Stratford, Neil (dir.): Corpus de la sculpture de Cluny. Tome 1 : Les parties orientales de l’abbatiale Cluny III (2 volumes), 823 pages ; 33 x 26 cm ; ISBN : 978-2-7084-0844-9 ; 125 €
(Picard, Paris 2011)
Compte rendu par Walter Cahn, Yale University

Nombre de mots : 2695 mots
Publié en ligne le 2015-01-22
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
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          This weighty, impressively thorough publication on the monumental remains of the abbey church of Cluny (Cluny III) is a collaborative effort realized under the direction of Neil Stratford, who is himself a major contributor to the work. What is labeled as the first tome of the project, here reviewed, consists of two volumes that focus on aspects of the oldest, eastern parts of the monument, partially dismantled in the aftermath of the French Revolution. These are to be followed by three additional tomes, to be devoted to the sculptural production that can be associated with more recent parts of the church, the decor of the monastic buildings around the site and, eventually, the very urban fabric of the town. It is fair to say that on the basis of the scrupulous attention given to every imaginable aspect of the documentary and archeological evidence in these initial volumes that this publication comes as close to a definitive study of the subject as the present state of science and scholarship will allow, and must constitute the inevitable starting point of any future study of Cluny and its rayonnement.


          After some brief editorial preliminaries, the work properly begins with an account, due to David Walsh of the University of Rochester (New York,) of the archeological investigation of the site undertaken by Kenneth John Conant under the auspices of the Medieval Academy of America between the years 1928 and 1950, which was to provide the basis of his comprehensive monograph of 1968, Cluny. Les églises et la maison du chef d’ordre (I.2).  Beyond the fragments of sculpture strewn around the monument, it was the material recovered by Conant in the course of examination of some eighty-seven pits dug by him around the perimeter of the structure and within the destroyed body of the church—twenty-six in the area east of the crossing of the great transept—and now mostly preserved in the local Musée Ochier that constitutes the bulk of the carved remains of the great church.


          Carefully inventoried in Conant’s Daybook, who noted the location of their discovery and assigned each element of sculpture an inventory number, they attest eloquently to the exquisite skill of the masons who carved them. But with a few exceptions, they are an ensemble of battered, fragmentary, anonymous stones bereft of a clear context, and thus difficult to integrate into a larger historical framework.


          Conscientious to a fault and seeking, no doubt, to create an evidentiary dossier as complete as possible, the authors of the new Corpus have gone one better than Conant, though omitting some items too damaged to be included (p. 115), by amplifying his catalogue with some more recent finds (II.1b,c, and d), providing illustrations of every fragment of some archeological significance in the form of postage stamp-sized reproductions, along with drawn profiles of architectural elements and head-on stippled renderings of salient details (II.2) not otherwise easily identifiable.


          These refinements have necessitated a revision of the original inventory numbers, some of which were found to be illegible, and a concordance of the old and the new numbering (II.3). It should thus not surprise the reader that this mass of lovingly ordered material covers the entire second half of the first volume of the set or as much as roughly half of its pages.


          Sandwiched between this chronicle of Conant’s selective exploration of the site and the results which it obtained are informative essays devoted to the documentary record of the construction and its uses. It begins (I.3) with a summary and critical review due to Neil Stratford of the much-discussed issues relating to the interpretation of the sources, beginning with the Fundatio of 30th September 1088 recorded in the Cluny Annals (BNF NA. lat. 1497), which reaches the conclusion that the erection of the three easternmost chapels of the choir was at least underway in 1095; the chapel of St.Gabriel in the tower at the southwest angle of the great transept and the attendant southern transept arm by 1115; the nave, the choir as a whole by 1120-21, and a large part of the remainder of the church by 1130, when a dedication by Pope Innocent II took place.


          This section is followed by a catalogue (I.4) due to the same author, and again exhaustive in its range, of the plans, graphic views of the church and some of its decorative elements, along with the mostly Baroque funerary monuments which it once contained, all of them datable from the 17th century to the beginning of the age of photography. Perhaps, this inventory might have been further enriched by some discussion of the role played by photography of more recent vintage through such instruments as the Zodiaque series of illustrated books and kindred publications in giving to Cluny the prominent place that it occupies in our general culture, but this would undoubtedly have swollen an already lengthy text to unmanageable proportions.


