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JOURNAL OF THE

WARBURG AND C O U R T A U L D
INSTITUTES

VOLUME FIFTY

1987
THE WARBURG INSTITUTE
UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
EDITORS
D. S. Chambers Peter K i d s o n Elizabeth M c G r a t h

ADVISORY BOARD
Michael Baxandall Charles Hope C. R. Ligota
Lome Campbell John House A. M. Meyer
Michael Evans Michael Kauffmann Jennifer M o n t a g u
J . M . Fletcher Michael Kitson Nicolai Rubinstein
Ernst H . G o m b r i c h Jill K r a y e J. B. T r a p p

G r a t e f u l a c k n o w l e d g e m e n t is m a d e to the British A c a d e m y
for a grant t o w a r d s the cost of production of this v o l u m e

© 1987, The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1H OAB

PRINTED IN G R E A T BRITAIN BY
W. S. MANEY A N D SON LIMITED
HUDSON ROAD LEEDS LSQ 7DL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE

Panofsky, S u g e r a n d S t Denis. B y Peter K i d s o n . . . . . . i

Pietro L o r e n z e t t i and the History of the C a r m e l i t e O r d e r . By J o a n n a C a n n o n . 18

C l a s s i c a l T h e m e s in the D e c o r a t i o n of the P a l a z z o V e c c h i o in Florence. By


Nicolai R u b i n s t e i n . . . . . . . . . . . 2 9
A n n i u s o f V i t e r b o and Historical M e t h o d . B y Christopher Ligota . . . 44
I b n a l - H â y t i m o n the T a l i s m a n s o f the L u n a r M a n s i o n s . By Kristen Lippincott
and D a v i d Pingree . . . . . . . . . . . 5 7

T h e Private C h a p e l o f C a r d i n a l A l e s s a n d r o Farnese i n the C a n c e l l e r i a , R o m e .


By Patricia R u b i n 82

T h e 'Bellissimo I n g e g n o ' o f F e r d i n a n d o G o n z a g a ( 1 5 8 7 - 1 6 2 6 ) , C a r d i n a l and


D u k e of M a n t u a . By D. S. C h a m b e r s . 113

V e l a z q u e z and M u r i l l o i n N i n e t e e n t h - C e n t u r y Britain: a n A p p r o a c h through


Prints. By E n r i q u e t a H a r r i s . . . . . . . . . 148
L o r d R o n a l d G o w e r , G u s t a v e D o r é and the G e n e s i s o f the Shakespeare M e m o r i a l
atStratford-on-Avon. B y Philip W a r d J a c k s o n . . . . . . 160

C o n c e r n i n g W a r b u r g ' s ' C o s t u m i t e a t r a l i ' a n d A n g e l o Solerti. By A. M . M e y e r . 171

Notes and Documents


T h e Earliest C h i r o m a n c y in the W e s t ( C h a r l e s Burnett) . . . . 189
A B a r o n i a l Bestiary: H e r a l d i c E v i d e n c e for the P a t r o n a g e of MS B o d l e y 764
(Ronald Baxter) 196

T h e M e d a l l i o n s o n the Sistine C e i l i n g ( C h a r l e s H o p e ) . . . . 200

A j a x and C a s s a n d r a : a n A n t i q u e C a m e o and a D r a w i n g b y R a p h a e l ( R u t h
Rubinstein) . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
T h e V e n u s Belvedere: an E p i s o d e in Restoration (Arnold Nesselrath) . . 205
T h e Illustrations of L u c i a n ' s Imago vitae aulicae (Jean M i c h e l M a s s i n g ) . . 214
Benedetto V a r c h i and the V i s u a l A r t s (François Q u i v i g e r ) . . . . 219
An Early Seventeeth-Century Canon o f Artistic Excellence: Pierleone
CaseWa's ElogialllustriumArtiJicum of 1606 (E. H. G o m b r i c h ) . . . 224
Rubens's Mus athena (Elizabeth M c G r a t h ) 233
R e m b r a n d t ' s Woman Taken i n Adultery ( M i c h a e l Podro) . . . . 245

General Index . . . . . . . . . . . . 253

Index o f Manuscripts . . . . . . . . . . . 259

Publications a v a i l a b l e . . . . . . . . . . . 2 6 1

Notes for C o n t r i b u t o r s 263


PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS
Peter Kidson

P
ANOFSKY MADE TWO notable excursions into the field of medieval architecture. T h e
first took the form of an edition of S u g e r ' s writings a b o u t the a b b e y c h u r c h of
St D e n i s and its art treasures. 1 T h i s w a s published in 1946. T h e second, entitled
Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism, b e g a n life as lectures in 1948 and a p p e a r e d in print in
1 9 5 1 . 2 B o t h h a v e been influential, especially the introductory piece on Suger, w h i c h has
supplied a w h o l e generation of y o u n g e r art historians in E n g l a n d and A m e r i c a with all
they thought they needed to k n o w a b o u t the intellectual circumstances in w h i c h G o t h i c
architecture w a s invented. It purported to offer in chapter and verse detail the evidence
for an i c o n o g r a p h i c a l interpretation of St Denis. As it remains a x i o m a t i c that G o t h i c
started at St D e n i s , the implications were clearly far-reaching. Panofsky set out to provide
a cutting edge for the full-scale art-historical counter-offensive that had been b r e w i n g for
the best p a r t of half a c e n t u r y , against the excessively technical v i e w s a b o u t G o t h i c
associated w i t h the n a m e of V i o l l e t - l e - D u c . A corrective of some sort w a s certainly
o v e r d u e . T h e V i o l l e t - l e - D u c position w a s i n a d e q u a t e not necessarily because it w a s
w r o n g — a l t h o u g h this w a s asserted 3 — but b e c a u s e it simply ignored or did less than
justice to a great m a n y facets of G o t h i c that cried out for attention. T h e reassessment
belatedly recognized the style as a cultural as well as a purely architectural p h e n o m e n o n .
G o t h i c at last took it place as a m a j o r manifestation of the spiritual ferment w h i c h
transformed twelfth-century E u r o p e , and it could be seen to bear the imprint of m u c h
c o n t e m p o r a r y intellectual activity. T h e task of recognizing such interactions w a s the
special business of the art historian as Panofsky s a w it, 4 and quite apart from the almost
startling tidiness w i t h w h i c h e v e r y t h i n g seemed to fit together in his h a n d s , it m u s t h a v e
given him p a r t i c u l a r pleasure to be able to tie the origins of a great artistic m o v e m e n t like
G o t h i c into the great tradition of neo-Platonic thought, w h i c h flowed from antiquity
t h r o u g h the M i d d l e A g e s to the R e n a i s s a n c e and with w h i c h he w a s constantly pre-
o c c u p i e d at every stage and turn of his life's work.

M u c h of this w a s u n d o u b t e d l y pure gain. B u t the sheer self-evident necessity for a shift


of historical perspective m a y h a v e concealed some unsuspected dangers, the most
insidious of w h i c h w a s p r o b a b l y the temptation to rewrite history rather more enthusias-
tically than the evidence w a r r a n t e d . At the very least there has been a tendency to
overstate the case. In p a r t i c u l a r it has led to a gross e x a g g e r a t i o n of S u g e r ' s o w n part in
the creation of G o t h i c . It o u g h t to be obvious to art historians, if to no one else, that
patrons, even the most enlightened and exigent a m o n g them, do not normally invent
styles. In the last resort, h o w e v e r meticulous or exceptional the brief, an artistic

1 Abbot S u g e r on the Abbey C h u r c h of St D e n i s and i t s art 3 See Pol Abraham, V i o l l e t - l e - D u c et le r a t i o n a l i s m e

t r e a s u r e s . Edited, translated and annotated by Erwin m é d i é v a l , Paris 1934.


Panofsky. Princeton 1946 (hereafter Panofsky, S u g e r ) . 4 Recently discussed by M. A. Holly, P a n o f s k y and the

2nd edn by Gerda Panofsky-Soergel, 1979. F o u n d a t i o n s o f A r t H i s t o r y , Ithaca and London 1984.


2 G o t h i c A r c h i t e c t u r e and S c h o l a s t i c i s m , London and New

York 1951. First given as Wimmer Lectures, St Vincent


College, 1948.

Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, V o l u m e 50, 1987


2 PETER KIDSON
i m a g i n a t i o n is a l w a y s required to translate the patron's v e r b a l specifications into visual
forms. Nevertheless this truism is s o m e t h i n g that medievalists h a v e tended to overlook in
recent years, in p a r t one fears u n d e r P a n o f s k y ' s influence, if only because, as g o o d
historians should, they h a v e devoted themselves to the pursuit of d o c u m e n t s , and
therefore in practice restricted their researches to j u s t those problems and aspects of
p r o b l e m s w h i c h are susceptible to d o c u m e n t a r y elucidation. As nearly all m e d i e v a l
d o c u m e n t s p e r t a i n i n g to the arts e m a n a t e d from the p a t r o n a g e side of the proceedings, it
follows that we are liable to get from t h e m a totally distorted impression of w h a t actually
h a p p e n e d . T h i s m u s t h a v e been especially true in matters of architecture, for by its very
nature m e d i e v a l architecture involved mysterious operations that were excluded from the
conspectus of the liberal arts and therefore b e y o n d the u n d e r s t a n d i n g of even the most
highly educated ecclesiastical patrons. 5 So while it m a y be granted that any s y m b o l i s m
present in G o t h i c architecture w a s the contribution of the clergy rather than the
craftsmen, at best it can h a v e been no more than a partial and superficial factor in the
design procedure.
Reflections a l o n g such lines o u g h t to h a v e induced a certain caution, but this has not
a l w a y s been f o r t h c o m i n g . On the contrary, the long-term effect of art-historical dalliance
w i t h the s y m b o l i s m of architecture has been to a g g r a v a t e a quite deplorable split a m o n g
students of m e d i e v a l buildings. On the one h a n d the a r m c h a i r art historians h a v e g o n e
their o w n w a y , busily d r e a m i n g up i c o n o g r a p h i c a l fantasies that all too often could never
h a v e been taken seriously by any practising architect, even if they w e r e actually put to
him; while on the other the d o w n to earth archaeologists h a v e resolutely turned their
backs on all such nonsense, b u t are so m y o p i c a l l y obsessed with m a s o n ' s marks and
m a s o n r y breaks that they scarcely ever attended to larger issues. It w o u l d be ridiculous to
b l a m e Panofsky alone for this state of affairs, a l t h o u g h as one of the f o u n d i n g fathers of
i c o n o g r a p h i c a l scholarship, he cannot entirely escape some responsibility. W h a t he can
be charged w i t h is twisting history to p r o v e his point. T h a t he did so in good faith is not in
question. L i k e m a n y others w h o h a v e seen the light, he could not help being partially
blinded by it; but he w a s too good an historian to try to deceive; and precisely because he
sought to present a w e l l - d o c u m e n t e d case, he is v u l n e r a b l e to criticism in w a y s that
v a g u e r affirmations of the s a m e point of view are not. T h i s , coupled w i t h the intrinsic
i m p o r t a n c e of assessing S u g e r ' s personal participation in the rebuilding of St Denis as
a c c u r a t e l y as possible, gives to P a n o f s k y ' s essay a strategic significance out of all
proportion to its modest size and limited aims. T h e validity of theories a b o u t s y m b o l i s m
in m e d i e v a l architecture does not stand or fall solely on Panofsky's picture of S u g e r or the
interpretation that stems f r o m it; but they are a test case and if one wishes to reopen the
inquest, they offer an o b v i o u s starting point.
At the outset it should be e m p h a s i z e d that the t w o issues involved are quite distinct:
one is a b o u t S u g e r , the other a b o u t St Denis. No d o u b t they are connected in the sense
that the a c c o u n t of St D e n i s has usually been presented as an inference from a particular
theory a b o u t Suger. It certainly derives m u c h of its plausibility from such a theory. T h a t is
how Panofsky himself saw the p r o b l e m . He therefore concentrated his attention v e r y

5 T h e extent to which this invidious tendency has or court styles, where the defining characteristic has
become enshrined in art-historical terminology is ceased to have anything to do with architects, but has
reflected in the paradoxical notions of an episcopal style, been transferred to the patrons.
PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS 3
largely on the m a n , a n d left the b u i l d i n g to others in the entirely justified confidence that
there w o u l d be no shortage of epigoni r e a d y to leap in and spell out the consequences
implicit in his o w n w o r k . 6 Nevertheless it is in principle possible to treat the t w o sides of
the question separately, and for purposes of criticism there are a d v a n t a g e s in d o i n g so.
T h e c r u x of the m a t t e r is w h e t h e r the Suger w h o emerges from P a n o f s k y ' s pages is a
credible historical figure, or an art-historical fiction. He is certainly not quite the familiar
i m a g e fabricated by o r t h o d o x historians in the nineteenth century: the genial and efficient
a b b o t of a celebrated monastery; the friend and advisor of t w o successive K i n g s of F r a n c e ,
w h o could act as regent w h e n one of them w a s absent on the second crusade; the
statesman w h o took a firm line w i t h the unruly barons of the l i e de F r a n c e , and set the
c r o w n on a course it w a s to follow w i t h success in ecclesiastical matters for more than a
h u n d r e d years; and not least the founder and most distinguished practitioner of the
St D e n i s school of historians. Panofsky did not dispute any of this, but it w a s not m u c h use
to him. H o w e v e r , there w e r e two areas, a p p a r e n t l y neglected by his predecessors, w h e r e
the prospects w e r e more promising. O n e w a s S u g e r ' s dealings w i t h St B e r n a r d , the
significance of w h i c h seemed to Panofsky far greater than had been c o m m o n l y realized.
T h e other w a s the suspicion that in addition to all his other attainments S u g e r w a s an
intellectual of consequence. He also recognized a causal connection b e t w e e n his t w o
discoveries. T h e s e e m e n d a t i o n s b e c a m e the centrepiece of his case.
S u g e r and St B e r n a r d encountered one another intermittently t h r o u g h o u t their p u b l i c
lives. At first their relations seem to h a v e been s o m e w h a t cool. In a letter d a t i n g from
1 1 2 7 , S u g e r found himself f a v o u r e d with a taste of B e r n a r d ' s hectoring rhetoric. ' I t w a s at
y o u r errors not at those of y o u r monks that the zeal of the saintly aimed its criticism. It w a s
by y o u r excesses not by theirs, that they w e r e incensed. It w a s against y o u , not against the
A b b e y , that arose the m u r m u r s of y o u r brothers.' 7 It w a s the sort of l a n g u a g e that
B e r n a r d had formerly lavished on Pons de M e l g u e i l and the e x t r a v a g a n c e s of C l u n y . In
fact the careful distinction b e t w e e n S u g e r and the monks of St Denis invites us to s u p p o s e
that B e r n a r d h a d anticipated the d a n g e r of S u g e r going the same w a y as Pons, and
St D e n i s suffering the fate of C l u n y . T h e shocking events of 1125, w h e n Pons's bravos had
ransacked C l u n y , w e r e still fresh in everyone's mind, B e r n a r d ' s most of all. T h e
enormities w h i c h provoked these remarks were not spelt out. B u t w h a t e v e r they were, by
112 7 they h a d receded into the b a c k g r o u n d . B e r n a r d wrote in the past tense. H i s fears had
evidently not been fulfilled. T h e affairs of St Denis had been put into good order, and
S u g e r had p r o v e d himself to be on the side of the angels. Panofsky suggests that B e r n a r d
w a s putting pressure on Suger, and hinting that in return for a favour, he w a s prepared to
w a i v e his f o r m i d a b l e displeasure. 8 P e r h a p s — b u t this is not how the letter has to be read.
B e r n a r d certainly wished to e n g a g e S u g e r as an ally in his efforts to procure the d o w n f a l l
of Etienne de G a r l a n d e at court, and S u g e r m a y h a v e complied. B u t if he did so, it w a s not

6 See H. Sedlmayr, D i e E n t s t e h u n g der K a t h e d r a l e ,


Solum denique te in causam vocaverant. Te te
Zurich 1950, esp. pp. 235 ff. O. von Simson, T h e G o t h i c corrigeres, et nil residuum quod pateret calumniae. Te
C a t h e d r a l , London 1956, esp. chapter 4. S. M c K . Crosby inquam mutate, mox omnis tumultus concideret;
cites Panofsky with approval in his many publications quiesceret strepitur. Solumque ac totum erat quod nos
on St Denis. movebat, tuus ille scilicet habitus et apparatus cum
7 'Quid enim? tua certe, non et tuorum errata, procederes, quod panto insolentior appareret.' Bernard
sanctorum carpebat zelus; tuis non ipsorum excessibus to Suger, Epist. LXXVIII, Migne, PL CLXXXII, 192-93.
succensebant, solamque in personam tuam, non etiam 8 Panofsky, S u g e r , n. 1 above, pp. 10-11.

in abbatiam frateruum susurrium immurmurabat.


4 PETER KIDSON
necessarily to a p p e a s e B e r n a r d . He had reasons of his own for w a n t i n g rid of Etienne de
G a r l a n d e , and w a s himself the principal beneficiary w h e n the deed w a s done.
T h e fact of the matter is that almost from the start Suger and Bernard saw eye to eye
a b o u t w h a t the C h u r c h should be d o i n g and the part that F r a n c e should play in the
fulfilment of its p r o g r a m m e . At this level it w a s of no i m p o r t a n c e that one w a s Benedictine
and the other Cistercian. T h e b u r n i n g issue of the d a y w a s to get the claims of the C h u r c h
fully and t h o r o u g h l y recognized right across secular society. T h i s m e a n t insisting on
privileges, collecting and i m p l e m e n t i n g c a n o n l a w , extending ecclesiastical jurisdictions
and o r g a n i z i n g a p p e a l s to R o m e . In other words, the effort w a s essentially legal; it focused
inevitably on the p a p a c y , and the desired end could be achieved only t h r o u g h an effective
system of p a p a l g o v e r n m e n t . E a r l y in his career S u g e r had conducted missions on b e h a l f
of his a b b e y to the p a p a l court, and he retained throughout his life as royal counsellor the
conviction that the C a p e t i a n m o n a r c h y ought to co-operate w i t h the p a p a c y rather than
resist its e n c r o a c h m e n t s as the A n g e v i n H e n r y II did in E n g l a n d , with consequences that
led to the confrontation w i t h Becket. For reasons of his o w n , B e r n a r d w a s equally anxious
to p r o m o t e an active p a p a l presence in the ecclesiastical affairs of transalpine E u r o p e . It
w a s the reason if not the price of his support for Innocent II in the disputed p a p a l election
of 1130, a cause w h i c h S u g e r also endorsed. Innocent's t r i u m p h w a s s o m e t h i n g of a
turning point in p a p a l history. It l a u n c h e d the C h u r c h on a course that w a s to transform it
into a r e m a r k a b l y efficient political a g e n c y . Both S u g e r and B e r n a r d were c o m m i t t e d to
the long term success of this enterprise, and their substantial a g r e e m e n t far transcended
minor differences of opinion s u c h as w h e t h e r it w a s advisable for L o u i s V I I to go on the
second c r u s a d e . 9 It also puts their view on ecclesiastical art into perspective.
E v e r y medievalist k n o w s by heart B e r n a r d ' s castigation of Pons de M e l g u e i l ' s cloister
capitals at C l u n y , and takes it very seriously indeed. Panofsky w a s no exception. He
t h o u g h t it m u s t h a v e struck terror into Suger, and left him w i t h guilty apprehensions that
haunted him for the rest of his life. It w a s the need to fortify himself against another
u n b e a r a b l e c a s c a d e of B e r n a r d ' s censorious eloquence that is supposed to h a v e induced
Suger to a p p e a l to higher authority. T h e sort of support he had in mind took the form of
philosophical or theological a r g u m e n t , and he found w h a t he w a n t e d in the writings of one
of the most influential thinkers of the early M i d d l e A g e s : the so-called P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s ,
or D i o n y s i u s the A r e o p a g i t e . T h e r e were three good reasons w h y Panofsky thought S u g e r
should h a v e espoused that particular source of doctrine. O n e is that he could hardly h a v e
found a more congenial view of the w o r l d than that presented by the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s ;
the second is that the collected works, both the G r e e k t e x t 1 0 and J o h n Scotus E r i g u e n a ' s
L a t i n translation of them, w e r e in the library at St Denis; and the third is that it w a s an
article of faith at St Denis that the learned author w h o had already identified himself w i t h
the A r e o p a g i t e converted by St P a u l in A t h e n s , w a s none other than their o w n patron
s a i n t . 1 1 A l l this w a s well k n o w n before Panofsky. T h e r e w a s nothing r e m a r k a b l e a b o u t the
idea that Suger should h a v e read the Pseudo-Dionysius. I n d e e d it w o u l d h a v e been far
more r e m a r k a b l e if he had not. W h e r e Panofsky broke new g r o u n d w a s in suggesting that

