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Principles of Religious Imitation in Mediaeval

Architecture: An Analysis of the Holy

Sepulchre in Jerusalem and its European
Copies from the Carolingian period
to the Late Romanesque.
Philippe Angers.
Department of Religious Studies (in association with the
Department of Art History), McGill University, Montral.
Originally Submitted July 24, 1997.
Revised and resubmitted February 7, 2006
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and
Research in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the
degree of Masters of Arts.
Philippe Angers 2006
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This study concerns the concept of sacred architectural
imitation, using the Platonic notion of mimesis which then later
finds expression in the medieval idea of imitatio. In Religious
as weIl as in artistic and architectural forms of expression,
the notion of imitation is indeed a very central and complex
issue. At the heart of this concept is the question of meaning,
or, more precisely, the transference or translation of meaning;
from original to copy, from prototype to reproduction.
In order to better illustrate and understand the principles
guiding the notion of medieval sacred architectural imitation l
have chosen to focus on five specific instances surrounding the
replication of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, arguably the
most revered landmark in Christendom.
A close examination of the relationships which exist between
model and copy will bring to the fore the dynamics which govern
the process of mimesis by which meaning is reproduced in the
architectural replicas.
From this comparative analysis will emerge a more universal
picture of the medieval concept of religious imitation. Indeed,
if anything, a preliminary survey of the great many imitations
of the Holy. Sepulcher spread throughout Europe reveals to the
observer a surprising trend, namely a consistency of
inconsistencies in their effort to "copy".
The present study will demonstrate that these
inconsistencies within the application of the mimetic
nevertheless reveal a somewhat unexpected structure.
the pattern
picture of
meaning via
these inconsistencies will emerge a
principles governing the transfer of
method of imi ta tio during the Middle
Cette tude se rapporte au concept de l'imitation de
l'architecture sacre, utilisant la notion Platonique de
mimesis que l'on retrouve plus tard exprim sous la forme
medivale de l'imitatio. Dans les formes d'expression
religieuses aussi bien que dans celles artistiques ou
architecturales, la notion d'imitation est en effet une
question trs centrale et complexe. La notion de
signification se retrouve au centre de ce concept, ou, plus
prcisment, la notion de la tranfrence de la
signification; de l'original la copie, du prototype sa
Dans le but de mieux illustrer et comprendre les principes
qui guident la notion de l'imitation de l'architecture sacr
du Moyen Age, j'ai choisi de me concentrer sur cinq exemples
prcis de la reproduction du Saint Spulchre Jrusalem,
sans contredit le monument le plus vnr de la tradition
Un examen approfondi des relations qui existent entre le
modle et la copie fera ressortir la dynamique qui dfinit
le processus de mimesis par lequel la signification est
reproduite dans les rpliques architecturales.
De cette analyse comparative mergera une comprhention plus
universelle du concept mdieval de l' imi tation religieuse.
En effet, une enqute prliminaire des nombreuses imitations
du Saint Spulchre travers l'Europe rvle une tendance
surprenante, savoir une constance d'inconstances dans les
efforts de ucopier".
La prsente tude dmontrera que ces semblants d'inconstance
dans l'application du processus mimetique rvlent nanmoins
une structure quelque peu inattendue.
A partir de ces inconstances on aura une ide plus claire
des principes qui gouvernent le transfert du sens sacr via
la mthode d'imitatio pendant le Moyen Age.
To my parents, Claire and Alexandre Angers whose Love and
support has never failed.
To the Cistercian Brothers at the Monastary of Emmaus who
offered me shelter and guidance during my stay in Jerusalem.
To professor Joseph C. McLelland, rarest of scholars, my
advisor and mentor whose deep humanity and profound wisdom will
never be forgotten.
To professor Victor Hori whose guidance and sense of justice
have been of incalculable value.
To professor Barbara Galli whose passion for learning, love of
teaching and diligence has taught me so much.
To Jeff Sims, a great friend and colleague whose gifted mind
and subtle insights proved invaluable.
Finally, to Etienne Hellman and David Crawford, my oldest and
dearest friends of whom l could write volumes.
To all these people, without whom this thesis would not have
been possible, l extend my warmest gratitude and deepest
-CHAPTER ONE: The Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
PART 1: The Constantinian Complex: 334-614 A.D.
PART 2: The Subsequent Reconstructions of the
Holy Sepulchre.
(A): The reconstruction by Modestus: 614-1009 A.D.
(B): The reconstruction by Constantine
Monomachus: 1030-1120 A.D.
-CHAPTER TWO The European Copies Of the Holy
PART 1: St. Michael at Fulda, 822 A.D.
PART 2: The Holy Sepulchre at Paderborn,
1036 A.D.
PART 3: St. Bnigne in Dijon, 1001 A.D.
PART 4: Santo Stefano in Bologna, 1141 A.D.
PART 5: The Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge, 1120 A.D.
-CHAPTER THREE: The Art of Imitation: Comparative
Analyses of the Structures.
Part 1: Comparative Analysis of the Sizes and
Part 2: Comparative Analysis of the Elevational
Part 3: Comparative Analysis of the Support Systems.
Part 4: Comparative Analysis of the Ground Plans.
This study will address sorne of the basic questions surrounding
the concept of sacred architectural imitation in the Middle Ages.
More specifically, it will examine the principles which governed
the application of the imitative process as weIl as explore the
particular symbolic mechanisms employed by the medieval builders
in their quest for a meaningful solution to the complex problem
of sacred reproduction. Central to this thought is the Greek
notion of metaphysical. mimesis which later finds expression in
the medieval idea of imitatio. In religious, artistic and
architectural forms of expression, the notion of imitation is
indeed a very central and enigmatic issue
At the very heart of
the concept of imitation is the fundamental question of meaning,
or, more precisely, the transference or translation of meaning i
from initial Event to ritualized (re) creation, from original to
1 In the Christian tradition alone, one need only think of the ideal of the Imitatio Christi, the (re)creative ritual of the
transubstantiation, the retracing of certain pilgrimage routes, the meaningful (re)creation of sacred forms and
symbols (architectural imitation), the (re)creation of ritual movement such as the benediction, and the (re)citation of
copy, from prototype to reproduction.
What prompted my initial interest in the topic was a voyage to
Jerusalem and a quote by Robert Ousterhout in his 1989 article
"Rebuilding the Temple" where he states: "It is perhaps because
of the continued religious importance of the site that the
architectural history of the Holy Sepulchre remains poorly known,
and its influence on the architecture of the Middle Ages has not
been properly assessed".2
To a significant extent, the literature which to date has dealt
with the topic of imitation in the Middle Ages has largely
concerned itself with analytical comparisons of architectural
styles and construction techniques. What this purely formalistic
approach amounted to was the cumulation of neutral data which
categorized and/or classified the manifold structural differences
which distinguished a reproduction from the original prototype.
The implicit assumption inherent in this type of analysis is that
there is no rational pattern of meaning guiding the mimetic
process in the Middle Ages, there are only differences,
inconsistencies and aberrations between prototype and replica. In
other words, each instance of medieval imitatio was simply
sacred chants, psalms and prayers.
2 Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple: Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulchre". Journal of the
Sodety of Architectural Historians, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.66.
percei ved as a haphazard and chaotic undertaking bereft of a
coherent architectural canon because it did not conform to our
largely post-Renaissance expectations concerning the nature of
similitude and reproduction.
The possibility that medieval designers may have been adhering to
a series of mimetic criteria at variance with those with which we
are familiar is hardly ever posited, much less discussed.
With the notable exception of Richard Krautheimer who briefly
addressed the topic of meaning and imitation in his 1942 series
of lectures at the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes entitled
"Introduction to an "Iconography of Medieval Architecture"",3 and
Andr Grabar in a few passages of his brilliant study Martyrium,4
very little in depth consideration has been given to the actual
nature, purpose and symbolic intent specifically underlying the
imitative process in medieval architecture.
If the ambition in any act of sacred imitation (be it ritual,
symbolic or formaI/architectural) is to capture and reproduce
sorne portion of the original prototype's power and meaning, then
the central question becomes: what are the mechanisms involved in
3 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal of the Courtauld and
Warbut;g Institutes. 1942, p.2-33.
4 Grabar, Andr: Marryrium: recherches sur le culte des reliques et l'art Chrtien antique. Variorum Reprints, 2 volumes,
London, 1972.
5 It should be noted that Krautheimer and Grabar are not the only scholars to examine symbol and meaning in
medieval art. Indeed, other seminal scholars in this field include Emile Mle and Erwin Panofsky. Krautheimer and
Grabar are the only ones who discuss the concept of imitatio in any detail however and what is more, they do so in
the specifie context of architecture.
this type of complex mimetic transfer?
In order to more lucidly illustrate the principles governing the
process of architectural replication in the Middle Ages, it is
first and foremost necessary to select for analysis a series of
buildings which have clearly been copied from an established and
well documented prototype.
Among the great number of edifices erected throughout the Middle
Ages with the intention of imitating a highly venerated
prototype, one group stands out as particularly suitable for
studying the nature of medieval imi ta tio: namely the European
reproductions of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This choice has
a great many advantages for these replicas exist not only in
sufficient numbers but also depend on a model which is still
relatively well preserved and can reliably be reconstructed in
its original aspect. Moreover, because this study is interested
in the deeper understanding of medieval imitatio (specifically in
its fundamental function regarding the significant transfer of
spiritual meaning), one could hardly find a more appropriate and
pertinent model.
This study will therefore concentrate its focus on five Western
replicas of the Holy Sepulchre. Although the intention of
imitating the holy edifice is expressly stated in all instances,
the copies which will be examined not only vary surprisingly from
each other, they are also astonishingly different from the
prototype which they mean to follow.
This controlled comparative framework will both effectively
illustrate the seeming state of chaos inherent in medieval
imitatio and also provides a very good comparative matrix from
which to evoke the subtle connecting principles which intimately
bind the various replicas of the Holy Sepulchre one to the other
as weIl as to the original prototype.
The procedural outline followed in the course of this study will
be both simple and straightforward. In order to establish a solid
comparative background, the first chapter "The Holy Sepulchre in
Jerusalem" will provide a thorough structural analysis of the
original Holy Sepulchre complex, examining its intricate building
history, its formaI architectural attributes as weIl as its many
layers of iconomorphic symbolism.
Central to this section of the study will be contemporary
chronicles of Eusebius of Caesarea' s Vita Constantini
(340 A.D)
as weIl as the theoretical notions of three thinkers: Charles
Coasnon in the field of archaeology and structural architecture,
Mircea Eliade in the domain of historicism, mythology and
symbolic analysis, and Richard Ousterhout in the area of
6 Eusebius of Caesarea: Vita Constantini, translated in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, volume 1,
architectural history.
Chapter two "The European Copies of the Holy Sepulchre" will
consist of an architectural and symbolic analysis of the European
copies of the Holy Sepulchre. As previously mentioned, these will
number five in total: the church of St. Michael at Fulda
(Germany) 800-822 AD, the Holy Sepulchre at paderborn (Germany)
1036-1039 AD, the church of St. Bnigne in Dijon (France) 1001-
1038 AD, the church of Santo Stefano in Bologna (Italy) 1141-1154
AD and finally the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge (England) 1120-
1132 AD. These buildings have been selected because of the very
strong comparative basis which they will provide to the study,
for they not only represent the most weIl known and weIl
documented medieval reproductions of the Holy Sepulchre, they
also offer an illustrative chronological as weIl as geographic
cross section of medieval Europe.
Chapter Three "The Art of Imitation: Comparative Analyses of the
Structures" will draw out the salient features which link the
five structures within this study. This section will consist of a
synthetic analysis of the formaI and symbolic relationships which
exists between this group of copies and the nature of the
original prototype. From this comparative analysis will emerge a
reprinted, Grand Rapids, 1961.
more universal picture of the medieval concept of religious
imi ta t ion. If anything, a pre l iminary survey of the grea t many
imitations of the Holy Sepulchre spread throughout Europe reveals
to the observer a surprising trend, namely a consistency of
inconsistt?ncies in their effort to "copy".
Using the theoretical categories of Paul Tillich
(Form and
Import) and the comparative notions of the iconographer Richard
Krautheimer,8 the study will demonstrate that these seeming
inconsistencies within the application of the mimetic process
nevertheless reveal a somewhat unexpected yet significant
structure and pattern of meaning.
Finally, the conclusion will recapitulate and contextualize the
data which has thus far been gathered. From a careful analysis of
the pattern of these "inconsistencies" will emerge a clearer and
consistent picture of the subtle principles governing the
transfer of sacred meaning via the method of imitatio during the
Middle Ages. The Platonic and Neo-Platonic notion of Mimesis will
be explored and will help gain a greater understanding of how the
Medieval notion of Imitatio was formed. This will help us
illustrate that a very coherent set of criteria for mimesis were
at work and how these were applied in order to create a
7 Tillich, Paul: On Art and Architecture. Crossroad Publishing, New York, 1987, p.53.
Tillich, Paul: What is Harper & Row, San Fransisco, 1969, p.163.
8 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal 0/ the Courtauld and
meaningful relationship between the sacred prototype and its
Introductory notes on the "psychological position"
of the Holy Sepulchre
To the medieval mind, Jerusalem was the center of the world.
The city was placed centrally on medieval world maps and was
central to much of medieval thought and spirituality.
When one spoke of Jerusalem however, one did not refer to i ts
walls or its houses, to its inhabitants or its streets. Indeed,
when one spoke of Jerusalem, one meant nothing other than the
Holy Sepulchre which occupied its very heart. The Holy Sepulchre
and Jerusalem were fused to such a unified and undifferentiated
extent within the believer's psyche that the texts and chronicles
of the time invariably referred to both sites synonymously.9
For the countless pilgrims making their slow and arduous way
across Europe and the Middle East, there was only one goal, one
sustaining vision: to pray before the Tomb of the Lord. All
WarbU1;g Institutes, V; 1942., p.2-33.
spirituality emanated from this point, the site of the great
Cosmic Drama, and aIl Christian devotion was in one form or
another directed towards it. Thus it is towards the East, towards
Jerusalem and the Sepulchre of the Lord that aIl European
churches directed their axes and quite literally oriented
Throughout the age, the image of the Celestial Jerusalem haunted
and fascinated the medieval psyche. In a very real sense it
represented the "end" towards which aIl Humanity aspired. It
provided a nexus of numinous meaning which helped render bearable
and intelligible an otherwise difficult and uncertain existence.
For the faithful it represented an image of Perfection, a
prefiguration of Paradise and the quintessential symbol of Hope
and Redemption. Not only was i t the geographic center of the
physical provinces (the Omphalos Mundi) but more importantly, it
symbolized the absolute center of the greater Spiritual world. It
was the locus where the great cosmic drama for the redemption of
Humanity was staged and thereby participated in the spiritual
significance associated with creation's most important event. In
short, it was the place where Heaven and Earth meet.
Psychologically speaking, the Holy Sepulchre is at once the
9 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "]erusalem" in Bologna". Cesta, vol xx/2, 1981, p.312.
necessary point of origin and ultimate telos of the Christian
faith. Mircea Eliade provides a very clear formulation of the
spiritual necessity for the consecration of such a point:
For religious man, space is not homogenousi he experiences
interruptions, breaks in iti sorne parts of space are
qualitatively different from others. Nor is this all. For
religious man, this spatial nonhomogeneity finds expression in
the experience of an opposition between space that is sacred
-the only real and real-ly existing space- and all other
Space, the formless expanse surrounding i t . 10
In the homogenous and infinite expanse (of profane space), in
which no point of reference is possible and hence no
orientation can be established, the hierophany reveals
an absolute fixed point, a center.
So it is clear to what degree the discovery- that is, the
revelation- of a sacred space possesses existential value for
religious mani for nothing can begin, nothing can be done
without a previous orientation- and any orientation implies
acquiring a fixed point. It is for this reason that religious
man has always sought to fix his abode at the "center of the
world". If the world is to be lived in, it must be founded-and
no world can come to birth in the chaos of the homogeneity and
relativity of profane space. The discovery or projection of a
fixed point-the center- is equivalent to the creation of the
Within the Christian faith therefore, the Holy Sepulchre in
Jerusalem represents this foundational and cosmos centering
event. It is the edifice which symbolizes the mythological axis
of medieval spiri tuali ty and religious identi ty, the fulcrum or
fixed point around which order and meaning can crystallize.
Of particular concern therefore, when dealing with imitations of
10 Eliade, Mireea: The Sacred and the Profane. Harcourt, Braee & Wor1d, New York, 1959, p.20.
11 ibid, p.2l.
the Holy Sepulchre, is the fact that we are not merely focusing
on the replications of a simple architectural monument. Indeed,
what we have in this instance is a series of edifices which are
essentially attempting to recreate in a ritual mimetic fashion
the original creation and foundation of the world.
From the Original prototype therefore, other fixed points or
centers of meaning are generated. In effect, what this creates
are "peripheral centers of meaning" or secondary fields of
significance which all derive meaning via the process of imitatio
from the original source of sacrali ty, thus further subdi viding
the world into a more ordered and comprehensible whole.
If the ambition of the various imitations of the Holy Sepulchre
is in essence to re-create the world, to re-found it, thereby
creating secondary centers or foci of meaning, it remains to be
seen how exactly this aim is achieved. A close examination of the
relationships which exist between model and copy will bring to
the fore the dynamics which govern the process of imi ta tio by
which spiritual meaning is translated and replicated in the
architectural reproductions.
As we shall see, the relationship of imitatio which provides the
link between "model" and "copy" is not at all what one would
12 ibid, p22.
expect. It would seem as though a quite different set of mimetic
criteria was being applied to establish a relationship of
"similitude" between the Holy Sepulchre and its many medieval
replicas. This fact will inevitably lead us to re-examine the
comparative models which guided the medieval architects in their
attempts to reproduce and copy sacred prototypes.
It is ever my first, and indeed my only object,
that our souls may all become more zealous, with
all sobriety and earnest unanimity, for the honour
of the Divine law. l desire, therefore, especially,
that you should be persuaded that l have no greater
care than how l may best adorn with a splendid
structure that sacred spot, which, under Divine
direction, l have disencumbered as it were of the
heavy weight of foul idol worshipi a spot which has
been accounted holy from the beginning in God's
judgment, but which now appears holier still, since
it has brought to light a clear assurance of our
Saviour's passion. It will be well, therefore, for
your sagacity to make such arrangements and provisions
of all things needful for the work, that not only the
church itself as a whole may surpass all others
whatsoever in beauty, but that the details of the
building may be of such a kind that the fairest
structures in any city of the empire may be excelled
by this .... For it is fitting that the most marvellous
place in the world should be worthily decorated.
Such were the words spoken by the newly converted Constantine to
Macarius the Pat ri arch of Jerusalem thus launching in 326 AD the
13 Eusebius of Caesarea: Vita Constantini, 3.30,31; translated in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two,
volume 1, reprinted, Grand Rapids, 1961, p.528.
construction of the Holy Sepulchre.
Following these imperial guidelines, the architect of the
Sepulchre complex, Zenobius Eustathios of Constantinople
the extensive remodelling of the topographically irregular quarry
site which by this time had been built over and now occupied a
zone under the North-West part of the Roman forum.
More generally however, the Holy Sepulchre's geographic situation
within the larger urban context of late Roman Jerusalem was
indeed an interesting and privileged one. Let us therefore begin
our study of this unique site by first examining its relationship
to the larger urban context in which it found itself.
St. Helena' S17 rediscovery of the sacred site where Christ was
crucified and laid to rest proved among many other things to be a
14 Stem, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia 0/ Archaeological Excavations in the Hofy Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.779.
15 Krautheimer, Richard; Earfy Christian and Byzantine Architecture, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1975, p.67.