          In the following section (I,5), we are given an inventory of recorded burials within the church and outlying areas of the site, though this list, compiled from various antiquarian sources, and comprising ninety-three entries (some of them representing several memorials) is almost certainly incomplete. It includes the names of major figures among the abbots of Cluny, beginning with the first of these men, Berno (d. 927) and his successor Aimard (Nos. 1a and b) along with that of Pope Gelasius II, who died in 1119 (No. 16) and a host of prominent ecclesiastical and secular potentates, as well as a smattering of no doubt well-connected people of lesser rank, like a man named John and his widow Benedicte, burghers of Cluny in the fifteenth century (No. 67). Unfortunately, save for the problematic “Tomb of St. Hugh” (d. 1109) known to us from a watercolor published by A. Lenoir in his Musée des Monuments français (1801-1802), and of which there is an illuminating discussion (No. 13 and IV.4b), we know virtually nothing about appearance of the many funerary monuments at Cluny of the High and later Middle Ages, which constitute the bulk of the burials for which we possess some specific information.


          The last chapter of this series of studies (I,6), an attempt by Annie Blanc to identify the various types of stone employed in the building of Cluny III and their sources within the geology of the region based on samples taken from the existing structures and a variety of fragmentaryelements, does not seem intimately connected with the preceding documentary sections, and if pertinent and expertly done as it is, ought perhaps to have been given another, more independent place in the structure of the book.


          While the first volume of the publication is devoted in the main to the written and visual sources concerning Cluny III and the description and analysis of  archeological discoveries of its material remains, the second covers in exhaustive detail the décor of the still standing parts of the church. The distinction between the contents of the two parts, however, is not wholly consistent in its application, as the discussion of the funerary monuments in the first volume (I.5) is taken up again in the second (IV.4), while one might have expected that the painted fragments from the great fresco of the apse and from other parts of the monastic complex, recovered from excavation (IV.5) to have been dealt with along with the finds of Conant’s pits in the first rather than the second volume. The largest proportion of that volume’s pages is devoted to the sculptural decoration of the presently subsisting structures of the church, to whose description and analysis Neil Stratford has applied his unrivalled knowledge. Although this discussion takes up every element of this sculptural décor found both in the interior and exterior of the monument in systematic fashion, noting as well connections with the sculpture of other churches of the region or in Cluny’s orbit, it seems likely that the reader’s interest will be solicited most insistently by the author’s extended treatment of the hemicycle colonnade crowned by its famous eight capitals (IV.2a and b), long regarded as a high point of Romanesque art for the refinement of their style and theological profundity.


          Stratford, as is made abundantly clear, brings a considerable measure of skepticism to bear on the widely held assumption that these carvings harbor a coherently-structured message and constituted the principal focal point for the attention of the monastic community and its spiritual edification. Two major considerations justify his doubts. First, like Peter Diemer before him (Gesta, XXVII, 1 and 2, 1988, 149-173) though with some differences in emphasis and specific points of interpretation, his demonstration brings to the fore some of the uncertainties that still beset the identification of the allegorical figures of the capitals, as well as the difficulty in some cases of reconciling their depiction with the painted or carved inscriptions that accompany them. Second, and more fundamentally for him, there is the fact that the hemicycle capitals, positioned some ten meters above the pavement, would thus hardly have been visible from ground level, unlike the great painting of Christ in Majesty in the half-dome over the apse above, much more likely to have been the real focus of the viewer’s perceptions. These arguments carry a good deal of weight and will be difficult to dismiss, though they are perhaps not as airtight as they are made to appear. For one, the inconsistencies or outright “errors” of the sculptors detected by modern eyes do not altogether rule out an intention on their part to imbue their creations with a programmatic sense, imperfectly realized as this might be. Moreover, as a long list of monuments from Antiquity to the present would indicate, the visual inaccessibility of an image to a viewing eye does not of itself deny it meaning or communicative potential, odd as this may seem to us.


