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Medieval Architecture in Western Europe: From A.D. 300 to 1500 Includes CD Robert G. Calkins Oxford University Press USA


14th June 2013 History Books 4 Comments

“This survey of 1200 years of Western medieval architecture will become a standard introductory text. Calkin’s concise descriptions of individual monuments will expand students’ understanding and appreciation of the subject. The book offers a remarkable overview of the diversity of building in the period. The photographs and ground plans provide superb visual documentation.”–Deborah Kahn, Boston University

“Fills a gap that has existed for quite some time. The monuments are judiciously selected, and the material is up to date for a survey. The CD is great for our electronic classroom.”–Harry Titus, Wake Forest University

“Clear, compact exposition, well chosen illustrations, clearly reproduced, splendid bibliography. I like the support given by the footnotes, which will encourage further reading.”–John M. Schnurrenberg, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Robert G. Calkins is a History of Art Professor at Cornell University. He has considerable experience with medieval architecture, having written two other books on this subject, Monuments of Medieval Art and Illuminated Books of the Middle Ages.

For the first time, instructors of Medieval Architecture have a selective survey that obviates the need to piece together teaching material from several sources. Medieval Architecture in Western Europe: From A.D. 300 to 1500 presents a selection of major monuments of Medieval European architecture in a single volume. Beginning with a study of structural antecedents found in late Roman architecture, the author examines Early Christian borrowings and transformations and selected representative types of Byzantine buildings. The following chapters cover the development of the monastic complex, traditional forms of Northern timber construction, and the contributions of the Carolingian and Ottonian empires. Spanish structures from the seventh century through the tenth century set the stage for the development of the Romanesque style, examined in its various regional manifestations. After identifying the structural sources of Gothic architecture, the author presents the evolving regional Gothic styles, Late Gothic elaborations and innovations, and representative types of secular architecture. The text concludes with an informative chapter on medieval building practices and the tradition of the Master Mason.
Medieval Architecture in Western Europe: From A.D. 300 to 1500 is thoroughly illustrated with plans, sections, diagrams, and photographs, and also includes an IBM-compatible CD-ROM, featuring over 800 supplementary views and details of the buildings discussed, all in color. Filling the gap between general surveys of architectural history and specialized works on specific periods and regions, this book is ideal for introductory courses in Medieval Architecture, but will also satisfy any reader with an interest in the Middle Ages.

“This survey of 1200 years of Western medieval architecture will become a standard introductory text. Calkin’s concise descriptions of individual monuments will expand students’ understanding and appreciation of the subject. The book offers a remarkable overview of the diversity of building in the period. The photographs and ground plans provide superb visual documentation.”–Deborah Kahn, Boston University

“Fills a gap that has existed for quite some time. The monuments are judiciously selected, and the material is up to date for a survey. The CD is great for our electronic classroom.”–Harry Titus, Wake Forest University

“Clear, compact exposition, well chosen illustrations, clearly reproduced, splendid bibliography. I like the support given by the footnotes, which will encourage further reading.”–John M. Schnurrenberg, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Medieval Architecture in Western Europe: From A.D. 300 to 1500 Includes CD

Early Medieval Architecture

Medieval architecture brings to mind Gothic cathedrals and fortified castles. But those styles were developed from earlier traditions, as detailed by Stalley (history of art, Trinity Coll., Dublin). Covering the period 313-1200 C.E., Stalley discusses the influence of early Christianity prior to the emergence of the Gothic style. He examines stylistic periods as well as the elements of engineering and construction, the cooperative efforts of builder and patron, and the broad categories of secular and church structures. Photographs of buildings, diagrams, and period art tie in well with the text. Though the focus is specialized, Stalley’s book is inviting to both students and general readers. This fine addition to Oxford’s series, neatly written and presented, is recommended for public and academic libraries.
-Karen Ellis, Nicholson Memorial Lib. Syst., Garland, TX
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The early middle ages were an exciting period in the history of European architecture, culminating in the development of the Romanesque style. Major architectural innovations were made during this time including the medieval castle, the church spire, and the monastic cloister. By avoiding the traditional emphasis on chronological development, Roger Stalley provides a radically new approach to the subject, exploring issues and themes rather than sequences and dates. In addition to analysing the language of the Romanesque, the book examines the engineering achievements of the builders, focusing on how the great monuments of the age were designed and constructed. Ranging from Gotland to Apulia, Stalley explores the richness and variety of European architecture in terms of the social and religious aspirations of the time. Symbolic meanings associated with architecture are also thoroughly investigated. Written with style and humour, the lively text includes many quotations from ancient sources, providing fascinating insight into the way that medieval buildings were created, and in the process enlivening study of this period.

Early Medieval Architecture (Oxford History of Art)










  • 4 responses to "Medieval Architecture in Western Europe: From A.D. 300 to 1500 Includes CD Robert G. Calkins Oxford University Press USA"

  • Angelov
    4:17 on June 15th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    The text arrived in good shape, and was just as described. What kept this from being a 5-star review was the sluggishness of the delivery, some 3 1/2 weeks after being ordered.

  • Alina Cochron
    14:51 on June 15th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Published last year, this is one of the initial volumes to appear in the extremely good, new “Oxford History of Art” series, which almost outdoes even the recent “Everyman Art Library”, which it resembles. Both series are an attempt to make available up-to-the-moment overviews of selected areas of the history of building, sculpture, painting, and photography. Whereas the Everyman series seems to be open-ended, Oxford have divided their survey of world art into categories by area and/or subject, although only a handful of titles have appeared to date.

