Cover image for Framing the Church: The Social and Artistic Power of Buttresses in French Gothic Architecture By Maile S. Hutterer

Framing the Church

The Social and Artistic Power of Buttresses in French Gothic Architecture

Maile S. Hutterer

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$99.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08344-5

224 pages
9" × 10"
105 b&w illustrations
2020

Framing the Church

The Social and Artistic Power of Buttresses in French Gothic Architecture

Maile S. Hutterer

“Hutterer compellingly  transforms our understanding of the French Gothic buttress from a purely structural and visual component to one that also has social and cultural significance for the medieval viewer. Markers of divine space, buttresses are now understood to serve a variety of functions, including providing the setting for commercial exchange and serving as markers of jurisdiction. They now stand revealed as not only part of an architectural system of element and support but also part of a cultural network of sacred meaning and religious authority.”

 

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Framing the Church takes a nontraditional approach to the study of the hallmark of French Gothic architecture: the buttress. In a series of case studies spanning approximately five hundred years and incorporating some of Gothic France’s most significant monuments, Maile S. Hutterer examines the aesthetics, social processes, and iconography of flying buttresses and buttress piers to explain how they supported the church both symbolically and structurally.

Surrounding all or part of a building with periodically spaced massive piers, the buttressing frame defines an edge that simultaneously maintains permeability, creating an intermediary space around the structure. Making extensive use of archival sources, Hutterer argues that the areas between the buttresses distinguished the consecrated, sacred ground of the church interior from its unconsecrated, nonsacred surroundings, a division that was of increasing concern to theologians in the High Middle Ages. She traces how, over the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, artists and patrons increasingly associated buttressing frames with sacred places through the incorporation of sculptural programs related to theology, processions, and protection. In this way, buttressing frames mediated the interaction between visitor and building and participated in the liturgical and ritual purpose of the church’s structure.

Original and persuasive, this book illuminates the buttresses’ social and religious meaning for medieval viewers by introducing architectural iconography to a form that is primarily understood in terms of its structural utility. It will be welcomed by students and scholars of medieval architecture and medieval French history.

“Hutterer compellingly  transforms our understanding of the French Gothic buttress from a purely structural and visual component to one that also has social and cultural significance for the medieval viewer. Markers of divine space, buttresses are now understood to serve a variety of functions, including providing the setting for commercial exchange and serving as markers of jurisdiction. They now stand revealed as not only part of an architectural system of element and support but also part of a cultural network of sacred meaning and religious authority.”
“From the commercial zones flying buttresses defined on the ground to the protective gargoyles they held up against the sky, the many roles and meanings of this most characteristically Gothic architectural invention are illuminated in Maile Hutterer's lucid, beautifully illustrated book.. Apart from their structural importance, Hutterer expertly demonstrates how, through their distinctive formal design and figural embellishments, flying buttresses shaped urban space and declared the church’s efficacy both within and far beyond the cathedral precinct.”
Framing the Church explores the multivalent impact of the new buttressing systems that transformed Gothic architecture. Anchored by case studies of French buildings from twelfth to the sixteenth centuries, Maile Hutterer creates a rich conversation between ecclesiastical and secular architecture, the visual arts, and historical sources to reveal the push and pull between aesthetics and stability in the design of structural frames, their surprising social consequences, and their role as agents of symbolic expression.”
“Maile Hutterer opens our minds to what our eyes have always told us about the great French cathedrals: that the giant flying buttresses that ring their exteriors are not mere structural devices but inspired works of architecture as an art. Unlike the relatively uniform interiors of these huge buildings, no two sets of buttressing are alike. They vary in extravagant and subtle ways, and in the process, they accrue important layers of meaning through sculptural ornament as well as their structure and shaping of space. They now have a meaningful history. A breakthrough contribution to the study of medieval architecture.”
“A provocative and stimulating book.”

Maile S. Hutterer is Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Oregon.

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Note on the Fire at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris, 2019

Introduction

1. Visualizing Buttressing and the Aesthetics of the Frame

2. Negotiating Buttress Spaces

3. Sculptural Programs and the Assertion of Ecclesiastical Hegemony

4. Buttressing-Frame Systems as Signs of Spiritual Protection

Conclusions

Notes

Bibliography

Index