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Les Stalles de la Cathédrale de Rouen

C. Elaine Block
Frédéric Billiet

Sommaire en anglais

The Studies of the Misericords Damaged in the Tempest of December 1999

Elaine C. Block Interview with Marcel Fancelli

Elaine C. Block et Marcel Fancelli

Texte intégral

1The tempest of December 26, 1999 struck eight of the 66 stalls in the choir. They were on the north side: NB-13, NB-14, NB-15 and on the south side: SB-13, 14, 15, 16 and SH-16.

2*NB-13 Nude Winged Woman-Snake, possibly the proverb “woman is half angel half beast”.

3*NB-15 Woman Vendor. Possibly the proverb “to have your cake and eat it too”.

4*NB-16 Man at Well. He pours water by the well

5*SB-13 Struggle for Power: the game la pannoye.

6*SB-14 Atlantis and Female Assistant Hold up Seat.

7*SB-15 Couple Washes Dishes.

8*SB-16 Prophet Holds Club.

9*SH-17 Man Gives Money to Young Man

10These are the stalls on the extreme east of the choir, near the altar: three on the north base-stalls, four on the south base-stalls and one on the south high-stalls. They were all broken but, according to Marcel Fancelli, at least 80% of the pieces of wood were found in the nave. These pieces had to be assigned to their original carving. Not all the fragments however, can be replaced since some pieces are too thin and must be reinforced. Therefore some of the remaining pieces must be cut and reinforcements inserted. This is this kind of work which Mr. Fancelli and his laboratory L’Etat de l’Art are performing.

11One carving for example, was broken into three sections with some minor pieces missing. There are photographs but, more important, the remaining pieces of the carving are sufficient to recreate the original.

12A bearded Atlantis, holds up the seat with his hands, while his assistant, probably his wife, helps by gingerly supporting his elbow. The top of the carving, while dirty and scratched, is all there while the lower part of the figures are missing. Several small pieces have been recovered, but part of this carving will have to be replaced.

13Fancelli feels, however, that the greatest problem will be restoring the jouées and the partitions. Some of the wood in those pieces has been decimated. Several boxes of shards were collected and they are from the panels, not the carvings. In fact, the misericords were relatively lucky. They were protected by the seats that covered them and by the partitions. In fact, if the seats were in their lowered position, the misericords were protected as much as possible.

14Once all the pieces are put together and the Fancelli laboratory indicates what is to be done, the actual restoration can begin. The misericords, and some reconstructed partitions might be in place some time in 2003.

15Fancelli has been instrumental in a number of recent restorations. One of the most important was the south stalls of the cathedral of St Claude (Jura). In 1993 a smoke fire in the cathedral of St Claude, probably started when the organ clock stopped at 9 p.m., was not discovered until 6 a.m the following day. By that time it was too late. The choir stalls on the south side of the cathedral nave were either gone or no more than charred knobs. The elegant dorsal panels of prophets and apostles, the pride of the Savoy cathedrals was lost forever.

16What was to be done? This was a different kind of restoration. In fact, the word restoration was not appropriate. It was truly a reconstruction. The only models for this work were photographs since there were no remaining carvings to work with or even scraps of uncharred wood. There were many questions about the money spent on the St Claude reconstruction. After all, the product was really a twentieth century work of art. Alternatives were to leave the south wall blank, to hang a tapestry there or – as one person bizarrely suggested - to install a mirror to reflect the undamaged north stalls.

17The reconstruction took over four years. There are still arguments over whether it should have been done. It required a fantastic team of architects, sculptors and woodworkers. A patrimony has been recreated and, when the cathedral is open, is an unforgettable sight for the general public.

18The restoration at Rouen cathedral is not nearly so demanding a task. The forces that damaged the precious carvings were not to be denied. Future generations will be responsible for caring for this patrimony and sharing its riches with the general public.

Brief Guide to Misericords in the Choir of The Cathedral of Rouen

19NB-01 Melusine. Draped woman-snake looks in mirror.

20NB-02 Bird-Siren Musician. Human head with hat on bird strums.

21NB-03 Warrior. In civilian clothes he strikes with a lance and holds a shield.

22NB-04 Barber-Surgeon Prepares to Bleed a Patient.

23NB-05 Woman Hybrid. Quadruped with draped arms.

24NB-06 Cast Roses before Swine. Flemish proverb.

25NB-07 Sleeping Prophet. Bearded, robed and hated he leans on one hand.

26NB-08 Beggars with Empty Palms.

27NB-09 Two Tumblers. Can be viewed vertically or horizontally.

28NB-10 Woman Works at Table.

29NB-11 School. Master and Pupils Read Books.

30NB-12 Mason with Tools. He planes a large carpenter’s square.

31*NB-13 Nude Winged Woman-Snake, possibly proverb woman is half angel half beast (Damaged 12/99).

32NB-14 Prophet with Banderole.

