Chartres
(Eure-et-Loir, France)
Notre-Dame, West Portals
Surveyed: 2015
This is an experimental section where John James is attempting to identify the carvers though the use of common templates and/or a recognisable manners of carving. Such a large-scale analysis of all the capitals in these buildings has not been attempted before. As an ongoing enterprise that is still in its infancy, we seek your input. John believes this has the potential to increase our understanding of how they worked and to provide a more solid basis for dating than we have had.
Campaign A: foundations for north tower, connection to the crypt and lower courses of openings from narthex; as there are no jambs for hanging doors over these openings or over the entry into the crypt the narthex had been intended from the start; these phases are based on analyses that are summarised in these two drawings.
Campaign B: north tower room wall and completes arch over passage to the crypt; capitals over entry from narthex; in stairs to tread 20±.
Campaign C: north tower room capitals and rib vaults; to tread 30± in stairs.
Campaign D: capitals and vault in north tower and arches over the external arcade, stairs to tread 67±.
Campaign E: north tower I bases, the upper room, openings set out with no provision for ribs, stairs to 97±; possible there was an earlier portal scheme.
Three disconnected figures that may have been carved for earlier portal, and now squeezed under the northern column-statues; they could have been carved in campaign E or before.
North door lintel, possibly carved for a very much wider door for an earlier portal; it was carved in this campaign or earlier; if there had been 12 figures there would have been a trumeau; as the portal plinths were not carved until the next campaign it may have been for a large central door.
Campaign F: north tower I openings and their capitals, start of domical vault; to tread 121±; the capitals over the openings include one with a palm-tree by Palmier, and the others were by colleagues fromwhat would appear to have been the contemporary campaign at Etampes.
Foundations for the south tower begun with entry into the crypt; the delay in starting the south that gave four crews F to I the opportunity to participate in carving the portals was the cause of the 13 major misalignments that have plagued historical analysis, though they also enriched the design.
This is the first indication that there were to be three portals; most of the richly decorated bases were carved here, from the many connections in tower capitals and portal bases and their capitals with the contemporary work at Etampes; yet only those flanking the north door were placed at this time; against the side of the north tower the bases were misplaced to the west with enormous consequences.
The northern portal capitals and imposts against the north tower may have been carved as they also follow the Etampes model, but as the embrasure were not erected at this time they could not be placed but set aside during the break between campaigns.
15 colonnettes in group 1 were designed in paired lengths that would have neatly fitted between plinths and capitals; as none could be installed until the embrasures that supported them had been completed they would have been stockpiled, apparently without their intended locations being marked on them.
Possibly four of the column statues flanking the north door, especially Sheba, with their foliate bases.
Central lintel was carved for a wider door opening, showing that not all the bases for the embrasures had been positioned at this stage.
The lower south lintel was carved for a wider door opening, and was reduced in width by very carefully cutting through one of the shepherds.
The upper south lintel was carved for a much narrower door, perhaps for the south doorway into the south tower that was still at the level of the footings; allocated to this campaign from the many similarities with what is today the lintel underneath.
Imposts from a number of campaigns, mainly later but placed in campaign F as this seems to be where the template was established, assuming it also followed the Etampes model.
Campaign G: north tower vaults to level I completed and level II begun with sills to openings; to tread 140± in the stairs.
South tower larger than the north raised to threshold of south portal door that was to have been narrower than the door on the north; massive shafts added on the inside of the central portal piers presumably to support a vault over the narthex; crypt entry completed; lowest courses to entry door on the south side; to tread 6± in southern circular stair.
Portal door jambs group A as part of the embrasure, including five of the six set against the north tower; adjustments to the colonnetes shows that the sixth jamb course could have been 20cm smaller, possibly to support a corbel rather than another vertical figure; in the central door the lintel is wider than doorway as built, which suggests the central lintel was carved before this while the central tympanum was carved in this campaign or later as its width suits the width of this opening; the southern portal embrasure had to wait on the delayed erection of the south tower and for some reason the central-right embrasure was delayed even further.