9 In 1148 Suger was wholeheartedly behind St 11 It was over this that Abelard fell foul of St Denis, and

Bernard's indictment of Gilbert de la Porree at the no doubt his scepticism was one of the reasons why
Council of Rheims. See John of Salisbury, H i s t o r i a Suger did not lift a finger to protect him from Bernard at
P o n t i f i c a l i s , vm. the Council of Sens in 1140.
10 Now Paris, BN, MS grec. 437.
PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS 5
Suger needed a philosophy to defend his taste in art, and that his works of art were
actually inspired by such doctrines.
T h i s is the most novel and distinctive of Panofsky's a m e n d m e n t s to the traditional
account of Suger. It has been s w a l l o w e d w h o l e by the art-historical c o m m u n i t y w i t h
r e m a r k a b l y little resistance — on the contrary, with positive, uncritical eagerness. On the
other h a n d it has m a d e singularly little impression on the learned world outside, a sign
perhaps of the o m i n o u s tendency of art historians to live in a world of their o w n . T h e
evidence w h i c h Panofsky a d d u c e d in support of his contention is to be found in the three
texts w h i c h S u g e r c o m p o s e d d u r i n g the 1140s, in the course of or shortly after the building
operations at St Denis; or rather t w o of them, because the first, the Ordinatio, p r o v e d
barren for his purpose. T h e other two, the Consecratione and the De administratione, yielded
passages w h i c h suitably interpreted were allegedly saturated with the spirit of the
Pseudo-Dionysius.
Perhaps the first thing to be noted is that the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s is never actually
mentioned by n a m e in these texts, nor is J o h n the Scot E r i g u e n a , and there are no
identifiable quotations. As the texts are riddled w i t h a great m a n y quotations from other
sources, m a i n l y biblical, w h i c h Panofsky took great delight in identifying, this should
h a v e e m b a r r a s s e d him, especially as they were written at a time w h e n n a m e d r o p p i n g and
citing authorities were considered indispensable for c o n d u c t i n g a r g u m e n t s . For an
intellectual defence, the effect is curiously m u t e d . T h e style is belle-lettre rather than
forensic. E v e r y t h i n g turns on a subtle h e r m e n e u t i c exercise.
In the a b s e n c e of explicit references, how could the presence of the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s
be detected? T h e only satisfactory answer w o u l d be through characteristic doctrines in
Suger w h i c h w e r e otherwise peculiar to the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s , or w h i c h could h a v e
reached S u g e r only by w a y of the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s . T h e r e w a s one such doctrine w h i c h
w o u l d h a v e settled the issue w i t h o u t more ado. T h i s w a s the a c c o u n t of the nine choirs of
angels w h i c h the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s elaborated at length in the Celestial Hierarchies, and
w h i c h provided the M i d d l e A g e s with its most authoritative information on the subject of
the angelic orders, intermediate b e t w e e n G o d and m a n in the scale of b e i n g . 1 2 O n c e
again, however, there is not a w o r d in the texts. T h i s silence is more serious than it m i g h t
seem. N o b o d y has been m u c h interested in discovering angelic i c o n o g r a p h y at St Denis;
but if it had been there, Panofsky w o u l d have had a really conclusive a r g u m e n t . As it is,
w i t h o u t it, his resources are reduced to some exiguous and peripheral remarks alleged to
prove that S u g e r k n e w all a b o u t light metaphysics, and one mention of the anagogicus mos.
Panofsky m a k e s a great fuss a b o u t light m e t a p h y s i c s in his essay, but there is not m u c h
to go on in S u g e r , and w h a t there is lacks sharpness and precision. T h i s w o u l d not m a t t e r
u n d u l y if the remarks occurred in the right places, because in the last resort art historians
have only interested themselves in the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s for the sake of his light
m e t a p h y s i c s and in order to explain the w i n d o w s of St Denis. But they do not. S u g e r
missed the one o p p o r t u n i t y that cried out for a digression into theory, if there had been a
theory, w h e n he w a s describing the chapel-ring at the new east end: 'by virtue of w h i c h the

1 2 The subject was of great interest to Suger's c h r i s t i a n a e f i d e i , I, v, x x x , Migne, P L , CLXXVI, 260, where
neighbour and contemporary Hugh of St Victor, the nine orders of angels are named, though not
ob. 1141, who certainly was acquainted with the Dionysius.
Pseudo-Dionysius. See Hugh of St Victor, D e s a c r a m e n t i s
6 PETER KIDSON
w h o l e ( c h u r c h ) s h o u l d s h i n e w i t h w o n d e r f u l a n d u n i n t e r r u p t e d light o f m o s t l u m i n o u s
w i n d o w s , p e r v a d i n g the interior b e a u t y ' . 1 3 H e r e i f a n y w h e r e w e s h o u l d h a v e e x p e c t e d t o
h e a r o f the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s , b u t the s t u n n i n g v i s u a l effect e v i d e n t l y n e e d e d n o f u r t h e r
c o m m e n t . I n the e n d , P a n o f s k y h a d t o settle for ' t h e o r g y o f n e o - P l a t o n i c l i g h t
m e t a p h y s i c s t o w h i c h S u g e r a b a n d o n s h i m s e l f i n s o m e o f his p o e t r y ' . 1 4 W h a t this a m o u n t s
to is t h a t there is a lot of p l a y w i t h w o r d s like lumen, lumina a n d lux in the v e r s e s i n s c r i b e d on
the w e s t front, j u s t as there is in the o p e n i n g p a r a g r a p h of de Caelesti Hierarchia.15 P a n o f s k y
seems to have persuaded himself that Suger's edifying phrases contain deep neo-Platonic
m e a n i n g s . T h i s is no d o u b t a m a t t e r of o p i n i o n ; b u t if the m e s s a g e is there, it is not e x a c t l y
l a b o u r e d , a n d t h e v e r s e s c a n j u s t a s easily b e r e a d a s c o n v e n t i o n a l piety w i t h n o o v e r t o n e s .
D e s p i t e this m o d e s t s h o w i n g , he e n d s w i t h a r e s o u n d i n g r h e t o r i c a l flourish.
Did he (Suger) know or sense that his unreflecting enthusiasm for the pseudo Areopagites' and
John the Scot's light metaphysics placed him in the van [sic!] of an intellectual movement that was
to result in the proto-scientific theories of Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon on the one hand,
and in a Christian Platonism ranging from William of Auvergne, Henry of Ghent and Ulric of
Strassburg to Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola on the other? 1 6

T h i s , i f i t m a y b e s a i d o f a g r e a t s c h o l a r , i s j u s t silly. R o g e r B a c o n , w h o l a v i s h e d p r a i s e o n
G r o s s e t e s t e for his p i o n e e r w o r k i n r e s u r r e c t i n g w h a t for h i m w e r e the f o r g o t t e n w o r k s o f
the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s , h a d n e v e r h e a r d o f S u g e r . 1 7 T h e r e i s n o t the slightest s h r e d o f
e v i d e n c e t o s u g g e s t t h a t S u g e r e v e r m a d e the sort o f s y s t e m a t i c s t u d y o f the P s e u d o -
D i o n y s i u s t h a t w o u l d p u t h i m into s u c h d i s t i n g u i s h e d c o m p a n y , o r e v e n t h a t h e h a d a n y
s y m p a t h y w i t h o r real u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f the n e o - P l a t o n i c s t r a n d i n C h r i s t i a n t h e o l o g y .
L i g h t m e t a p h y s i c s , a s the p h i l o s o p h e r s o f a n t i q u i t y a n d the C h u r c h f a t h e r s h a n d l e d the
t h e m e , w a s a l m o s t c e r t a i n l y b e y o n d h i m ; a n d their v i e w s w o u l d not h a v e b e e n m u c h use
t o h i m , a n y w a y . T h e y w e r e not m u c h c o n c e r n e d w i t h art o r o b j e c t s . L i k e P l a t o t h e y
d i s t i n g u i s h e d b e t w e e n art a n d b e a u t y , a n d w h e n t h e y talked a b o u t b e a u t y , i t w a s d i v i n e
b e a u t y , e t h e r e a l b e a u t y , o r i n v i s i b l e b e a u t y t h a t they h a d i n m i n d . I n tune w i t h the
p r e v a i l i n g m o o d o f late a n t i q u i t y , t h e y w e r e p r e o c c u p i e d w i t h a t h e o c e n t r i c v i e w o f the
w o r l d , i n w h i c h the b e s e t t i n g p r o b l e m w a s h o w t o g r a s p the r e l a t i o n b e t w e e n a
t r a n s c e n d e n t G o d a n d a c r e a t e d w o r l d , o r b e t w e e n the s p i r i t u a l a n d m a t e r i a l o r d e r s o f
reality. I n the a t t e m p t t o d o s o they d i s t i n g u i s h e d b e t w e e n p o s i t i v e a n d n e g a t i v e t h e o l o g y
a n d f o u n d t h e m s e l v e s o b l i g e d t o rely h e a v i l y o n the r e s o u r c e s o f m e t a p h o r . P l o t i n u s , w h o
i n m a n y respects w a s the s e m i n a l t h i n k e r , f o u n d l i g h t a n d the i m a g e o f light p a r t i c u l a r l y
c o n d u c i v e t o his p u r p o s e . S t a r t i n g f r o m s o m e r a t h e r c a s u a l r e m a r k s o f A r i s t o t l e 1 8 o n the
s u b j e c t , h e d e v e l o p e d the i m p l i c a t i o n s o f the i n c o r p o r e a l i t y o f l i g h t w h i c h w a s n e v e r t h e -
less the i n d i s p e n s a b l e c o n d i t i o n u n d e r w h i c h the f o r m s o f the p h y s i c a l w o r l d m a n i f e s t e d
t h e m s e l v e s . T h i s a m b i v a l e n t status q u a l i f i e d light for a c r u c i a l p l a c e in his d o c t r i n e of
e m a n a t i o n , w h i c h w a s the intelligible t h r e a d t h a t b o u n d the u n i v e r s e t o g e t h e r . 1 9 L i g h t

