What a Difference a Porch Makes! (Romanesque Edition)

I’ve recently stumbled upon some cool ‘new’ blogs dedicated to the Middle Ages in general and to medieval art in particular. When I say ‘new’, what I actually mean is ‘new to me‘ since most of them have been in existence for quite some time. I’m planning to do a sort of cumulative post about them in the near future, just in case those blogs are new to you too, because they really deserve to be read. One of them, however, needs to be mentioned right away because it’s what inspired this post you’re reading right now. I’m talking of Via Lucis Photography, a blog by photographers Dennis Aubrey and PJ McKey, featuring amazing pictures and insightful stories about Romanesque architecture in France and, occasionally, elsewhere. You should really go and check it out, especially if you have an interest in photography and/or consider yourself a member of Team Romanesque. As you know, I’m on Team Gothic myself, but those great photos on Via Lucis have really made me long to go and look at Romanesque buildings – and so I did…

Cemetery Chapel, Bad Deutsch Altenburg, c. 1220

A 40 minute drive east of Vienna, on the South bank of the Danube, lies the small town of Bad Deutsch Altenburg, and among this town’s main sights is the fine late-Romanesque Cemetery Chapel shown in the above photo. Built on a circular ground-plan in c. 1220 A.D., it has been suggested that this building was intended to be an imitation of the Anastasis Rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. While bearing a certain amount of speculation, this theory is supported by the fact that the patronage of the chapel in Bad Deutsch Altenburg lay with the Doerr family who could claim a connection to Jerusalem and the Holy Land: One member of the family, Friedrich von Doerr, had accompanied Duke Leopold VI of Austria on the Fifth Crusade in 1217-1219.

Apse of Cemetery Chapel, Bad Deutsch Altenburg, c. 1220

However that may be, the Cemetery Chapel presents itself as an unadorned cylindrical structure. Only the semicircular apse is decorated with one of those round-arched friezes so typical for Romanesque architecture. But the building’s eye-catching showpiece is the entrance portal with its elaborate porch:

Porch of Cemetery Chapel, Bad Deutsch Altenburg, c. 1220

I’m not sure what the proper English denomination for this kind of portal would be; in German the technical term is Trichterportal, which is perhaps best translated as ‘funnel-shaped portal’. In the case of the chapel in Bad Deutsch Altenburg, an alternation of pillars and columns creates a sort of visual pull towards the entrance gate.

Detail of Capitals on the Porch, Cemetery Chapel, Bad Deutsch Altenburg, c. 1220

But the porch’s most spectacular feature are its richly carved capitals, presenting a wide array of all different shapes and ornaments…

Detail of Capitals on the Porch, Cemetery Chapel, Bad Deutsch Altenburg, c. 1220

So, this small Cemetery Chapel may seem rather modest and unspectacular, but once you look more closely you realise it’s quite spectacular in its own way. But you know what? I actually didn’t go to Bad Deutsch Altenburg because of the Cemetery Chapel… As fine a building as it may be, just wait until you see the Parish Church right next to it!

(To be continued…)

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10 Responses to What a Difference a Porch Makes! (Romanesque Edition)

  1. Thanks for the mention of our Via Lucis photography site – I admire your shots in this post. Well done! I have to look up Team Romanesque and Team Gothic. This is all new to me.

    • Thanks for your nice words and for reblogging my post!

      As for Team Romanesque, I’m afraid that’s more of an inside joke rather than an actual thing. It all goes back to that one time when the ever-witty Naked Philologist expressed her admiration for England’s Norman architecture by asking the rhetorical question “Who’s on Team Norman Architecture? Anyone?” Both me and Jonathan Jarrett of A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe have taken up on this, with Jonathan declaring himself a member of Team Romanesque, and me declaring myself to be on Team Gothic instead. I don’t think anyone else has picked up on this (yet) but maybe we ought to try and turn this into something like a proper internet meme ;-)

  2. Reblogged this on Via Lucis Photography and commented:
    Very interesting site that featured Via Lucis today.

  3. Kerri says:

    Beautiful detail in the stone capitals.

  4. I came to this by means of Via Lucis. I’m not well-schooled enough to identify myself as a member of a team. More like a novice admirer of both Gothic and Romanesque, thankful for you, Dennis, and PJ for such beauty, historical context, and thoughtful commentary. Via Lucis often makes my day. You did the same today. Thank you.

  5. Big fan of Via Lucis too! And I’ll be joining Team Romanesque, though I could also join Team Norman Architecture if we can be a member of more than one team:) Nice post!

  6. Thanks for all your comments!

    @ gordoncstewart: It’s comments like yours that make my day, so really, thanks to you!

    @ karenbarrettwilt: Since the ‘teams’ are just a sort of metaphor I’d say you can join as many of them as you want – this is really not about picking sides…

  7. Pingback: Bad Deutsch Altenburg – The Sequel « L'Historien Errant

  8. Pingback: Seckau Abbey, or Another Stop on the Romanesque Trail « L'Historien Errant

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