16 ln its earliest traceable form the area of Golgotha served as a quarry as early as the eighth century BC providing
malachite stone for the early settlement. This fact is confirmed by the extensive signs of tool cuts in the rock
unearthed ail over the are a and most notably in the area of the Chapel of the Finding of the Holy Cross also known
as the chapel of St Helena. The resulting excavated area of the quarry was abandoned in the first century BC and
transformed into a garden, becoming a weil protected area just outside the city walls of J erusalem. Various tombs
were subsequently dug in the high wails surrounding the garden of Golgotha, among these is the "Kokhim" tomb
popularly known as the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. The garden of Golgotha remained outside the city wails of
Jerusalem until the pressures of an increasing population and rapid urban expansion prompted the building of the
third perimeter wall under the reign of Agrippa 1 (41-44 AD), thereby enclosing the site within the city proper. See
Coasnon, Charles. The Church 0/ the Hofy S epu!chre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.40.
17 St Helena mother of Constantine the Great was born circ a 255, and married to the Roman general Constantius
Chlorus, who became emperor of Britain, Gaul, and Spain when Diocletian divided the Empire. In 274 she bore
him a son, Constantine. In 306, after the death of Constantius, the army at York proclaimed Constantine emperor
in his father's place, and by 312 he was mas ter of the Western Empire and issued an Edict of Toleration that made
the practice of Christianity legal for the first cime in over 200 years. Helena worked enthusiastically to promote
Christianity, and eventually went to the Holy Land, where she spent large SUffiS on the relief of the poor and on
building churches on sacred sites. She is particularly associated with the discovery at J erusalem, near the probable
site of Calvary, of a wooden cross that was accepted as the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified. See
Borgehammer, Stephan; How the Hofy Cross was Found: From Event to Medieval Legend. Almqvist & Wikseil
geographically fortui tous one as weIl, for the Sepulchre would
now have the greatly enhanced symbolic distinction of being
situated at the very center of the Holy City. The sixth century
mosaic map of Jerusalem discovered at Madaba (in present day
Jordan situated 30km south of Amman) clearly places a very great
deal of emphasis on this situational fact.
[Figures 1 and 2] .
As we can see from the map, the Sepulchre's entrance led directly
off the Roman Cardo Maximus, only a few dozen meters from where
the latter intersected the Decumanos. Indeed, the red lozenge
shape visible immediately to the right of the Sepulchre
delineates the remaining open area of Hadrian' s central Forum
(originally constructed circa 120 AD)
Historically, the urban evolution of Jerusalem made it such that,
over the preceding centuries, the increasing demands of a growing
population coupled with defensive considerations set in motion a
graduaI yet significant demographic shift from the position
occupied by the original settlement know as the City of David. 19
International; Stockholm, 1991.
18 The mosaic map at Madaba was originally part of the floor of a Byzantine church, built during the reign of
emperor Justinian, 527-565 AD. It is the oldest map of the Holy Land that is still extant. The mosaic represents the
biblicalland from Egypt to Lebanon, including Sinai, Israel, Palestine, and Transjordan. Taking an eastern
orientation, the map portrays the Holy Land, showing J erusalem at the center. And at the center of J erusalem is the
most conspicuous building on the map, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Temple Mount, despite its large
are a, is only alluded to in the map. This may have been a reflection of the small importance which the Byzantine
Christians attached to the Temple Mount, by then a long-neglected heap of ruins. See Alliata, Eugenio ofm; Studium
Biblicum Franciscanum. Jerusalem, 2000.
19 The first settlement in the area ofJerusalem was located on the Ophel ridge overlooking the narrow and deep
Kidron vallee (which separates it from the mount of Olives) and known not as the City of David. This settlement
was effectively destroyed by the Babylonians conquest of 587-586 BC which removed into captivity the greater part
of the population. The City of David was resettled by the J ews exiled to Babylon who returned during the Persian
[Figure 3]
Henceforth the nexus of Jerusalem was transferred from the Ophel
ridge, situated directly south of the Temple mount to a new area
located north and west of the Temple plateau. This transitional
trend was already weIl underway during the time of Herod the
Great (73-4 BCE) but was definitely completed by the middle of
the second century AD. Indeed, the city that Constantine
inherited was that of the Roman colony Aelia Capitolina, a city
which Hadrian built from the ruins of Herodian Jerusalem in the
first half of the second century to obliterate and effectively
replace the Jewish town described by Josephus in his work History
of the Jewish War
and destroyed by Titus following the uprising
of 70 A.D. It is therefore within the context of this new urban
situation that the Holy Sepulchre found its privileged and
symbolically meaningful centralised location. [Figure 4]
The most evocative and direct architectural antecedent to this
type of centralized urban motif would undoubtedly be that of the
classical Heroon, a memorial monument, usually funerary in nature
dedicated to the founder of a new colony and invariably
period (6
century BC). During the Hellenisric and Roman periods, the city's centre shifted from the Ophel to the
western hill. By Hadrian's rime in the first quarter of the second century (c 120 AD), the southern wall of Jerusalem
was built along the line of the present Old City wall. Ag a result, the City of David, the site of biblicalJerusalem,
remained uninhabited. See Armstrong, Karen; Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. Alfred A. Knopf Publishing, New
York,1996, p.128.
20 Whiston, William; The Works rifJosephus: Complete and Unabridged. Hendrickson Publishers; New Update edirion,
established in the geographic center of the settlement.
In his seminal work Martyrium, Andr Grabar maintains that it was
with a conscious and profound symbolic intent of establishing a
monumental parallel between himself and Christ that Constantine
had constructed an eternal memorial or heroon for the founder of
the True Faith and the Emperor of Heaven at Jerusalem. 22 Not
surprisingly, he erected a parallel heroon monument for himself,
namely the Apostolaion or church of the Holy Apostles (330-356
AD), in the center of his newly founded imperial capital at
Constantinople.23 24
This type of architectural configuration clearly emphasized the
two essential poles of the universal order. Within this kind of
symbolic framework, Constantinople becomes the center of
political and worldly power with Constantine at its proper center
(enshrined as it were in the fashion of the thirteenth apostle)
just as Jerusalem becomes the center of cosmic, transcendent and
spiri tuaI power wi th Christ at i ts rightful center. 25 26
21 Coasnon, Charles; The Church of the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem . The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.37.
22 Grabar, Andr: MartYrium: recherches sur le culte des reliques et j'art Chrtien antique. Variorum Reprints, London, 1972.
Vol l, p.212.
23 ibid, p.239.
24 Slobodan Curcic notes: "Such an arrangement had become fairly common among the Roman imperial mausolea
built during the few decades before and after 300. In addition to the uncertain example of the Rotunda in
Thessaloniki, invoked by Mango, one must also refer to such key examples in this category as the Mausoleum of
Maxentius (often referred to in the literature as the "Mausoleum of Romulus" on the Via Appia outside Rome, and
the Mausoleum of Diocletian at Split". See Curcic, Slobodan: "From the Temple of the Sun to the Temple of the
Lord: Monotheistic Contribution to Architectural Iconography in Late Antiquity". Architectural Studies in Memory of
Richard Krautheimer. Edited by Cecil L. Striker. Verlag Philipp Von Zaber, Mainz, 1996. Also see Cyril Mango,
"Constantine's Mausoleum and the Translation of Relics". Byzantinische ZeitschriJt, 83.1, 1990, p.51-61.
25 Grabar, l\ndr: MartYrium: recherches sur le culte des reliques et l'art Chrtien antique. Variorum Reprints, London, 1972.
Vol l, p.229.
Constantine obviously saw the great moral and political
advantages in establishing such a strong parallel between himself
and the Emperor of the Cosmos. During a time of great transition
in his empire, such a symbolic rapprochement and association
between both funerary complexes had two immediate and important
functions. Firstly, it greatly helped to sanctify and concretise
the shift of the imperial capital to its new location in
Byzantium, but more significantly, such a bold symbolic parallel
served the purpose of notably enhancing and confirming
Constantinels claim to power by clearly inserting his rule within
the divinely ordained hierarchy of things. 27 Indeed, the use of
such unambiguous architectural language helped reassert and
revitalise the essential identification with the divine,
traditionally the basis of Roman imperial power, establishing the
link this time within the context of the New Faith.
Let us turn our attention from the general urban context to that
of the Sepulchre site itself. The Holy Sepulchre complex is an
example of a centrally planned commemorative structure combined
26 Other notable examples of this type of commemorative motif include the once again Diocletian's domical tomb
(303-313 AD) erected at the center of his palatine complex- in and of itself a microcosmic reproduction of the
known world- situated in Split, the geographic center of the Roman empire. We can also evoke Charlemagne's very
conspicuous use of the same symbolic Roman imperial funerary motif for his (indeed, the new Constantine's)
domed tomb next to his palace at Aachen (800 AD), the geographic center of his early ninth century empire.
27 Grabar, Andr: Mar(yrium: recherches sur le culte des reliques et "art Chrtien antique. Variorum Reprints, London, 1972.
Vol l, p.236-242.
with a basilica in which the daily prayer could be practiced.
The first aspect which strikes the observer about the
configuration of the complex is undoubtedly its very strong
emphasis on horizontal axiality.29 [Figures S, 6 and 7] .
The original Constantinian complex was laid out in a series of
connected structures along an east-west line, the precise
measurements of which were 60 meters in width by 130 meters in
length, measured from the Eastern entrance of the first atrium to
the Western extremity of the Anastasis Rotunda (the Dome of the
Resurrection enshrining the Tomb of Christ) .30
We notice also that this axial arrangement is characterised by a
sophisticated rhythm of alternating open and closed spaces,
thereby establishing a series of distinct zones, each of which
fulfilled a very specific religious and ceremonial function. The
complex itself consisted of four distinct areas. The first open
atrium, which led directly off the main Roman Cardo, offered the
visitor a zone of initial transition and meditation. The basilica
(also referred to as the Martyrion), provided an area for
li turgical ceremonies, prayer and deeper reflection. The second
28 This layout is very similar to the type of arrangement found in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (also
commissioned by Constantine in 327 AD) where an octagonal commemorative structure is placed over the grotto
of the nativity and similarly attached to a basilica.
29 In architectural terms horizontal axiality creates a processional via that systematically leads the observer onwards
and towards ever more sacred areas of the structure. Vertical axiality on the other hand attempts to give the
observer an awe inspiring notion of striving for the heavens. In the case of the Sepulchre complex, the horizontal
axiality predominates the layout as a whole until we reach the Anastasis Rotunda itself where a stronger vertical
element takes over.
30 Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia of Archaeo!ogica! Excavations in the Hob Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.779.
open atrium, containing the rock of Calvary, presented the
visitor one again with a zone for meditation and reflection
before entering the Anastasis Rotunda itself, the site of
Christ's entombment and resurrection.
The overall effect resulting from this type of axial articulation
is the creation of a sacred processional Via which gradually
leads the believer along according to the typical Roman motif
seen in houses and palaces, from a public and profane sphere to a
progressively more private and privileged space.
What we have therefore in the general layout of the complex as a
whole is a series of carefully disposed emotional, architectural
and spiritual climaxes. These represent an elegant and
symbolically meaningful articulation of space and demonstrate a
refined interest in the resolution of the many practical problems
associated with the display and veneration of multiple sacred
sites. In this instance the various religious sites are arranged
progressively and in ascending order of sacred importance
creating a uniquely processional type of architecture.
On a more detailed level however, only limited archaeological and
31 Ibid, p.779
32 Bker, Hans; Seminar on Late Antique and early medieval architecture. McGill University, April, 1996.
textual information has survived concerning the precise
architectural and decorative characteristics of the original
Constantinian complex. What the modern researcher is le ft wi th
are descriptive fragments drawn mainly from early pilgrimage
diaries and guidebooks, the emphasis of which was frequently more
concerned wi th pious sentiments and impressions of awe rather
than precise ornamental traits and architectural features. 33 34
By far the most use fuI of these early textual sources are the
writings left us by Eusebius (circa 337 AD), the Bishop of
Caesarea, a writer who, unlike most of his contemporaries,35 was
present during the great works of the Sepulchre' s construction
and moreover, was acutely conscious of his primarily descriptive
function as the official chronicler of the acts and deeds of
Constantine. 36 Because of their lucid and richly descriptive
nature the accounts left us by Eusebius are invaluable,37
especially concerning constructions such as the entrance atrium
33 On page (i) of the preface to The Library of the Palestine Pilgrim's Text society, Professor Hay ter Lewis notes: "The
pilgrims cared little about the form and size of the buildings which enshrined the objects of their devotion, and their
descriptions are often so cursory and confused as to make their precise meaning very doubtful". See The Library of
the Palestine Pilgrim's Text society, edited by John H. Bernard, A.M.S Press, New York, NY, 1971.
34 A typical example of this tendency (towards the nebulous) can be found in the chronicle left us by the Pilgrim of
Bordeaux who visited the Holy sites in 333 Ad. Concerning the basilica, which was by that date nearly complete, his
text simply says: "a basilica was built at the command of Constantine, that is to say, a church, of wonderful beauty".
Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.38.
35 Other early Literary Sources which describe the Holy Sepulchre include the chronicles of Egeria (390 AD), The
Pilgrim of Bordeaux (333 AD) and Arculf (670 AD). For a complete list and translation of these early written
sources, see volumes 1, 2 and 3 of The Library of the Palestine Pilgrim's Text society, edited by John H. Bernard, A.M.S
Press, New York, NY, 1971.
36 Relevant extracts from the Vita Constantim; can be found translated by John H. Bernard in The Library of the
Palestine Pilgrim's Text Society, AMS press, New York, NY, 1971.
37 It should be noted that Eusebius was not a historian in the modern sense of the word but rather the official
chronicler of the life of Constantine. As such (as well as his role as the bis hop of Ceasarea), his writings naturally
contain an implicit bias which the reader should be made aware of.
and the basilica for example, where his texts constitute the main
literary source of knowledge about the original state of these
long vanished structures.
Let us therefore begin our detailed examination of the complex
with this easternmost entrance area and then methodically work
our way westward through the basilica and the second atrium
towards the focal point of the complex, the Anastasis Rotunda
itself, much as a visiting pilgrim participating in the
peripatetic liturgical worship of the time would have done.
At the eastern extremity of the Constantinian complex stood the
atrium of the basilica, an open entrance court yard which Eusebius
describes as "surrounded by colonnades".39
The surviving remains indicate that the atrium was not
rectangular but trapezoidal in overall shape and measured sorne 36
meters in width (at the widest point) by 28-22 meters in length.
The irregular shape of the entrance court yard was dictated by the
need to incorporate earlier Roman walls in the new structure, as
weIl as to conform to the path of the Cardo Maximus. The Madaba
map shows three steps leading up from the Cardo Maximus to three
38 Krautheimer , Richard; Ear!J Christian and Byzantine Architecture. Penguin Books, Baltimore, M.A, 1965, p.68.
39 Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia if Archaeological Excavations in the Ho!J Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.781.
doorways in the atrium' s eastern wall. Parts of the original
southern wall and part of its eastern wall, including the
foundations of the southern and central doorways, were
rediscovered and excavated in the nineteenth century and are now
visible in the Russian Hospice as weIl as in a shop just north of
the hospice. 41 [Figure 8]
The first Atrium therefore provided an initial sanctuary of
peace, a quiet medi tation zone which allowed the worshipper to
gradually proceed from the main public thoroughfare of Jerusalem,
the profane space of the Cardo Maximus, to the more sacred space
of the basilica and the Anastasis beyond.
Let us begin our investigation of the basilica by firstly evoking
the descriptions left us by Eusebius.
Concerning the ornamental description of the basilica, chapter 36
of the Vita Constantini (337-340 A.D) reads as follows:
The interior surface of the building was hidden under slabs
of multi-colored marble. The exterior aspect of the walls,
embellished with well-matched and polished stones, gave an
effect of extraordinary beauty, which yielded nothing to the
appearance of marble. As to its roofing, the outside was
covered with lead, a sure protection against the winter rains;
the inside was decorated with sculptured coffering, which,
like sorne great ocean, covered the whole Basilica with its
endless swell, while the brilliant gold with which it was
covered, made the whole temple sparkle with a thousand
40 Ibid, p.779.
41 Ibid, p.779.
42 Coasnon, Charles. The Church if the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Chapter 37 proves to be even more informative, and of particular
importance and interest for architectural historians, because of
Eusebius' direct references to certain key structural components:
On the one and the other of its flanks, twin, double-
porticoed, upper and lower galleries, with gilded ceilings,
ran parallel to each other. The front row consisted of columns
of large dimension, while the row behind was formed of
square pillars, richly decorated on their surfaces. Three
gates facing the rising sun were to admit the entering
From these texts therefore we can determine that the basilica was
a five-aisled structure, a motif logically befitting its imperial
patronage as weIl as its pre-eminence within the hierarchy of
Christian monuments.
We also note that the edifice had a set of
galleries as weIl as three doorways which echo the three
entrances which permitted access to the first atrium. [Figure 9]
This was a small basilica by Constantinian standards being only
1/3 the size of the Lateran basilica in Rome for example.
The question of the basilica's precise dimensions however remains
a point of contention between the two leading scholars on the
topic. Virgilio Corbo initially estimated the structure as
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.43.
43 Ibid, p.42.
44 The five aisled basilica motif, as opposed to the more conventional three aisled structures, is a hallmark of
Constantine's more important religious buildings. Other notable examples of Constantine's 5 aisled Basilica motif
are to be found at the church of the N ativity in Bethlehem as weil as at St. Peter' s in Rome. See Jackson, Thomas
G.; Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture. Cambridge University Press, 1920. Vol II, p.24.
measuring 40 meters in width by 58 in length, measured from the
eastern doors to the western tip of the apse but his estimate was
later revised by Charles Coasnon to a somewhat more modest ratio
of 38 meters by 46.
Due to the survi val of a small underground chamber variously
referred to as the chapel of St. Helena or the Chapel of the
Invention, situated directly below the central aisle of the
structure, we can as certain that the nave of the basilica had a
width of 13.5 meters.
Basing ourselves on Eusebius' textual evidence, we can
furthermore posit the presence of wide galleries over bath aisles
(as at the contemporary Lateran basilica in Rome) as weIl as a
gilded coffered ceiling, aIl of which conforms closely to the
established motifs present in other important imperial basilicas
of this time. 47
Charles Coasnon maintains that the basilica's nave was probably
lit by a series of windows pierced into the clerestorey.48
Furthermore, in order to accommodate the roofing over the double
aisles these openings would have to be placed quite high in the
45 Stem, Ephraim (editor); The New Emyc/opaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Ho!J Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.780. It is interesting to note that the Encyclopaedia makes no judgement on
this topic, limiting itself to simply noting the divergence in the two estima tes.
46 Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Hafy Sepulchre in Jert4salem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.4l.
47 Krautheimer, Richard; Earfy Christian and Byzantine Architecture. Penguin Books, Baltimore, M.A, 1965. p.62.
48 On this matter however, Krautheimer (unlike Coasnon), takes a more conservative approach, citing the fact that
no literary evidence points to either their existence or absence. Krautheimer therefore decides to err on the side of
caution and omits these from his reconstruction. See Krautheimer , Richard; Earfy Christian and Byzantine Architecture.
Penguin Books, Baltimore, M.A, 1965, p.63.
structure's elevation thereby giving the central nave's interior
space strong vertical proportions. Basing himself on foundational
evidence as weIl as on the weight bearing potential of' columns
reconstructed from various original fragments, he speculates that
the structure may have reached a height of approximately 22
meters measured from floor to ceiling.
Excavations conducted in 1968 by Athanase Ekonomopoulos
that the west end of the basilica terminated in a semi-circular
measuring 8.2 meters in diameter and flanked on either side
by rectangular chambers. 52 In chapter 39 Eusebius describes the
apse (or hemicycle) as being of particular splendour, of
"considerable height" and supported by twelve columns, a
numerological symbol which he emphatically associated with that
of the twelve apostles.
[Figure 10] .
Ekonomopoulos' digs around the apse reveal another interesting
fact, namely, the position of the apse indicates that the axis of
Constantine' s basilica was a continuation of the line extending
farther east, defined by the central entrance of the eastern
atrium from the Cardo. Continuing West of the apse however, this
49 Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Hofy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.44.