          With the following section (IV. 3b and c), devoted to the chancel barrier that separated the monks’ choir from the nave of the church, we are on less well trampled ground. A large number of fragments stemming from this structure, some of them brought to light in Conant’s excavations, others more recently discovered or found in a variety of private and public collections are here comprehensively inventoried. Conant, who was the first to identify his finds as stemming from a lost (and otherwise undocumented) chancel screen, also included a schematic and wholly hypothetical view of the design in one of his highly finished drawings of the interior of the church (Cluny, 1968, 119 and pl. XLIV, fig. 84), but a new collocation of the entire material by Stratford and David Walsh proposes a more reliable and satisfying reconstruction of the work, which they believe to have been erected toward 1120. An added and unexpected bonus of their investigations relates to the surprising discovery, in the course of an exploration carried out in 1991 and 1994 into the foundations of a small modern structure situated south of the cloister, of elements in the same style but round rather than flat in their configuration (IV.3c). These, following their analysis, are likely remnants of two previously unrecorded small circular arcuated structures, which they conjecture to have been fountains required for the ritual washing of the monks before entering the refectory or after the performance of the mandatum.


          These two stout volumes are well printed on coated stock and adequately supplied with illustrations through black and white photographs, along with a small but welcome selection of images in color congregated on the opening pages of the first volume and helpfully appended to the study of the small remnants of wall painting and polychromy from the abbey by Juliette Rollier-Hanselmann in the second (IV.5). A copious bibliography further enhances the value of the publication, though it is oddly placed at the end of the first volume (pp. 381-406) rather than at the end of the work, where it would have been more appropriately situated. It has to be said that the weight of these books and their rather large format makes them difficult to handle without the help of a desk or bookstand. But given the wealth of information that they contain, this was probably unavoidable.