13 De consecratione iv, 225. Panofsky, S u g e r , n. 1 above, tradidit Latinis de libris bead Dionysii . . . .' Roger
pp. 100-01. Bacon, Compendium studii p h i l o s o p h i a e , ed. J. S. Brewer,
14 Panofsky, S u g e r , n. 1 above, pp. 21-23. p. 474, Rolls Series 1859. Cited by Sir Richard
15 S e e M i g n e , P L , CXXII, 1037 c , D . Southern, Robert Grosseteste, Oxford 1986, p. 18.
16Panofsky, S u g e r , p. 36. 18 Aristotle, De anima, 11 7. 418b.
17'Dormit igitur ecclesia quae nihil facit in hac parte, 19 See A. H. Armstrong, The Architecture of the I n t e l l i g i b l e
nec aliquid te septuaginta annis fecit, nisi quod dominus Universe in the P h i l o s o p h y of P l o t i n u s , Cambridge 1940,
Robertus, episcopus Lincolniensis, sanctae memoriae, PP- 53 f·
PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS 7
f i g u r e d i n m a n y f r u i t f u l a n a l o g i e s w h i c h e m b r a c e d b o t h the s u n a n d the soul. I n o t h e r
w o r d s i t c o u l d b e d e v e l o p e d i n b o t h c o s m i c a n d p s y c h o l o g i c a l d i r e c t i o n s . A t o n e end o f the
scale, i n the h a n d s o f j u l i a n the a p o s t a t e , w h o h a t e d C h r i s t i a n i t y for r e a s o n s that h a d little
t o d o w i t h d o c t r i n e , i t b e c a m e a k i n d o f solar t h e o l o g y . A t the o t h e r , w i t h the P s e u d o -
D i o n y s i u s , i t v e r g e d o n m y s t i c i s m . B u t a n y serious n e o - P l a t o n i s t w h o t h o u g h t a l o n g these
lines h a d his sights f i r m l y f i x e d o n the reality b e y o n d light. W i t h o u t this p a r a d o x the
w h o l e effort lost its m e a n i n g .
W h i l e s u c h ideas w e r e a t all t i m e s rare, r e m o t e a n d d i f f i c u l t , they w e r e not e n t i r e l y o u t
o f c i r c u l a t i o n i n the M i d d l e A g e s . E m a s c u l a t e d reflections o f t h e m f i l t e r e d s t e a d i l y d o w n
t o the e d u c a t e d c l e r g y , u s u a l l y t h r o u g h A u g u s t i n e a n d G r e g o r y the G r e a t r a t h e r t h a n the
P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s . I n s o m e f o r m o r o t h e r the g r e a t m e t a p h o r o f light w a s built into the
o r d i n a r y C h r i s t i a n p e r c e p t i o n o f the w o r l d , a n d h a d b e c o m e p a r t o f the stock i n t r a d e o f
e v e r y o n e w h o e v e r p r e a c h e d a s e r m o n . T h e r e is p e r h a p s a sense in w h i c h a n y o n e w h o , like
B r o w n i n g , greets the s u n i n the m o r n i n g a n d feels that ' G o d ' s i n his h e a v e n , all's r i g h t
w i t h the w o r l d ' , m a y b e c a l l e d a P l a t o n i s t . I t c o u l d b e a r g u e d that a l t h o u g h h e c a n n o t b e
t a k e n seriously as a t h e o l o g i a n , S u g e r w a s a d i l u t e d P l a t o n i s t of this k i n d . O n e m i g h t h a v e
b e e n c o n t e n t w i t h this r a t h e r a n o d y n e s o l u t i o n , w e r e i t not for s o m e t h i n g that S u g e r
h i m s e l f tells us, in a r e m a r k a b l e p a s s a g e t h a t P a n o f s k y totally m i s c o n s t r u e d .

When out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God — the loveliness of the many-coloured
gems has called me away from all external cares, and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect,
transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial, on the diversity of the sacred
virtues: then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling as it were in some strange region of the
universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven,
and that by the grace of God I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world in an
anagogical manner. 2 0

T h i s i s not the s t r a i g h t f o r w a r d l a n g u a g e o f c o n v e n t i o n a l C h r i s t i a n P l a t o n i s m . T h e r e i s
s o m e t h i n g u n e x p e c t e d l y v i v i d a n d a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l a b o u t that p r i v a t e w o r l d p o i s e d
b e t w e e n h e a v e n a n d e a r t h . S u g e r ' s w o r d s s o u n d like the p e r s o n a l c o n f e s s i o n o f s o m e o n e
t r y i n g t o d e s c r i b e a c o m p l e x e x p e r i e n c e for w h i c h the o r d i n a r y v o c a b u l a r y o f his d a y
m a d e n o a d e q u a t e p r o v i s i o n . I t i n v o l v e d a n i n t u i t i o n o f v a l u e that w a s n e i t h e r m y s t i c a l
nor i n t e l l e c t u a l . S u g e r f o u n d it c o n d u c i v e to religious c o n t e m p l a t i o n , a n d to t h a t e x t e n t
there w a s a f e e l i n g of u p l i f t w h i c h a l l o w e d h i m to b o r r o w the e x p r e s s i o n anagogico more
f r o m the t h e o l o g i a n s , a l t h o u g h h e did n o t d e c e i v e himself, n o r s h o u l d w e b e d e c e i v e d into
t h i n k i n g t h a t h e h a d b e e n t r a n s p o r t e d into a r e a l m b e y o n d the s e n s e s . 2 1 T h e essential
t h i n g a b o u t it is t h a t it w a s g r o u n d e d in the p h y s i c a l b e a u t y of the b u i l d i n g a n d its
a p p u r t e n a n c e s . R e l i g i o u s a r c h i t e c t u r e w a s here p e r f o r m i n g w h a t sensitive a n d i m a g i n a -
tive souls m i g h t c o n s i d e r to be its p r o p e r f u n c t i o n , n a m e l y o f f e r i n g a foretaste of p a r a d i s e
t h r o u g h the senses. I n s t e a d o f c o n d u c t i n g the soul t o h e a v e n , i t b r i n g s h e a v e n d o w n t o
e a r t h . W e m i g h t prefer t o call s u c h a n e x p e r i e n c e a e s t h e t i c , a l t h o u g h for S u g e r the
religious a n d a e s t h e t i c e l e m e n t s w e r e i n e x t r i c a b l y f u s e d , a n d h e h a d n e i t h e r the i n c e n t i v e
n o r the m e a n s to d i s e n t a n g l e t h e m . F a r f r o m b e i n g a P l a t o n i s t , S u g e r discloses h i m s e l f as a
proto-Jesuit. H e w o u l d h a v e h a d n o d i f f i c u l t y i n u n d e r s t a n d i n g the t e c h n i q u e s o f s e d u c i n g

2 0 D e a d m i n i s t r a t i o n e , x x x m ; Panofsky, S u g e r , n. i above,
Among orthodox theologians like Gregory the Great it
pp. 62-65. was normally understood to be one of the methods for
21 If Suger chose his words with care, it must have been elucidating the meaning of the Scriptures.
just the modus o p e r a n d i of anagogy that he had in mind.