13 colonnettes in group 2, those intended for the north pier taken from storage and set in place, but with pieces cut from some of the group 1 colonnettes to fill the space as the door height had been raised; those to the middle door were not placed as uppermost embrasure courses was not in place and so stored, also apparently without location marks.
All three tympani may have been carved here or in previous campaign and not necessarily all the blocks at the one time; only the central one survived the redesign of the next campaign.
The unusual second lintel on the north was cleverly designed to deal with the misalignments of the jambs; this raised the heights of the side tympani to almost equal that of the middle.
Bottom row of archivolts to north portal with vertical sides designed to encase the double lintel; upper archivolts carved during this and next two campaigns.
Between campaigns with no builders on site to direct the works two independent carvers arrived and carved two colonnettes to the left of the south door in a manner that was entirely different to any of the others.
Campaign H: north tower complete level II openings with windows; closed off with wooden spire that was later destroyed.
South tower 8 courses to tread 24±, with openings into narthex; externally the courses are bonded into the south embrasure of the portal; the nib at the threshold that would have made the south door smaller was ignored to increase the width; the height was increase slightly as the capitals were placed.
Some 5 courses above the middle plinths in the portals to just under the narthex capitals, indicated by the change in jamb sculpture.
Jambs group B mainly in the two central piers and those built with the walls of the south tower; the north pier completed and uppermost jamb figure in the north established the height of the portal that was about 20cm taller than what the colonnettes indicate had been intended in the previous campaign.
Second lintel in the south adjusted with additional figures to bring it to the same width as the lower lintel; stance, dense folds, rounded features and undrilled eyes separate these figures from those in the older lintel; the length would have suited the width of the doorway, but was inexplicably cut down on the right when being placed in the next campaign.
Eight colonnettes group 3 with some uncertainty whether group 2 or 3.
Bottom row of archivolts to central and south portals; the southern were tall to encase the double lintels; upper archivolts carved during this and next campaign.
Campaign I: north II completes the openings with capitals, possibly with cornice; no further masonry on the north tower as it was probably capped with a wooden roof or spire that was later destroyed by fire.
South tower to tread 37±, complete windows to room and openings into narthex with capitals and arches.
Capitals to external openings on south side of south tower with arches.
Individually decorated supports for the column-figures in central portal with the middle historiated capitals.
Jambs group C being the uppermost courses in the centre and south.
Two internal narthex capitals with placement of external portal capitals; this included installation of column figures and the erection of the much of the sculpture above that.
Colonnettes group 4, five altogether all in the right embrasure of the central door; three more colonnettes were taken from the store and retro-fitted.
Decided that the two lateral tympani had to be reduced in height, and therefore both were totally recarved with lower centres for the arcs that frame them, which meant that the bottom archivolts had to cut down as well; many of the upper curved archivolt carved to suit the new curves.
Campaign J: south tower room vault capitals, start of vault and stairs to tread 46±.
Complete erection of portal with drip moulds, and wall over to just below west cornice.
Entry into crypt in first bay of choir.
Campaign K: external arcade to south tower with pointed arches and capitals, sills to western triplet windows, completion of vault.
Campaign L: south tower I cornice and bases to openings, and capitals on the interior narthex wall.
Capitals and arches over triplet windows.
Campaign M: south tower I arches over openings with capitals.
South tower level I vault capitals and start of vault.
Campaign N: south tower blind external arcade over level I, completion of vault.
Start of level II with cornice and bases.
Campaign O: resumption of work presumed to be after the hiatus that followed the crusade, adduced from the drastic change to the plan from square to octagonal; began with completion of level II arches and capitals over openings that had been already begun.
Redesigned tower for octagonal plan with same carving team on all upper levels to projecting heads and the spire probably completed in the mid-1160s.


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