedral in 1081, and most of what comes down to this day as the Mainz Cathedral of St. Martin was built in the Lombardic style under the patronage of Henry IV (1050~1106, Holy Roman emperor 1084~1105), who also initiated building of Speyer II, and it was consecrated in 1137.

Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Unusual for a major cathedral of the Middle Ages, Mainz Cathedral is sited in the heart of the market square of the city, its red sandstone massing dominating the cityscape. The view of the Cathedral from the northwest toward the southeast shows the sculptural ensemble of the octagonal eastern crossing tower, two stair turrets which survive from the original Ottonian construction, as well as the lime stone Gothard Chapel built at the turn of the 13th century.

The view of the Cathedral from the east on a Sunday illustrates how it is integrated into the bustling commercial activities of the city.

East façade, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

East facade, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

That atmosphere contrasts with the engraving of the eastern façade from the justly famous Dehio-Bezold folio. Visitors’ eyes are drawn to the master builder’s deft use of “dwarf gallery” around the eastern apse, a design feature which helps to reduce the apparent weight of the semi-cylindrical masonry volume, and imparts a sense of scale to the true size of the mass.

East elevation, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)

East elevation, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)

As shown on the plan, Mainz Cathedral is laid out on the basilica plan with both the western and eastern apses; the nave of five squarish bays covered with Gothic cross vaults; aisles with two slightly rectangular bays corresponding to one nave bay, covered with groin vaults; two larger stair turrets at the east end and a pair of smaller stair turrets at the west; prominent western transept and two crossing towers. At Mainz, the western choir dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, was given prominence over the eastern one as conceived by Willigis, that appears to have been inspired by the great St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Although the appearance of the now lost Ottonian western choir is not known, its present architecture is from the late Romanesque period.

Plan, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)

Plan, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)

The nave elevation scheme shows that while square piers are laid out at even spacing, on every other pier there is a semi-cylindrical pilaster which reaches the sill level of clerestory windows with a simple impost. The piers with these pilasters in turn support, or figuratively speaking, “collect” the nave arches as well as the ribs for the cross vaults, defining each bay. The clerestory windows are paired within this bay, rather than being evenly spaced across the length of the nave. The nave walls of Mainz Cathedral are articulated by shallow round-arched indentations that rise above the nave arcades, and extend to just below the clerestory windows. One notes that pairing of clerestory windows create displacements, so that clerestory windows are not centered on the nave arcades. The height of the nave is 28 meters, a notch lower than 33 meters for the nave of Speyer Cathedral.

Nave elevation, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave elevation, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view toward the eastern chancel, dedicated to St. Stephen, adequately conveys the spatial character of the Mainz Cathedral interior, with its stately progression of alternating piers down the nave.

Eastern chancel, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Eastern chancel, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view of the eastern apse shows the oven vault over the semi-circular space built in the Lombardic design replacing the former flat Ottonian gabled façade. The chancel bay with the octagonal tower above, almost anticipates the presence of an eastern transept, but it is enclosed by substantial masonry walls separating it from the aisles and the stair turrets beyond.

Apse, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Apse, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view looking straight up to the nave vaulting indicates the prominence given to the slightly larger bay preceding the chancel before the crossing tower. The Gothic rib vaults for the nave date from around the turn of the 13th century.

Nave vault, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Nave vault, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The view toward the more spacious, as well as visually more important western chancel illustrates the solemn ambience of Mainz Cathedral befitting the stature of an Imperial Cathedral.

Western chancel, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Western chancel, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The western chancel and the western transept had been rebuilt around the year 1200, presumably on the foundation of the original building under Willigis in the late Romanesque style, but already showing the impulse for the Gothic vaulting technique.

Western chancel and transept,  Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz  (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Western chancel and transepts, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

On the transept wings, there are galleries over somewhat wider span. The view looking up to the western crossing tower and transept wings contrasts the later construction of the tower with the Lombard moldings to the Romanesque space of Mainz Cathedral.

Western crossing and transepts, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate)  Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

Western crossing and transepts, Mainzer Dom Sankt Martin, Mainz (Rhineland–Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

A footnote to Mainz: Johannes Gutenberg was born here, and the Museum of Printing honoring him attracts visitors to the city. Mainz today is the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, and the assembling point of German wines from the Rhine and Main vineyards.

For more information on Jong-Soung Kimm, please select this link.

Location: 49.998889 8.273889