The invention of a notion: on the historiography of the churches of Bishop Bernold and the cross of churches in Utrecht
by Lex Bosman
Developments in sciences in the twentieth century seem to grow at an ever faster pace. Changes and developments in the history of architecture on the other hand aften take decades instead of months, but can look very impressive in retrospect. Ideas about building dates, related types of. architecture and their origins, or the reasons why particular buildings came into existence, are often only adopted after scholarly battles have been fought. The next generation of scholars most often studies the results, not the genesis of these thoughts. The risk of such a process may of course, be, that newly accepted elements in architectural history are more or less taken for granted, instead of being tested over and over again.
Although most students of the history of Dutch medieval architecture are well aware of the fact that many of our romanesque churches reveal more of their nineteenth- century appearances than of their medieval origins, few of us fully realize how art history, and therefore architectural history, is largely formed by the nineteenth century. We still owe it to that century that we have a system of classification of the material we work with, however obsolete this sequence of styles within regions or countries bas become. In the case of the romanesque chapter churches in Utrecht, and those in Deventer and Emmerich (now Germany, but once part of the diocese of Utrecht), the indebtedness to the pioneers of Dutch architectural history is of considerable interest. We will focus our attention on those buildings which form part of the cross of churches in this city, and on those which are referred to in modern literature as the churches of Bishop Bernold (1027-54). Both groups largely, but not completely, overlap.
In a description, published in 1758 as part of a series of descriptions of the provinces of the Netherlands, the church of St Peter’ s in Utrecht is mentioned as the first of the chapter churches in this town, second only to the cathedral (Fig. 1). Bishop Bernold is mentioned as its patron, but no details about the architecture are given. The same goes for the second chapter church in the sequence, that of St John's.l So only the common patron of these two churches, Bishop Bernold, was known to the anonymous author, but similarities in the architecture of the buildings were still beyond the horizon of eighteenth-century knowledge and, indeed, interest. Not surprisingly so, since understanding of what is commonly called romanesque architecture in general, was very limited in Europe at that time. Furthermore it should be mentioned, that the series of which the volume cited is a part, was intended to publish what was known about the history of the provinces of the Dutch Republic and its cities, with strong emphasis on its institutions.
Almost a century later, we find different statements about the churches in Utrecht. The first one to study the history of medieval architecture in the Netherlands, as irrespective of existing prejudice or tradition as possible in the decades before and after the middle of the nineteenth century, was F. N. M. Eyck van Zuylichem. In several publications he described ground-plans, characteristics and details of medieval churches in the Netherlands and gave the first classification of Dutch medieval architecture. For
(to be continued JdR)
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