50 Ibid, p.37.
51 The apse within Roman architecture was the typically focal point of large public structures. It was used most
often in Roman courthouses and was the site where the orator and/or judge spoke and ultimately proclaims
52 Krautheimer, Richard; Earfy Christian and Byzantine Architecture. Penguin Books, Baltimore, M.A, 1965, p.62.
53 Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Hofy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
axis shifted slightly to the south of the axis of the rotunda's
atrium and of the rotunda itself. (See Figure 5. The floor-plan
of the complex clearly shows the shift in the axiality). Coasnon
proposes that the reason for this discrepancy between the
alignments of the two main constituents of the Holy Sepulchre
complex was due to the necessi ty of incorporating the rock of
Calvary into the axis of the basilica' s southernmost aisle so
that this important spiritual site would harmonize itself more
homogenously wi th the complex as a whole. 54 If this is the case,
then the designers of the complex must have j udged that the
enhancement in the overall meaning gained by the inclusion of
Calvary within the general sphere of the basilical structure
clearly superseded the need for strict axiality. The New
Encyclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Roly Land
furthermore suggests that the slight offset in axiality could
also be due to the fact that the builders of the basilica made
partial use of earlier Hadrianic foundations (probably those
belonging to Aeilia Capitolina' s original civic basilica which
served the function of courthouse) already extant at the site.
Whatever the cause, the disalignment consists of only 4 meters
and therefore, according to Coasnon, does not significantly
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.44.
54 Ibid, p.42
55 Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New En0'clopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Hof'y Land. The Isarael Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.780.
offset the strong axiality of the whole. 56
The basilica therefore served as the main site of liturgical
worship. In the overall scheme of the complex however it acted as
a more significant meditation zone on the ultimate pilgrimage
towards the Anastasis Rotunda and the tomb of Christ.
Immediately to the west, occupying a zone between the basilica
and the rotunda was the atrium court yard of the Anastasis also
known as the Holy Garden.
This open space contained some of the
holiest sites of Christianity, most notably the site of Christ's
crucifixion, the rock of Calvary. The court yard consisted of an
irregular quadrilateral with colonnaded porticoes into which
projected the apse of the basilica. The dimensions of this atrium
measured 28 meters in length and 40 meters in width at its widest
With reference to this area, Eusebius states:
Next one crossed over to a very large space of ground,
to wit, the atrium, open to the pure air of heaven; the floor
of which a polished stone pavement adorned, bounded by long
porticoes which ran round continuously on three sides. 59
Access to this zone marked a very definite progression of
56 Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.42.
57 Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Ho!J Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.780.
58 Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.42.
59 Bernard, John H.; The Library of the Palestine Pilgrim's Tex! Sodery. A.M.S Press, New York 1971. Volume l, p.7.
importance, for it not only contained the site of Golgotha in the
South-East corner but also, at its very center, the spot marking
the Omphalos Mundi, 60 the geographic and spiritual center of the
world, the mystical fixed point and axis around which all the
spheres of Heaven and Earth were said to revolve.
Similarly to the basilica, this court yard also found itself in a
slightly off axis position vis vis the alignment of the complex
as a whole.
The off-centered angle of the courtyard's northern portico, much
like the basilica's slight misalignment, can similarly be
explained by the necessity to include yet another important site,
namely the stone altar, in this case an outcropping of indigenous
rock, upon which was to have taken place Abrahamls sacrifice of
The inclusion of this site became all the more imperative
considering the fact that this Biblical event was perceived as a
direct reference to the Passion and symbolic pre-figuration of
the martyrdom of Christ.
On a symbolic level therefore, the appearance of this site within
a few meters of Golgotha is not surprising.
What is unexpected however is the fact that this site, formerly
60 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Temple, the Sepulchre, and the Marryrion of the Savior". Cesta, vol XXIXj29, 1990,
61 Situated midway between the site of the Crucifixion of Christ and that of his Resurrection, it epitomized the
quintessential spiritual balance point between Life, Death and Rebirth, representing in a distilled fashion the
leitmotif for the entire cosmic spiritual drama.
62 The appearance of the Stone of Melchisedeck was first reported by the Pilgrim of Piacenza in 570. See Grabar,
Oleg; The Shape of the Ho!J: Ear!J Is/amie Jerusa/em. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1996, p.29.
63 The sacrifice of Isaac representing a theme of deliverance, i.e. Isaac as a paradigm of the Eucharist. See
acknowledged as belonging on the Rock of the Temple Mount, has
seemingly migrated from there to its new location within the
Sepulchre complex.
This brings up an interesting relationship between the Sepulchre
and the Temple that should be noted. Although there is no strict
architectural parallel between the two buildings, in many
essential respects the Holy Sepulchre, from a Christian
perspective, begins to take over much of the ritual and symbolic
importance which was previously held by the Temple of Solomon,
holiest of aIl places according to pre-Christian Biblical
In effect, the Sepulchre becomes the New Temple, and
the tomb of Christ is already referred to as "the Holy of Holies"
in the chronicles of Eusebius.
This critical and deeply symbolic
fact is abundantly attested to by the relocation of the most
religiously important sites from their previous position on Mount
Moriah to new locations within the open court yard facing the
Anastasis Rotunda.
This migrational phenomenon manifests itself quite early in the
folklore surrounding the Sepulchre's history. Indeed,
Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane; Art, Creativiry and the S acred . . Crossroad Press, New York, 1984, p.ll1.
64 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Temple, the Sepulchre, and the Martyrion of the Savior", Cesta, vol XXIX/l,1990,
connection between the Holy Sepulchre wi th the Temple seems to
have existed since its inception and demonstrates a desire for
the early Christians to root their faith within the prophesies of
the Old Testament.
As early as the sixth century the Breviarius
emphatically notes
the presence of many previously distant sites within all parts of
the Sepulchre complex. For example, R. Ousterhout' s outstanding
article on the subject reports the following instance:
In the fourth century the Pilgrim of Bordeaux saw on the
Temple Mount "an altar which has on it the blood of Zacharias
-you would think it had only been shed today," as well as the
footprints of the soldiers that killed him. By the sixth
century, the site had migrated and the author of the
Breviarius saw the "altar where holy Zacharias was killed,
and his blood dried there," in front of the Tomb of Christ. 68
What is interesting to note however is the fact that this site,
formerly acknowledged as belonging on the Rock of the Temple
Mount, has seemingly migrated from there to i ts new location
within the Sepulchre complex. Such migrations are not altogether
unusual. They represent a clustering phenomenon which is designed
to add greater spiritual depth and historical layering to a site.
In fact, by the sixth century, sacred sites such as the Altar of
65 Ibid, p.4S.
66 Ibid, p.46.
67 The Breviarius dates back to the middle of the fifth century and is one of the earliest known surviving pilgrim's
guide books to the Holy Land.
68 Ousterhout Richard: "The Temple, the Sepulchre and the Martyrion of the Savior". Cesta, vol XXIX/l, 1990,
Abraham, 69 formerly associated with the Altar of the Temple, and
most notably the Omphalos Mundi had also firmly established
themselves within the Sepulchre complex, namely within the inner
court yard which stood before the Anastasis.
Legend also identifies the Rotunda' s atrium as being the same
Temple court from which Jesus, in a fit of rage, cast out the
merchants and money changers who were profaning its sacrality.71
According to the pilgrim Egeria,72 in the same chapel that housed
the wood of the cross, pilgrims could also see Temple relics such
as the Horn of Anointing as weIl as the pentagramed Ring of
Solomon, used to seal and subordinate demons as weIl as the jars
in which the demons were imprisoned.
Finally, the rock of Calvary74 also came to be identified with the
69 Altar of Abraham, where the life of his son Isaac was offered as a devotional sacrifice to God was clearly
perceived as a symbolic pre-figuration of Christ's sacrifice upon the cross. It is not surprising therefore that this
particular site eventually migrated and early on came to be closely identified with the rock of Calvary. Indeed,
according to the Breviarius , the sacrifice of Abraham was to have taken place "in the very place where the Lord was
crucified". See Richard Ousterhout; "The Temple, the Sepulchre and the Martyrion of the Savior". Gesta, vol
XXIX/l,1990, p.47.
70 Ousterhaut Richard: "The Temple, the Sepulchre and the Martyrion of the Savior". Gesta, vol XXIX/l, 1990,
71 Ibid, p.47.
72 We donlt know when Egeria lived, but it was sometime between the fourth and seventh centuries AD. Egeria
was born somewhere in the western part of the Roman Empire, perhaps in Galicia, in modern Spain, or in Massilia
(Marseilles). Possibly a member of a religious order, Egeria made a three-year visit to the Holy Land and wrote
down her observations in a book called Itinerarium Egeriae. While the beginning and end are lost, the middle part of
Egerials writing survived as the Codex Aretinus, which was copied at Monte Cassino in the eleventh century. See
Curtis, Ken; "GLIMPSES". Issue #129 published by Christian History Institute, Worcester PA, 2003.
73 Ousterhaut Richard: "The Temple, the Sepulchre and the Martyrion of the Savior". Gesta, vol XXIX/l, 1990,
74 The rock of Calvary itself consists of a vertical block of stone measuring 10 or Il meters, which must have
remained isolated in the corner of the ancient quarry. By the time of Christ, earth had accumulated around the block
leaving only its top showing, in the manner of a skull cap or ca/va in latin. (Similarly, Golgotha means "place of the
very spot where the creation and entombment of Adam was said to
have taken place, thereby confirming Christ as the "Second Adam"
and the "Son of Man". This site had formerly belonged to the
altar of the Temple of Solomon.
The crucifixion of Christ on
Cal vary therefore redeems the Original Sin of Humani ty on the
very spot where it had initially taken place.
In the words of John Donne:
We think that paradise and Calvary,
Christ's cross and Adam's tree, stood in one place
Look Lord, and find both Adams met in me. 77
To the medieval believer, who enjoyed a great fluidity regarding
symbolic and analogical thought, this mystical transference was
seen through the eyes of faith rather than through the eyes of
critical deduction. The very issue of logical implausibility
paled into insignificance when confronted with the more important
necessities of religious and symbolic integrity.
Similarly to the configuration found at the Sepulchre, the basic
layout of Herod' s Temple consisted of an open court yard which
gave way to a free-standing and eastward facing building in the
center of which stood the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant
skull" in Hebrew.) See Coasnon, Charles: The Church if the HolJ Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the
British Academy, 1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.39.
75 Coasnon, Charles. The Church if the HolJ Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.39-40.
76 Ibd, pAO.
77 Donne, John; Hymn to Cod, my Cod, in my sickness. Donne, John. Poems if John D o n n e ~ vol!. E. K. Chambers, ed.
containing the Tablets of the Law.
The Constantinian arrangement essentially recreates this order
within a completely new religious context whereby the importance
and the meaning of the Ark is symbolically transferred to the
Tomb of Christ, the ultimate symbol of the New Covenant with
The final structure of the complex, indeed that for which aIl the
others merely comprise a prelude, is the Anastasis Rotunda
proper. With reference to this most important of structures, we
are fortunate insofar as the archaeological and historical data
provide a somewhat more complete picture than the one available
for the basilica. [Figures 11 and 12]
Unfortunately, the texts left us by Eusebius could not provide us
with a description of the Anastasis itself, owing to the fact
that the commencement of work on the Rotunda
postdates the
London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896, p.211-212.
78 Ousterhout, Richard;_"The Temple, the Sepulchre and the Martyrion of the Savior". Gesta, vol XXIX/l, 1990,
79 The debate concerning the date of the Anastasis' construction are neatly summed up in a footnote by
Krautheimer which reads "Much remains unclear in the Anastasis, beginning with the date of construction. Perhaps
the structure was not yet built, or at least not yet completed, in 336, when Eusebius last visited J erusalem. On the
other hand, the sermons of Cyril of J erusalem, c. 350, seem to have been delivered inside the building, and towards
the end of the fourth century, Aetheria-Egeria reports seeing the Rotunda. Hence the Constantinian date proposed
by Vincent and Abel is possibly too early, while the sixth-century date suggested by Dyggve is certainly too late.
Wistrad arrives correctly perhaps at a date between 340 and 350". See Krautheimer, Richard; EarIY Christian and
Byzantine Architecture. Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1975. Footnote p.489.
completion of his chronicles in 340 AD.
Other sources of information remain however, most notably the
original foundation walls, which have survived in spite of the
vicissitudes of time, and still stand up to the level of the
arcades reaching a height of 11 meters.
Since the whole of the masonry work on the ground floor of the
Rotunda is of the fourth century, we are privileged te have a
precise impression of the layout of the original Constantinian
structure. From this evidence, we can ascertain that the
Constantinian Anastasis consisted of a circular building having a
total diameter of 36.50 meters.
The ambulatory level however was
of irregular circularity owing to the presence of two lateral
vestibules on the northeast and southeast corners of the
structure. 83
At this point, the description provided by the Frankish bishop
Arculf, who traveled to the Holy Land in 670 AD, becomes
particularly useful. His chronicles state:
This very large church, aIl of it built of stone, is
wonderfully round on every side, rising from its foundations
in three walls, by which one roof is elevated to a great
height, having a broad space for a passage between each wall
and the nexti in three ingeniously constructed places of the
80 Coasnon, Charles: The Church of the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.21.
81 Ibid, p.17.
82 Ibid, p.35.
83 Ibid, p.26.
middle wall there are also three altars. Twelve stone columns
of wonderful magnitude sus tain this round and lofty church,
which has the altars above mentioned, one looking to the
south, another to the north, and the third to the west. It
has twice four gatesi that is, four means of entrance through
the three solid walls, the space-passage being intersected in
straight linesi of these four places of exit look towards the
north- east, and the other four look towards the south-east.
This description draws particular attention to the three niches,
those which Arculf calls the "three ingenuously constructed
places of the middle wall" projecting from the ambulatory, which
firmly establish the axes of the structure.
[Figure 13]
Beginning with the entrance, we notice a definite break in the
otherwise consistent circularity of the structure as a whole.
Indeed, digs conducted in 1970 by Charles Coasnon have revealed
foundations which indicate that the Anastasis most definitely had
a rectilinear eastern faade which was adorned by a monumental
colonnaded portico.
As pointed out by Arculf, entrance to the Anastasis was gained
through two sets of quadruple doors each leading into vestibules
situated at the north-east and south-east corners of
84 Bernard, John H; The Ubrary rifthe Palestine Pilgrim's Text sociery. A.M.S Press, New York, NY, 1971, p.29.
85 The northern and southern niches were inscribed within the massively built wall whereas the western one (back)
was partly hewn out of the native stone. Each niche rises to a height of 11 meters and measures roughly 6 meters in
diameter. These niches are noteworthy because they will have a significant influence on later imitations of the Holy
Sepulchre as we shall see in the following chapters. Niche measurements taken from Stern, Ephraim (editor); The
New Enryclopaedia rif Archaeological Excavations in the Ho!J Land. The Israel Exploration Society, Simon & Shuster Press,
1993, p.781.
86 Coasnon, Charles: The Church rif the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
structure. Indeed, parts of the western wall, including elements
of the original doorways, survive to this day to a considerable
height and are now incorporated in the faade of the Catholicon.
[Figure 14]
The net resul t of this type of arrangement therefore gi ves the
Anastasis a break in its overall rotundity, at least at the
foundational level.
The main internal support system, which encircled the Sepulchre
itself, measured 20 meters in diameter
and further emphasized
the cardinal arrangement of the edifice. Although Arculf only
mentions the columnar supports, the complete set of supports
consisted of four pairs of massive square pillars arranged once
again at the cardinal points, and four sets of three columns
occupying the diagonal angles in between these.
This type of configuration therefore gives us a total comprising
8 pillars and 12 columns, a significant numerical symbolism
which, as we shall see, will not go unnoticed by the keenly
developed numerological sensitivity of the many subsequent
chroniclers and European designers of the Rotunda's medieval
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.32-34.
87 Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Hob Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.781.
88 Bresc-Bautier, Genevive; "Les imitations du Saint Spulcre de Jrusalem: Archologie d'une dvotion '; Revue
d'Histoire de la Spiritualit. Vol 50, 1974, p.334.
89 Coasnon, Charles: The Chur ch of the Hob Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
Whether this system of supports upheld a set of galleries cannot
be strictly confirmed, but the opinion of most scholars and
structural specialists would tend to suggest their presence.
Another issue which remains unclear is the question concerning
the nature of the roofing. It is not precisely known whether the
roof of the Anastasis consisted of a proper dome or of a cone-
shaped covering, nor whether the construction material consisted
of stone masonry or of wood. There is general agreement however
that the roof almost certainly had an open oculus at its apex,
much in the fashion of the Pantheon in Rome.
Those who support the theory of a conical superstructure point to
the description of the tomb aedicula provided by Antonius Martyr
in 530 AD:
The tomb, which is, as it were in the shape of a cone, is
covered up with silver and an altar is placed before the tomb
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.32-34.
90 Vigilio Corbo, Ephraim Stem and Richard Krautheimer all maintain that the Anastasis had a set of upper
galleries. See Stem, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Hojy Land. The Israel
Exploration Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.781., as well as: Krautheimer, Richard; Earjy Christian and
Byzantine Architecture, Penguin Boos, Baltimore, 1975, p.78. Only Charles Coasnon seems to hesitate on this point.
ln his opinion, a set of galleries above the ambulatory may well have been present but for lack of conclusive
evidence, no firm conclusion can be drawn. In counterpoint, he proposes the following alternative: "When Arculf
speaks of the upper-floor columns, 1 do not think that he can be alluding to a gallery, or gynaeceum, from which
women watched the ceremonies. One does not get the impression that Egeria looked down, from a height of eleven
meters, upon the ceremonies in the Rotunda. The gynaeceum, where women w e r ~ bumt during the fires started by
the Persians, could only have been wooden stands, added later to the deambulatory, which was very high and
measured 12 meters beneath its roof.". See Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Hojy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The
Schweich Lectures of the British Academy. Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.32.
91 Stem, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Hojy Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.781.
beneath the golden rays of the sun.
They argue that if the covering of the tomb aedicula was conical
then it stands to reason that the same would apply to the
covering of the Anastasis as well.
The most compelling evidence concerning the shape of the roof
however, cornes from early Christian depictions of the Anastasis.
These include the apse mosaic of the 5
century church of Santa
Pudenziana in Rome (390-417 AD) [Figure 15], the mosaic of the
Holy Women at the Tomb of Christ in the Church of St. Apollinare
Nuovo (c 500 AD) in Ravenna, and the depictions shown on the
Monza ampullae and on the Sancta Sanctorum casket (now in the
Vatican Museum). All these early depictions are consistent in
their representation of the Anastasis and all strongly support
the hypothesis that the centre room was indeed surmounted by a
Lastly, the later domical reconstruction by Modestus (carried out
from 614 to 618 AD), would tend to favour the hypothesis which
maintains that the original Constantinian construction was
covered by a dome as well.
92 Bemard,John H; The Iibrary of the Palestine Pilgrim's Tex! society. A.M.S Press, New York, NY, 1971, p.27.
93 Both Virgilio Corbo as weil as Vincent & Abel support the theory of a cone shaped roof for the Anastasis. See
Kazhdan, A.P; The O>ford Dictionary ofByzan!ium. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1991. Vol3, p.1870.
Regarding the question of the materials used for the covering,
the architect and Sepulchral historian Father Charles Coasnon,
after analyzing the weight-bearing potential of the interior
support system as well as that of the outer foundation walls,
cornes to the conclusion that these could not have borne the
weight of a masonry superstructure. Based on these architectonie
calculations, he therefore concludes that the roof must have been
by structural necessity a wood beam construction.
Finally, concerning the tomb aedicula itself, the focal point of
the edifice, it is described by Arculf as a small structure
constructed of marble which comprised of two rooms, the first a
small devotional antechamber and the second, the rock eut tomb of
Christ itself.