33*NB-15 Woman Vendor. Possibly the proverb “to have your cake and eat it too”. (Damaged 12/99).

34*NB-16 Man at Well. He pours water by the well (Damaged 12/99).

35NB-17 Mason Builds Wall. He places mortar on a brick with a trowel.

36NB-18 Man Outgapes the Oven. Flemish proverb, to try an impossible task.

37NH-01 Nude Patient Reclines under Drapery. Possibly linked to Danse Macabre.

38NH-02 Woman Birches Bare Rumped Boy.

39NH-03 Needle-Makers. There was a booming fabric industry in Rouen at the time.

40NH-04 Hybrid Lions.

41NH-05 Doctor Examines Patient’s Leg.

42NH-06 Blacksmith before Anvil.

43NH-07 Shoemaker Fits Wooden Clog on Client’s Foot.

44NH-08 Two Men Fight with One Knife.

45NH-09 Delilah Cuts Samson’s Hair.

46NH-10 Prophet Warrior, Bearded, he wears a long robe and large hat.

47NH-11 Sculptor Chistles a Statue.

48NH-12 Pour Water from Jug.

49NH-13 Indecision. A man squats in the void between two stools.

50NH-14 Prophet with Banderole.

51NH-15 Man, probably St George, Spears Dragon.

52NH-16 Scholar Turns Pages of Book.

53SB-01 Harpy. Hybrid Bird-Woman holds a blak blazon.

54SB-02 Courtesan Mounted on Lion.

55SB-03 Women Fill Basket, with Fruit.

56SB-04 Woman with Child.

57SB-05 Prophet Hits Dog. Possibly a Jew who does not eat pork.

58SB-06 Woodworker holds Tool in Each Hand.

59SB-07 Woman Harvests Wheat.

60SB-08 Two Friars Point to Banderol.

61SB-09 Two Shoemakers Cut and Sew Leather.

62SB-10 Woman Shoemaker with Lasts in her shop.

63SB-11 Customer Tries On Shoes.

64SB-12 Samson carries Gothic Gates of Gaza.

65*SB-13 Struggle for Power (Damaged 12/99).

66*SB-14 Atlantis and Assistant hold up to seat. (Damaged 12/99).

67*SB-15 Wash Dishes. (Damaged 12/99).

68*SB-16 Prophet.Holds Club. (Damaged 12/99).

69SH-01 Man Holds Spear.

70SH-02 Wood-Carver makes floral pattern.

71SH-03 Hybrid Quadruped Swings Censor.

72SH-04 Shoemakers Cut Leather.

73SH-05 Shoemaker and His Apprentice.

74SH-06 Young Couple Fight for the Pants in the Family.

75SH-07 Man Measures Up Woman to see if they are sexually compatible.

76SH-08 Phyllis and Aristotle.The Lai of Aristotle.

77SH-09 Two Musicians play a “bedon” (Kettle drum) in procession.

78SH-10 Samson Rends the Lion’s Jaws.

79SH-11 David Slays the Lion.

80SH-12 Two Men with Sword.

81SH-13 Musicians Play Drum and Cymbals.

82SH-14 Riches from the Promised Land: two men carry a bunch of grapes.

83SH-15 Shepherd Plays Bagpipes. (Episcopal chair.).

84SH-16 Person with Bags of Money scoops coins into a bag.

85*SH-17 Man Gives Money to young man (Damaged 12/99).

Rouen: Musée de l’œuvre de la cathédrale

86Now in palace of the Archbishop

87Number. Ten stalls.

88Provenance: Return stalls from Rouen Cathedral

89History: These are probably the return stalls removed from the cathedral after World War II and then placed in a room of the Archbishop’s Palace situated behind the Cathedral. They were being restored in 2000, and will be placed in the museum of the Oeuvre of the Cathedral, next to the “Portail des librairies”.

9001. Sculptor carves Misericord. He bends over and carves on a flat surface. A carver is on another misericord in the cathedral.

9102. Prophet Holds a Plant. The prophet, in tall conical hat and long robe, kneels, purse hanging at his waist. He holds what appears to be the stem of a plant, or even a tail, in one hand.

9203. Couple Wash Dishes. They appear to be working by a pool or a pond. The woman washes a pot in the water. A man holds what appear to be two pots over his shoulder.

9304. Couple Picks Grapes. A woman in long fitted-gown, head disappeared, bends down to pick grapes. The man carries a large basket on his back, already filled with branches of grapes.

9405. Two Men Fight. One pushes away the other, who holds fast to the first man’s wrist.

9506. Draped Hybrid Holds His Tail. Badly mutilated.

9607. Draped Ape-Quadruped. Mutilated.

9708. Man Doffs Hat before Seated Man. The kneeling man may be paying homage to the other. The hat in his hand is large and elaborate.

9809. Two Men Sit by Pot. They wear draped hats. One sits on a small stool.

9910. Figures. Outlines only remain.

© Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havre, 2003

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