Dictionary of French Architecture from the 11th to 16th Century/Volume 1/Blind Arcade

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Blind Arcade or Blind Arch[edit]

Word by which one indicates a series of arcades of a small dimension, which are rather intended to decorate the parts, smooth of the walls under the supports of the windows or the cornices, rather than to answer a need for construction. One meets in certain buildings of the Lower Empire of the blind lines of arcades which have of another goal only to decorate naked walls. This reason for decoration appears particularly allowed and to be preserved by the architects of the carolingian time, and it persists for the periods Romance and ogival, in all the provinces of France. It is wise to observe however that the use of the blind arcades is more or less well justified in the Romance buildings; some regions, such as Normandy for example, misused the blind arcade in certain monuments of the XIth century, too not knowing how to decorate the frontages with the large churches, the architects superimposed blind stages of blind arcades of the base to the ridge. It is particularly in the Norman buildings built in England, that this abuse is felt; the frontage of the church of Peterborough in is an example. Nothing is more monotonous than this superposition of equal blind arcades like heights and widths, of which one includes/understands neither the utility like system of construction, nor the goal like decoration. In France the feeling of the proportions, relationships of the vacuums with the full ones, borer in architecture since it is released from cruelty. As of the XIth century these important details of the decoration of masonry, such as the blind arcades, are contained in right terminals, hold their place well, do not appear to be as in England or Italy, on the frontage of the cathedral of Pisa for example, of platings of a sterile invention. We will divide the blind arcades: 1. "blind arcades on the ground floor", 2. "crowning blind arcades";' 3. "blind arcades for ornament".

Blind arcades on the ground floor[edit]

These kinds of blind arcades are generally placed, in French architecture, inside, under the supports of the low windows, and form a series of small blind arcades between the ground and these supports. The large rooms, the low sides of the churches, the vaults, are almost always papered in their bases by a succession of blind arcades not very projecting ranges by detached pilasters or posts resting on a bench or continuous base of stone. We give like first example of this kind of decoration an interior span on the low sides of the nave of


cathedral of Mans (fig. 1). In this example which is of the XIth century, the construction of masonry seems to justify the use of the blind arcade; the walls are built in blocks faced in small cubes, like certain Gallo-Roman constructions. The blind arcade, by its larger apparatus, the firmness of its jambs monoliths, gives solidity to this base by decorating it, it accompanies and crowns this bench which reigns all along the low side. Generally even at that time, the blind arcades are supported by posts isolated decorated from bases and carved capitals; we will choose like example the blind arcade of bottoms


sides of the abbey church of Souvigny (To combine) (fig. 2), always resting on a bench in accordance with the adopted use. In these blind arcades, the base, the capital and the archstones of the small arcs are engaged in the masonry of the wall, and the barrels of the posts made up of only one piece of stone posed in offence, are detached. In Souvigny the arcs rest alternatively on a rectangular pilaster and a cylindrical post. This example goes up at the first years of the XIIth century. As architecture gets rid of the somewhat heavy forms of the Romance time, the low blind arcades become finer, the arcs are decorated with mouldings, the posts are more slender. In the low southern side of the church of Sainte-Madeleine de Châteaudun, one still sees the remainders of a beautiful blind arcade of the XIIth century which is used as transition between the Romance style and the ogival style (3); the trenchers of the capitals are varied from it, finely profiled, the archivolts are decorated with teeth of saw. Low blind arcades of


monuments of Normandy about this time are curiously worked, sometimes made up of a succession of small arcs semicircular arch which intersect and relate either to a row of posts, or on alternate posts and corbels; but it is particularly in England that the Norman style developed this kind of decoration in which some spirits more clever than enlightened wanted to see the origin of the warhead (“see:” WARHEAD).


