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Construction and Conception Techniques of Residential Buildings and Urbanism in Medieval Europe around 1100 AD: The Example of Cluny, France

clunyConstruction and Conception Techniques of Residential Buildings and Urbanism in Medieval Europe around 1100 AD: The Example of Cluny (France)

Bernhard Flüge

Paper given at: the Masons at Work Conference (2012)

Abstract

Everybody knows that the Burgundian abbey of Cluny was one of the intellectual and spiritual 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, ex- tending to urbanism and space mastering, apparently based on Roman construction practices and conception instructions.

The “house with the round arch gate”, from 1091 according to dendrochronology, is the old- est precisely dated stone townhouse in France (Fig. 1).2 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 recon- struction requires a completion by exterior stairs. Second, it was separated from the street by a front court, documented by and archaeological survey in 1997.The existence of an upper floor is an important typological feature that characterizes all town houses in Cluny as “comus solaratae.”

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