Le Temps Revient...

Poetry, Music, Art & Ideas for the Archaic Recurrence...

martes, 25 de agosto de 2015

Sant Joan de les Abadesses

To know what these inner spaces looked and felt like, one should consult Sant Joan de les Abadesses, the monastery that Guifré the Hairy founded for his daughter Emma in the valley of the Ter, not far from Ripoll. The church was consecrated in 898. It’s physical drama is intense.
But it does not come from verticality, as is the case with later Gothic. Rather, it emerges slowly from its cavelike power. To experience this, try asking the lay sacristan to turn off the electric lights for a while - he may do it if there are no other visitors in the church. In the darkness, the space swims in your mind, slowly developing, felt rather than seen. First, a high nave, whose barrel vault would have been all but lost in the darkness, since the only daylight came (then as now) from windows glazed with thin parchment-colored sheets of reason alabaster. Then, the apse, which closes down in a half dome behind the altar. Gravity and darkness combine; the stone piers and the thick chamfered embrasures of the windows seem to be built, not in defiance of gravity, but in acknowledgment of mass; it is architecture of the most primal kind, tactile for all its size - an unnaturally stretched cave, a place for troglodytes to seek transcendence. No wonder it resisted the earthquake of 1428 that knocked down its sister church in Ripoll.

Robert Hughes.

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