English Romanesque tympana : a study of architectural sculpture in church portals c.1050-c.1200
Givans, Duncan Blair Cameron
This thesis presents a study of the use made of tympana in English Romanesque\ud portals and the evidence they offer for religious, social and cultural expression in village\ud churches where the vast majority of examples are preserved. In order to achieve this a\ud significant proportion of the analysis has been addressed to the manner in which people\ud may have interpreted what they saw. For the convenience of the reader basic descriptions\ud of all examples noted during the course of the research and details of manorial and patronal\ud circumstances are given as the Handlist in Volume 2.\ud The first two chapters establish the parameters of the research, outline the social\ud and religious environment during the period, and the art historical principles underpinning\ud the research. Chapter III examines the distribution of examples in geographical terms and\ud the use made of tympana in different categories of building. In chapter IV the structural\ud and compositional formulation of tympana is analysed and the use made of geometric\ud ornament. Chapter V assesses images of Christ and the relationship between these and the\ud representation of power. Chapter VI examines other human figural iconography through\ud the categories of figure-types depicted. The subject of chapter VII is the use of\ud compositional types as a means to assess the use made of beast imagery.\ud The thesis demonstrates for the first time in a systematic and quantified manner\ud that tympana are a significant feature of English Romanesque portals and that a strong\ud decorative character is shared by all tympana, thus contributing to the adornment of the\ud house of God in a befitting manner. It argues that the iconography was composed so as to\ud ensure the utility of the images as a focus for devotion for a wide variety of audiences and\ud as a means of expressing social values, particularly through the relationship between the\ud figures depicted and the representation of temporal power. The thesis also confirms that\ud the religion presented by examples with figural sculpture is centred on the authority of God\ud and the saints and on iconic symbols, rather than exemplars for emulation, reflecting the\ud conservative nature of devotion in local communities. The thesis therefore raises\ud important issues in relation to our understanding of portals as architectural features, the\ud expression of religious devotion and social values in local communities during the period,\ud and the use of portals in the practice of religious devotion.
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