[Figures 16 and 17]
Externally, the structure was surrounded by engaged columns and
surmounted by a cone-shaped covering. Within the tomb, which was
entered by a very low opening, the dimensions were indeed that of
a small grotto measuring 2.2 meters in height, 2 meters in length
and approximately 1.5 meters in width.
To put things in medieval
terms however, Arculf's chronicle states that the height of the
94 Coasnon, Charles: The Church if the Ho!J S epu!chre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.36. This view is supported as weil by Stern, Ephraim (editor); The
New Enryclopaedia if Archaeological Excavations in the Ho!J Land. The Israel Exploration Society, Simon & Shuster Press,
1993, p.781.
95 Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia if Archaeological Excavations in the Ho!J Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.781.
96 Coasnon, Charles: The Church if the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p37.
chamber was "one and a half feet higher than a rather tall man" 97
and then goes on to describe the length and width of the space by
remarking that it had room for nine people.
Immediately to the
right of the entrance was the only feature wi thin the modest
room, a small arcosolium where the Body of Christ was laid to
It should be noted that the Tomb aedicula does not occupy the
exact center of the Anastasis but is offset slightly to the west
of center, possibly to allow for a larger gathering space for the
faithful before the Holy of Holies, most notably during the
important Easter ceremonies. 100
This slight offsetting however does not detract from the
essential impression of centrality which the entire edifice
radiates. Indeed, what we have are a series of ever increasing
concentric centers, from the aedicula to the inner ring of
supports, from the inner ring to the outer walls, from the outer
walls to the center of Jerusalem and from the center of Jerusalem
to the center of the world, all emanating from this most sacred
and most centralised point.
97 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal of the Courtauld and
Warbm;g Institutes, V; 1942, p.12.
98 Ibid, p.12
99 Ibid, p.12.
100 Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Hob Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.781.
(A): The reconstruction by Modestus; 614- 1 009 A. D.
In 614, Jerusalem was taken by the Persians under the rule of
Chosroes II who first ordered the Sepulchre closed and then
subsequently burned. The structure apparently suffered relatively
light structural damage in the fire and permission to repair and
rebuild is granted in 616, achieving completion in 618 under the
supervision of the patriarch Modestus. 101 102
From what can be ascertained of the reconstruction, almost aIl
the textual and archaeological evidence confirms the fact that
the seventh century planners entirely retained the original
layout of the complex. 103 Concerning the precise decorative
details of the renovation however very little is known although
we can be quite certain that this second incarnation of the
101 Duckworth H.T: The Chureh rifthe Ho(y Sepulchre. Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London, 1900, p.154.
102 Under the initial Persian occupation many Christian churches are pillaged including the Holy Sepulchre. Most
notably the Holy Cross is removed from the Sepulchre complex and kept as ransom by the Persians.
Jerusalem is recapturedby the Byzantines in 630 AD. The Emperor Heraclius stages a triumphant retum with the
recovered Cross. Oleg Grabar proposes that the events referring to the Persian conquest were exaggerated by
Christian Byzantine chroniclers for poli tic al and propagandistic purposes. lndeed, The Persians were hardly present
in J erusalem which they regarded as a secondary outpost. Their main center of operation was along the coast and
centered around Caesarea. See Grabar, Oleg; The Shape rifthe Ho(y: Bar(y Is/amie Jerusa/em. New Jersey, Princeton
University Press, 1996, p.41-44.
103 Grabar, Oleg; The Shape rifthe Ho(y: Bar(y Is/amie Jerusa/em. New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1996, p.42.
Sepulchre was distinctly inferior in glory and splendour, this
owing to records complaining of a chronic lack of funds from the
Emperor Heraclius whose treasury was exhausted by a variety of
military campaigns as weIl as otherorganisational demands within
the empire. 104
AlI in aIl however, we can infer that this incident left the
Sepulchre complex relatively unchanged at least in relation to
its basic layout, if not however in regards to its original
decorative details. Certain elements such as the roofing, the
decor and the furnishings had been destroyed or damaged but on
the whole, the great work remained as it was.
An element which is especially noteworthy about this particular
phase of the reconstruction is that it is the first for which we
have any sort of rough plan or sketch upon which we can base our
studies. This first visual evidence is provided by the pilgrim
Arculf who visited the Holy land circa 670 AD. [Figure 18]
It must be borne in mind however that this plan was not made in
si tu, but was verbally dictated by Arculf to Bede after his
return to Adamnanus and then recorded by the latter, making it
such that the rough sketch, valuable as it is, cannot be depended
104 Coasnon, Charles: The Church of the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.17.
105 Grabar, Oleg; The Shape of the Ho!J: Ear!J Islamic Jerusalem. New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1996, p.41.
upon regarding the precise relative positions of the several
What is of particular interest in Arculf' s plan is the obvious
disregard for the complex as a whole (the basilica and the first
atrium are ignored) and his almost exclusive focus on the
Anastasis itself and especially the element of its circularity.
It is apparent that Arculf's plan was never intended to provide
information of a precise and complete nature. Rather, Arculf has
limited his choice of elements to only the select few which he
regarded as essential for the understanding of the structure' s
religious and symbolic significance.
As we shall see, this type of selective approach towards
architectural reproductions will also be noted in the many
archi tectural copies of the Sepulchre in Europe and seems to
denote a typically medieval fascination with only a few essential
symbolic facets of a given edifice.
106 Duckworth H.T: The Church rifthe Ho!J Sepulchre. Hodder and Stoughton Limited, London, 1900, p.154.
(8): The Reconstruction of Constantine
Monomachus, 1030-1120.
Following these events, the Sepulchre knew approximately four
centuries of relative peace and security.
The next significant phase of the Sepulchre's history however was
to be far more devastating and profoundly transformational than
anything which it had known before, affecting the complex as a
whole right down to its most basic elements of layout and
Social and political troubles in Palestine began to reach a
crisis point in the years straddling the turn of the millennium
when tensions had once again become strained between Christians
and the ruling Muslim Fatimid dynasties. In 985, the chronicler
Mukhadaseh clearly noted the deteriorating cultural and religious
situations within the Holy City. Concerning these he writes:
Learned men of Islam are few, and Christians many, and the
same are unmannerly. Everywhere Jews and Christians have the
upper hand, and the mosque is void of either congregation or
assembly of learned men. 107
107 Moore, Elinore; The Ancient Churches of Jerusalem: the Evidence of the Pilgrims. The Catholic Press, Beirut. 1961, p.32.
It was perhaps because of this uneven distribution of power
coupled with the growing independence of the Christians which led
to the persecutions by the Muslim authori ties which started in
100S. In that year, the Easter ceremonies were banned in
Jerusalem and many of the prominent members of the Christian
community were seized and strung up by their hands for several
days andnights, resulting in the death of an undetermined number
due to exposure. 108
In the following year 1009, Jerusalem's Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim,
the so called "mad caliph", 109 in a final act of retaliation for
alleged Byzantine attacks on Muslim buildings in
Constantinople, 110 orders a certain Baruch of Ramleh to have the
Christian complex razed to the ground "Until aIl traces of it
have disappeared and to endeavour to uproot its foundations" .111
The caliph's instructions are carried out to the letter.
Beginning on the lS
of October 1009 the entire eastern end of
the complex (including the entrance atrium and the entirety of
the basilica) is completely destroyed and is alas never destined
to rise again. The Anastasis as weIl is almost completely
dismantled, leaving only the lower foundation walls up to the
108 Ibid, p.33.
109 Grabar, Oleg; The shape of the Ho!J, Bar!J Is/amie Jerusa/em. Princeton University Press, NJ. 1996; p.142.
110 ibid, p.142
111 Coasnon, Charles: The Chureh of the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusa/em. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.19.
level of the arcades (roughly 11 meters), which apparently
resisted aIl efforts of demo1ition. The fact remains however that
for aIl intents and purposes the entire complex is reduced to
little more than a pile of rubble.
Following the death of Al-Hakim in 1025, the situation of
political, cultural and religious tension began to ease somewhat.
His successor, Malek ed Daher, after a defeat by the Greeks in
1030, concluded a treaty with Byzantium in the following terms:
In exchange for aIl Muslim prisoners, the Emperor obtains the
right to rebuild the Church of the Resurrection, to establish
a Patriarch in Jerusalem, and for the Christians in the
Caliphate to rebuild and restore their churches, except those
that had been converted into Mosques.
As stipulated in the terms of the treaty, only the "Church of the
Resurrection" namely the Anastasis and its porticoed court yard
are to be rebuilt.
[Figures 19 and 20]
Delays occurred in the rebuilding program however, mainly due to
political instability within the Byzantine empire as weIl as a
reported short age of funds needed for such an ambitious
Thus, reconstruction only began in 1042, when
Constantine IX Monomachus, a noted patron of re1igious
112 Grabar, Oleg; The shape of the Ho!J, Ear!J Islamic Jerusalem. Princeton University Press, NJ. 1996; p.142.
113 Moore, Elinore; The Ancient Churches of Jerusalem: the Evidence of the Pilgrims. The Catholic Press, Beirut. 1961, p.33.
114 Ibid, p.34.
115 Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulchre". Journal of the
Society of Architectural Histonans, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.70.
architecture, acceded to the throne of Byzantium. The emperor
made the Holy Sepulchre one of his first priorities, immediately
securing the neces$ary funds.
From this point onwards the
building program proceeded swiftly, reaching full completion by
As rebuilt, the Byzantine Holy Sepulchre was much more modest
than the fourth century complex it was replacing.
The physical consequences of this episode resul ted in only a
partial reconstruction of the original ensemble. As a result, the
significant alterations of this near total reconstruction are
many. First and foremost, the fundamental layout of the greatly
reduced site is consolidated and synthesized, demanding a radical
condensation of the formerly axially aligned complex.
Fortunately most of the spiritually significant sites were
already contained within the western end of the complex with the
notable exception of the underground grotto of the invention
which remained buried below the rubble of the basilica.
116 On the topic of funding, Ousterhout notes: "Funding was provided by Constantinople, and a Byzantine
nobleman, Ioannes Karianitis, who had retired in J erusalem, acted as the intermediary to obtain the necessary
subsidies from the imperial fisc. This information is provided by William of Tyre, who chronicles the rededication
of the building in 1048". See Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy
Sepulchre". Journal of the Society of Architectural Histonans, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.70.
117 Coasnon, Charles: The Church of the Hofy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.20.
118 The Grotto of the Invention refers to the site where St. Helena is said to have rediscovered the True Cross upon
which Christ was crucified. It was located beneath the nave of the basilica and therefore was rendered inaccessible
following the destruction of this structure. This problem was subsequently solved during the Crusader
reconstruction (1099-1140) by the digging of a lateral staircase leading down in an easterly direction from the
courtyard in order to once more gain access to the underground site. See Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New
Enyclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Hofy Land. The Israel Exploration Society, Simon & Shuster Press,
The new restrictive spatial limitations imposed on the architects
demanded that the many sacred s i t ~ s be distilled and concentrated
into a much smaller area. It therefore became imperative that the
spiritual and symbolic essence, if not the physical extent of the
original site, be maintained. To this end, a series of chapels
were added to the eastern extremi ty of the newly reconstructed
court yard. Because of their closely grouped proximity one to the
other as weIl as the strict linear fashion in which they are
arrayed, this new configuration of chapels gave the site a higher
degree of formaI organization than it had formerly known in its
Constantinian incarnation.
Interestingly, the previously noted migrational phenomenon of the
sixth century is resumed with an even greater vigour. 120 New
spiritually significant sites are introduced to the location,
thereby weaving additional threads into the already rich
historical, mythological and symbolic fabric of the Anastasis
court yard area.
starting at the Northeast corner of the court yard, where in the
century configuration we had only the site commonly believed
to be that of Abraham's sacrifice, we now also have overlaid upon
1993, p.780.
119 Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulchre". Journal of the
Society of Architectural Histonans, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.71.
120 Ibid, p.66-78.
this latter a chapel representing the prison of Christ.
21]. Next in line along the courtyard's eastern wall and
following a southerly axis, we encounter the new chapel erected
on the supposed site of the flagellation, followed by another
chapel dedicated to the crowning of thorns, and yet further along
the eastern wall, the location where Christ's garments were
di vided by the legionnaires. 122
This series of chapels reaches its point of culmination in what
remains by far the most important of these commemorative sites,
namely, the new Chapel of the Crucifixion situated in the south-
east corner of the court yard atop the outcropping of indigenous
rock traditionally held to be the location of Golgotha. At the
base of the rock, a small chapel dedicated to the creation and
entombment of Adam makes its appearance, finally concretizing in
architectural form what had previously existed only as an
apocryphal legend. 123
Once again, the geographic implausibility of this type of
arrangement did not seem to greatly preoccupy the eleventh
century designers of the new complex. Rather, their foremost
concern seems to have been the creation of a meaningful and
121 Ibid, p.71.
122 Ibid, p.71.
123 Coasnon, Charles: The Church 0/ the Ho!;; Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
richly layered symbolic series of related spaces in order to
recreate in a greatly synthesized, systematized and distilled
form, a Via Dolorosa
in miniature. 125
In a symbolic sense the new Holy Sepulchre "became" Jerusalem.
Through its the Byzantine reconstruction the site was transformed
into a Christian microcosm, the distilled essence of the Passion
experienced by Christ, with sites and relics from throughout the
ci ty incorporated into the complex. 126
New chapels are also added to the southern and northern flanks of
the Rotunda. To the south of the Anastasis, we find a chapel
dedicated to St. James, followed by a a baptistery and a chapel
dedicated to St. John the Baptist. 127
Counterbalancing these, we find to the immediate north of the
Anastasis the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary (forming with
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.40.
124 A Via Dolorosa is a symbolic re-creation of the various stages (14 in ail) of Christ' s passion. The fourteen
stations are as foilows: (1) The judgment of Pilate; (2) the taking of the cross; (3) Christ's first fail; (4) Christ's
meeting with rus mother; (5) The bearing of the cross by Simon of Cyrene; (6) the wiping of Christ's face with a
handkercruefby St. Veronica; (7) Christ's second fail; (8) Christ's word to the women ofJerusalem, "Weep not for
me"; (9) Christ's trurd fail; (10) Christ stripped of his garments; (11) the cruciflXion; (12) Christ's death; (13) the
descent from the cross; (14) the burial.
125 Other than the desire for integrity and the condensation of sacred sites, the pragmatic need for this
unprecedented migration of sites was also due to the difficulties associated with Christian worsrup in the other areas
of the Muslim city. See Richard Ousterhout; "The Temple, the Sepulchre and the Martyrion of the Savior", Cesta,
vol xx/2, 1981, p.17.
126 On trus topic Ousterhout notes: "In the version of the 7);pikon of J erusalem employed during the l1th century,
verses read in the courtyard during the Good Friday service refer specificaily to each event (of the passion), and the
proximity of the chapels and relics to the worsruppers would have heightened the sense of the real presence of the
commemorated events". See Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy
Sepulchre". Journal of the Society of Architectural His/orians, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.78.
127 Ibid, p.78.
the chapel of St. John an interesting intercessor's motif
popularized in many apocryphal stories relating to the day of
judgment) as weIl as the Byzantine Patriarchate.
Insofar as the Anastasis itself is concerned, the reconstruction
appears to have adhered closely to the form of the fourth century
The most significant occurrence in this regard is the fact that
the 4th century foundation walls, which had previously defied
demolition in 1009, are conserved by the Byzantine re-
constructors. Their decision to re-use these surviving walls
effectively preserved the original dimensions and form of the
Constantinian Anastasis.
The columns that separated the central space from the ambulatory
were re-erected on high bases, probably repeating the proportions
of the original according to Charles Coasnon.
Furthermore, the
distinctive eight-pillared and twelve-columned internaI support
sequence of the original Constantinian structure was also adopted
128 The intercessor' s motif consists of Mary and John who stand on either side of Christ on the Day of J udgement
and intercede for mercy on behalf of Humanity. This motif, here recreated in architectural form, can also be seen on
many sculpted church and cathedral tympanums throughout the late Romanesque and early Gothic periods. The
cathedrals of Chartres and Notre Dame de Paris boast excellent examples of these. This parallel was noted by
Professor Hans Boker, Seminar comments for "Topics in Medievallconography", McGill Univeristy, April, 1996.
129 Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulchre". Journal of the
Sociery of Architectural Histonans, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.70.
130 Coasnon, Charles: The Church of the Hob Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.54.
131 Coasnon, Charles: The Church of the Hob Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
and reproduced by the Byzantine re-constructors. 132
The set of galleries which these supports formerly upheld are
once again included in the new design. The series of supports for
this second storey however, consisted of a unique sequence of
alternating piers and columns which contrasts sharply with the
rhythm of one pier followed by three columns established on the
ground floor. A possible explanation for this may have been a
shortage of columns attested to by the extensive re-use of Roman
spolia in this part of the structure. 133
Above the gallery level, a closed-off clerestorey zone, which in
the fourth century Anastasis had been pierced by sets of windows,
is now articulated with blind arches into which mosaics were
inserted. This represents yet another unusual decorati ve motif,
especially if we take into consideration the marked lack of light
within the structure.
Finally, the roofing consisted of a cone shaped superstructure
(rather than a dome) made of wood and which once again had a
single oculus at its apex providing the only source of
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974. p27 -32.
132 Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulchre". Journal of the
Society of Architectural Histonans, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1. p70
133 Ibid, p.70-71.
134 Ibid, p.71.
illumination for the building. 135
Due to the greatly reduced area and most notably to the loss of
the basilica in 1009, the Anastasis must now also assume the role
of the main church for the worship service and, to this end, a
large apse is added to the eastern faade, changing the
orientation of the structure along a more traditional West to
East line.
AlI these alterations had very profound repercussions on the
layout of the Holy Sepulchre, essentially transforming the
axially arranged Constantinian complex into a smaller clustered
complex centered around the Rotunda.
Owing to the extensive Crusader rebuilding of 1099, the Byzantine
Holy Sepulchre of Constantine Monomachus was a relatively short
lived construction, lasting less than 80 years (1042 to 1120
according to best estimates) It was nevertheless of great
significance for the history of medieval architecture for two
important reasons.
Firstly, this reconstruction marks a significant transformation
135 Coasnon, Charles: The Church if the Ho!J Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.28.
136 The apse of the Anastasis is known only from partial excavations; it was removed by the Crusaders in the
following century. See Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy
Sepulchre". Journal if the S ociery if Architectural Histonans, March 1989, vol XL VIn #1, p.70.
for the site. Indeed, this phase in its history represents the
passage of the Sepulchre from an essentially late Roman-early
Christian monument to a truly medieval one.
Secondly, given the fact that the extensive Crusader
reconstruction of the site only began in 1120,138 it is therefore
the impression of the Byzantine version which the first
generation of conquering western knights, scholars, traveling
clergy and pious pilgrims brought back home to Europe following
the recapture of Jerusalem in 1099.
The Byzantine Holy Sepulchre therefore stood at a critical
juncture in time, namely one of very considerable contact between
the West and Palestine. Indeed, it represented, if only in a
symbolic fashion, the ul timate goal of the crusades (The
liberation of the tomb of Christ) and as such, it directly
inspired many of the 11th and 12th century European imitations
such as Santo Stefano in Bologna, the Baptistery at Pisa as weIl
as the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge. 140
137 On thls topic Ousterhout notes: "If we make allowances for the unique nature of the site and the reuse of the
fourth century elements, the restoration of the Holy Sepulchre fits weil into our picture of middle Byzantine
architecture. In thls respect, the abandonment of the Early Christian basilica is not surprising: churches generally
decreased in size in the Byzantine period. Still, the Holy Sepulchre was huge by Byzantine standards". See
Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulchre". Journal of the
Society of Architectural Histonans, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.72.
138 Stern, Ephraim (editor); The New Enyclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Ho!J Land. The Israel Exploration
Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.780.
139 Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulchre". Journal of the
Society of Architectural Histonans, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.69.
The European Copies of the Holy Sepulchre.
