Light and Suger Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:25:56
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St. -Denis is the pinnacle of Gothic architecture. In the following essay elements of St. -Denis as it applies to Gothic architecture will be explored. The main purpose of the essay however is to expound upon the use of light in the architecture, not merely physical light, but the spiritual light in which Abbot Suger orchestrated the design of the church. Europe, from the 11th through the 13th centuries was in both triumph and turmoil. There was growth in cities and urban life, which stimulated intellectual pursuits. There was much artistic production in music and literature.

Urban life was dominated by cathedrals because of the power of the Church (in fact this period in time in Europe was known as the Age of Cathedrals which lasted for 200 years) and approximately 80 great cathedrals were built as well as parish churches and other churches which totaled in an area in Paris around 2,700 churches. The Bishop was the head of the cathedral which explains the throne in all of the architecture of the cathedrals. It was due to the Monarchy and the Church which made Gothic development so outstanding during this time, and which made St. -Denis the pinnacle Gothic cathedral. Gothic art occurred during a romantic period.

Gothic art and architecture dealt with stories that encapsulated the supernatural, the unreal, and the bizarre. The artist was in a search for beauty and classic idea of harmony (source of all beauty). For Gothic art, harmony was the mathematical ratio that achieved beauty. This harmony was found in light. Thus, the architecture of the Gothic period was flamboyant and extravagant. The term Gothic was a derogatory term. Gothic designed to an aberration style (barbarian influence of the North). Since the tribe of Goths in the North helped to destroy the empire during this period there was a large focus on the modern or French style.

This lead to Abbot Sugers St. -Denis. St. -Denis was an apostle of France and patron saint of kings (thus, the cathedral had to reflect Gods glorious, beautiful kingdom, which is why light becomes such an important element of the cathedral). The purpose of the cathedral was to be a burial place for kings (Both Charlemagne and Pepin his father were consecreated kings at St. -Denis, and it is where Charles Martel, Pepin and Charles the Bald are buried). Abbot Suger was a good friend of Louis VI and VII (the former lead a crusade to the holy land and informed Suger to take over while he was away).

Suger was regent during the kings absent, and he brought church and state together, It was he (Suger) who forged the alliance between the monarchy and the Church, which brought the bishops of France (and the cities under their authority ) to the kings side, while the king, in turn, supported the papacy in its struggle against the German emperors (Janson 1997, 321). In this format, he also brought the state treasury to insure that there were funds available for the construction of the cathedral as well as the many other churches and cathedrals in the state.

Suger thought that the church wasnt big enough (in fact, Suger wanted St. -Denis to be a pilgrimage and a focal point of religious reliquaries and therefore a cornerstone of Frances spiritual ties and a point of interest for the state), According to Suger, the Carolingian church at St Denis had two faults: the entrance was too narrow for the crowds of pilgrims, and the space round the main altar was not large enough on feast days when the relics were being shown (Frankl 1962, 34).

Therefore, as regent and with the control of the state treasury he built it bigger. The goal of building the cathedral was to visually show Gods spiritual presence to the patrons of the church and the congregation as well as to emphasis the importance of the relationship between king and God.

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