The Design History of the Abbey Church of Maria Laach

  West facade of the Maria Laach monastery church Copyright: Tobias Glitsch  

The Design History of the Abbey Church of Maria Laach.
Genesis and Realization of a Romanesque Icon (ongoing PhD thesis)


With its six towers, its well-balanced proportions, its formal details and its characteristic use of materials and colours, the abbey church of Maria Laach, founded in 1093, is considered an icon of Romanesque architecture. It is therefore not surprising that in the last century and a half the building has again and again been the subject of research - not least by the Laach monks themselves -, so that many parts of its architectural history can now be regarded as clear.

Up to now, the available publications on the one hand deal with the building itself in terms of construction research and on the other offer an art-historical classification of the individual forms of ornamentation. The dissertation extends this current state of research by the aspect of authorship and the practical execution of the primary idea. The central question here is how the concrete form was developed and which rhetorical motifs were thus realised in the architecture of the church. This aspect has to be analysed above all in the light of the early deaths of the founder Heinrich II. of Laach (1095) and his wife Adelheid (1100) and of the succession of the further building patrons who changed several times shortly after the beginning of construction. The third promoter of the church, Heinrich's stepson Siegfried, only renewed the foundation in 1112 and moreover died but one year later. The research project therefore will have to determine to what extent changes in the plan are due to his participation and, above all, what motivation lay behind these changes. It will also have to discuss who was ultimately responsible for the design of the church - after all, it is unlikely to be the count palatine himself. Furthermore, since during that age we cannot assume the existence of building plans, there also arises the question to what extent the original building idea could be passed on over the various building breaks and whether changes in the plans can therefore be explained by the alternation of those responsible for the construction.

In addition, the research will examine the concrete implementation of the design on the construction site and ask whether the dimensions of the church are subject to a system of measurements, which, in view of Romanesque practices, one normally would assume but which, due to the different widths of the individual bays, in Maria Laach cannot be readily identified.

 

Contact

Carsten Hensgens, M.Sc. RWTH