HomeThe Choir Stalls of Amiens Cathedral

The Choir Stalls of Amiens Cathedral

Les stalles de la cathédrale d'Amiens : 500 ans

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Published on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 by Anastasia Giardinelli

Summary

The absence of original records makes it difficult to date the choir of Amiens Cathedral precisely, but modern scholars (who saw the archives before they were destroyed) generally agree that these stalls were built between 1508 and 1519-1522, meaning that they have been in place for nearly 500 years. A symposium commemorating this anniversary offers the opportunity to highlight and question this set of stalls which is, among the ensembles preserved at present, the earliest showing misericords decorated with religious scenes that illustrate different parts of Genesis and other Bible Books verse by verse, and form, with the relief panels that show the life of the Virgin, a real iconographic programme.

Announcement

Date and place

Date: Friday 20th and Saturday 21st November, 2020

Place: Amiens, Université de Picardie, Logis du Roy (Friday) and The Museum of Picardy (Saturday)

Organisation

The choir stalls of Amiens Cathedral have been in place for 500 years; to mark this anniversary, the associations Misericordia International and Stalles de Picardie propose a conference, organised in conjunction with:

  • The Museum of Picardy
  • The Research Group EA 4284 (Textes, Représentations, Archéologie, autorité et Mémoire de l’antiquité à la renaissance) Université de Picardie Jules Verne
  • Institute of Research in Musicology, IReMus UMR 8223 Sorbonne Université
  • The Society of Antiquaries of Picardy

A publication of selected proceedings is planned.

In connection with this conference, another one-day conference has been organised on 19 November 2020 by Véronique Dominguez, Professor of Medieval Literature at the University of Picardie – Jules Verne, in conjunction with Regards croisés (Perspectives and Crossroads). This project focuses on medieval objects and material culture. The title of this conference is “Stalls, Seats and Chairs in the Middle Ages”. It is possible to present a paper at both events (the call for papers is attached).

Argument

The absence of original records makes it difficult to date the choir of Amiens Cathedral precisely, but modern scholars (who saw the archives before they were destroyed) generally agree that these stalls were built between 1508 and 1519-1522, meaning that they have been in place for nearly 500 years.

A symposium commemorating this anniversary offers the opportunity to highlight and question this set of stalls which is, among the ensembles preserved at present, the earliest showing misericords decorated with religious scenes that illustrate different parts of Genesis and other Bible Books verse by verse, and form, with the relief panels that show the life of the Virgin, a real iconographic programme.

Few patrons of decorated stalls seem to have followed the example of the Amiens canons; a few carved pieces preserved at the Museum of Picardy suggest the existence of a contemporary set whose misericords were decorated with scenes from the Passion of Christ. In addition to the stalls of Amiens, the story of Job occupies fourteen misericords out of the fifty-four seats of the collegiate church of Champeaux (Seine-et-Marne). The stalls built for the prestigious Parisian abbey of Saint-Victor, present in various churches in Ile-de-France and Normandy, bear witness to an iconographic programme based on the Old Testament, as do the misericords of Notre-Dame-aux-Dominicains in Louvain.

The stalls of Amiens Cathedral are also characterised by the strong presence of early-sixteenth-century daily life in all the scenes depicted: the detailed furniture of the rooms mixes flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance elements; the costumes of the characters are always individualized; as are the tools used by the craftsmen. These aspects add an element of verisimilitude. In the same period, other stall sets, misericords and side panels were carved without a background, in a minimalist setting, with only the central subject being highlighted.

Another characteristic of the iconography of the Amiens stalls is the abundance of musical instruments: about sixty musical images are carefully presented. These details have made it possible to establish links between the musical life in Amiens in the 16th century as described in the municipal records and the carved scenes in the stalls.

Finally, in terms of furniture construction, it would seem that innovative techniques were used by the Amiens craftsmen who integrated wood joints into the carvings when they could not hide them; some pieces required a significant thickness of wood, and in these cases lamination or plywood was used, a technique rarely found in the early sisteenth century.

Many aspects of the stalls require further study: more than thirty years after the publication of the Concert imaginaire dans les stalles de la cathédrale d’Amiens, by Frédéric Billiet and Gilbert Lefeuvre, there is a need for further research on certain musical instruments and musical practices in the Cathedral (such as choir-organ alternation, or singing at the rood screen). The liturgical use of the stalls should also be studied. The iconographic or textual sources of the iconographic programme remain unknown at present, as does the relationship with theatrical practices, for the episodes presented, and perhaps also for staging. The technical construction of this furniture, pending a dendrochronological analysis that could provide information on the wood used, may also be of interest to researchers.

In order to fully understand the specificity of these choir stalls, it is necessary to compare the stalls of Amiens Cathedral with other sets from other regions, either sets that still exist or that are known by records or any other documentation: such comparisons are welcome.

Four fields of research are suggested:

  1. Amiens Cathedral choir stalls in their context – comparative studies
  2. Sound in choir stalls: representations, acoustics, musical practices in cathedrals
  3. Choir stalls and liturgy
  4. The representation of daily life in choir stalls and in local records

Submission guidelines

This conference is open to both early-career and established researchers in all relevant disciplines (including historians, art historians, musicologists, literary scholars and wood technicians). Please submit a proposal (approx. 400 words) and a short CV

before 15 March 2020

to:

  • Frédéric Billiet, frederic.billiet@gmail.com
  • And Kristiane Lemé-Hébuterne, k.leme@orange.fr

There is no registration fee.

Organising Comitee

  • Frédéric Billiet, Professeur en musique médiévale, Sorbonne Université
  • Corinne Charles, AbecedArt – Recherches en Histoire de l’art
  • Véronique Dominguez, Professeur en langue et littérature médiévales, TrAme, Université de Picardie Jules Verne
  • Kristiane Lemé-Hébuterne, TrAme, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Présidente de Stalles de Picardie
  • Pascal Montaubin, Maître de conférences en histoire médiévale, TrAme, Université de Picardie Jules Verne
  • François Séguin, Conservateur du patrimoine, Responsable des collections médiévales et des objets d’art, Musées d’Amiens – Musée de Picardie
  • Vincent Tabbagh, Professeur émérite à l’Université de Bourgogne

Select bibliography

  • Jourdain et Duval, chanoines, « Les stalles de la cathédrale d’Amiens », Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Picardie, in-8°, Amiens, 1844
  • Georges Durand, « Monographie de l’église Notre-Dame, cathédrale d’Amiens », Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Picardie, Amiens, Yvert et Tellier, 1901-1903, 3 vol, Vol. 2, Mobilier et accessoires, p. 147-285
  • Charles Tracy and Hugh Harrison, The Choir stalls of Amiens Cathedral, Spire Books Ltd, Reading, 2004
  • Kristiane Lemé-Hébuterne, « Les stalles de la cathédrale d’Amiens », Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de Picardie, t. 26, Paris, Picard, 2007

Subjects

Places

  • Amiens, France (80000)

Date(s)

  • Sunday, March 15, 2020

Keywords

  • stalles, sculpture, iconographie, techniques de construction

Contact(s)

  • Kristiane Lemé-Hébuterne
    courriel : k [dot] leme [at] orange [dot] fr

Information source

  • Kristiane Lemé-Hébuterne
    courriel : k [dot] leme [at] orange [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« The Choir Stalls of Amiens Cathedral », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, November 27, 2019, https://calenda.org/709585

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