The northern side of the chorus of the cathedral of Canterbury presents outside, between the windows of the crypt and those on the low sides, a blind arcade which we give here (fig. 3 (a)), with an embellished string course between the buttresses; this example dates from the last years of the XIIth century. In the lower stage of the Saint-Romain tower of the cathedral of Rouen, the posts of the blind arcades are coupled, already supporting small arcs in tierce point, although the semicircular arch persists a long time in these additional members of architecture, and until the first years of the XIIIth century; thus, the vaults of the chorus of the abbey church of Vézelay are papered under the supports of the windows, of blind arcades belonging by the details of their ornamentation to the XIIIth century, while their arcs are frankly semicircular arch (fig. 4). In Burgundy the arc semicircular arch even persists


in the blind arcades until worms medium of the XIIIth century. The small church of Our-injury of Dijon, whose construction is posterior with the church of the abbey of Vézelay, still lets see in the bases of its vaults of the transept, of beautiful blind arcades semicircular arch on capitals which do not have anything any more the Romance ornamentation. The curve in tierce point applies to the archivolts of the blind arcades only about 1230, the trefoil arch is used as transition, one sees it employed in the northern transept of the Midsummer's Day church of


The Châlons-on-Marne (fig. 5), from which the lower part goes back to 1220 to 1230; in the still existing spans on the low sides of the cathedral of Amiens, even date; later, of 1230 to 1240, the arc in tierce point only reigns (fig. 6),


as one can see it in the vaults of the chorus of the cathedral of Troyes, initially simple, only decorated by largely shaped mouldings, then a little later, about 1240, by “redents”, as in the vaults of the chorus of the cathedral of Amiens (fig. 7) or the Ste Chapelle


ow of the Palate in Paris. Hitherto however, the low blind arcades, that they belong to a rich monument or a church of small city, are with little thing close similar. But about 1245, at the time when ogival architecture arrived at its apogee, the blind arcades, in the buildings built with luxury, take a greatter importance, grow rich by low-reliefs, ornaments, of openings, tend to form under the windows a splendid decoration, while always letting see naked walls in between-colonnements; these walls themselves receive painting, applications of gaufrures or glasses coloured and gilded. The high Ste Chapelle of the Palate in Paris offers the most beautiful example to us which one can give of a series of blind arcades thus treated (fig. 8). Then, in the buildings


monk, the party adopted by the manufacturers let see walls only under the supports of the windows on the low sides; all construction limiting itself to piles and vacuums furnished with canopies, one conceives that it had been unpleasant to meet under the canopies of the sides, with the smooth part, eye level which had been in complete disagreement with the general system of piles and openings adopted by the architects. These blind arcades were used as transition between the ground and the mullions from the windows while preserving however by firmness from the profiles, the narrowness of between-colonnements and the robust projections of the benches, a certain solidity of aspect necessary to the base of a monument. The low sides of the cathedral of Rheims, though equipped with these broad benches with walk ahead, did not never have, or are stripped of their blind arcade; also, one is shocked nudity of these stone walls under the supports of the windows, nudity which contrasts with the so wise richness of all the interior of the building. For us, it is not doubtful that the low sides of the cathedral of Rheims had to be or were furnished with blind arcades like were formerly those of the nave of the abbey church of Saint-Denis, the lower parts of these two naves having the greatest reports/ratios. We give here (fig. 9) the low blind arcade of the nave of the church of Saint-Denis, from which all the remains still exist in the stores of this building, and whose traces are visible on the spot. Let us say while passing that it is with some fragments of this blind arcade that the tomb of Héloïse and Abailard, now deposited with the Father-Lachaise, was composed by Mr. Lenoir, in the museum of Small-augustins.


It would not have to be believed that the blind arcades rigorously followed the way which we have just traced, to reach their development; before arriving at the adoption of the curve in tierce point one meets gropings, because it is particularly for the transitional periods that the exceptions multiply. We will give of them one which dates from the first years of the XIIIth century, and which can count among most original; it is in the low sides of the church of Montier-in-DER (Haute-Marne) (fig. 10), charming building filled with architectonic singularities, and which we will have the occasion to often quote. Towards the end of the XIIIth century, low blind arcades, as all the other members of ogival architecture thin down themselves; they lose the aspect of “a construction”. of a base, that they had preserved hitherto, to contain itself in the role of platings. The genius so imperiously logical which inspired the architects of the Middle Ages, brought them soon in this as in all to the abuse. They wanted to see in the blind arcade of support the continuation of the window, like “a allége”of this one. They made pass the mullions of the windows through the shelf of support, and the blind arcade merged with them.