2
8 PETER KIDSON
souls for G o d through b e a u t y , and w o u l d h a v e thoroughly a p p r o v e d . His St D e n i s w a s a
first step along the road w h i c h led to the Quattro Fontane and Vierzehnheiligen.
T h e one m a n w h o quite certainly w o u l d not h a v e been impressed by these revelations
is St B e r n a r d , and it is p e r h a p s j u s t as well that he never got to hear of them. T h e y w o u l d
h a v e confirmed any earlier suspicions Bernard m a y h a v e entertained, that S u g e r ' s
instincts were d a n g e r o u s l y C l u n i a c . T h e naive a s s u m p t i o n that G o d and the saints w o u l d
share his delight in the o p u l e n c e of the things offered to them belonged to a level of religion
that B e r n a r d had left far behind. For all his b u s y b o d y i n g and nasty, sexy puns, B e r n a r d
k n e w well e n o u g h that religion w a s a matter of love, p r a y e r and inwardness; and that for
the spiritual elite, art w a s a distraction. If it had any religious purpose, it w a s to instruct
the illiterate. S u c h sentiments found their w a y into the Decretal of G r a t i a n , w h i c h w a s
being c o m p i l e d d u r i n g the 1140s, in the form of a quotation from a letter of G r e g o r y the
G r e a t : ' q u o d est clerico littera, hoc est laico p i c t u r a ' , 2 2 a distant echo p e r h a p s of H o r a c e ' s
ut pictura poesis, and certainly a reflection of the m e d i e v a l distinction b e t w e e n the liberal
and the m a n u a l arts. T h e tone w a s not necessarily condescending. As the initiative of the
laity over matters c o n c e r n i n g its o w n spiritual welfare accelerated, a n d as the reformed
c h u r c h g r a d u a l l y w i d e n e d the range of its pastoral responsibilities, the exegetical role of
the arts a c q u i r e d an a c c e p t e d social function. A r c h i t e c t u r e had a special part to play in
this process. C h u r c h buildings were by far the most insistent reminders to the world of the
ubiquitous presence of the church; and they provided the f r a m e w o r k through w h i c h
streams of ecclesiastical i m a g e r y could be projected at the laity — or the clergy too, for
that matter. T h e r e had already been occasions w h e n architectural style had been the
vehicle for ideological p r o p a g a n d a . Speyer and C l u n y were cases in point. S u g e r ' s
St Denis w a s exceptional only in striking a new note that turned out to be exactly attuned
to the more a d v a n c e d ecclesiastical thinking of the d a y . W h a t is really odd is that it should
h a v e h a p p e n e d for the first time at a conservative Benedictine a b b e y . (But stranger things
h a v e h a p p e n e d . W h o w o u l d h a v e expected the unification o f G e r m a n y t o h a v e been
achieved by a m a n like Bismarck?) T h e r e were u n d o u b t e d l y residual tensions between the
respective outlooks of the relaxed Benedictine S u g e r and the austere C i s t e r c i a n B e r n a r d ;
but Panofsky w a s w a y off the mark in suggesting that they were of a kind that could be
resolved or affected by theories of s y m b o l i s m based on light m e t a p h y s i c s . In any case
Bernard had a l r e a d y s h o w n w h a t he t h o u g h t of intellectuals like A b e l a r d and G i l b e r t de la
Porree; and w a s not a b o v e r e m e m b e r i n g that in the ninth century E r i g u e n a himself h a d
actually been suspected of p r o m o t i n g pantheistic heresy w h e n his translations of the
Pseudo-Dionysius appeared.23

If Suger's texts were not aimed at B e r n a r d as Panofsky claims, w h a t w a s their


purpose, and w h o read them? T h e manuscripts are not exactly thick on the g r o u n d .
Panofsky cites one twelfth-century version of De administratione24 from St Denis itself. T h e
oldest extant c o p y of De consecratione dates from c. 1200. 2 5 T h e Ordinatio a p p a r e n t l y

2 2 R e g i s t r u m G r e g o r i i , 9.9. Letter to Serenus, Bishop of Pope Nicholas I ordered Charles the Bald, who
Marseilles. Gratian, C o r p u s i u r i s c a n o n i c i , 1, 1360, Leipzig commissioned the translation of the Pseudo-Dionysius,
1879. Cited by Chrysogonus Waddell, 'The Reform of to send Eriguena to Rome, because he disapproved of its
the Liturgy' in R e n a i s s a n c e and R e n e w a l in the T w e l f t h publication without permission. There is no evidence
C e n t u r y , ed. R. L. Benson and G. Constable, Oxford that he went.
1982, p. 96 n. 25. 24 Paris, BN, MS lat. 13835.

23 An early work was condemned by the Council of 2 5 Vatican Library, MS Reg. lat. 571.

Valence (855) and the Council of Langres (859); and


PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS 9
survives in a single c o p y . 2 6 T h e r e m a y h a v e been losses, but this is not the form of works
that circulated w i d e l y . T h e contents explain w h y . T h e y are o v e r w h e l m i n g l y a b o u t
matters of no c o n c e i v a b l e interest to anyone outside the A b b e y of St Denis. T h e y are
concerned w i t h the disposal of i n c o m e from v a r i o u s properties, the c o m m e m o r a t i o n of
benefactors like C h a r l e s the B a l d , the provision of decent dinners for the monks a n d ,
a b o v e all, the s m a r t e n i n g up and e n l a r g e m e n t of the a b b e y church. In short, they were
intended solely for domestic c o n s u m p t i o n . T h e p r e d o m i n a n t m o o d is that of an apologia,
but the accounts differ c o n s i d e r a b l y , both in length and emphasis.
T h e first, the Ordinatio, w h i c h dates from 1 1 4 0 - 4 1 , is a fairly perfunctory statement. It
reminds the m o n k s of w h a t they o w e to their a b b o t ' s g o o d housekeeping, and lists the
w o r t h y objects on w h i c h m o n e y had been spent, before c o m i n g to the new west front
w h i c h w a s p r e s u m a b l y the bone of contention. T h e implication is that there had been
complaints from the cloister a b o u t w a s t e f u l expenditure, and Suger w a s trying to allay
fears as well as j u s t i f y his building p r o g r a m m e . O n c e again we m a y be reminded of the
explosive situation at C l u n y in the 1120s, w h e n the mutterings of the monks a b o u t the
e x t r a v a g a n c e of their a b b o t and his prolonged absence from the a b b e y on non-monastic
business precipitated the crisis of 1125. T h e dust of that s c a n d a l settled slowly. A m o n g its
more recent repercussions had been the troubles at St M a r y ' s , Y o r k in 1135, and the
secession w h i c h led to the f o u n d a t i o n of Fountains. T h e s e w e r e precedents that m u s t h a v e
been constantly in Suger's m i n d , and he w a s no d o u b t anxious that they should not be
repeated at St Denis. T h e r e is no w h i f f of the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s here.
T h e second version, the De consecratione, w a s written after 1144 w h e n the choir w a s
finished and the w h o l e operation had been b r o u g h t to a splendid conclusion. T h i s is m u c h
longer. It goes into great detail a b o u t the difficulties that w e r e encountered in the course of
the w o r k , and w h i c h w e r e o v e r c o m e thanks to the m i r a c u l o u s intervention of the house
saints w h o clearly a p p r o v e d of w h a t w a s being done, and also the inspired resourcefulness
of the a b b o t . As in the Ordinatio S u g e r goes out of his w a y to stress the p o m p and
c i r c u m s t a n c e w i t h w h i c h the ceremonies of consecration were performed. He h a m m e r s
h o m e the point that these occasions r e d o u n d e d to the h o n o u r of everyone connected with
the a b b e y . T h i s is w h a t mattered to him, and it is w h y he w a s writing. T h e r e is still hardly
a n y t h i n g a b o u t s y m b o l i s m , the one specific case being the remark c o m p a r i n g the twelve
c o l u m n s round the apse w i t h the twelve apostles, and the e q u i v a l e n t smaller c o l u m n s in
the a m b u l a t o r y w i t h the (minor) prophets. T h i s is certainly i c o n o g r a p h y of a sort, b u t it
w a s not taken from the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s . 2 7
T h e third a c c o u n t , the De administratione, w a s compiled at the request of the general
c h a p t e r of the a b b e y . T h e meeting at w h i c h the invitation w a s issued took place after the
consecration of J u n e 1144, and before M a r c h 1145, in other w o r d s while memories of the
great event w e r e still v i v i d . It w a s later than the De consecratione, w h i c h it mentions, and it

26 Paris, Archives nationales, MS K23 m.5. himself is not likely to have been Suger's immediate
27 The first time this rhetorical flourish was used must source. He wrote in Greek and the L i f e of C o n s t a n t i n e did
have been in the description of the apse of the basilica of not circulate in the West. But it was the kind of idea that
the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem by Eusebius of had great exegetical possibilities, and there were many
Caesarea, in his L i f e o f C o n s t a n t i n e . There were 'twelve variants. See for instance Gregory the Great's M o r a l i a in
columns encircling the apse, equal in number to the J o b , xvii.xxix.42, where pillars may refer to angels, or
Apostles of the Saviour . . .' See C. Coiiasnon, T h e preachers, or churches. See G. R. Evans, T h e T h o u g h t of
C h u r c h of the H o l y S e p u l c h r e , f e r u s a l e m , British Academy G r e g o r y the G r e a t , Cambridge 1986, p. 91.
Schweich Lectures, London 1972, p. 44· Eusebius
10 PETER KIDSON
w a s not finished until the period of the second c r u s a d e w h e n S u g e r w a s acting as regent of
F r a n c e ( 1 1 4 7 - 4 9 ) · Its relation to the other records is not entirely clear. It goes over a lot of
the same g r o u n d as the Ordinatio t h o u g h in greater detail; but it presupposes rather than
repeats the De consecratione, to w h i c h it provides a kind of sequel. H o w e v e r the tone is
perceptibly different. S u g e r is more relaxed and more expansive. T h e real subject is the
decorative s p l e n d o u r of the new building and its s u m p t u o u s furnishings. T h e s e positively
invite S u g e r to s h o w himself in his true colours. A n d he does. He u n a s h a m e d l y glories in
things that g l e a m and shine. He w o u l d like to think that there is nothing reprehensible
a b o u t this, that it is c o m p a t i b l e w i t h his religious vocation. B u t that is all. It w a s here,
behind the e x u b e r a n t prose, that Panofsky t h o u g h t he could detect the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i a c
s y m p t o m s he w a s looking for. But unless one is convinced beforehand that Suger w a s a
c o m m i t t e d initiate, one will search his w o r d s in v a i n for the proof. It simply is not there.
W i t h o u t the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s S u g e r loses m u c h of his art historical g l a m o u r . He
ceases to be the c o m m a n d i n g intellectual and reverts to a more conventional style of
patronage. B u t it does not follow that St Denis ceases to be his special creation. E v e n
w i t h o u t benefit of light m e t a p h y s i c s there w a s still a great deal of light, or rather colour, in
the building. T h e w i n d o w s were quite certainly Suger's o w n distinctive contribution.
T h e r e must h a v e been at least thirty of them in the choir and the west front. T h e y w e r e his
pride and j o y . He appointed a special ministerialis magistrum to look after them w h e n they
were finished 2 8 and had a lot of trouble finding e n o u g h craftsmen to m a k e t h e m in the first
place. T h e s e had to be recruited from ' m a n y regions' 2 9 w h i c h suggests that the scale of
operations w a s exceptional and b e y o n d the i m m e d i a t e resources of a n y one region. T h i s
'scouring the l a n d ' in search of talent allows S u g e r to present himself in his favourite role
as indefatigable provider. T h e r e w e r e other occasions. If necessary he w a s prepared to
fetch m a r b l e c o l u m n s all the w a y from R o m e to m a t c h those of the old nave, a l t h o u g h in
the end he found w h a t he w a n t e d (miraculously of course) in the n e i g h b o u r h o o d of
Pontoise; 3 0 and w h e n e v e r y o n e else had despaired of finding timbers of the right size, he
p l u n g e d hopefully into the forest o f Y v e l i n e s , and against the odds, solved the p r o b l e m in a
matter of h o u r s . 3 1 A l l this conveys — as it w a s no d o u b t intended to d o — the impression
of S u g e r the master m i n d in total control of the situation d o w n to the last detail; and not
j u s t supervising e v e r y t h i n g but inventing as well. As he almost certainly devised the
i c o n o g r a p h y for the w i n d o w s , and as the w i n d o w s were the raison d'etre of the w h o l e
design, it is easy e n o u g h to slip into the w a y of thinking of him as the m a n w h o actually
conceived St Denis.
T h i s disposition has b e c o m e enshrined in m u c h of the recent literature. 3 2 It does not
depend on Panofsky but it shares his predilection for s y m b o l i s m and m e a n i n g f u l i m a g e s at
the expense of formal or structural considerations. L i g h t has b e c o m e for m o d e r n
architectural historians w h a t the rib w a s for V i o l l e t - l e - D u c . As Suger provides the only
direct testimony we have, a n d we are i m m e n s e l y grateful for it, he m a y be forgiven for his
part in e n c o u r a g i n g this lopsided impression. But it is only w h e n we start to e x a m i n e the
building itself that the extent of the bias becomes apparent.

