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Les Stalles de la Cathédrale de Rouen

C. Elaine Block
Frédéric Billiet

Sommaire en anglais

Placement and Organization of Stalls of Rouen Cathedral from their Origin to Today

Monique Pelade-Olivier

Texte intégral

1The medieval liturgical choir was closed to the public, forming a church within a church. The ensemble of stalls at the cathedral of Rouen, originally situated close to its present site; consisted of 96 stalls in two rows on the north and south sides of the altar with return stalls on the west side of the choir. The stalls included dorsal panels, topped with a canopy and adorned with an impressive tapestry. The set included an archbishop’s stall, larger and with more elaborate carvings, on the south east side of the choir; this was surmounted with a high pyramid. These furnishings indicate a wealthy chapter; at that time it numbered 50 canons. With guests and members of the choir, they would have filled the seats, installed in 1467, which replaced an older set of stalls. The arrangement in two rows facilitated the antiphonal singing of the psalms during the services. The church hierarchy was assigned to the high or base row in accordance with their status in the church. The passages from the base stalls provided easy access to the high row. In the large space between the north and south rows were lecterns for various religious books. This space also facilitated the circulation and processions necessary for the liturgy.

2The accounts of the commission and installation of the stalls are witness to the fact that many of the original statues have disappeared from the stalls: large and small statues must once have ornamented the high and base jouées, none of which have survived. They would have included, among others, the apostles, the Fathers of the Church, saints, theological virtues, symbols of the Church and the Synagogue; and several Old Testament prophets as mentioned in the cathedral accounts. Between 1473 and 1526 several changes were made to the arrangement of the stalls. On May 3, 1562 and the following days, the Reformists invaded the cathedral, mutilated many of the statues on the façade and pillaged and stole liturgical instruments. The choir stalls, fortunately, suffered little damage. Between 1473 and 1526 several changes in the choir were paid for by the officers of the church, including Georges d’Amboise. These changes apparently did not affect the stalls. The original roodscreen was replaced in 1772.

3Today, the stalls have lost much of their liturgical importance. Many have been moved, damaged through war, tempest or mutilation. By 1999, 67 stalls remained in the choir and 8 of these were damaged during the 1999 tempest.

4The Rouen Cathedral has preserved most of its misericords but none of its dorsal panels, canopy or jouées. Its arm-rests are severely mutilated. Several other churches, such as the cathedrals of Amiens, St Bertrand de Comminges, Auch and Albi have preserved more of their stall carvings. However, nothing is left of the medieval choir stalls of Notre Dame de Paris, Chartres, or Laon. The iconography of the misericords is discussed in another article in this issue.

© Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2003

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