Consequently the window seemed to go down to the lower bench; the last traces of the Romance wall disappeared thus, and the ogival system was established in all its rigour (fig. 11).


This example drawn on the low sides of the chorus of the cathedral of Sées, dates from the last years of the XIIIth century. However, the small pinions spared above the arcs still give to these bases a decoration which isolates them from the window, which in fact a member with share being his own, while later, at the beginning of the XIVth century, as in the chorus of the church Saint-Nazaire of Carcassonne, the low blind arcade by connecting to the mullions windows, adopt their forms, are composed of the same members of mouldings, repeats their compartments (fig. 12). It is more actually only the lower part of the window which is stopped, and by the fact, the wall forced to reprocess itself inside with naked stained glasses, to let half of the mullions release itself in low-relief, preserves nothing any more but one low thickness which is equivalent to a simple partition. It was impossible to go further. During the XIV E and XV E centuries, the low blind arcades preserve the same paces, varying only in the details of the ornamentation according to the taste of the moment. One sees them disappearing suddenly about the middle from the XVth century, and that is explained by the use then adopted to furnish the bases with the more or less rich vaults of woodworks. With the blind arcades also the benches disappear from stone, those with stronger reason being replaced by wood benches. More refined manners, the practice taken by the rich and powerful families or the brotherhoods, to found special vaults to attend the divine service, made that one preferred the panels of wood and the quite dry siéges, with these walls and these cold and wet benches.


We cannot omit among the blind arcades of rez-of roadway, the large blind arcades on the low sides of the cathedral of Poitiers. This building (“see:” CATHEDRAL), built at the end of the XIIth century and the beginning of the XIII E, present of the particular provisions which belong to Poitou. The vaults on the low sides are as high as those of the nave, and the wall under the windows, thick and raised, form a gallery being used as passage with the level of the support of these windows. This high support is decorated by a continuation with large blind arcades semicircular arch surmounted with a cornice whose projection is supported by finely carved corbelets (fig. 13). Similar blind arcades are seen in the nave of the Sainte-Radegonde church of Poitiers, which dates from the same time.


Blind arcades at the crown[edit]

In some Romance churches, particularly those high on the edges of the Rhine, there had been the idea to light the frames above the barrel vaults, by means of a succession of up to date blind arcades forming of the low galleries under the cornices (“see:” GALLERY). The vaults, in cradle of the naves or half dome of the apses, left between their kidneys and the level of the suitably high cornice to let pass tie-beams of the frames above the suction face, a naked wall which was of an unpleasant aspect, and which moreover was of great gravity. (14) Is the cut of a barrel vault semicircular arch or in half dome, the windows could not be curved above birth A of the vaults, unless admitting penetrations, which was out of use; it thus remained of A out of B level of the cornice, a rise in wall ordered by the installation of the frame; one bored this wall out of C by a gallery up to date or closed by a thin wall, intended then, either to give air under the roofs, or to form like a covered way reducing lower constructions. This provision, inspired by a calculation of manufacturer, became a reason for decoration in some religious monuments of France. To the XIIth century the higher part of the walls of the nave of the cathedral of Autun, closed by an ogival barrel vault reinforced with transverse ribs, was decorated by an external blind blind arcade which fills this naked heightening of masonries, although by the fact it is not of any utility; it was placed there only to occupy the eyes, and like a tradition of the up to date galleries of the Romance buildings of the edges of the Rhine. This blind arcade (fig. 15) has that of


private individual who it is, like form, an imitation of the galleries or covered ways of the two ancient doors still existing in this city (doors of Saint-Andrew and Arrou). It should be believed that this reason very-was tasted then, because it was repeated to satiety in the cathedral of Autun and the churches of Beaune and Saulieu which are only imitations of this building, like in a great number of small churches of Mâconnais and high Burgundy. Outside the apses, the Romance blind arcades are lavished in the religious buildings of Languedoc, of Provence, and particularly of Saintonge, Poitou and Berry. One still sees a beautiful belt of blind arcades alternatively blind or bored windows outside the triforium of the round church of Neuvy-Saint-Sepulchre (Indre), XIth century (“see:” SAINT-SÉPULCRE). This framing system of blind arcades of the windows is adopted in Auvergne outside the apses, in the higher parts of the naves and the pinions of the transsepts; here is an example drawn from the northern arm of cross of the Saint-Etienne church of Nevers, high to the XIth century on the plandes churches auvergnates (fig. 16). This blind arcade presents one