2 8 D e admin, xxxiv; Panofsky, S u g e r , n. 1 above, 31 D e c o n s e c . ill, 222; Panofsky, Suger, pp. 96-97.
pp. 76-77. 32 See von Simson, G o t h i c C a t h e d r a l , n. 6 above,
2 9 D e a d m i n , x x x i v , Panofsky, S u g e r , pp. 72-73. chapter iv, where the case is urged to the limit of
3 0 D e c o n s e c . 219; Panofsky, S u g e r , pp. 90-93. credibility.
PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS 11
T h e one thing we do not hear m u c h a b o u t f r o m Suger is the presence on his payroll of a
qualified a r c h i t e c t . 3 3 T h e r e are fine w o r d s in praise of c r a f t m a n s h i p w h e n it produces
something that delights his eye. We learn that there w a s no shortage of stonemasons to do
the work; but the only time we are told a n y t h i n g a b o u t skills of a more professional kind is
w h e n 'it w a s c u n n i n g l y p r o v i d e d t h a t . . . the central n a v e (literally roof) of the old c h u r c h
should be equalised by m e a n s of geometrical and arithmetical instruments w i t h the
central n a v e of the new a d d i t i o n ' . 3 4 T h i s leads on directly to the p a s s a g e a b o u t the chapels
and their w o n d e r f u l w i n d o w s , q u o t e d a b o v e . 3 5 B u t there is no inkling that these also
required the services of g e o m e t r y and arithmetic, not to mention a r e m a r k a b l y sophisti-
cated sense of the b e h a v i o u r of structures, w i t h o u t w h i c h there could h a v e been no
marvellous lighting effects. S u g e r ' s silence is instructive. It betrays the c o m p l a c e n c y of the
great patron w h o k n o w s exactly w h a t he w a n t s and does not care h o w it is done. It also
suggests the w a r y i n c o m p r e h e n s i o n of the literary m a n for w h o m the prestigious mysteries
of applied m a t h e m a t i c s w e r e a closed b o o k . 3 6 A l t h o u g h our k n o w l e d g e of the twelfth-
century work at St D e n i s has been severely curtailed by the thirteenth-century alterations
in w h i c h all trace of the clerestory and vaults completely d i s a p p e a r e d , e n o u g h is left of the
plan and elevation for us to form an estimate of the range of architectural resources
involved. T h e y s h o w a p o w e r f u l m i n d at w o r k , thinking imaginatively a b o u t architectural
problems, and w o r k i n g out subtle and effective solutions. T h a t m i n d w a s not Suger's.
W h e t h e r he k n e w it or not, S u g e r e m p l o y e d an architect of genius w h o deserves our
salutations even t h o u g h he c a n n o t be n a m e d .
G i v e n its a c k n o w l e d g e d i m p o r t a n c e in the history of architecture, the apse of St D e n i s
has not received the close attention it deserves. T h e only serious a t t e m p t to come to grips
with it in recent years is to be found in a short p a p e r by C r o s b y , 3 7 w h i c h includes a few
basic m e a s u r e m e n t s , a p l a n w h i c h is i n a c c u r a t e but w h i c h represents the essential
features of the design, and a theory. C r o s b y proposed that the apse w a s based on
P t o l e m y ' s Almagest. T h i s is i c o n o g r a p h y in the g r a n d m a n n e r , every bit as s p e c t a c u l a r as
invocations of the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s . It certainly lives up to P a n o f s k y ' s belief that
revolutionary w o r k s of art need great ideas to explain them. It is true that the suggestion
encounters certain e l e m e n t a r y chronological obstacles at the outset. K n o w l e d g e of
P t o l e m y ' s a s t r o n o m y b e c a m e generally a v a i l a b l e to L a t i n readers only after G e r a r d of
C r e m o n a m a d e his translation of the Almagest from the A r a b i c in the 1170s. So it has to be
argued that r u m o u r s of P t o l e m y must h a v e circulated w h e r e v e r the liberal arts w e r e

33 von Simson goes so far as to claim that 'between the


miraculous escape of the Bishop of Chartres to the fact
patron and his chief mason there was no room for an that 'he frequently extended his blessing hand in the
architect in the modern sense' (op. cit. p. 97). direction (of the vaults) and urgently held out toward it,
3 4 D e c o n s e c . iv, 225; Panofsky, S u g e r , pp. 100-01.
while making the sign of the cross, the arm of the aged
3 5 See n. 13. St Simeon, so that he escaped disaster, manifestly not
36 The anecdote chosen by von Simson to illustrate through his own strength of mind but by the grace of
what he calls Suger's remarkable technical knowledge God and the merit of the Saints. Thus (the tempest) . . .
— his complete familiarity with the functions and was unable to damage these isolated and newly made
properties of the cross-ribbed vault (von Simson op. cit. arches, tottering in the mid-air, because it was repulsed
n. 6 above, p. 96), in my opinion does nothing of the by the power of God' ( D e consec. v.230; Panofsky, Suger,
sort. Suger merely describes what could be seen, and p. 109). If that is technical insight, any clergyman is an
what happened on a particular occasion. Far from architect.
understanding why the arches of the vaults withstood 37 S. M c K . Crosby, 'Crypt and Choir Plans at
the fury of the storm, he piously attributed the St Denis', G e s t a 1966.
12 PETER KIDSON
studied, and the construction of an astrolabe described by H e r m a n n u s C o n t r a c t u s ( w h o
died in 1054) indicated a level of interest in astronomy w h i c h o u g h t to h a v e been up to
g r a s p i n g P t o l e m y ' s central idea, i.e. that the m o v e m e n t s of the h e a v e n l y bodies w e r e
controlled by a system of circles a n d epicycles. T h i s is w h a t c a u g h t C r o s b y ' s attention.
T h e apse of St Denis is not a simple matter of concentric circles. C r o s b y detected t w o
centres and t w o radii, w i t h the chapels themselves f o r m i n g a series of subordinate circles.
W h e n he d r e w it out, the a n a l o g y must h a v e leapt at him.
B u t that is all the evidence there is: on the one hand a s o m e w h a t out of the ordinary
building; on the other a rather unusual explanation w h i c h superficially seems to fit. It is
the sort of reasoning that is all too c o m m o n in art-historical studies, especially m e d i e v a l .
It is impossible to prove the hypothesis w r o n g , b u t a great deal more in the w a y of
a r g u m e n t is required before it c o m m a n d s assent. It presupposes a h u g e a m o u n t of special
pleading. Q u i t e apart from the G e r a r d of C r e m o n a issue, w h i c h cannot be entirely swept
aside w i t h o u t more ado, there is the glaring fact that Suger himself m a k e s no mention of
Ptolemy or astronomical i c o n o g r a p h y , a n y more than he n a m e s the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s ;
and no one else ever seems to h a v e s h o w n the slightest interest in the idea. Before resorting
to such heroic solutions we o u g h t to ask w h e t h e r it is really impossible to find a
satisfactory solution along more conventional lines.
T h e first thing to establish is the extent of the deformation. T h e apse has three c u r v e d
c o m p o n e n t s , one inside the other. T h e t w o innermost, represented by the rows of
PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS 13
columns, are concentric, and essentially circular. 3 8 Structurally, the complications are
confined to the outer w a l l of the chapel ring, t h o u g h if C r o s b y ' s d r a w i n g is correct, the
critical factor is the location of the centres from w h i c h the small circles of the chapels are
struck. T h e s e lie on three arcs, w h i c h can be identified as north, east and south
respectively. T h e north and south arcs h a v e t w o chapels each, and were struck from the
same centre as the two rows of c o l u m n s w h i c h form the inner circles. T o g e t h e r , they all
belong to a single, regular, geometrical construction. It is only the eastern arc w h i c h does
not conform to this construction. T h i s arc determines the position of the axial chapel, and
the chapels on either side of it. It has a shorter radius and a different centre, 2.70 m to the
east of the principal centre. In practical terms the distortion is limited to the outer walls of
these three m i d d l e chapels of the c h a p e l ring, w h i c h are p u s h e d s o m e w h a t to the east —
the axial c h a p e l being the one most affected. T h i s is true at both levels, a l t h o u g h the
dimensions are not the s a m e , and the vertical alignments do not coincide. In the crypt,
w h e r e there is only one a m b u l a t o r y , the effect manifests itself entirely as a d e e p e n i n g of the
three chapels. In the choir above, w h e r e there are no party walls between the chapels, it
takes the f o r m of a slight w i d e n i n g t o w a r d the axis of w h a t it is c u s t o m a r y to call the outer
a m b u l a t o r y ; but there is no difference b e c a u s e the so-called outer a m b u l a t o r y is really
part of the c h a p e l s (PI. i a ) . In De consecratione S u g e r lists the altars and the prelates w h o
consecrated them. For the series in the c r y p t he begins w i t h 'the lower m a i n altar', w h i c h
is dedicated to the V i r g i n , and then gives four 'on the right' and four 'on the left'. F r o m
this it follows that the V i r g i n ' s altar in the c r y p t w a s in the axial chapel. In the choir
a b o v e , the sequence is as follows: the m a i n , high altar; the n a v e altar; the V i r g i n altar; and
then eight m o r e . 3 9 T h e locations are not specified, but if the p r o c e d u r e w a s the same as for
the crypt, the V i r g i n ' s altar o u g h t once again to h a v e been in the axial position. As it
b e c a m e c o m m o n practice to put the L a d y C h a p e l on the axis, and to give it slightly more
p r o m i n e n c e than the other chapels, there m a y be no need to look further for an
explanation. H o w e v e r , three chapels are involved, not one, and the other dedications
h a r d l y seem to q u a l i f y for special e m p h a s i s . 4 0 T h e most likely reason for including the t w o
f l a n k i n g chapels with the axial chapel in the a d j u s t m e n t w o u l d seem to be the desire not to
interrupt or d i s t u r b the even sequence of the c h a p e l w i n d o w s . At any rate, this w a s the
result achieved; and in v i e w of Suger's concern for the general effect of the w i n d o w s such
an inference w o u l d be consistent w i t h the overall interpretation. If C r o s b y ' s d r a w i n g is
reliable, the eastern arc extends across slightly more than the three central chapels. T h e
total angle e m b r a c e d by this sector is a fraction short of 90 degrees, and it is hard to believe
that it w a s not m e a n t to be a full q u a d r a n t . So all that seems to have h a p p e n e d is that a
90 degree stretch of the outer circle of the regular geometrical figure w a s left out, and
replaced by a different c u r v e w h i c h satisfied all the requirements of the design.