In discussing the influences of the Holy Sepulchre on
Carolingian and Romanesque structures in western Europe, one must
bear in mind that very few if any of these "imitations" have
anything but a passing physical resemblance to the original.
Indeed, many have little or no architectural resemblance
whatsoever wi th the Anastasis, the only link to the original
edifice being in their dedication.
Of the edifices which are in fact structurally based on certain
formal elements of the original Jerusalemite monument, many
modern observers would altogether fail to see anything other than
the merest incidental similarity. 142
This fact says as much about our contemporary notions of
imitation as it does about those of the Middle-Ages.
It is hoped that through an attentive study of a certain number
140 Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"", Journal of the Courtauld and
Warburgh institutes, 1942, p.16.
141 Ibid, p.16.
142 A small octagonal structure for example was often deemed a proper imitation of the Anastasis' circularity.
of these "copies" we will be better able to understand the
medieval attitude towards the concept of "imitation" in general.
What for instance were their primary concerns regarding the
complex issues of symbolic and formaI reproduction? What did they
consider of pre-eminent importance and conversely, what did they
choose to disregard as secondary or unimportant? Finally, why are
these omissions so conspicuous and idiosyncratic to the modern
In order to better understand the nature of medieval immi ta tio
let us first examine the more outstanding examples of medieval
buildings which aim to imitate the Sepulchre.
The earliest known example of these imitative structures is
that of the early ninth century Carolingian Church of St. Michael
at Fulda. [Figure 22]. Commissioned by the Abbot Eigil and
possibly aided by the counsels of Rabanus Maurus of Fulda,
construction of the edifice was begun in 820 and reached swift
completion by 822.
In order to remove any doubt as to the initial prototype for this
edifice, the inscription on the main 9th century altar readj "Hoc
altare deo dedicatum est maxime Christo Cuius hic tumulus nostra
sepulcra juvat" . 144
Much of the structure which stands today in Fulda is a late
eleventh century reconstruction,145 rlowever, the foundation walls
as weIl as the crypt, held up by a single sturdy ionic column in
its centre [Figure 23], date back to the original early ninth
century structure, thereby conserving the essential details of
the original building's layout and dimensions.
Of the evidence which remains, the most outstanding features of
this structure are undoubtedly its small size, measuring only 13
meters in total diameter, and especially its rotundity. From
excavations we can further as certain the fact that the original
construction also had an ambulatory which was separated from the
6 meter wide central area by a series of eight columns, possibly
echoing the eight piers found at the Anastasis. 147 [Figure 25].
143 Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"", Journal if the Courtauld and
Warbur;gh institutes, 1942. p16. p3.
144 Ibid, p4 footnote #1.
145 The original structure was destroyed in 947 AD and rebuilt as Salvatorskirche between 1100 and 1130. Ibid, p.ll.
146 Ibid, p.3.
147 Ibid, p.4.
The building also had an apse which consisted of a small
semicircular chapel which projected eastward.
Although the precise elevational details are unknown, Richard
Krautheimer speculates that the entire structure was covered by a
dome or an eight-sided domical vault. 149 What is more, the Vita
Eigilis adds: supra vero octonis subrigi tur columnis a tque in
summi ta te operis lapide unD concl udi tur, 150 confirming that the
material employed for the covering was indeed stone.
Completing the picture, a reproduction of the Tomb of the Lord
occupied the center of the small rotunda church.
Regarding the building' s function, there is little doubt that
this structure was to serve as the final resting place for Eigil
and certain other members of the abbey's religious community. On
this topic the Vita Eigilis states:
Now the abbot with the advice and consent of the brothers,
built a small circular church, where the dead bodies of
the brothers might be given over to the tomb to rest, and
this chuch they call a cemetary. 152
148 Kinsley Porter, Arthur; MedievalArchitecture: Its Origins and Development. Hacker Art Books, New York, 1966., vol 1,
149 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal rifthe WarbU1;g and
Courtauld Institutes, 1942, p.4.
150 Kinsley Porter, Arthur; Medieval Architecture: Its On gins and Development. Hacker Art Books, New York, 1966., vol
1, p.191, footnote #2.
151 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal rif the WarbU1;g and
Courtauld Institutes, 1942, p.3.
152 Kinsley Porter, Arthur; MedievalArchitecture: Its Origins and Development. Hacker Art Books, New York, 1966, vol 1,
p.191. Footnote 2 of this page provides the original latin quote which reads: Pater namque monasten ... cum consilio et
fratrum consensu ecc/esiam parvam aedijicavit rotundam, ubi defuncta corpora fratrum sepulturae tradita requiescant, quam cemiterium
Both structures were therefore designed as sepulchres. Thus the
two constructions also share an essential similari ty in their
respective functions as weIl.
In these respects, St. Michael' s would appear to conform in a
very general sense to the Jerusalemi te model. This however is
where our knowledge of the architectural resemblance between the
copy and its prototype ends. Due to the later reconstruction, we
do not know, for instance, whether the 9
century structure had a
set of galleries nor whether it had clerestorey.
From this limited amount of data, we nevertheless have a partial
image of a structure which purports to reproduce the Anastasis
but which seems to do so in a very selective fashion. The
rotundity of the Anastasis has been identified as the defining
characteristic, but the builders of St. Michael's have
disregarded the fact that the Anastasis in Jerusalem is not a
strictly circular structure. In fact, the presence of lateral
vestibules as weIl as the rectilinear faade makes the
prototype's circularity somewhat irregular. The notion of perfect
rotundity however seems to have been of particular interest for
the Carolingian builders
despite the fact that the model was
qui te different in actual form. 154
Moreover, when deciding upon the support system, the designers of
St. Michael's have chosen to reproduce only the eight piers of
the Anastasis (as columns in this instance) rather than its full
complement of eight piers and twelve columns.
The strict integrity of the formal relationship between model and
"copy" is further compromised at St. Michael' s, firstly by the
inclusion of a crypt which the Anastasis lacks, and more
importantly by the addition of a small projecting chapel to the
east acting as an eastern apse of sorts.
Finally, the three axial niches inserted into the walls of the
Anastasis and which Arculf particularly admired are conspicuously
absent in the Carolingian imitation.
We are left therefore acknowledging on the one hand the many
general similarities between the two structures (namely the
elements of circularity, the inclusion of an ambulatory, the
partial adaptation of the eight supports, the functions of the
two edifices as sepulchral monuments) but also, and perhaps more
153 On this topic Krautheimer notes: "According to Eigil the circle is a symbol of the Church, never ending and
containing the sacraments; aiso it signifies to him the reign of etemal majesty, the hope of future life and the
"praemia mansura quibus justi merito coronantur in aevum". See Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an
"Iconography of Mediaevai Architecture"", Journal of the Courtauld and Warbut:gh institutes, 1942, p.8.
154 Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Ho!J' Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.32.-34.
importantly, the many divergences between the Model and its
supposed imitation.
The final question to be addressed concerns the possible sources
from which the ninth-century builders derived their knowledge of
the prototype.
The constructors of St. Michael's may have known Arculf's plan of
670 but there is no way of firmly establishing this.
Another possibility could be traced to the influence of Willibald
the Bri ton who also made a pilgrimage to the holy places of
Jerusalem in 721 and provided a rough description of its sacred
sites and churches.
Willibald later becomes a bishop in Bavaria
and we can postulate that sorne of his writing survived intact in
the region and thereby may have served as a rough guide for the
ninth century designers.
What is most interesting, however, are the hints we have pointing
towards a series of direct contacts established between
Charlemagne and the rulers of Palestine. In her work The Ancient
Churches of Jerusalem, Elinor Moore suggests that early in his
reign Charlemagne was looking for a Muslim ally in order to
facilitate his volatile relations with the Omayyads in Spain. 156
Coincidentally, Haroun er Rashid, the ruler of Palestine at the
155 Moore, Elinor; The Anaent Churches ifJerusalem: The Evidence 0/ the Pilgrims. The Catholic Press, Beirut. 1961, p.21.
time, wanted a powerful Christian ally in order to help placate
the Byzantines wi th whom he was having diplomatie troubles. 157
Mutual need and opportunity therefore created a political climate
which greatly favoured a great degree of rapprochement between
Carolingian Europe and Palestine in the early 9th century.
Evidence suggests that this prevailing atmosphere of reciprocal
cooperation on a political and diplomatie level must naturally
have had many religious and c u l t u r a ~ repercussions as well. Among
other things, Charlemagne is reported to have manifested a keen
interest in the state of the Latin Christians in Palestine. 158
This climate of collaboration gave Charlemagne the opportunity to
assist the Christian communi ty and also to inquire about the
state of the churches and clergy in the Holy Land.
As a result of Charlemagne' s interest in the region, in 806 he
commissioned the revelatory document known as the Commemoratorium
de Casis Dei
which consisted of a catalogue of the churches and
clergy present in Palestine as well as a list of requested alms
to be sent to Jerusalem for the restoration of these churches. It
is further noted that because of this document Charlemagne sent
funds for the explicit foundation of a Latin quarter in Jerusalem
as well as for the construction of the church of St. Mary Latine,
156 Ibid, p.18.
157 Ibid, p.18.
158 Ibid, p.19.
which served as a hospice for aIl pilgrims who spoke the Latin
More significantly however, the Commemoratorium de casas Dei
provides critical measurements of many religious sites including
the Holy Sepulchre. It gives the circumference both of the outer
ambulatory of the Anastasis and of its centre room. The document
also records the distance between Calvary and the tomb of Christ
as being 28 dexteri (or 41.6 meters). We note in this document a
very selective transfer of information however as only a few of
the many possible measurements were recorded. For instance, the
writer of the Commemoratorium does not report to his readers the
measurements of the inner ambulatory nor does he indicate the
height of any part of the building. 161
AlI this evidence bears witness to the fact that a great deal of
religious, cultural and specifically architectural links existed
between the Carolingian court and the Latin as weil as Muslim
communi ties of Palestine. Gi ven these facts, the acquisition of
accurate information regarding the precise formaI specifications
of the Holy Sepulchre should not have posed serious problems for
Abbot Eigil.
This then begs the question of why his copy at Fulda should be so
159 Ibid, p.18.
160 Ibid, p.19.
161 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Church of Santo Stephano: A '1erusalem" in Bologna". Cesta, vol XX/2, 1981, p.312.
divergent from the original. One could understand this phenomenon
if the designers had only the evidence of Arculf to guide them
but such was plainly not the case. Clearly the correct
architectural information was potentially available. We must
therefore look for other reasons which could help explain this
perplexing deviation.
Given this type of situation, a potentially fertile field of
exploration may reside in attempting to understand the medieval
interpretation of this information in our search for satisfactory
answers. In other words, we must try to find out how these data
were filtered through the medieval mind in order to gain a proper
understanding of how late Roman and subsequently Byzantine forms
were received and integrated into the western architectural
After this initial study of the first known European copy of the
Anastasis, we find ourselves confronted by the exceedingly
complex notions surrounding the nature of medieval imitation. As
we shall see over the next few chapters, time and again precisely
the same issues will arise regarding the nature of medieval
mimesis. Clearly, a different set of criteria was being applied
by the constructors of St. Michael's when they set out to "copy"
the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
The Holy Sepulchre at Paderborn was originally commissioned by
the bishop Meinwerk in 1036, and specifically designed to be "ad
simili tudinem Jerosolimi tane ecclesie". 162 [Figure 26]
In an effort to ensure the integrity of this statement, Meinwerk
gave Abbot Wino of Helmershhausen the difficult task of going to
Jerusalem in order to make the necessary observations and take
the proper measurements: "mensuras eiusdem ecclesiae et S.
Sepulgr i" . 163
One would expect that if bishop Meinwerk was willing to go to
such great lengths to obtain first hand data, this would tend to
show a great concern for accuracy and fidelity towards the form
and measurements of the original prototype. Despite these facts,
what we shall see however is what a modern observer would
consider rather dissimilar results.
162 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an " Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture''''. The Journal of the Courtland
and Warbut;g Institutes, 1942, p.4.
163 Ibid, p.4.
As at St. Michael's we are left only with the foundations of the
eleventh century structure on which to base our study.
Surprisingly, these reveal a rather small octagonal building, the
diameter of which is only 14.5 meters (as opposed to the 36.5
meters of the Anastasis), with four proportionately large
rectangular chapels proj ecting from the outer circumference at
the cardinal points, making the Paderborn structure an
essentially cruciform church. The western arm acted as the main
doorway to the edifice and there is evidence to suggest that it
may have been flanked by two round towers, a typically German
Romanesque entrance motif. 164
What is more, excavations cited by Richard Krautheimer have
revealed a total absence of internal supports and therefore the
dearth of a set of galleries as well. Otherwise, the original
elevation of the building as well as the shape and materials
employed for the roofing remain unknown.
Even from this limited amount of archaeological evidence however,
we can clearly see that the Holy Sepulchre at Paderborn has
little in common with the Jerusalemite original other than its
allusion to circularity and its dedication.
164 Ibid, p.4.
There is one final similarity to be noted between the edifices,
namely the one pertaining to their likeness of function. In the
same manner as St. Michael's at Fulda, it would appear that the
building at Paderborn was originally intended as Meinwerk' s own
personal funerary sepulchre church. 166
Despite this, the differences far outnumber the similarities
however. The Church at Paderborn is a small octagonal structure
rather than a large circular one. The semicircular niches present
at the Anastasis have been transformed into square chapels in the
church at Paderborn whereas in the Arculf's plan of the Rotunda
they are clearly represented as rectangles. There is no inner
ambulatory or set of galleries present in Meinwerk' s structure,
features that feature prominently in the original monument. AlI
this despite the fact that a special messenger was dispatched to
Jerusalem with the express mission of returning to Paderborn with
the correct description and measurements of the original edifice.
It must be noted however that sorne measurements appear to have
been transferred from the Anastasis to the structure in
Paderborn. We note that the interior length of each segment of
Paderborn' s octagon is of 5.8 meters which roughly matches the
5.7 meter distance between the main interior piers found at the
165 Ibid, pA.
Anastasis. It would seem that Meinwerk's messenger noted only the
relationship between the eight interior piers of the original and
this to him determined the octagonal plan which was used as the
basis for the entire floor-plan of the imitation. 167
The differences between the two constructions are therefore much
more significant than any of kind of likeness, so much so that a
modern observer would find it difficult to even associate the two
structures, much less regard one as a copy of the other.
To the medieval mind however, at least insofar as the Holy
Sepulchre at Paderborn is concerned, it would seem as though the
mere suggestion of circularity within the central portion of the
structure (as well as the dedication and function) was deemed
sufficient to qualify it as an authentic and bona fide imitation
of the Anastasis and therefore worthy of the designation "ad
simili tudinem Jerosolimi tane ecclesie" . 168
166 Ibid, p.4.
167 Ibid, p.13.
168 Ibid, p.4.
As the first millennium of the Christian era neared its
completion, Western humanity feared the annihilation of the
world. Indeed, this transition marked a time of extreme anxiety
where many firmly believed that the millennial event would
trigger the great battle of Armageddon, the final judgment and
the end of historical time as we know it. One can only imagine
the great wave of relief as weIl as the sudden renewal of
religious devotion and fervour resul ting from the survi val of
Humanity into a second millennium. Not surprisingly, this
resurgence of religious ardour found its most tangible form of
expression through a veritable explosion of church building in
the few years immediately following 1000 AD.
The erection of St. Bnigne in Dijon clearly falls within the
scope of this devotional movement and therefore directly shares
in the lan of this great tide of sacred construction. This is
further confirmed by the fact that the foremost chronicler of the
169 Focillon, Henri; The Year 1000, translated by Fred D. Wieck. F. Ungar Publishing Co. New York, 1969, p.54.
time, Raoul Glaber, 170 was a resident monk at St. Bnigne during
the time of the great construction. Glaber was the very man who
would become immortalized because of his epoch-defining statement
concerning the "white garment of churches"
with which the
Western world seemed to clothe itself in the years immediately
following the turn of the millennium.
As a consequence of millennial fervour, in the year 1001 AD, the
decision was taken to entirely rebuild in a grand and maj estic
fashion the sepulchral church which housed the holy remains of
St. Bnigne, the saint responsible for the evangelization of
Burgundy in the 4 th century. 173
The ambitious structure at St. Bnigne was commissioned and
170 Glaber was a French chronicler in Burgundy at the end of the 10th century. He was a monk at Cluny, Auxerre
and St. Bnigne and left a chronicle which spans the years 99S to 1046. Most notably, his memoirs depict the
particular mentality and anxieties which surrounded the year 1000.
171 Selection from Raoul Glaber, Les cinque livres de ses histoires, III, 4, trans., G.G. Coulton, A Medieval Garner,
London, 1910, p.S. "So on the threshold of the aforesaid thousandth year, some two or three years after it, it befeil
almost throughout the world, but especiaily in Italy and Gaul, that the fabrics of churches were rebuilt, although
many of these were still seemly and needed no such care, but every nation of Christendom rivailed with the other,
which should worship in the seemliest buildings. So it was as though the very world had shaken herself and cast off
her old age, and were clothing herself in a white garment of churches. Then indeed the faithful rebuilt and bettered
almost ail the cathedral churches, and other monasteries dedicated to divers saints, and sm ailer parish churches ....
When therefore, as we have said, the whole world had been clad in new church buildings, then in the days
foilowing--that is, in the eight year foilowing the aforesaid thousandth after the Incarnation of our Savior---the relics
of very many saints, which had long Iain hid, were revealed by divers proofs and testimonies, for these, as if to
decorate this revival, revealed themselves by God's will to other eyes of the faithful, to whose minds also they
brought much consolation. This revelation is known to have begun first in the city of Sens in Gaul, at the church of
blessed Stephen, ruled in those days by the archbishop Leoteric, who there discovered certain marvellous relics of
ancient holy things, for, among very many other things which lay hidden, he is said to have found a part of Moses'
rod, at the report whereof ail the faithful flocked together not only from the provinces of Gaul but even from weil-
nigh ail Italy and from countries beyond the sea, and at the same time not a few sick fold returned thence whole and
sound, by the intervention of the saints. But, as most frequently befalleth, from the sources whence profit springeth
to men, there they are wont to rush to their min by the vicious impulse of covetousness, for the aforesaid city
having, as we have related, waxed most wealthy by reason of the people who resorted thither through the grace of
piety, its inhabitants conceived as excessive in the ninth year after the aforesaid thousandth anniversary, the church
at J erusalem which contained the sepulchre of our Lord and Savior was utterly overthrown at the command of the
prince of Babylon."
172 Harvey, John H.; The MediaevalArchitect, Wayland Press, London, 1971, p.56-57.
constructed under the abbot Guillaume of Dij on and designed by
william of Volpiano,174 a Swabian of noble birth as weIl as a monk
formerly from the abbey of Cluny who would bring to his new
edifice many of the architectural characteristics found at that
most impressive of Romanesque churches.
[Figures 27, 28 and 29]
As on so many other occasions, the original eleventh century
structure has been significantly altered, firstly by a gothic
restoration and then by the anti-clerical vandalism of the
revolution of 1789.
On a more positive note however, St.
Bnigne's rotunda has been weIl described and graphically
documented by Dom Plancher in his Histoire particulire et
Gnrale de la Bourgogne of 1739.
[Figures 30 and 31]
Unlike its predecessors in Fulda and Paderborn, St. Bnigne
reproduces much more accurately the general scheme and layout of
the original set of buildings in Jerusalem, albeit in its own
particular fashion.
What is especially noteworthy in this instance is the fact that
the designers show a much greater concern for reconstituting the
173 Conant, Kenneth J.; Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture. 800-1200. Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1959, p.85.
174 Jackson, Thomas G.; Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture. Cambridge University Press, 1920. Vol II. p.121.
175 The great Romanesque abbey church of Cluny was extremely influential on subsequent religious architecture in
France as well as in all of Western Europe. It is noted for its great size, the 9 towers which adorned its exterior as
well as for its 5 aisled basilica. See Conant, Kenneth J.; Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture. 800-1200. Penguin
Books, Baltimore, 1959, p.85.