provision which belongs to the churches of this province, it is this triangle which comes to replace the arc semicircular arch in certain cases. The church of Our-injury-of-Port, in Clermont, gives us at the end of the arms of northern cross and south an about similar blind arcade with this one; but in Saint-Etienne of Nevers these blind arcades decorate the interior and the outside of the pinion of the northern brace, while with Our-injury-of-Port they exist only inside. It is not necessary to say that the high blind arcades of the naves or the apses could not find their place any more since the vault in arc-warheads was adopted, since then the archivolts of the windows rose until under the higher cornices; also more in the monuments of the XIII E, XIV E they are not met and XV E centuries, if it is not in the cathedral of Rheims, where one sees seeming a last reflection of the tradition of the higher Romance blind arcades. Here, these blind arcades surmount the cornices and could be regarded as balustrades if their extraordinary dimension did not prevent from confusing them with this member of ogival architecture. These are rather open-type screen which one is hardly explained the utility. The vaults of the chorus of the cathedral of Rheims are surmounted lines of columns isolated carrying from the arcs and a stringcourse. This, decoration, which dates from the XIIIth century, takes a great importance by its dimensions; it has the defect to be out of scale with the other parts of the building, and reduces the vaults because of its analogy with the shapes of a balustrade (fig. 17).


Crownings of thr chorus of this same cathedral were also finished by a blind arcade plugs of which there remains a great quantity of fragments rested and restored at the end of the XVth century, after the fire of the roofs. There, this blind arcade is included/understood better, it masked a gutter; but the up to date blind arcade of the nave, also remade to the XVth century while following the adopted forms to the end of the XIIIth century, is nothing any more but one imitation of this party as for external appearance only, since it does not meet any need. The central towers of the churches, high on the medium of crossing, are often decorated inside or outside, during the Romance times or of transition, blind arcades plug, especially in Normandy, Auvergne, Saintonge and the Angoumois, where this mode to paper naked walls in the higher parts of the buildings particularly appears to be adopted. The stocks of the central towers of the cathedrals of Coutances inside, with Rouen inside and outside, with Bayeux outside, the churches of Saint-Etienne of Caen inside, with Our-injury-of-Port and Issoire outside, with the majority of the churches of Charente, etc, are provided with blind arcades (“see:” TURN, BELL-TOWER). We see also the blind arcades employed like decoration in the higher stages of the bell-towers planted on the frontages of the Romance churches and the beginning of the XIIIth century, above the gates, under the pinks. The last three stages of the northern bell-tower of the cathedral of Direction, known as “turn of Plomb”, are surrounded of blind arcades plug formant up to date gallery only in the mediums of the second stage. We give here (fig. 18) the drawing of the higher trefoil blind arcade of this bell-tower. It will be noticed that the coupled posts of this blind arcade are supported by figures going on lions; these kinds of caryatids meet in some buildings of Champagne and a part of Burgundy (“see:” SUPPORT).


Blind arcades for ornament[edit]

It remains us to speak about the blind arcades which meet so frequently had in the bases of splayings of the gates the churches, and which are well really then a simple decoration. The blind arcades of which we previously spoke are “bâties”, almost always form part of construction, their arcs are composed of archstones, and form, as emphasized we it higher, like as many relieving arches related to columns monolythes; while the blind arcades of bases are most of the time hollow in blocks of stone. Such are the blind arcades placed below the statues now destroyed of the gates of the cathedral of Sées (fig. 19), which date from the first years from


XIIIth century; those of the northern gate of the cathedral of Troyes which, although a little posterior, present a similar provision; those of the southern gate of the cathedral of Amiens with interlaced arcs (fig. 20) posed of 1220 with