L o o k e d at in this w a y , the apse of St Denis w a s a sensitive and intelligent c o m p r o m i s e ,


in w h i c h tension b e t w e e n three potentially irreconcilable factors w a s quite beautifully
resolved. T h e starting point w a s a list of altars, for w h i c h the appropriate architectural
expression w a s a formation of chapels around part of a polygon. Incidentally, if the

38 Crosby's drawing indicates that the inner colonnade 40 The chapels flanking the upper Lady Chapel should

is very slightly elliptical. He does not mention this in his have been dedicated to St Peregrinus and St Cucuphas.
text, and it may be no more than a draughtsman's error. See J. Formige, L ' A b b a y e r o y a l e de S t D e n i s , Paris i960,
3 9 D e consec. VII, 235-37. There were twenty-one altars fig. 49. In the crypt they were assigned to St Christopher
altogether. Suger mentions twenty, but clearly means and SS Sixtus, Felicissimus and Agapitus.
twenty in addition to the high altar.
14 PETER KIDSON
p o l y g o n w a s chosen to p r o d u c e the right n u m b e r of chapels and altars, the c o l u m n s
around the apse w h i c h are said to represent the twelve apostles and the prophets simply
followed suit. T h e converse implies that the n u m b e r of chapels and therefore the n u m b e r
of altars w e r e c o n s e q u e n c e s of the s y m b o l i s m . I suppose it is possible that S u g e r w a s
prepared to institute cults at St D e n i s j u s t to c o m p l y w i t h the specifications of his
i c o n o g r a p h y ; b u t a simpler explanation is that the i m a g e w a s suggested to him by the
building, not the other w a y round. T h e second stage w a s the modification of the p o l y g o n .
For liturgical reasons the axial chapels had to be larger than the rest. T h i s could h a v e been
done, as it w a s in other churches, w i t h o u t w o r r y i n g a b o u t the visual consequences. B u t
these mattered at St D e n i s ; and so for purely aesthetic reasons the distortion w a s done in
such a w a y as to be virtually u n o b t r u s i v e (PI. i b ) . T h e sequence of w i n d o w s r e m a i n e d
regular; and a l t h o u g h the three easternmost chapels focused geometrically on a separate
centre, their w i n d o w s were a r r a n g e d a r o u n d axes w h i c h converged on the focal point of
the r e m a i n i n g chapels. In other w o r d s there w a s a single point of m a x i m u m visibility for
all the w i n d o w s around the apse. A l t o g e t h e r it w a s a r e m a r k a b l e achievement. O n e m i g h t
postulate a d i a l o g u e b e t w e e n S u g e r and his architect, but it w a s the architect w h o c a m e
up w i t h all the answers. T h e r e is no need w h a t e v e r to introduce abstract cosmic
s y m b o l i s m , and even if this w a s present, the a b o v e remarks w o u l d still a p p l y . T h e
p r o b l e m s were formal, aesthetic, even theatrical, but not in any special sense icono-
graphical.
Speculations a b o u t s y m b o l i s m and the eccentricities of the design h a v e distracted
attention a w a y from the fact that the apse is, after all, based on a regular p o l y g o n . 4 1 B u t it
is a very u n u s u a l and therefore interesting polygon. A c c o r d i n g to C r o s b y the angle
subtended at the centre by the sides is in the region of 27 degrees. T h e figure that seems to
fit this specification best is a thirteen-sided p o l y g o n , w h e r e the angle w o u l d be 27.69
degrees. H o w m e d i e v a l architects set a b o u t constructing polygons is something a b o u t
w h i c h we h a v e no positive information before the end of the M i d d l e A g e s , w h e n texts on
masonic g e o m e t r y shed some light on the p r o b l e m . 4 2 H o w e v e r , even m a s o n i c g e o m e t r y
w a s not m u c h use on the scale required for the polygons of apses. Essentially it w a s a
matter of fixing points on the circumference of a semicircle. It is p e r h a p s j u s t possible that
this could be done w i t h o u t calculation, by quite literally d r a w i n g on the ground: setting a
string on the circumference, m e a s u r i n g and dividing its length, and m a r k i n g off the
intervals along the curve. B u t at best this w o u l d be incredibly c u m b e r s o m e , and unless it
w a s done w i t h extreme care, likely to be inaccurate. O t h e r w i s e it could be done by
triangulation, i.e. the straight lines from one point to another. But this w o u l d require
m e t h o d s for c a l c u l a t i n g the a p p r o p r i a t e chords, w h i c h w o u l d be the sides of the p o l y g o n .
E v e r y t h i n g at St D e n i s suggests the second method. It is not entirely regular, but the
precision of the setting out betokens i m m e n s e theoretical confidence and suggests that all
the principal dimensions w e r e carefully worked out beforehand. It is this w h i c h distin-
guishes St D e n i s from an o b v i o u s improvisation like St M a r t i n des C h a m p s . H o w e v e r , a
thirteen-sided p o l y g o n is not the easiest to construct without a general theory. W a s there