176 Conant, Kenneth J.; Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture. 800-1200. Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1959, p.86.
177 Jackson, Thomas G.; Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture. Cambridge University Press, 1920. Vol II, p.119.
Constantinian complex as a whole rather than focusing exclusive
attention on the Anastasis Rotunda alone.
Thus we have at st. Bnigne the inclusion of a monumental five-
aisled basilica similar to the Constantinian structure found
prior to 1009 in Jerusalem. This is the first structure thus far
to reproduce both elements of the original Sepulchre complex.
The entire complex measured 91.7 meters in length, calculated
from the entrance of the basilica to the end of the rotunda.
The essential differences between the two basilicas reside in the
inclusion of vaulted transepts as well as a large eastern choir
at St. Bnigne making i t conform to the tradi tional occidental
model of basilical ground plans.
Furthermore, the Dijon complex
had no open atriums articulating the space between its
Instead, the elements of the basilica and the
commemorative rotunda are fused together creating a new hybrid
type of edifice. What is more, the complex included nine towers,
a common configuration for the larger churches of the era as well
as a distinctly Burgundian feature reminiscent of the church of
St. Riquier and once more the great Abbey church of cluny.18l
178 Conant, Kenneth J.; Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture. 800-1200. Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1959, p.85.
179 Ibid, p.86.
180 It may be argued that the zone created by the transepts and choir act as a substitute for this more private and
privileged part of the complex.
181 Conant, Kenneth J.; Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture. 800-1200. Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1959, p.85.
Insofar as St. Bnigne' s rotunda is concerned, it appears to
conform somewhat more closely to the Jerusalemite Anastasis in
its general arrangement and layout than did its immediate
predecessors in Fulda and Paderborn. Be that as i t may, the
structure remains quite distinct from its late antique prototype
in many important respects. 1B2
As with the previous examples, the role of this structure is
fundamentally sepulchral in nature, thereby lending St. Bnigne a
critical similarity of function with the original as well as with
its European predecessors.
Moreover, we note that once again, the reproduction of the
Anastasis' circulari ty seems to have been the main facet and
overriding concern for the Burgundian constructors. The
circulari ty appears to conform more correctly to the irregular
rotundity which characterizes the Anastasis. Unlike its
predecessors, St. Bnigne has quite accurately duplicated the two
lateral vestibules flanking the entrance of the building.
As in
Jerusalem, the circularity of the Dijon structure is broken by a
rectilinear faade in order to integrate it with the choir of the
182 Kenneth Conant notes: "Clearly then Abbot William had his wish; he made the church of St-Bnigne mirabi/iorem
basi/icis totius Ga/iae. But the building was also very ponderous. Supports in the basilica occupied one seventh of the
floor area. See Conant, Kenneth J.; Caro/ingian and Romanesque Architecture. 800-1200. Penguin Books, Baltimore,
1959, p.87.
183 Jackson, Thomas G.; Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture. Cambridge University Press, 1920. Vol II, p.120.
attached basilica.
The inclusion of these elements within the general layout shows
on the part of the European imitators a more sophisticated
understanding of the original's actual ground plan. Nevertheless,
the rotunda at St. Bnigne also differs in many essential
respects from its prototype.
In this regard, its most striking divergent features are its
double annular aisles, i ts superimposed sets of galleries, and
thereby its general elevational scheme. [Figure 32]
This motif is unprecedented in the West and it has been
speculated that the designers wanted to continue the double
aisled archetype initiated in the Constantinian and Dijon
On the ground level, the innermost ring of supports
counts a total of eight columns which reproduces, as at St.
Michael, the eight pillars rather than the twelve columns found
in the Anastasis. The second or intermediary ring simply doubles
this number for a total of 16 supports and the outermost series
triples it, giving us a total of 24 columns. The diameters of the
three circles are respecti vely: 5.9 meters for the inner ring,
12.1 meters for the middle ring and 18.30 meters for the final
184 Ibid, Vol II, p.120.
185 According to Viollet-Le-Duc, the addition of the second set of galleries was to accommodate the great number
of pilgrims which converged on St. Bnigne during the patron saint's feast day as well as during the Easter
ceremonies. See Stem, Ephraim (editor); The New Enryclopaedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Ho!J Land. The
Israel Exploration Society, Simon & Shuster Press, 1993, p.283.
ring of supports. 186
The two sets of superimposed galleries marks another clear
exaggeration of the motif found in the original prototype. Once
again, it is as if William of Volpiano had selectively isolated
certain essential characteristics of the Anastasis (namely the
ais les and elevation scheme) and then proceeded to double them,
perhaps thinking that by so doing he would thereby be doubling
the grandeur and importance of this particular design over that
of the source model. Whatever the motivations, the fact remains
that an arrangement such as this is indeed far removed from the
prototype in Jerusalem.
Given that the second set of galleries reaches aIl the way up to
the level of the dome, the prominent clerestorey found at the
Anastasis is completely absent at St. Bnigne.
Furthermore, the dome itself is not in the form of a continuous
sphere but consists rather of a broken sphere, the outer portion
of which rests on the external walls while the central part, in
the form of a cone, is upheld by the inner ring of columns. 187
This therefore gives St. Bnigne both a domical as weIl as a
conical roofing motif. This unique type of covering was made of
stone and therefore a break in the dome was necessary in order to
186 Jackson, Thomas G.; Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture. Cambridge University Press, 1920. Vol II, p.119.
properly dissipate the vertical thrust of the heavy roofing. 188
Like the Anastasis however, the apex of the dome is opened by an
Finally, two of the complexe' s nine towers are found directly
flanking the rotunda, one to the north and the other to the
south, while a third one, only partially completed, forms a domed
rectangular chapel affixed to the eastern extremity of the
These significantly divergent features further
emphasize the structure's distinctly un-Constantinian layout and
general profile.
At St. Bnigne therefore, we find a mix of Constantinian,
Carolingian and BurgundianjCluniac motifs, the nature of which
gives this complex a basic outline which is somewhat reminiscent
of the Jerusalemite complex, and yet an overall profile which is
very distinct from it in many essential respects.
Let us also note in passing the significant influence which St.
Bnigne exerted on the later development of the full blown
eastern chevet motif in late Romanesque and
187 Conant, Kenneth J.; Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture. 800-1200. Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1959, p.87.
188 Ibid, p.87.
189 Heitz, Carol; "D'Aix -La-Chapelle Saint-Bnigne de Dijon, Rotondes Mariales Carolingiennes et Ottoruennes".
Les Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa, XXV, 1994, p.9.
190 Viollet-Le-Duc; Dictionnaire Raisonn de l'Architecture Franaise. A. Morel, Paris, 1868, vol VIII, p.279.
architecture. 191 Indeed, later builders wishing to integrate a
martyrium, reliquary or sepulchre into the eastern extremity of a
basilica could do so in a much less ponderous fashion than was
done at Dijon. Instead of appending to a basilica a complete
rotunda as a distinct and freestanding structure, it was realised
that the potential for such an arrangement was already inherent
within the choir and apse.
The extension of the chevet therefore takes on the symbolic
significance of a circular sepulchral structure yet one which is
nevertheless harmoniously integrated with the longitudinal scheme
of the basilica to which it is attached. As such St Bnigne
stands as a very important transitional structure which
emphasised the need for a more efficient solution to this basic
problem confronting western sacred architecture at the time.
In conclusion therefore, we must acknowledge that although the
attempt at copying is very clear in this instance the
relationship which exists between model and copy is more like
that of a recollection rather than what the late twentieth
century would regard as an "imitation" in the strict sense of the
191 As noted by Hans Baker and George Galavaris in reviewing this paper. Mc Gill University, 1997.
According to the vi ta Sancti Petronii
written in 1180, the
complex dedicated to Santo Stefano in Bologna was originally
founded in the middle of the fifth century by the bishop of
Bologna, St. Petronius who, upon its dedication named the site
"Jerusalem" . 193 The initial group of churches was designed and
constructed with the specifie intention of reproducing the
religious sites which the saint had visited during his pilgrimage
to the Holy Land.
Very little remains of this original foundation other than its
essential intent. 195 Al though the survi ving structures date to
1141,196 the initial aspiration of Petronius was to recreate the
ci ty of Jerusalem wi th in Bologna. This has remained a central
aspect of the organization and layout of the complex, and
provides the most complete and accurate Romanesque copy of the
192 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "Jerusalem" in Bologna". Cesta, Vol XX/2 1981, p.311.
193 Porter, Arthur, K.; LombardArchitecture. Hacker Art Books, New York, NY, 1967, vol II, p.128.
194 Ibid, vol II, p.129.
195 Porter ascribes the reconstruction of the complex to the Hungarian invasions of the early tenth century which
left the original set of structures in a state of ruin. See Porter, Arthur, K.; Lombard Architecture. Hacker Art Books,
New York, NY, 1967, vol II, p.134.
196 Ousterhout Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "Jerusalem" in Bologna". Cesta, vol XX/2, 1981, p.330.
Although Porter suggests a somewhat later date for the octagone of Sto. Sepolcro itself; namely 1160. See Porter,
Arthur, K.; Lombard Architecture. Hacker Art Books, New York, NY, 1967, vol II, p.138.
Holy Sepulchre in Europe. 197 [Figures 34, 35 and 36] If we
consider the arrangement of the various elements of the complex,
we immediately recognize the relative exactitude with which the
basic layout of the Byzantine complex of Constantine Monomachus
has been reproduced.
In essence the Bologna complex consisted of a centrally-planned
church known as Santo Sepolcro as weIl as a chapel of Santa
Croce; each contained imitations of the major relies of
Jerusalem, and, like the structures of the Sepulchre complex, the
two buildings were joined by an open, colonnaded atrium.
The core of the complex is naturally the octagonal edifice known
as Santo Sepolcro which has a model of the tomb of Christ in its
centre and is clearly intended to simulate the general form of
the Anastasis Rotunda.
The fact that this crude brick structure
was not circular but rather octagonal did not seem to hinder or
preoccupy the imitators overmuch. [Figure 37]. Indeed, even the
shape of the octagon is uneven and thus we have a building whose
diameter varies between 18 and 21 meters depending on where (or
between which 2 walls) the measurements are taken.
We can only
conclude from this fact that what appears to our modern eyes as
197 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "J erusalem" in Bologna".Gesta, vol xx/2, 1981, p.311.
198 Ibid, p.311.
199 Ibid, p.312.
an unacceptable compromise, nevertheless provided a sufficient
and adequate mimicry of rotundity in the eyes of the medieval
Moreover, due to the irregularity of the outer walls, the
structure has a misaligned ambulatory which is separated from the
10 meter wide central area by an inner ring of twel ve columns,
reproducing in this instance the twelve columns, rather than the
eight piers, found in the Anastasis. On this topic, Robert
Ousterhout speculates that a possible explanation for the
octagonal shape of the structure is an attempt on the part of the
designers to somehow incorporate the number eight, with all its
symbolic significance, into the overall layout of the structure,
much like what was done at Meinwerk's chapel in Paderborn.
The ambulatory is surmounted by galleries as in Jerusalem, but
where the Anastasis had an alternating rhythm of second tier
supports the designers of the Santo Stefano have regularised and
simplified this pattern into a more standard Romanesque motif of
twel ve mullioned windows. 202
Within the octagon was a replica of the tomb of Christ placed in
200 Porter, Arthur, K.; LombardArchitecture. Hacker Art Books, New York, NY, 1967, vol II, p.154.
201 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "Jerusalem" in Bologna". Cesta, vol xx/2, 1981, p.313.
202 Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal of the WarbU1;g and
a slightly off centre position towards the west
similar to the
arrangement in Jerusalem. This was in order to allow more room
for gatherings in front of the sacred monument 1 especially during
the Easter ceremonies when Santo Stefano attracted a great number
of pilgrims due to its intimate association with Jerusalem
Anastasis and the events of Christ/s Passion.
In size and forml
Bologna/s aedicule tomb conforms in a general fashion to
contemporary descriptions of the original.
The exterior of the
reproduction is encased in marble and surrounded by engaged
similarly to the prototype 1 and the low position of the
entrance Il so low a man could scarcely get through by going on
bended knee"w accurately reproduces the low cut entrance found in
the aedicule in Jerusalem. Within the tomb itself
to the right
of the entrance
is an arcosolium similar to the one believed to
have served as the resting place for the body of Christ. To the
an identical arcosolium is added to accommodate the remains
of St. Petronius. 206
As with its predecessors (Fulda
Paderborn 1 St. Bnigne) 1 we
again note the primarily sepulchral function of this type of
monument. Later references also make note of an altar in front of
Courtauld Institutes, 1942, p. 7.
203 Porter, Arthur, K; LombardArchitecture. Hacker Art Books, New York, NY, 1967, vol II, p.130.
204 Ousterhout Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "Jerusalem" in Bologna". Cesta, vol xx/2, 1981, p.315.
205 Ousterhout Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A ''Jerusalem'' in Bologna". Cesta, vol xx/2, 1981, p.314.
206 Porter, Arthur, K; LombardArchitecture. Hacker Art Books, New York, NY, 1967, vol II, p.128.
the tomb, as weIl as a "Stone of the Angels", both of which were
known to have existed in Jerusalem. 207
To the east of the octagon of Santo Sepolcro is an open arcaded
court yard referred to as the atrio in medio but which
subsequently came to bear the name "Cortile di Pila to" . 208 [Figure
38]. Although access to the complex is now gained through a door
pierced through the western wall of the octagon, evidence
provided by Testi Rasponi 209 suggests that during the Middle Ages
nothing but a simple window occupied the present location of this
portal. This would have made the main entrance accessible only
from the east, through this court yard, and thereby reproducing
the reversed west-east orientation found in Jerusalem.
Unlike the entrance situation of the Byzantine prototype however,
there is no eastern apse attached to the faade of Bologna' s
octagon and only one door leads into the court yard as opposed to
the double set of four doors found at the Anastasis.
As was done in Constantine Monomachus' reconstruction of the Holy
Sepulchre, the eastern end of Santo Stefano's court yard is lined
wi th a series ofaxially aligned chapels, bearing a collective
dedication to Santa Croce, also referred to as Calvario or locus
207 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "Jerusalem" in Bologna". Gesta, vol xx/2, 1981, p.314.
2BIbid, p.312.
209 Ibid, p.311.
ad crucem. 211 The central chapel wi thin this group was sa id to
contain a reproduction of the rock of Golgotha upon which was
placed a cross reportedly built by Petronius himself according to
precise measurements taken from St. Helena' s True Cross during
his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 212
Other measurements seem to have made their way from Jerusalem to
Bologna. For instance, the distance between Calvary and the tomb
of Christ, as noted in the Commeroratorium de Casis Dei was of 28
dexteri or 41.6 meters, almost identical to the 42 meters
separating the chapel of Santa Croce and the reproduction of the
aedicule in the center of Santo sepolcro.
On this topic Richard Ousterhout notes:
Thus, the core of the Bologna complex imitated the two most
important buildings and, within them, the two most important
relics of the Holy Sepulchre, similarly connecting them with
an open porticoed court and placing them at the same
Immediately south of the octagon is the church of San Giovani
Battista. Its location, dedication and function corresponds to
the Baptistery and the chapel of St. John the Baptist similarly
210 Porter, Arthur, K.; LombardArchitecture. Hacker Art Books, New York, NY, 1967, vol II, p.147.
211 Ousterhout, Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A 'Jerusalem" in Bologna". Gesta, vol xx/2, 1981, p.312.
212 Ibid, p.312.
213 Coasnon, Charles. The Church of the Hofy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy.
Oxford University Press; London, 1974, p.32.
214 Ousterhout Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "Jerusalem" in Bologna". Gesta, vol xx/2, 1981, p.312.
placed immediately south of the Anastasis in Jerusalem.
Finally, to the north, where in Jerusalem would be situated the
chapel of Mary as weIl as the Patriarchate, is the church of SS
Vitale ed Agricola. Although the dedications vary in this
instance, the basic layout of the Byzantine Holy Sepulchre of
1042 is conserved and thus we get that characteristic clustering
effect which typifies the Jerusalemite complex.
Over the next few centuries, addi tional holy si tes symbolically
drawn from aIl parts of Jerusalem and greater Palestine come to
enrich the symbolic fabric of the Bologna complex. It should be
remembered however that these are subsequent additions to Santo
Stefano and that the initial ambition of the site was to
reproduce sites found exclusively at the Holy Sepulchre.
Thus we have, in the court yard area, a basin which came to be
identified as the one in which Pilate metaphorically "washes his
hands" of the entire Christ problem.
[Figure 38] In the
octagon as weIl, an extra column is erected in the northeast
section of the ambulatory and eventually becomes known as the
215 Ibid, p.314.
216 Ibid, p.314.
217 Ibid, p.314.
Column of the Flagellation. 218
Other sites mark the location of the denial of Peter, the prison
of Christ, and the "Casa di Pilato", an elaborate second storey
chapel which was reached by a stairway known as the "Scala Santa"
at the top of which was a window depicting the Ecce Homo. In the
chapel itself there was a stone throne upon which Pilate sat in
judgment, and a mark on the floor indicating the place where
Christ stood before him.
Other si tes, not necessarily related to the Passion but rather
drawn from other parts of the scriptures and other regions of the
Holy Land, also find their place in the symbolic fabric of the
Bologna complex. These sites include the Pool of Siloam,220 a
marker dedicated to the Three Magi, the location of the
Annunciation to the Virgin and finally, the site of Christ' s
appearance to the Magdalene following his resurrection.
In and of itself the symbolism found at Santo Stefano effectively
created a very rich and meaningful tapestry, one which could
vividly recreate for the benefit of the many pilgrims and the
faithful of Bologna the essential religious elements found in the
Holy Land. Evidence suggests that Petronius' vision of creating a
218 Ibid, p.314-315.
219 Ibid, p315.
220 The place South of the Temple in the City of David where Christ heals a blind man Oohn 9:7).
Jerusalem in Bologna did not exclusively limit itself to
reproducing the Holy Sepulchre alone. Indeed it appears that the
entire city of Bologna was intended to be patterned on the basic
sacred layout of the Holy city. [Figure 39]. According to the
Vi ta Sancti Petronii, wi th Santo Stefano as a central reference
point, Petronius is said to have created an artificial mount
which corresponded both in compass orientation as weIl as in
approximate distance to the relationship which existed between
the Holy Sepulchre and the Mount of Olives. Upon this site he
erected a cruciform church bearing the name S. Giovanni in Monte
Oliveti in order to reproduce the site of the Ascension.
Ousterhout notes however, as a caution against sorne of the claims
of the Vi ta:
The mount in Bologna has been geologically proven to be a
natural promontory, while the distances between the sites,
alleged to be the same, vary by almost a kilometer. 222
Even so, the religio/spiritual objective to recreate the general
topography of Jerusalem at large remains clear, and furthermore,
to the medieval psyche, unburdened by preoccupations of absolute
imitative accuracy and "sameness" in the modern sense,
considerations of strict measures such as those stated above seem
to have occupied a secondary status vis vis the pre-eminence of
the symbolic intent.
221 Ousterhout Robert; "The Church of Santo Stefano: A "J erusalem" in Bologna". Ges/a, vol xx/2, 1981, p.315.
The Vita also notes the church of S. Tecla which was intended as
a symbolic representation of the valley of Josephat. Although the
structure no longer exists, the map of Bologna dated to 1575 AD
permits us to situate it midway between S.Stefano and S Giovanni
in Monte Oliveti in much the same way as the valley of Josephat
separates the Holy Sepulchre from the Mount of Olives. 224 For
centuries after the disappearance of the church, local tradition
notes that this area of Bologna continued to be referred to by
the inhabitants as the valley of Josephat.
