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Current Research Intro

Current Research projects

Identifying and Dating the Foliate Carving

The History of Rib Vaulting in Durham Cathedral

Evolution of the Rib Vault in Italy

An Architect's approach to Medieval Geometry Medieval Units of Measure Truth and distortions in Gothic history Annotated bibliography

A commentary on my medieval writings

with summary of arguments

"An investigation into the uneven distribution of churches in the Paris Basin, 1140-1240", Art Bulletin, March 1984, 13-46. A four-year survey showing that the region of Early Gothic coincided with the limestone zone of the Paris Basin, and suggests that climate may have had something to do with the process. This latter was pursued in

"Funding the Early Gothic churches of the Paris Basin", Parergon, XV 1997, 41-82 where I costed 700 buildings to show there were two distinct booms in construction separated by a highly significant recession in the 1160s, and that work in the northeast bishoprics declined after 1200 (coinciding with the onset of drought?) and in the Parisis after 1220.

"Chartres a eu de la chance, les parisiens étaient occupés", Monde médiéval et société chartraine, Paris 1997, 39-62 provides further evidence that the northeast was the home of Gothic, not the Ile-de-France. Details and reasons also set out in

The Template-makers of the Paris Basin, Leura, 1989 that lists the unwarranted assumptions that underlie most medieval architectural history. Major conclusions in a complex book were:
.... * The source of most of the concepts that created Gothic came from the Soissons-Laon-Remois bishoprics while most Parisis buildings were decidedly different.
.... * Soissons cathedral was built before Chartres.
.... * There had been a revolution in foliate carving around 1170 that interestingly enough coincided with the recession and the first mature Early Gothic buildings: the Soissons south transept, Braine, the Saint-Remi choir and Longpont.
.... * The invention of tracery was made at Essômes in about 1210, where each step in the process can be traced and the master identified.
.... * Every building from 1100 to 1250 in the Paris Basin was built in small increments, each by a different contractor.

"Evidence for flying buttresses before 1180", Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, li 1992, 261-287. Traces the first flyers back to around 1150, not Notre-Dame thirty years later.

"Foliate Capitals with Branches - five carvers working in the Paris Basin between 1120 and 1160", rejected by Gesta in 1999 used the work of five easily identifiable carvers to suggest that all the carved portals in the Paris Basin except Senlis were built between 1135 and the later 1140s, including Bourges, the Portail de Valois and Notre-Dame-en-Vaux. I found it interesting that this coincided with the presence of Eleanor of Acquitaine at the French Court. This will soon be incorporated into Part B of The Creation of Gothic architecture, an illustrated thesaurus: The Ark of God

"An examination of some anomalies in the ascension and incarnation portals of Chartres Cathedral", Gesta, xxv 1986, 101-108 shows there is no evidence that the portal had been moved, but that it was built in its present position, is joined with the south tower and that the 'errors' etc were the result of five successive changes to the design made during the course of carving and erection. Another example of multiple contracting.

The contractors of Chartres and The master masons of Chartres both established the techniques for analyzing ashlar stonework that I call Toichology.
.... * Chartres was built in tilted layers that were a bit higher in the west than the east.
.... * Nave and the choir were therefore built at the same time, not one after the other.
.... * Both the transept portals and their porches were constructed with the adjacent building. Nothing was added later. The sculpture for the south was completed by 1205 and for the north by 1218.
..... * Therefore the apogee of Gothic sculpture should be dated to the reign of Phillipe Auguste, and not Saint Louis.
.... * There is no evidence for adding the transepts nor for demolishing the western towers or the Royal Portal.
.... * The first plan was for a single ambulatory with seven deep chapels flanked by two rectangular ones at the ends of the aisles.
.... * The bent axis was deliberate from the beginning.

"The Canopy of Paradise", Studies in Cistercian art and architecture, lxix 1984, 115-129. Suggests that the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries in the Soissons area deliberately set out to create the impression that the vault was floating suspended over the congregation like a brilliantly painted pavilion tent.

"The rib vaults of Durham cathedral", Gesta, XXII/2 1983, 135-145 showed that before 1130 rib vaults were decorative, not structural. Discussion of mortar in The Template-makers suggested that formwork under ribs and arches had to be left for at least 3 months while to dry. Ribs made structures lighted yet delayed the works.

"Multiple contracting in the Saint-Denis chevet", Gesta, xxxxii 1993, 42-62 where toichological evidence suggests that the walls of the ambulatory were designed to support domical vaults, and that while the mortar in the window arches hardened there was a change of crew. Was there something accidental about the creation of this first Gothic building, especially as hardly any other buildings show any influence from Saint-Denis until the end of the 1160s?

"The tools of Hues Libergier, Master Mason of the Thirteenth Century", Architectural Theory Review, ii, 1997, 142-149 just for the fun of it.

Part B of The Creation of Gothic architecture, an illustrated thesaurus: The Ark of God entitled "The foliate capitalsof the Paris Basin 1170-1250" contains some ten thousand photos and uses the dateable changes in the style of carving to establish a chronology for Early Gothic architecture in the Paris area. This is the beginning of my studies that will, I hope, establish a reasonably firm chronology for the most inventive years in which Gothic architecture was created, and act as a foundation for further studies.

and find a fuller list on John James bibliography

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