Paper given at: The Masons at Work Conference (2012)
Everybody knows that the Burgundian abbey of Cluny was one of the intellectual and spiri- tual centres of Europe during the High Middle Ages. But also the surrounding little town is of scientific interest. Its earliest, partially preserved upright standing habitable stone buildings were discovered and documented by the author in the last two decades. The results of this study help to explain the formation of the European town house and town texture in France, Southern Germany, and Italy—even Rome, in the mediaeval period. The specific construction and conception of these houses leads to new conclusions concerning building practices, extending to urbanism and space.
The “House with the round arch gate” from 1090/91 (d)
The “house with the round arch gate”, from 1091 according to dendrochronology, is the oldest precisely dated stone townhouse in France (Fig. 1). This house has been integrated in a texture of mediaeval and post-mediaeval serial houses characterizing Clunyʼs old town since the later 12th century. The ground plan of the original house appears in rectangular shape in the back part of the present building area. The building differs with two marked typological properties from the well-known Romanesque houses in Cluny, which were all definitively constructed after 1150. First, it was originally a freestanding rectangular building; its reconstruction requires a completion by exterior stairs. Second, it was separated from the street by a frontcourt, documented by an archaeological survey in 1997. The existence of an upper floor is an important typological feature that characterizes all town houses in Cluny as “domus solaratae”.