There is also mention in the Vita of two more religiously
significant locations of Jerusalem which had imitative
counterparts within the city of Bologna. These were the Field of
Aceldama, situated in the Valley of Hinnom and once again the
Pool of Siloam, located in the southern part of the Valley of
Josephat under the Ophel ridge which used to house the City of
Both Bolognese equivalents of these sites have been
eradicated however, and since the Vita never specifies their
geographic location, it is impossible to situate them within the
confines of the city. 227
222 Ibid, p.315.
223 Ibid, p.315.
224 Ibid, p.315.
225 Ibid, p.315.
226 Ibid, p.316.
227 As mentioned before however, the Pool of Siloam, from the Fourteenth century onward, cornes to be identified
We therefore have in Bologna evidence of a very ambi tious and
far-reaching attempt at imitation, one which far surpasses the
copying of the Holy Sepulchre complex alone. Indeed, a credible
facsimile of the Holy city was created in order to provide the
devoted with an essential if not entirely factual reproduction of
Jerusalem. The nature of the imitation in this instance is far
greater, both in accuracy and extent, than was manifest in its
As such therefore, Santo Stefano, in its twelfth century form,
offered a clear and specifie link to Jerusalem and its holy
sites. Through its architectural copying, it gave the citizens of
Bologna a visible connection to the holy city of Jerusalem as
weIl as a deeper sense of connection with the great cosmic drama
and the final hope of eternal salvation.
with a weil within the octagon of S. Stefano which is said to have miraculous curative powers.
The relitively small Norman period structure known as the Holy
Sepulchre at Cambridge was erected circa 1110 AD but, like so
many of its predecessors, it suffered the ill effects of a
careless renovation in the mid part of the nineteenth century. 228
In spite of this, enough archaeological evidence and written
documentation remains for us to reconsti tute a fairly accurate
idea of the state of the original edifice. [Figures 40, 41 and
The initial structure was an entirely circular one with a
diameter of 15.5 meters,229 the rotundity of which was broken only
in 1313 by the addition of a small eastern choir. 230 The interior
supports consisted of eight heavy columns supporting unadorned
arcades, which separated the 7.3 meter wide central space from a
rib vaulted ambulatory.231 The ambulatory was surmounted by a mock
gallery consisting of twin openings (eight double arches) above
each of the eight main arcades and articulated by an alternating
228 In 1845 a conical roof is added to the structure and eight norman style windows are pierced in the clerestorey.
See Sto11, Robert; Architecture and Sculpture in Ear!JI Britain. Viking Press, New York, 1967, p.340.
229 Bresc-Bautier, Genevive; "Les imitations du Saint Spulcre de Jrusalem: Archologie d'une dvotion ': Revue
d'Histoire de la Spiritualit. Vol 50, 1974, p.334.
230 Platt, Colin; The Architecture of Medieval Britain. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1990, p.341.
231 Bresc-Bautier, Genevive; "Les imitations du Saint Spulcre de Jrusalem: Archologie d'une dvotion ': Revue
d'Histoire de la Spiritualit. Vol 50, 1974, p.334.
rhythm of sturdy piers and slender intermediary columns giving
the gallery supports at Cambridge a more regular cadence than the
Anastasis' syncopated rhythm of supports.
[Figure 43]
Finally, unlike the open occulus found at the Anastasis, the
covering of the structure consisted of a small cone shaped tower
above the central room.
With regards to the structure's function we have in this instance
an edifice whose purpose was not essentially mortuary or
sepulchral in nature. Indeed, the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge had
long been misidentified as a templar church due to the erroneous
yet widespread belief that most such churches were necessarily
round in form. In fact, insofar as Templar architecture is
concerned, circular structures represent the exception rather
than the rule, characterizing only a very small percentage of the
Order's churches.
232 Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal 0/ the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes, 1942, pA.
233 Many of these misconceptions concerning the nature of Templar architecture were taken for granted even by
such preeminent scholars as Viollet LeDuc who wrote in his Dictionnaire Raisonn de l'Architecture Franaise:
Les difices circulaires connus sous le nom de Chapeles de Templiers sont des rminiscences du
Saint Spulchre. L'ordre des Templiers spcialement affect la dfence et la conservation des
lieux saints levait dans chaque commanderie une chapelle qui devait tre la representation de la
rotonde de Jrusalem.
Much of the confusion surrounding the state ofTemplar architecture most probably stems from the fact that two
of their most important buildings, namely the Temple churches at Paris and London, were circular in form. Other
than these two examples the only other circular church among the hundreds erected by the Templars is the one in
Segovia Spain. Moreover, the nature of their links to the Holy Sepulchre in J erusalem remains to be firmly
established. See Viollet-Le -Duc; Dictionnaire Raisonn de l'Architecture Franaise. A. Morel, Paris, X volumes, 1868.
What we have in this instance is rather a parish church, most
probably commissioned by "Randolf with the Beard". 234 Though
little is known of him he was most likely a nobleman returning
from the crusades. In this instance, i t is believed that this
particular type of edifice was employed as the status symbol of
an important and newly emerging social class, namely that of the
crusader knight. 235
234 Platt, Colin; The Architecture of Medieval Britain. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1990, p.340.
235 To shed light on the HS in Cambridge Ston points to a similar edifice erected during the same period. In direct
connection to Cambridge, Ston notes: "Northampton's Holy Sepulchre, another round church, exemplifies trus.
Simon de Senlis, Count of Northampton, founded it after returning unscathed from the crusades, probably in
fulfment of a vow. The same thing may apply at Cambridge. Neither of these churches was ever dependent on
any monastic or knightly order." See Ston, Robert; Architecture and Sculpture in BarlY Britain. Viking Press, New
The Art of imitation.
What can we deduce from this series of European imitations
which are so distinct one from the other, as weIl from the model
which they aIl purport to copy? More importantly, what does this
vastly divergent series of buildings tell us about the very
nature of imitation which guided the medieval constructors of
these sacred structures?
Despite its turbulent history, it must be noted that the
essential architectural elements of which the Anastasis was
composed changed relatively little over the course of the Middle
Ages. And yet, given the unit y and consistency of the prototype,
one cannot help but remain perplexed when faced with the
diversity of the edifices which aIl claim to be its copies. Sorne
are round while others are octagonal. The division of their inner
space can consist of a single nave but they are more commonly
York, 1967, p.341.
surrounded by either one or even two ambulatories. Sorne are domed
while others are covered with timber-framed cones. Sorne
structures have towers whereas sorne do not. The colonnade, when
one exists, commonly counts either eight or twelve supports which
can consist of either columns, piers or engaged piers. Sorne are
funerary in nature while others have no sepulchral purpose. Sorne
strive to reproduce the complex as a whole while others
exclusively focus on replicating Anastasis Rotunda alone. Sorne
have functional galleries; sorne have mock galleries while still
others have no galleries at all.
Given this diversity, it would appear that their mutual
differences considerably outweigh their commonalities.
And yet, despite all of these differences there nevertheless
exists among these structures an undeniable relationship which
can best be described as a "kindred resemblance
It is therefore
within the nature of this resemblance that we must search for the
key which will permit us to understand the true character of
medieval imitation.
Although, as we have noted, sorne measurements appear to have
been transferred from the Holy Sepulchre to certain of its
European copies, for the most part the imitations have simply
consisted of erecting a centrally planned structure with no
apparent regard for the initial proportions of the original
Without exception, the Anastasis literally dwarfs aIl of its
copies, most of which do not for the most part surpass the
proportions of modest churches.
This contrast in proportions becomes particularly striking when
the respective diameters of the various structures are viewed
numerically: 236
Total Diameler Total Oiameter of Colonnade
36.5m 22.5m
Fulda 13m 6m
Paderborne 14.5m
no colonnade
St. Benigne 24m 6m/12m
Santo Stefano 18 to 21m 10m
Cambridger 15.5m 7.3m
236 Measurements taken from: Bresc-Bautier, Genevive; "Les imitations du Saint Spulcre de Jrusalem:
diameter of
eSt Benique
Sto Stefano
This type of disregard for the accurate reproduction of the
Anastasis' full dimensions would be more coherent if the copies
were recreated as scale models of the original. Here again
however, there seems to be a general neglect among the imitations
of the basic proportional relationship that exists in Jerusalem
between the diameter of the ambulatory and that of the colonnade.
In Jerusalem for example, the ambulatory is approximately 1/4 the
width of the centre room whereas in most of the imitations,
assuming ambulatories are present, this ratio has been increased
to 1/3 as is the case at St. Bnigne, and even as much as 1/2, as
is the case in Fulda and Cambridge. Thus in the copies we find an
entirely different relationship between ambulatory and center
room, a situation which by necessity significantly alters the
Archologie d'une dvotion ': Revue d'Histoire de la Spiritualit. Vol 50, 1974, p.334
initial relationship of proportions which characterized the
The issues of size and proportion therefore, even on a
proportionately accurate yet reduced scale, were clearly not
significant concerns when the European imitators dealt with the
many complex problems associated with architectural copying.
When we compare the vertical proportions of the copies wi th
those of the original, we are once more confronted by a striking
variety of departures and permutations upon the original theme.
There would appear to be as many adaptations of the prototype's
elevational scheme as there are imitations.
For example, although most replicas have chosen to integrate
galleries into their design, they do not appear to be entirely
indispensable, as we have seen in Paderborn. 237 In the structures
where galleries are to be found, the motif seems to be applied in
a fashion which covers the full range of extremes. Thus, we have
greatly exaggerated situations like the one in St. Bnigne where
we find two sets of superimposed galleries each of which has
double ais les , contrasted wi th understated examples such as the
one in Cambridge, where mock galleries appear simply as a
Moreover, the complicated rhythm of supports which characterized
the galleries of the Anastasis, namely one column flanked by two
piers,239 is not reproduced in any of these copies. In lieu of
this we find in the imitations an abbreviation and simplification
of the prototype' s unusual and more complicated motif. At St.
Bnigne for example, the 8 columns of the ground floor colonnade
are simply extended and continued through both gallery levels all
the way to the roofing. 240 At Santo Stefano and in the Holy
Sepulchre in Cambridge, twin openings with a slender intermediary
column are placed above each of the arcades, thus resolving the
issue in a typically Romanesque fashion. 241
Once again, the important element seems to have been the
integration of galleries for their own sake. In other words, so
long as galleries were present, the particular form which these
237 Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture''''. Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes, 1942, pA.
238 Stoll, Robert; Architecture and Sculpture in Earfy Britain. The Viking Press, 1967, p.340.
239 Ousterhout, Robert; "Rebuilding the Temple; Constantine Monomachus and the Holy Sepulchre". Journal of the
Socie!} of Architectural Historians, March 1989, vol XLVIII #1, p.70-71.
240] ackson, Thomas Graham; Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture. Cambridge University Press, 1920. Vol II, p.119.
241 Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes, 1942, pA.
adopted would appear to have been a secondary concern to the
medieval designers.
If we consider the elevational schemes of the imitations as a
whole therefore, we quickly realise that they in no way reflect
the initial coherence and pattern found in the original. The
particular interaction of colonnade, gallery and clerestorey
which characterized the vertical signature of the Anastasis has
been completely discarded by the copies. Instead, the medieval
designers have selectively borrowed elements and then freely
shuffled and reassembled these in entirely new ways. Many aspects
of the prototype are therefore reflected in the replicas, but by
disintegrating the initial uni ty of the model, each copy has
created an original hybrid made up of familiar elements which
nevertheless find themselves in an entirely new type of
In the same way as the ratio governing the relation between the
width of the ambulatory and the width of the center room had been
altered, the interaction of the various parts making up the
elevation of the copies has also been adapted and regrouped.
We encounter a similar situation when we turn our attention to
the number of internaI supports which the European imitators have
chosen to integrate within the various Western copies of the Holy
Once again we note a systematic discrepancy in the transfer and
application of the numeric motif guiding the rhythm of the
colonnade present in the original monument in Jerusalem. Indeed,
no imitation of the Holy Sepulchre has accurately reproduced the
full array of 20 supports (consisting of 8 piers and 12 columns)
which characterizes the support system of the Anastasis. 242 In
fact, structures such as Paderborn have none. When supports are
present, at best we find only a partial and selective transfer of
these elements leading to a situation where the copy integrates
either the 8 piers (St. Michael at Fuldaj St. Bnigne in Dijon)
or the 12 columns (Santo Stefano in Bologna and the Holy
Sepulchre in Cambridge) found in the prototype.
Firstly, i t would appear that only the selective transfer of
certain key numbers seems to be of importance to the imitators.
Where the number 8 (reflecting the number of piers) is
transferred, as was done at St. Michael and St. Bnigne for
instance, the corresponding form, namely the pier, is completely
neglected in favour of the column. The relationship between the
number and its associated form is thereby completely severed and
aIl emphasis is placed on the numeric symbol rather than on the
formaI shape. Once again, we note the pre-eminence of content, in
this instance conveyed through the number, over the reproduction
of the exact form.
What is more, the medieval imitator seems to have been content
wi th the notion of only a partial transfer of the essentially
meaningful elements. The ambition of imitation in the Middle Ages
therefore was not to transfer and integrate absolutely aIl of the
symbolically meaningful characteristics of the original into the
copy. Indeed, none have done so with regards to the symbolic
numbers defining the supports. Apparently, the medieval psyche
needed to find only a few of the essential aspects of the model
reflected in the replica. By no means was the likeness expected
or required to incorporate each and every significant element
found in the prototype. 243
242 Coasnon, Charles: The Church of the Hob Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Schweich Lectures of the British Academy,
1972; Oxford University Press, London, 1974, p.32-34.
243 Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal of the Warbur;g and
Given the fact that the numbers 8 and 12 each held a similar
degree of religious significance within the numerological
hierarchy of the age, 244 and faced with the impossibility or
impracticality of including both within the colonnades of the
much smaller structures, it would appear that the designers were
quite content in borrowing either the one or the other in a
rather indiscriminate fashion. As long as at least one of these
important elements made its appearance within the general design
of the structure, it would seem that the medieval observer was
satisfied that a sufficient portion of the significance and
meaning of the original had found its way into the copy.
Courtauld Institutes, 1942, p.19.
244 The number eight was regarded as the symbol of rebirth and rgeneration. It was often interpreted as the sum of
7 and 1. In tum seven was understood as 3+4. Three represented the Trinity (Spirit) and four represented the
number of material elements (Matter). Three + four therefore gives us the union of Spirit and Matter and as such
symbolizes creation (brought into being in seven days). When 1 (the symbol of Dnity and of the Monad) is added
the result is the number which dynamises creation. Eight is therefore the beginning of a new cycle of creation and is
therefore identified with rebirth, salvation and ltimately Christ himself. See De Vries, Ad; Dictionary of Symbolism
and Imagery. North-Holland Publishing company, Amsterdam, 1974, p.159.
Twelve is sirnilarly seen as the number of perfection and completion. It is the result of 3x4, the Trinity multiplied by
the Material realm. It shares in the perfection of the circle and the great cosmic cycle. Twelve furthermore
represents the number of lunar months in the year. Along with the number eight it is also a very important number
in connection with Christ. Twelve was the number of apostles and the Heavenly Jerusalem has 12 gates, 12
columns, 12 fundaments and 12 Patriarchs. See De Vries, Ad; Dictionary of Symbolism and Imagery. North-Holland
Publishing company, Amsterdam, 1974, p.478.
When analysing the basic form of the various ground plans of
these structures we once again note a systematic discrepancy
between the copies and the prototype as weIl as between the
copies themselves. Sorne such as St. Michael at Fulda, St. Bnigne
in Dijon and the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge, reproduce the
circularity which characterizes the Anastasis while others such
as the Holy Sepulchre at Paderborn as weIl as Santo Stefano in
Bologna are distinctly octagonal in form. 245 What can be made of
this fact and furthermore, what does this tell us about the
nature of medieval imitation when even basic elements such as
these are not transferred from model to copy? What is more, these
two examples are not exceptions or aberrations within the larger
family of Holy Sepulchre imitations. Indeed, there are as many if
not more examples of Holy Sepulchres with polygonal rather than
round plans. 246
To sorne extent this phenomenon can be attributed to the inherent
245 In fact, St. Bnigne's ground plan is circular yet the inner ring of supports is octagonal. The eight columns which
surround the central area are linked by rectilinear walls carrying round arches and forming an octagon. See Jackson, Thomas
Graham; Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture. Cambridge University Press, 1920. Vol II, p.119.
246 Krautheimer, Richard; "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal of the Warburg and
Courtauld Institutes, 1942, p.20.
disregard for geometric precision prevalent in the Middle Ages.
Indeed, as Krautheimer notes, even otherwise lucid commentators
such as Isodore of Seville
and Gerbert of Aurillac
seem to
lapse into uncharacteristic fits of vagueness and ambiguity when
topics demanding any type of geometric description arise.
Krautheimer goes on to state:
It seems as though circle and polygon were interchangeable
throughout the Middle Ages. For as early as the 4th century
Gregory of Nyssa described the plan of an octagonal church as
forming \\a circle with eight angles" although he apologizes
for his somewhat loose terminology. From then on distinctions
of this kind lose their precision more and more. To Arculf
who visited the Near East late in the 7th century the
octagonal church of the Ascension on Mount Olivet, the
Imbomon, was \\rotunda" and so was the cross-domed plan of the
Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. Even as late as 1322 Sir John
of Mandeville called the octagonal dome of the Rock \\a
circular edifice". It could almost be said that to medieval
eyes, anything which had more than four sides was
approximatelya circle. ( ... ). An approximate similarity of
the geometric pattern evidently satisfied the minds of
medieval men as to the identi ty of two forms. 249
If the meaning of a given form was not to be communicated through
exact geometric reproduction then how was it transmitted? It
would seem as though the medieval mind derived meaning from
sources other than those familiar to our modern eyes. This can
only mean that the basis for medieval architectural imitation
247 Isodore of Seville (560-636AD) was an inde fatigable compiler of ail existing knowledge. The most important and
by far the best-known of ail his writings is the "Etymologiae", or "Origines", as it is sometimes cailed.
248 Gerbert of Aurillac (ca. 955-1003) reigned as Pope Sylvester II from 999 to 1003 AD. Before his ascendancy to
the papacy he made a name for himself as one of the best known theologians of his age as weil as a pioneer in logic
and mathematics.
249 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal of the Courtauld and
WarbuQ; Institutes, 1942, p.6.
used means other than formaI and visual similitude to convey a
sense of "sameness". The notion of "copying" therefore depended
on significantly different criteria in order to establish the
essential link which bound an imitation to its prototype.
Once again the contrast between circle and octagon seems to shed
sorne light and suggests a possible explanation to this perplexing
Throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages the circle was perceived
as the symbol of perfection by the Greeks and as that of Virtue
by the Christians. Indeed, Augustine put it in clearly Platonic
terms when he defined the circle as the "Form of Virtue". 250
Perfection implied incorruptibility and eternity to the classical
mind and similarly, to the medieval one it represented the hope
for salvation and eternal life. This explains why the circular
ground plan was used so consistently throughout antiquity and the
Middle Ages in mortuary and sepulchral architecture.
It is very interesting to note however that the octagon appears
to have enjoyed a virtually identical set of meanings.
in an age where geometric exactitude seems to have been of little
250 Ibid, p.6.
251 Grabar, Andr: MartYrium: recherches sur le culte des reliques et l'art Chrtien antique. Variorum Reprints, London, 1972.
Vol I, p.4S.
252 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture"". Journal of the Courtauld and
Warbut;J5 Institutes, 1942, p.6.
concern, it is close enough in appearance to the circle to
inherit much of the symbolic value associated with the latter.
What is more, while geometric precision assumes a secondary role
in medieval thought, numerology and specifically numerological
symbolism takes on a very great deal of importance. Given this,
the octagon accordingly receives the added benefit of the
symbolic value associated with the number eight which is
similarly identified with rebirth and eternal life. Indeed, if 7
represents the number associated with divine creation, then 8
symbolizes the dynamic element within this great cycle of Being.
