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Open Access

Contextualizing the Archivolted Portals of Northern Spain and Western France within the Theology and Politics of Entry

Author(s): Mickey Abel

Book Description

Open Access: Contextualizing the Archivolted Portals of Northern Spain and Western France within the Theology and Politics of Entry explores the history, development, and accrued connotations of a distinctive entry configuration comprised of a set of concentrically stepped archivolts surrounding a deliberate tympanum-free portal opening. These “archivolted” portals adorned many of the small, rural ecclesiastical structures dotting the countryside of western France and northern Spain in the twelfth century. Seeking to re-contextualize this configuration within monastic meditational practices, this book argues that the ornamented archivolts were likely composed following medieval prescriptions for the rhetorical ornamentation of poetry and employed the techniques of mnemonic recollection and imaginative visualization. Read in this light, it becomes clear that the architectural form underlying these semi-circular configurations served to open the possibilities for meaning by making the sculptural imagery physically and philosophically accessible to both the monastic community and the lay parishioner. Pointing to an Iberian heritage in which both light and space had long been manipulated in the conveyance of theological and political ideologies, Abel suggests that the portal’s architectural form grew out of a physical and social matrix characterized by pilgrimage, crusade, and processions, where the elements of motion integral to the Quadrivium sciences of Math, Geometry, Astronomy, and Music were enhanced by a proximity to and cultural interaction with the Islamic courts of Spain. It was, however, within the politics of the Peace of God movement, with its emphasis on relic processions that often encompassed all the parishes of the monastic domain, that the “archivolted” portal, with its elevated porch-like space, are shown to be the most effective.


ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-3564-0
ISBN-10: 1-4438-3564-1
Date of Publication: 01/02/2012
Pages / Size: 285 / A5
Price: £39.99


Mickey Abel is Associate Professor at the University of North Texas, USA. Her scholarly interests focus on Medieval architectural space of both France and Spain – its historical analysis, its contextual setting, its liturgical and experiential perception, and its geographical determinants. She has published in Gesta, Avista Forum, Peregrinations, and the Hispanic Research Journal. Her current work engages the mapping of spatial/geographical relationships between religious buildings, historical events, and social/economic life. Underway is a monograph on the monastic development of the canal system in western France.