(Oise, France)
Surveyed: 1980-83, 2003, 2009, 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.
Possible apse that delayed the erection of the hemicycle piers, and possible tower in the south that left remnants in the wall to the first south bay.
The lowest courses for the east and 3 bays of the nave set out together with prominent rib shafts with bases and capitals set at 45 degrees; profiles and measurements show that the whole of the choir, all four piers of the crossing, and the nave to the fourth bay in piers and wall were set out together except for the six ambulatory piers; the nave bases are placed lower than those in the choir and the choir floor level steps down to the transepts and steps down again into the nave; if the whole of this part had been set out together, then the nave would have appeared above ground before the choir; the buttresses between the chapels are almost twice the width of those to the chapels and suggest that flyers may have been intended, especially as the buttresses do not step back until well into the gallery.
Choir walls with sills to windows
Capitals and start to vaults in the chapels.
Rib vaults in the chapels with simple roll moulds, unlike all the aisle and ambulatory vaults which have more complex profiles with a pointed section; the same ribs are found in the eastern bay of the north nave, but only the two on the north side; the ashlar cells on either side of the roll-ribs were laid in parallel coursing that changes to fan coursing above that; the order of erection in this bay indicates that the roll-ribs were before the pointed ribs; there is confirmation in the boss that has the more complex profile showing it was the last stone carved to suit the pointed, which establishers the construction order from the outside in and in the nave from north to south; the capitals in nave aisles are a little more intricate than those in the ambulatory and maybe only a short time later.
Completion of the outer walls with the arches over the chapel windows that are 2-3 courses higher than the spring for the vaults; where the chapel buttresses finish below the cornice the larger buttresses between the chapels were continued into the gallery level probably to support flyers.
The ambulatory piers east of the crossing have no rib shafts and are compound rather than the more popular drums and may have been reduced in size to present a small profile in a cramped space; if designed first they could have supported groin vaults, but I placed them in this later campaign from the evidence in the vaults; this meant that the earlier apse could continue in use for the seven or so years needed to construct the outer walls, the crossing and the nave.
Ambulatory and nave vaults with pointed profiles that are squashed against the arcade arches with little corbels, as there were no rib shafts; the capitals over these piers were carved in a simpler manner than those around the walls.
In the non-rectangular bays of the ambulatory the ribs are bent as the boss location was adjusted during erection from being closer to the altar to being in the centre of the bay suggesting change in rib layout; the bosses were carved to suit this adjustment and were therefore carved after the centre point had been changed; altogether these vaults seem to have been the work of at least three campaigns.
In many campaigns the nave plinths and bases nave piers 5-9, and the north external wall to the western side of pier 6 including windows; the south external nave wall west of pier 4 the wall, windows and vaults are later as there may have been an older masonry wall along the south from bay 6-9.
Choir gallery string course with openings on that. The capitals and vaults in the western piers are badly worn and only in south 7 and 8 do the capitals indicate that the western bays of the nave were not that much later than the east.
Choir gallery continued into the transepts may have been built during four small campaigns if we can go from the many changes to the profiles of the imposts, the richly decorated oculi in the spandrels and the drip moulds over the encasing arches; most of the vaults are groin and where there are ribs the arches have simple profiles; the buttresses that had been continued from the ground to the floor of the gallery without setbacks were rapidly reduced in the gallery showing that flyers were not intended above this level, the builder relying on the solid vaults over the gallery to buttress the high vaults.
Choir gallery arches and preparation for groin vaults. Continuing the design from the east continued the gallery as a narrow walkway around the south transept and the first three bays of the nave on both sides; the nave galleries were designed for groin vaults with squinches in the corners by the crossing and recesses left to support the cells so the ashlar could be built above that, though the vaults were not built; a staircase was intended and the door prepared, but also not completed; there was no gallery around the north transept, possibly to accommodate buildings on that side; it seems that construction was a lot slower in the outer bays of both transepts evidenced from the absence of the triforium and minor changes to the details in the clerestory walkways and window frames.
Rectangular triforium openings into the roof space over the gallery vaults.
The aisle western piers in the nave, completed before the aisles in the intervening piers.
Choir clerestory begun with internal walkway at the level of the capital imposts supported on corbels; one carver in particular (GrippleSon) who had been working in the Senlis nave continued on to carve in the adjacent nave bays; in the rectangular bay before the hemicycle there are three different supports for the rib vault: 45 degree capitals by the crossing, a figure in the south-east and a head under the rib in the north-west suggesting at least two campaigns, while the mass of the crossing that could have been a little slower to erect suggests that the eastern pair were before those in the west.
Walling around choir walkway to clerestory sills. Nave piers 1-4 clerestory capitals with a continuation of the walkway used in the east; in some cases the corners of the capitals have been damaged and the imposts are not true to the geometry accepted by the capitals, suggesting a change of intent between when the capitals were carved and the placement of the walkway; the templates for these capitals are so often the same as those in the choir that I would have placed them together, except that the small differences between them suggest the sort of slight developments that one might expect when one crew has finished one task and the moved on to the next; at least three of the carvers not present in the choir are found in the Laon cathedral gallery.
Highly decorated choir high vaults and boss with the most complex design of any boss in this study; when the vault in the rectangular bay was completed it was found that the south-east rib was misaligned so it was not true to the boss.
Choir roof cornice, completion of eastern roof. Eastern nave clerestory with imposts angled differently to the capitals underneath; would include the windows and start of the vaults; work would have then continued to the completion of the eastern end of the building and the upper terminal walls of the transepts.
Capitals on the western face of northern pier 8 and on both faces in pier 9, part of the gradual continuation of the west with the intention of building a massive westworks with portals and capable of supporting towers.
Nave gallery and clerestory 4-7 followed the earlier four-level design with walkways in the clerestory, mostly seem around 1200 and later but with few indications on decade; very slow progression from here on with only a few courses completed in each campaign; even so, the westmost gallery and clerestory were left incomplete.
Lady chapel layout and dado arcade; construction probably continued into the 1250s; the detailing
Walls and vaults to western bays of south aisle piers 5-8 as pier bases and capitals; western wall built to close off this end of the church as intended west front never achieved, and with it the last bays of the gallery and clerestory.

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