It is the magic number which returns the completed totality to a
new 1 and thereby triggers the birth of an entirely new creative
cycle. In this sense it is a magically significant number which
symbolizes dynamism, eternity and especially rebirth. For these
reasons it is intimately related to the Holy-day of Sunday (the
"eighth day" for the early Church), the celebration of Easter and
to the pre-eminent sacrament of Baptism. AlI this is related to
its function as the symbol which represents the central event of
Christiani ty, namely the Resurrection. Hence i t is the number
which symbolizes Christ himself. 253 254
253 De Vries, Ad; Dictionary of Symbolism and Imagery. North-Holland Publishing company, Amsterdam, 1974, p.159.
254 It is for this reason that the contemporary Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (c. 333 AD) , a1so commissioned
by Constantine, consists of an octagon p1aced over grotto of Christ's birth. This octagona1 structure is similarly
Ultimately therefore, circle and octagon share the same essential
meaning, and even though their forms are different they
nevertheless seem to have been used interchangeably throughout
the course of the Middle Ages.
All this would seem to suggest that what was valued by the
medieval psyche was not so much the strict shape of a given form
but rather the meaning which the given form implied. In other
words, insofar as medieval architecture is concerned, forms were
used for their symbolic significance, not their precise shape. If
two geometric figures had the same essential meaning then either
would be used freely because first and foremost it is the symbol
which is the central concern of the medieval architect rather
than the form.
This type of approach conforms very well with the categories of
"form" and "import" (translated from the German gehalt and also
referred to as substance, depth-content or meaning) elaborated by
the theologian and aesthetic philosopher Paul Tillich.
In his work entitled What is Religion? Tillich lays down the
basic relationship linking these two elements in the following
Attention must be paid to two things in regard to the
cultural-theological analysis. The first is the relation
attached to cathedral basilica.
between form and substance. Substance or import is something
different from content. By content we mean something
objective in its simple existence, which by form is raised
to the intellectual-cultural sphere. By substance or import
however, we understand the meaning, the spiritual
substantiality, which alone gives form its significance. We
can therefore say: substance or import is grasped in a content
by means of the form and given expression. Content is
accidentaI, substance essential, and form is the mediating
In Religious Style and Religious Material in the Fine Arts,
Tillich goes further to qualify and illustrate his observations
by noting that:
If we start the typology of styles from the contrast of
form and depth-content, three basic types of style are
the result: the form dominated styles (impressionism-realism),
the Gehalt-dominated styles (romanticism-expressionism), and
the balanced styles (idealism-classicism) .256
According to this model therefore:
The relation of import to form must be taken as resembling
a line, one pole of which represents pure form and the other
pure import. Along the line itself, however, the two are
always in unity. The revelation of a predominant import
consist in the fact that the form becomes more and more
inadequate, that the reality, in its overflowing abundance,
shatters the form meant to contain it.
Along the continuum of "import" and "form" therefore, the notion
of architectural imitatio, and indeed aIl of architecture in the
Middle Ages, clearly occupies a position very close to the
polarityof "pure import". In other words, medieval architectural
255 Tillich, Paul: What is Religion? Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1969, p.163.
256 Tillich, Paul: Religious Style and Religious Material in the Fine Arts in; On Art and Architecture. Crossroad Publishing,
New York, 1987, p.53.
imi tation is almost exclusi vely gehal t dominated as opposed to
the modern notion of imitation which is almost purely form
In order to illustrate this phenomenon, we again refer to
Krautheimer who reports that:
As a matter of fact, no mediaeval source ever stresses
the design of an edifice or its construction, apart from
the material which has been used. On the other hand the
practical or liturgical functions are always taken into
consideration. Not once, it will be remembered, does Suger
refer to the revolutionary problems of vaulting and design
in his new building at St. Denis. ( ... ) Evidently, the design
of an edifice or for that matter the construction were not
within the realm of theoretical discussion. On the other hand,
the religious implications of a building were uppermost in
the minds of its contemporaries. Time and again Suger
discusses the dedication of altars to certain Saints.
Questions of the symbolical significance of the layout or of
the parts of a structure are prominenti questions of its
dedication to a particular Saint, and of the relation of its
shape to a specific religious- not necessarily liturgical-
purpose . 258
Accordingly, the notion of form took on a secondary role and this
role had importance only because of its function as the vehicle
for the far more pertinent question of religious significance. In
this context, gi ven the virtually limi tless array of possible
shapes available, the choice of any particular form becomes an
almost elective process.
Within the language of medieval architecture therefore, circle
and octagon became synonyms wi thin the context of the visual
257 Tillich, Paul: What is Harper & Row, San Fransisco, 1969, p.163.
258 Krautheimer, Richard: "Introduction to an "Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture''''. Journal of the Courtauld and
vocabulary because both forms pointed to the same import and
shared the same meaning. Consequently, in this light, it is not
surprising to find as many octagonally shaped Holy Sepulchres as
circular ones given that the very nature of medieval imitation
was not based on formal reproduction, but rather centered in the
notion that content supersedes form.
Thus, the many layers of symbolic meaning which the Holy
Sepulchre evoked within the medieval psyche could just as
effectively have been conveyed by the use of either form, which
indeed ended up being the case.
Warbut;g Institutes, V; 1942., p.l.
The language of medieval architecture, much like that of
medieval theology and medieval science, expressed itself in a
manner altogether different from that which the modern psyche is
accustomed to. This difference is no small matter for it reveals
the fact that each era displays a fundamentally distinct way of
interpreting and ordering its Cosmos.
Although the similarities and dissimilarities between our time
and the Middle Ages are indeed many, there nevertheless exists
one critical difference at the very root of either culture which
defines and distinguishes one from the other. Rather than
applying the method of inductive reasoning (the study of that
which is quantitative and thereby measurable) which has dominated
Western thought since the enlightenment, the medieval mind placed
a much greater emphasis on the methods of deductive reasoning (a
qualitative method which made bold accounts of particular events
by using reference to higher 1 unchallenged principles) and most
particularly on analogical reasoning. The understanding of this
basic change of analytic modes is central to a proper
understanding of the Middle Ages in general, and architectural
imitation in particular. What this represents is the fundamental
shift from an essentially qualitative approach to the world as a
primary basis for knowledge (exemplified by the analogical
method) to an inherently quantitative one (embodied by the method
of induction) With regards to the notion of imitatio, this
change symbolises nothing less than a pivotaI transformation of
the most basic and central criteria upon which the entire notion
of comparison is based, and has consequently led to greater
modern difficulties in understanding and establishing the
validity of medieval "copies".
Let me explain; the Platonic worldview of antiquity posited a
mimetic universe in which imitatio described the relationship of
transcendental Ideas to worldly reality. Within this type of
model deducti ve reasoning was the logical way of "dialectics".
The physical world was the flawed mirror of the metaphysical
realm (but a mirror no less) and thereby analogically related to
it. This approach began to be challenged by the rediscovery of
Aristotle's works in the thirteenth century. But the basic
Platonic-Augustinian philosophy was not displaced until the new
empiricism and utilitarianism of the enlightenment, of which
Francis Bacon's New Organon (1605) is the leading example.
Plato's cosmogony is an inherently mimetic creative process which
259 Kristeller, P.O; Renaissance thought and Its S ourees. Columbia University Press, New York, 1979, as well as
is intimately linked with his writings on aesthetics and
especially artistic imitation. Both the Phaedrus (section 247d-
250d) and Book X of The Republic clearly state that among the
arts, the highest is that of the Divine Maker (the Demiurgos,
Unmoved Mover, Divine Intelligence, etc) who composed the
universe as an imitation of the Eternal Ideas or Unchanging
Forms. However, given the inherently corrupt nature of matter and
the temporal realm, the imitations of the Ideal Forms also found
themselves corrupted and compromised, thereby leading to the
generation of an imperfect physical universe subject to the
deficiencies of motion, change and decay. Given this two-tiered
cosmic model (corrupt physical/ perfect metaphysical), imitation
within the human realm is consequently faced with two fundamental
options which Plato outlines in the Sophist:
Yet, for the sake of distinctness, l will make bold to
calI the imitation which coexists with opinion, the imitation
of appearancei that which coexists with science (knowledge),
a scientific or learned imitation. 260
The imitation of appearance is that which seeks to reproduce the
visible forms within the lower corruptible realm. Since these are
merely illusions and compromised imitations to begin with, Plato
considers this type of imitation as the perpetuation of a lie,
McLelland, J.e; Prometheus Rebound. Waterloo; Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1988, p.77ff.
260 Plato; Sophist, section 267d, selected from Hofstadter & Kuhns; Philosophies of Art and Beaury; Sclected Readings in
Aesthetics From Plato to Heidegger. Modem Library, New York, 1964, p.4S.
"and what is more, a bad lie". 261
Learned imitation on the other hand is that which, like the
Di vine Intelligence, looks directly to the only source of true
Being, the Eternal Ideas, as the only valid prototypes.
Those who chose to imitate the world of appearance are therefore
thrice removed from the Truth or the knowledge True Being (namely
the Eternal Ideas) because the result is a corrupt imitation (the
replication of appearance) of a corrupt imitation (the material
world). This leads Plato to condemn the art which imitates
appearance as "an inferior who marries an inferior, and has
inferior offspring". 262
In book III of The Republic, Plato states that such art should be
banned by the enlightened statesman of a polis for it was
inherently harmful to the moral health of the souls of those who
were exposed to it. Indeed, because the art which merely imitates
appearances manifests an inferior degree of truth, it inevitably
leads the soul deeper into ignorance by guiding i t further and
further away from the true source of knowledge, virtue and
salvation, namely the knowledge of the Essential Ideas and
especially that of the "Form of the Good".
According to Plato therefore, the only valid, virtuous and
261 Plato; The Republic, Book II, 377. Ibid, p9.
meaningful type of imitation was that which referred directly to
the metaphysical realm. Indeed, the function of good art (and
architecture) is none other than to direct the soul towards the
remembrance of the Essential Ideas. The recollection of this
latent a priori knowledge is nothing less than the cognition of
the Absolute Transcendent Reali ty, (the foundation and basis for
aIl that exists), the understanding of which, for Plato,
represents the only true path to spiritual salvation.
The practice of learned imitation therefore had an essentially
moral and even soteriological purpose, a fact that was certainly
not lost on the Christian designers of sacred structures.
Such was the basic mimetic model that the Middle Ages inherited
from the classical world, albeit in the Christianized form
adapted mainly through the Neo-Platonism of Augustine. Modern
thought since the enlightenment, however, has abandoned the
mimetic model of the universe and thereby largely done away with
the need for the deducti ve and analogical modes of reasoning.
This is mainly due to a shift in philosophical focus, moving from
Truth and its form, to Method and its problems.
The implications of this paradigm shift on each culture's
understanding of the notion imitation are significant. According
262 Plato; The Republic, Book X. Ibid. p39.
to the medieval method of analogy, two things were deemed
meaningfully similar not because they resembled one another in a
visual, measurable or otherwise tangible sense but rather because
they shared a kinship of meaning, resembling one another in a
qualitative, metaphysical and essentially intangible sense. It is
not ha rd to see how fundamentally at variance this mode of
analysis is from our current form of interpretive methodology.
And yet, foreign as it may seem to a modern observer, analogical
thinking nevertheless formed the basis of medieval cosmology,
theology, symbolism, science as weIl as social theory. For
example, because the Divine World exhibi ts hierarchical degrees
of subordination, it was understood that human relationships
should similarly exhibit such subordination. Thus we have the
macrocosmic pattern of the Heavenly Order reflecting itself and
defining by analogy the pattern of relationships both social and
poli tical, wi thin the microcosmic earthly plane. That which is
above is as that which is below, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Applied in a concrete sense, the primary analogy governing the
social and political system in the Middle Ages was that of God as
King of Heaven. Concei ving of God in such a manner provided
clarity and focus to medieval humanity's Cosmology. It not only
gave him an understanding of the greater spiritual ordering of
the Cosmos, it also allowed him to understand and justify the
social ordering of his own temporal world, namely the hierarchies
implicit within a monarchy, and his rightful place within it.
In the Middle Ages therefore, perception and understanding was
largely accomplished through the application of such analogical
models. Indeed, the medieval mind comprehended and ordered its
world, as weIl as aIl the complex relations within it, through
the quasi-exclusive use of analogical tools such as simile,
metaphor, parable and allegory.
Thus the two principal authorities of medieval scholastic
philosophy, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventura (of whom the
former represents Aristotelianism and the other Platonism in
Christian philosophy) not only make use of analogy but also
assign it a very important theoretical role in their own
philosophical theologies. St. Thomas advances the doctrine of
analogia entis, the analogy of being, which is the principal key
to his philosophy. St. Bonaventura, in his doctrine of signatura
rerum, interprets the entire visible world as the symbol of the
invisible world. For him, the visible world is only another Holy
Scripture, another revelation alongside that which is contained
in the Holy Scripture properly said.
What is more, medieval science as weIl, which included
numerology, astrology and the Hermetic Arts (encompassing
physics, mineralogy and chemistry) was essentially a science of
symbolic and metaphysical correspondences entirely dependent on
the method of analogy for its ontological truth claims.
This analogical/qualitative approach, which typifies the medieval
interpretation of the material and spiritual world, is readily
apparent where the issue of architectural imitation is concerned.
Indeed, it is critical to its proper comprehension, for it
defines the very nature of correspondence and comparison employed
at the time.
As we have seen, the transfer of specifie forms and measures from
prototype to replica was not a central concern for medieval
constructors. The basis of imitation was not so much formaI as it
was symbolic and relational. The relation between a copy and its
model therefore did not consist of a visual mimicry of exacting
particulars but rather constituted a qualitative relationship
whereby the replica was expected to mirror a portion of the
original's religious and symbolic content. In other words,
imitations were expected to reflect meaning on an analogical
level rather than measure on an inductive one.
Paradoxically, if we assume an inductive model and mode of
thought in our efforts to understand the nature of medieval
imitation then the entire relationship between model and copy
will appear nonsensical. If we look for resemblance on a visual
level or within a measurable framework we are looking in the
wrong place. Indeed, we would be applying criteria of comparison
which were inherently foreign to the medieval understanding of
imitation. We would be speaking a fundamentally different
language if we expected to find similitude of an inductive
Where the modern viewer looks to compare a great number of
visible facts within the sensible and tangible realm to establish
the accuracy of a replica, the medieval beholder rather sought an
identity of intangible principles within the intelligible realm
in order to establish the validi ty, accuracy and strength of
resemblance within a copy.
<Madern ~
In the hierarchy of medieval imitation the problems which centred
around the transfer of religiously significant principles were
paramount to the designersi the specific architectural facts
making up the prototype were of lesser relevance or at best were
given a secondary status. Using a linguistic analogy, the
particular facts of a structure were as words in a sentence,
acting as the bearers of meaning but not inherently meaningful in
and of themselves. Like words in a sentence, many synonyms could
be found to express an idea, just as many different or alternate
wordings could be used to communicate the same essential meaning.
Thus we have circle and octagon used synonymously precisely
because their inherent meaning did not reside in the form per se
but rather in what the form implied. What counted in the eyes of
the medieval imitators is that they expressed the same basic
principle of Perfection, Rebirth and hope of Salvation. In this
context form is not fixed but becomes fluid and versatilei a
dynamic means of communication on a spiritual and metaphysical
Unlike ourselves, medieval humanity was living in a world of
symbols rather than one of measures. For them the act of
imitation was a symbolic enterprise devoted to the re-creation of
content and meaning rather than the methodological replication of
strict and hollow forms. In the final analysis therefore each
holy sepulchre represents a different architectural and visual
phrasing of the same set of essential religious ideas, and it is
only within this context that the merit and validity of medieval
imitation can be properly understood.
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Figure 1
The Mosaic map of Madaba showing Roman Jerusalem with the Holy Sepulchre at its center and giving
directly onto the city's main artery, the Cardo Maximus.
Figure 2
#2 on the map represents the Holy Sepulchre. #11 is the main Cardo of Aelia Capitolina (Rom:
Other sites depicted in the map include:
1 Damascus Gate Plaza with large column in center
2 Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Eastern Atrium, Martyrdom, Triportico, and Anastasis; pictured u
3 Citadel and main western gate (today's Jaffa Gate)
4 Church of Hagia Zion
5 Cenacle or Coenaculum
6 Nea Church
7 The Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount)
8 Beautiful Gate
9 Probatike Gate (St. Stephen's Gate, the main eastern gate)
10 Eastern Branch of the Cardo Maximus
Il The Cardo Maximus (running north-south from the Damascus Gate to Nea Church)
Figure 3
Ancient Jerusalem. Note the site of Golgotha (identified as the church of the Holy Sepulchre) located
immediately outside the Second defensive walls.
Figure 4
Roman Jerusalem. Rebuilt as Aelia Capitolina under Hadrian c120AD.
Figure 5
Floor Plan of the of the Constantinian Roly Sepulchre complex
Figure 6
Reconstruction of Constantine' s Roly Sepulchre
Figure 7
Rooftop reconstruction of the Constantinian Roly Sepulchre complex
Figure 8
Remains of the faade of the Basilica in the Russian Hospice.
Figure 9
Cross section of the Basilica
Figure 10
Holy Sepulchre. Basilica, apse excavations.
Remains of the apse of the Martyrium unearthed in today's Greek Choir.
Figure 11
Floorplan of the Coanstantinian Anastasis and its atrium
" >
Figure 12
f .. ,, __ ""1
te' mm ri"-
CH. c o O A S ~ N Al''"1I. "'" 12
...... .- '1lRAY MU.
Reconstruction of the Constantinian Anastasis by Charles Coasnon
Figure 13
A surviving niche from Constantine's Anastasis.
Figure 14
Remains from the Faade of the Anastasis built by Constantine
Figure 15
The mosaic in the church ofSta. Pudenziana in Rome, dating from c. 380 depicts two ofConstantine's
newly-built churches, the Holy Sepulchre immediately on the left of Christ and the Church of the
Nativity on the right.
a b c
Figure 16
a)Floorplan of the tomb aedicule, b) exterior reconstruction and c) early depiction of the tomb aedicule
engraved on a lead ampoule (the Monza ampullae)
Figure 17
Reconstruction of the tomb aedicule
Figure 18
Three renditions of Arculf s plan.of the Anastasis

, .


Il ..

.. 1 ....... Il 11
Figure 19
Floor-plan of the Byzantine Roly Sepulchre as reconstructed by Constantine Monomachus circ a
-!J: .
~ . t ' , ',. , '.
>'!4i" ---
' ~ : ~ ~
':.y! :"
Figure 20
Reconstruction of the Byzantine Boly Sepulchre complex
Figure 21
Prison of Christ in the second atrium.
Figure 23
Fulda, crypt with single ionic
colurnn as support.
Figure 22
Floorplan, St Michael' s at Fulda.
Figure 24
Fulda, Colonnade and gallery.
Figure 25
Fulda, inner ring of supports.
Figure 26
Holy Sepulchre at Paderborn, floor-plan
Figure 27
St Bnigne in Dijon, Floor-Plan
Figure 28
St Bnigne, reconstruction of the complex
Figure 29
St Bnigne, isometric cross section of the complex
CondrudiofJ$ dt; XIII! .i;'d,
Co (nifUer ,/I}$
Figure 30
St Bnigne, floor-plan of the rotunda
Figure 31
century illustration of St Bnigne' s rotunda
Figure 32
Cross section of St Bnigne's Rotunda
Figure 33
St Bnigne, crypt
Figure 34
Santo Stefano in Bologna, Floor-Plan
Figure 35
Santo Stefano, model of complex
Figure 36
Santo Stefano, exterior view, faade and octagon
Figure 37
Santo Stefano, exterior view of octagon
Figure 38
Santo Stefano, court yard with the basin of Pilate
), ..
50 100 150M
Figure 39
Bologna, plan showing the relationship ofchurches. (1) S. Stefano; (2) Former location ofS. Tecl
S. Giovanni in Monte
Figure 40
Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge, floor-plan
Figure 41
Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge, exterior view
Figure 42
Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge, exterior view
Figure 43
Holy Sepulchre, Cambridge. Drawing of original interior from Brittan, Architectural Antiquities, 1807