Renaissance Cathedral

renaissance-cathedralI found this one on Facebook (click on the image to get full size), and the person who posted didn’t say where it was. He describes the painting as “Paul Vredeman de Vries, 1612, Interior of a Gothic Cathedral, now in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art“.

My guess was Flanders. I found it to be Antwerp on account of the octagonal tower above the crossing, but there are differences between other paintings of the same building and a photo of this cathedral as it is now.

antwerp-cathedral-oldantwerp-cathedral-newI suspect that the painting of Vredeman was fanciful and took a lot of liberty. The octogon of Antwerp is larger and more ornate. The capitals on the pillars are quite different, and disappeared at some point after the choir screen was removed and the church reordered to baroque standards. Even with all the artistic licence, Antwerp seems to have been the inspiration.

Vredeman’s painting is from 1612 and shows a priest celebrating Mass in a “fiddleback” chasuble. There are examples of such cut-up chasubles from medieval England, of a more French than Italian cut. Surplices were long and without lace. I wonder if the scene in the second picture is earlier than the first, going by the dress of the people and the absence of a pulpit. The choir screen is less ornate in the second picture than in Vredeman’s painting, and does not have a second beam carrying the Calvary high above the choir screen.

I would be grateful for any opinions. Perhaps Vredeman invented his own cathedral on inspiration from Antwerp. Ideas?

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4 Responses to Renaissance Cathedral

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    No useful contribution… but I am fascinated by the presence of doggies in paintings of churches, both Protestant and Catholic, during services.

  2. Al says:

    When I saw the first painting I immediately thought of Antwerp, so it’s not just you. It’s not just the octagon either – the triple north aisle is fairly singular as well. Though it’s quite possible that de Vries was embellishing his cathedral (and why not?), differences in architectural details like capitals and rood screens could well be the corrupting hand of time? Antwerp suffered heavily in the second world war, though I don’t know if the cathedral took any direct hits, and the interior of the catedral is very white and smooth and ‘restored’ looking.

    That photo of Antwerp makes the building look shorter and lower-vaulted than the tip-toe tunnel I remember (though this is 15 years ago). I was singing from the west organ tribune so I have a slightly different perspective in my memory.

    Needless to say, the liturgy on that Sunday morning was best described as ‘functional minimalism’; other than us bellowing the Langlais Messe Solonnelle!

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