 7      Préface

 9      Illustrations couleurs

17     Avant-propos : Marie-Christine Labourdette

18     Remerciements : Neil Stratford

20     Abréviations : Neil Stratford


Première Partie

21    Méthode du Corpus et essai critique de la documentation

23    I.1. Historique du projet du Corpus (Neil Stratford)

25    I.2. Les fouilles de Kenneth John Conant (1928-1956) (David Walsh)

37    I.3. La construction de Cluny III et du monastère; le témoignage des documents (Neil Stratford)

38    I.3(a). Documents du Moyen Age

49    I.3(b). Abrégé de la chronologie (XVIe-XVIIIe siècle)

55    I.3(c). Principales étapes de la démolition de l’abbaye

63    I.3(d). Travaux plus récents (XIXe-XXIe siècle)

74    I.4. Iconographie de Cluny III (Neil Stratford)

75    I.4(a). Plans (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècle)

79    I.4(b). Aquarelles, Dessins et Gravures (XVIIe-fin XVIIIe siècle)

90    I.4(c). Documents visuels (XIXe siècle)

109  I.5. Les tombeaux de l’abbaye de Cluny (Neil Stratford)

161  I.6. Origine des matériaux de l’abbaye de Cluny ; essai de détermination (Annie Blanc)

161  I.6(a). Géologie des environs de Cluny

162  I.6(b). Détermination des pierres du monument sur les parties restantes

166  I.6(c). Les éléments du dépôt lapidaire (musée Ochier)

167  I.6(d). Les anciennes carrières utilisées pour l’abbatiale

168  I.6(e). Conclusions provisoires sur l’emploi des pierres dans les parties orientales de l’église

169  Prélèvements


Deuxième Partie

173  Le catalogue des fouilles de K.J. Conant

175  II.1. Introduction au catalogue (Neil Stratford, David Walsh, Brigitte Maurice-Chabard)

175  II.1(a). Les conventions du catalogue

177  II.1(b). Les fouilles menées depuis 1950

177  II.1(c). Les travaux dans la cour des haras (janvier 1989)

179  II.2. Catalogue des Pits

327  II.3. Table de concordances

327  II.3(a). Conant-Corpus

337  II.3(b). Corpus-Conant

347  II.4. Figures comparatives


Troisième Partie

351  Essai de synthèse relatifs aux découvertes majeures de Conant

353  III.1. Le décor roman

353  III.1(a). Les éléments figurés et deux chapiteaux connus d’après les dessins (Neil Stratford)

357  III.1(b). Le mobilier roman (Neil Stratford)

358  III.1(c). Les fragments de chapiteaux à feuillages (XIe-XIIe siècle (Neil Stratford)

361  III.1(d). La modénature romane (David Walsh)

373  III.2. Le décor gothique (Neil Stratford, David Walsh, Brigitte Maurice-Chabaud)

373  III.2(a). Les fragments gothiques

374  III.2(b). Les moulures gothiques (David Walsh)

379  III.3. Les fragments postmédiévaux (Neil Stratford)

379  III.3(a). Les principaux fragments de matériaux fins et souvent colorés

379  III.3(b). Les principaux fragments postmédiévaux

381  Bibliographie (Neil Stratford)


Quatrième Partie

413  Pour une meilleure compréhension du décor de Cluny III

415  IV.1. Le décor des parties subsistantes de Cluny III, parties orientales (Neil Stratford)

415  IV.1(a). La période romane

476  IV.1(b). Les chapelles gothiques

515  IV.2. L’hémicycle de Cluny III (Neil Stratford)

515  IV.2(a). La colonnade de l’hémicycle (Neil Stratford, Annie Blanc)

527  IV.2(b). Les huit chapiteaux de l’hémicycle

564  IV.2(c). Divers monuments: étude comparative

587  IV.2(d). La grande peinture du cul-de-four

593  IV.3. Le mobilier liturgique de Cluny III

593  IV.3(a). Le témoignage des documents (Neil Stratford)

609  IV.3(b). La clôture du choeur (Neil Stratford, David Walsh)

662  IV.3(c). Deux structures circulaires (Neil Stratford, David Walsh)

669  IV.3(d). Le mobilier liturgique en bois du choeur (Antoine Paillet, Neil Stratford)

685  IV.4. Les tombeaux subsistant de la Grande Église (Neil Stratford)

685  IV.4(a). L’épitaphe de Patis

686  IV.4(b). Le tombeau de saint Hugues

705  IV.4(c). L’épitaphe du Père Hugues

706  IV.4(d). La plaque tombale de l’abbé Hugues IV (1183[?]-1199)

709  IV.4(e). La double tombe de l’abbé Hugues V (1199-1207) et de l’abbé Pons (1109-1122 ; m.1126)

711  IV.4(f). Le couvercle du sarcophage de Guichard IV, sire de Beaujeu (m.27 septembre 1216)

714  IV.4(g). La sépulture de dom Claude de Marcheseul (m.1633)

714  IV.4(h). Le mausolée de la famille de Bouillon à Cluny (Vincent Droguet)

728  Catalogue

741  IV.5. Étude technique des fragments de peinture murale et des polychromies sur pierre provenant de l’Abbaye de Cluny (XIIe-XVe siècle). (Juliette Rollier-Hanselmann)                                                             

742  IV.5(a). Les fragments d’enduits peints romans

747  IV.5(b). Les polychromies sur pierre d’époque romane

749  IV.5(c). Les enduits peints et les polychromies sur pierre de la chapelle Jean-de-Bourbon

765  IV.6. Dallages et pavements romans (Brigitte Maurice-Chabard)

765  IV.6(a). Les documents

768  IV.6(b). La localisation des fragments

769  IV.6(c). Les techniques et matériaux

771  IV.6(d). Le catalogue des fragments, inventaire par motif

789  IV.7. Matériaux des pavements du choeur et du mobilier (Annie Blanc)

789  IV.7(a). Les pavements et dallages romans

791  IV.7(b). Les dallages et mobiliers modernes

792  IV.7(c). Les roches du mobilier

795  IV.8. Les carreaux du pavage en terre cuite (Matthieu Pinette)

795  IV.8(a). Note à propos de l’étude typologique des carreaux de pavage découverts anciennement à Cluny

797  IV.8(b). Catalogue des fragments, inventaire par motif

817   Index (Eliane Vergnolle, Neil Stratford)