4 1 It is highly probable that on the architect's drawing For example, the so-called
42 G e o m e t r i a D e u t s c h of
board, the choir chapels started off as regular penta- Mattaus Roriczer.
gons; but too many pragmatic factors entered the
reckoning for these to have survived as anything more
than notional shapes.
PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS !5
such a theory, and w a s it k n o w n in twelfth-century France? T h e a n s w e r to the first part of
that question is affirmative. In antiquity a r o u g h and ready method for w o r k i n g out the
sides of polygons inscribed in circles had been k n o w n ever since B a b y l o n i a n times. It has
come d o w n to us t h r o u g h H e r o n of A l e x a n d r i a in the formula a n = 3D / n n, w h e r e a is
the length of the side, D the diameter of the circle, and n the n u m b e r of sides in the
p o l y g o n . 4 3 It is a rule of t h u m b w h i c h assumes pi to be 3, so 3D is the circumference, and
the side of the p o l y g o n , n, w h i c h is really a chord of the circle, is simply e q u a t e d w i t h the
segment of the circumference cut by the chord. T h i s is of course w r o n g , b e c a u s e the
segment is a l w a y s greater than the chord. H o w e v e r the error is subject to amelioration in
two w a y s . As the n u m b e r of sides increases, so the d i s c r e p a n c y b e t w e e n the chord and the
segment diminishes; and by using a low v a l u e for pi (3 instead of 3 . 1 4 1 5 9 . . .) the result is
biased in f a v o u r of the chord. T h e c o m b i n a t i o n of these t w o effects varies across the series
of polygons. Up to p e n t a g o n the f o r m u l a errs on the side of excess. For the h e x a g o n it is
exactly right; and b e y o n d the h e x a g o n the results are too low. In fact the error reaches a
m a x i m u m of a b o u t 4% in the vicinity of the thirteen-sided polygon, and then it declines
toward the infinitesimal as the p o l y g o n a p p r o a c h e s the circle.
It is not easy to test the hypothesis that such a formula w a s used at St Denis. It w o u l d
need a r e m a r k a b l y a c c u r a t e p l a n to verify or refute particular inferences a b o u t
dimensions, and this is not available. P e r h a p s the most e n c o u r a g i n g sign is that while the
layout of the chapels and the a m b u l a t o r y is regular e n o u g h to suggest a theory, it is not
absolutely regular, and this suggests that the theory w a s less than perfect. C r o s b y implies
that all the chapels h a v e the same radius (2.70 m in the choir), b u t his d i a g r a m belies this.
T h e w e s t e r n m o s t c h a p e l on the north side of the a m b u l a t o r y , the one S u g e r assigned to
St O s m a n n a , is perceptibly larger than the rest. F l u c t u a t i o n s in dimensions like the radii
of chapels w o u l d be one sign of a defective theory. C r o s b y gives the radius of the arc on
w h i c h the centres of the four western chapels are located, as 10.30 m, the radius of the
chapels as 2.70 m, and the angle subtended by each chapel at the m a i n centre of the w h o l e
apse as a b o u t 27 degrees. N o w it requires only a simple trigonometrical calculation to
show that the chord of a circle w i t h a radius of 10.30 m w h i c h subtends an angle of
27 degrees at the centre, is no more than 4.81 m. So if the c h a p e l circles are contiguous or
not even in contact, as C r o s b y shows them, their radii can be no more than 2.405 m. For a
radius of 2.70 m they w o u l d h a v e to overlap. T h e r e is clearly something w r o n g some-
where. It m a y be noted that if the chord is the side of a regular thirteen-sided p o l y g o n , it
b e c o m e s 4.93 m, w h i c h is exactly h a l f the w i d t h of the C a r o l i n g i a n n a v e (centre to centre
of the colonnades) as C r o s b y gives it: 9.85 m. T h i s m a y or m a y not be a coincidence.
H e r o n ' s f o r m u l a w o u l d produce a chord of 4.74 m, and this w o u l d require perceptible
a d j u s t m e n t s in one or more of the chapels. F u r t h e r evidence m a y dispose of the idea, but
as matters stand it is w o r t h asking w h e t h e r H e r o n ' s formula could h a v e been k n o w n to
Suger's architect.

It is certainly not possible to p r o v e that it w a s k n o w n . If it d e p e n d e d on access to


m a n u s c r i p t s of H e r o n ' s works, the c h a n c e s are that it w a s not. At an a c a d e m i c level H e r o n
did not really begin to surface until the scientific m o v e m e n t associated with Grosseteste,
R o g e r B a c o n and W i t e l o , 4 4 and this w a s principally directed toward his work on optics,
a l t h o u g h Delisle c a m e across a reference to a copy of H e r o n ' s Mechanica that w a s in F r a n c e

4 3 See Codex C o n s t a n t i n o p o l i t a n u s , Palatii Veteris no. i, 44 See A. C. Crombie, Robert G r o s s e t e s t e and the O r i g i n s of

ed. E. M. Bruins, Leiden 1964, fol. 23". E x p e r i m e n t a l S c i e n c e u o o - i i y o , Oxford 1953, p- 213.

V
6 PETER KIDSON
d u r i n g the thirteenth c e n t u r y . 4 5 T h e r e is one other tantalizing clue. A p a r t from the
general formula for p o l y g o n s , H e r o n also has a series of calculations g i v i n g the areas of the
regular p o l y g o n s from the p e n t a g o n to the d o d e c a g o n , with a standard side of 10 (except
the h e x a g o n , for w h i c h he uses a side of 30). H i s answers are not too far off the m a r k , and
the method is, after a fashion, rational. N o w at M u n i c h there is an eleventh-century
m a n u s c r i p t 4 6 w h i c h contains an assortment of m a t h e m a t i c a l material culled from a
variety of sources loosely related to the R o m a n agrimensores, a m o n g w h i c h is to be found
a series of lunatic calculations p u r p o r t i n g to give the areas of the regular p o l y g o n s f r o m
the pentagon to the d o d e c a g o n with a standard side of 10. T h e ultimate source for this
farrago can only h a v e been H e r o n . Nevertheless, w h o e v e r transcribed the text had not the
slightest idea w h a t he w a s doing. It reads like the hopeful p a r a p h r a s e of someone w h o s e
G r e e k w a s as s h a k y as his m a t h e m a t i c s . 4 7 W h e t h e r a n y t h i n g c a n be m a d e of this, it is hard
to say; but it seems to indicate that at some r e m o v e and p e r h a p s already horribly g a r b l e d ,
there w a s a text of H e r o n on p o l y g o n s at large s o m e w h e r e in western E u r o p e d u r i n g the
century before St Denis.
As it stands, the M u n i c h m a n u s c r i p t is quite useless as a source for the m a t h e m a t i c a l
k n o w l e d g e in question, not j u s t b e c a u s e it is full of nonsense, but b e c a u s e the extract on
polygons does not include the general formula. In any case it m a y be a mistake to try to
connect the k n o w - h o w of m e d i e v a l architects w i t h texts in circulation. A more profitable
line of enquiry m i g h t be to e x a m i n e earlier buildings w h i c h display a high degree of
geometrical proficiency for similar evidence of p o l y g o n a l construction, and try to
establish a continuity of expertise leading back to sources w h e r e k n o w l e d g e of ancient
m a t h e m a t i c s c a n be p r e s u p p o s e d w i t h confidence. T h e r e are t w o places of w h i c h this
w o u l d b e true. O n e w a s C o n s t a n t i n o p l e , the other C o r d o b a . O f the two, C o r d o b a i s

45 Léopold Delisle, Le C a b i n e t des M a n u s c r i t s de l a All calculated to a side of 10, except Heron's hexagon
B i b l i o t h è q u e N a t i o n a l e , Paris, Histoire Générale de Paris, which has a side of 30. His solution is equivalent to 260.
11, p. 530. La Biblionomie de Richard de Fournival, The Munich polygons increase by 45 each time. What
Tabula octava, 95: 'Item excerpta de libro Heronis de seems to have happened is that at some stage in the
specialibus ingeniis.' The text of Heron's M e c h a n i c a has transmission of the text to Heron on polygons, the
survived only in Arabic, but it describes machines just solutions of the area calculations got lost, and the scribe
close enough to some of Villard de Honnecourt's hopefully turned to chapter iv of Boethius, de A r i t h m e t i c a ,
visionary drawings to make one wonder whether he had where he found Nichomachus of Gerasa's table of
heard something about Richard de Fournival's version. polygonal numbers, to make good the deficiency. For
46 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 13084. the polygonal numbers see Sir Thos. Heath, Greek
See P. Tannery, M é m o i r e s s c i e n t i f i q u e s v, Paris 1922, M a t h e m a t i c s , Oxford 1921,11, p. 515. The manoeuvres in
pp. 64-70. Munich Clm 13084 have a common starting point
47 The following figures speak for themselves: which is a square 10 X 10, and each ends with the
number of the particular polygon. The nonsense lies
Correct Heron's Munich partly in mistaking polygonal numbers for areas, and
Polygon solution solution C l m 13084 partly in the calculations themselves.
pentagon 172 sq. ft 166% 145
hexagon 260 2340 [iic] 190
heptagon 363 35S'/3 235
octagon 483 483 >/3 280
enneagon 618 63 7 ՝ / 2 325
decagon 769 75° 37°
hendecagon 937 943 415
dodecagon I 120 1125 460
PANOFSKY, SUGER AND ST DENIS 17
perhaps the m o r e p r o m i s i n g for St Denis. T h e great m o s q u e exemplifies a great d e a l of the
right kind of g e o m e t r y applied to architecture, both in plan and elevation, and it
anticipated in a particularly d a r i n g w a y a theory of structural equilibrium that can be
recognized in s u b s e q u e n t G o t h i c buildings like L a o n . In the absence of Suger's clerestory
we cannot be sure a b o u t St Denis b u t there are signs that it w a s there as well. H o w e v e r ,
that opens the door to a w h o l e r a n g e of p r o b l e m s that lead far beyond the scope of the
present paper.
T h e conclusions to be d r a w n are as follows. S u g e r w a s not in any serious sense a
follower of the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s . He w a s an orthodox c h u r c h m a n in a position of great
p o w e r , and his p r i m a r y aim as a patron w a s to do h o n o u r to the saints of his a b b e y . T h e
new choir of St D e n i s w a s conceived as a setting for altars and reliquaries, and in so far as
it w a s novel, this w a s d u e to a m o d e of presentation w h i c h w a s d r a m a t i c e n o u g h in its o w n
right, and o w e d n o t h i n g to s y m b o l i s m . It is necessary to distinguish b e t w e e n the
decorative ends aimed at (i.e. the w i n d o w s ) and the architectural m e a n s by w h i c h these
w e r e achieved. St Denis w a s influential u n d e r all these headings, b u t not a l w a y s at the
same time or in the same w a y . As a ' r e l i q u a r y ' c h u r c h , it w a s a model for C a n t e r b u r y ; and
as a f r a m e for w i n d o w s , it w a s a m o d e l for C h a r t r e s . B u t it w a s the g e o m e t r y , w h i c h w a s
the special contribution of the architect, that entered at once into the m a i n s t r e a m of
c h u r c h design, a n d this left its m a r k on a series of buildings w h i c h otherwise were out of
s y m p a t h y w i t h St Denis. As for the P s e u d o - D i o n y s i u s , if he had a n y t h i n g to do w i t h
twelfth-century religious art, it w a s t h r o u g h the exegetical m o v e m e n t associated ( a m o n g
others) w i t h the canons of St V i c t o r , rather than St Denis. T h i s m i g h t provide the starting
point for a further enquiry into S u g e r ' s alleged role as one of the great innovators of
medieval i c o n o g r a p h y .

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a — A m b u l a t o r y , interior (p. 13) b — E a s t End, exterior (p. 14)

a, b: Paris, St Denis