    Both series are superbly well printed and illustrated; each includes maps, charts, timelines, and bibliographies. What Thames and Hudson’s “World of Art” series did well for several decades, these two series are now achieving in a more strictly periodizing form, with greater emphasis on method and, in the case of Oxford, on Theory.

    In both the Oxford and Everyman series, the most fascinating volumes are those which treat subjects broken down or combined in unusual ways. Thus, Alison Cole’s “Art of the Italian Renaissance Courts” (l995) seeks to compare Naples, Urbino, Milan, Ferrara, and Mantua— bringing relative clarity to a topic that most surveys tend to gloss over. Similarly, Loren Partridge’s Everyman “The Renaissance in Rome” (1996) treats the Quattrocento and Cinquecento in the Eternal City, chapter by chapter, in terms of urban planning, churches, palaces, altarpieces, chapel decorations, and halls of state— all in a single volume.

    Before Stalley, the two Oxford volumes I had read were Jas Elsner’s “Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph” and Craig Clunas’s “Art in China”. Both are by younger scholars and are massively imbued with new (politically correct) art history. Yet both books are filled with challenging and brilliant examples and new information. In fact, the China volume is written (like all of Clunas’s work) from a perspective that is truly revolutionary in Chinese studies. At the end of the day, both Elsa and Clunas are so skilled, both as writers and historians, that even the jargon of the new art history is eclipsed by the sheer quality of the two works.

    Roger Stalley, Professor of the History of Art, at Trinity College, Dublin, writes clearly, penetratingly, and without jargon. “Early Medieval Architecture” is deftly constructed, and the author claims that his chapters may be read “in almost any order”. This may indeed be the case (I read straight through and could scarcely put the book aside). It comes, of course, as no small recommendation that Stalley was a student of Peter Kidson’s.

    What makes “Early Medieval Architecture” unique is the editorial decision to relegate the entire topic of “late” medieval building to a separate volume by Nicola Coldstream. Therefore, hardly a mention is made of “Gothic— the question that Stalley addresses being: “What is Romanesque?” Like its subject the book is suitably austere, yet it is not without personality. The endnotes are unobtrusive, and there is a state- of-the-art Bibliographic Essay. All this is supplemented by some 150 varied and informative photographs and redrawn plans and building sections. There is virtually no attention to sculpture, as befits a scholar whose interests and sympathies are Cistercian; however, there is a sensitive underlying concern with the “language of architecture” itself, such that the book would give pleasure to any working architect.

    Stalley has given us ten chapters starting with “The Christian Basilica”, where his subject overlaps slightly with that of the Elsner’s book. Appropriately, the argument returns again and again to Rome. The next chapter is an exercise in setting forth the architecture of the Carolingian Renaissance, where light is shed in an area of architectural history that for the novice is more typically hedged with exceptions and speculation. A third chapter pursues the “iconography of architecture” in Rome, Milan, Ravenna, and Jerusalem, as well as lesser-known places.

    Chapter 4 is devoted to secular architecture and is somewhat revisionist in tone. The very fact that such an exercise is provided bodes well for the clarity of Stalley’s enterprise, and there are numerous photographs throughout the book that succeed in demonstrating a relationship between ecclesiastical buildings and the architecture of feudalism.

    Chapters 5 and 6 treat, respectively, the patron-as-builder and the builder-as-engineer. In this, the architectural expertise of certain early patrons is stressed, while the engineering argument is soft peddled, in the sense that techniques of vaulting are not allowed to dominate a more all-embracing explanation of the general integrity of the building fabric. As the author reminds us, the story of vaulting has too often been permitted to get out of hand, leading the discussion of early medieval structure well beyond what is warranted by evidence and probably away from what must have been the original aims and concerns of early medieval builders themselves, whether “engineers” or not.

    Chapters 7 and 8 deal with the influences of pilgrimage and monasticism on early medieval building. Here a number of relevant statistics and medieval texts are cited that raise the discussion well above what is ordinarily expected to suffice the undergraduate reader. For example, the names of the seven major services or “offices” of Benedictine communal worship are set out and, where needed, explanation is offered. The discussion of the famous St. Gall plan is commendable in its detail, while the full-page photographic detail of the plan is printed in color to show the use of red ink on parchment. Included here is mention and illustration of the recently restored Cistercian abbey church at Fontenay, which as a caption points out, may reflect the destroyed mother house at Clairvaux.

    The final two chapters are a magisterial recapitulation of the “Language of Architecture”, starting off “During the course of the eleventh century a new architectural language emerged in western Europe…”, and of its subsequent diversity throughout Europe. In summary, this is an exciting book that matches some of the recent strides forward in early medieval social and political history and provides a superlative discussion of a topic that has rarely been so coherently presented and illustrated in a single volume.

    David B. Stewart, Tokyo Institute of Technology

  • HoosierDaddy
    21:34 on June 15th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    Mr. Stalley has written an excellent piece of work by combining the architecture in the early middle ages with its historical context. The content is entertaining and informative. It starts by describing the origin of the basilicas, their evolution along time and the influence that the medieval society (either royal, secular, or religious) had on both, design and construction, of these outstanding long lasting works.

  • Lizzy Bizzy
    2:13 on June 16th, 2013
    Reply to comment

    As a student in Professor Calkin’s Medieval Architecture course at Cornell, I have found this book to be an invaluable resource. Professor Calkins has intimate knowledge of all of the buildings described, and the majority of the photos presented are his own. The book takes you from pre-Christian Rome, to the Pyrenees in Catalunya, and through the French countryside as you explore every corner and hidden space of the great and lesser-known churches of Western Europe. A must for anyone who loves architecture, student or not.

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