Corona Diary, Day 34

Saturday, 18 April

My elder daughter and granddaughter empty the rest of my self-storage facility and bring the boxes here. Everything fits in reasonably well and my flat still looks like a library and not a somewhat chaotic warehouse (in the eyes of this beholder…).

I have some translation work but the market is quiet just now. It seems sensible to prune unnecessary costs and make one’s money work harder.

By early evening, it’s done on that front, at least for the day. I start work on Dorset churches with the Norman period. There’s more available than the few Anglo-Saxon remnants, including the very fine Studland church, one of the most complete Norman village churches in England according to Pevsner.

Aesthetically it’s very pleasing with churches in a harmonious style although I also enjoy “patchwork” churches.

Wimborne Minster has a lot of Norman work and I grapple with the meaning of minster and collegiate churches and realise that I need to know more about how churches organised their finances to understand this.

There were a lot of monasteries (and probably nunneries) in Dorset during the Norman period but the visible remains are very partial and scattered.

And once you get into this period, the neat model for allocating features to a particular period gets more complicated with mixtures of early and late features that don’t fit the model. It would be interesting to know more about how thinking about church architecture developed – the history of the categorisation into Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular. I don’t know how that pattern plays out in other countries – I think there is an equivalent in France and Germany but maybe this kind of periodisation is not so important everywhere.

I realise when I get into the Norman period that I need to know more about the specific features of the period. Round heavy arches and zig-zag decoration I’m familiar with and I know what a tympanum is but large scallops, multi-scalloped capitals, trumpet scallops, waterleafed, moulded, crocketed and stiff-leaf capitals induce a feeling of panic, threshing around, drowning in architectural details.

I want to study the development of architectural and building knowledge ability in England but also in Normandy and the rest of Europe. The various names of periods reflect the development of this knowledge and are an abstraction from the actual buildings. It will be less confusing to focus on the spread of knowledge, to understand what was achieved in the buildings and to look at what information is available from the patterns of development. And then there’s the stone the churches were built from and other more slender threads to the past, which contain information.

My interest in Dorset churches is beginning to become like a mediaeval cathedral – potentially spread over a few centuries, except that the cathedral builders were better at maintaining the focus on what they wanted to achieve (probably not “blessed” with my asteroid-belt brain full of ideas whizzing about in eccentric orbits).

As bedtime reading, I picked up “Sällsamheter i Uppsala” (Curiosities in Uppsala, more or less). It’s not in dispute that Gamla (Old) Uppsala was a centre for Christians in Sweden and had been important in pagan times as the burial place of the Kings. It also seems reasonable that the Christians would have wanted to cancel out the power of the pagan site by making it a centre for Christianity. But, according to the book I’m reading, which is a few years old (1993), the exact location of the site of the sacrificial rites and the golden temple described by Adam of Bremen in 1070 is disputed. “Sällsamheter” provides an interesting account of the various theories on the location of the temple (placing it more centrally in what is now Uppsala at Odinsburg or close to Trefaldighets (Holy Trinity) church and how this became entwined with the ideological underpinnings of Sweden’s period as a great power (Rudbeck among others).

I also find a description of another pagan burial site a couple of kilometres from my flat and once I have worked my way through my morning rituals, I will peer out of Fortress Kendall (through the venetian blinds not arrow slits) and decide whether to give my puce-coloured bicycle an airing or to walk to this place (or to forget about it for a while if spring looks like a weakly-based theoretical construct).

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