1225; those so finely carved and of a so pure taste which paper the facings of the bases of the central door of the cathedral of Paris, and between which the Virtues and Defects (fig. 21) are represented, 1220


approximately; those which are laid out in a similar place with theSainte-Anne place, same frontage, and between which are engraved in hollow


flowers of lily simulating a hanging; those finally of the door of the Virgin (fig. 22), always of the cathedral of Paris, treated with a care and a not very ordinary size of style. This last blind arcade can be given like one of the most complete models of this kind of decoration, and we do not know anything which can be compared to him. It is enriched by sculptures of the greatest beauty, and which have the merit to be laid out perfectly for the place that they occupy. The characters or animal round bump which fill the corner pieces between the arcs, formed like supports under the great figures leaned with columns, formerly upright on this base, and pointed out the martyrdom of the saints or personified them. The strong projection of these figures escaping between the small archivolts, was in connection with the size and the high relief of the statues, while all the sculpture placed under the arcs and in between-colonnements is not any more that one kind of tapestry whose little of relief does not destroy the great unit of this beautiful base. One can see, although engraving gives only one weak idea of this decoration, like the projection of the low-reliefs loses oneself with the bottom as they approach the ground. The ornaments between the columns are even only die stampings, not not dry like a simple feature, but presenting broad and fatty parts hollow in shell. The construction of this base is in perfect harmony with the ornamentation. The funds are due to the masonry. The twin posts monolythes, made very-resistant by the species of decorated partition which connects them, carry the arcs taken in the same piece of stone with their tympanums and their corner pieces. Each compartment of the ornamentation is carved in a height of base. Unfortunately the hand of the iconoclasts of 1792 passed by there, and the majority of the figures placed in the corner pieces were mutilated. As for the small low-reliefs arranged under the tympanums, they were used as goal with the stones of the children during strong a long time. These low-reliefs can go hand in hand with what the ancient sculpture produced of more beautiful.

One sees little by little the blind arcades “ornements”being thinned down towards the end of the XIIIth century; they lose their particular character to merge with the blind arcades of base whose we gave examples. The profiles are flattened on the funds, the posts are subdivided in beams and are due to sitted of construction, the vacuums take importance and devour the profiled parts. However it is some of these blind arcades which still preserve a certain character of firmness; those which paper splayings of two of the doors of the frontage of the cathedral of Bourges, point out a little the beautiful blind arcade of Our-injury of Paris which we have just given, but apauvrie. Sometimes the vacuums of the funds, as in the blind arcade of the central door of the church of Semur in Auxois, are filled of sowing, rosettes, squared hardly projecting which produce a beautiful effect and are appropriate perfectly for a base. We will still quote the charming blind arcades of the door of right-hand side of the frontage of the old cathedral of Auxerre (fine of the XIIIth century), and in which one sees, represented in figures round bump, the history of David and Bethsabée; those of the door of right-hand side of the frontage of the cathedral of Direction (XIVth century), decorated with small pinions above the arcs, and with figures in between-colonnements. These decorations disappear to the XVth century, and the bases of the gates are more occupied than by these penetrations of bases also difficult to include/understand only they are of a monotonous aspect (“see:” PENETRATION).


The small blind arcades play a great part in the tombs, the facings of furnace bridges, the retables (“see:” these words); generally the bases of the tombs which carry the statues lying of deaths, are surrounded of blind arcades in which the whining ones are represented, of the monks, or even the apostles. At the beginning of the XIIIth century however the blind arcades and are made generally empty out of stone or white marble being detached on a black marble bottom; such were the blind arcades of the tombs remade by holy king Louis in Saint-Denis, and from which there remain fragments (fig. 23). Later these blind arcades become richer, are surmounted up to date pinions, finely carved in the stone, the marble or alabaster; they frame statuettes, sometimes also ecus with the weapons of death; they are accoladées to the XVth century, and form niches recessed between imitated posts of the ancient orders to the XVI E (“see:” TOMB). One can judge by this restricted strong outline of the importance of the blind arcades in the architecture of the Middle Ages, and the infinite number of their varieties; we could only indicate principal types, those which mark by their clever provision the taste which chaired their execution, or their originality.

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