The conception of stylistic restoration

All through the 1840s a debate continued on the principles of restoration. How far should a restoration go? Should these mutilations and traces of time be repaired or not? There were those who supported conservative treatment, and there were those who favoured full-scale restoration. The discussions were summarized in 1845 by J-J. Bourassé, correspondent of the Comités historiques in Tours. The first question he posed dealt with structural safety and repair of what was essential for the normal use of the building after a disaster or accident. He insisted that such damage had to be repaired as quickly as possible: 'it would be a crime just to allow a monument to decay out of respect for art ... We must not treat the relics of our Christian and national architecture violently or sacrilegiously, but neither should we hesitate to act with respect and kindness. Prosperity will render us just as responsible for inaction as for too hasty action.'29

Bourassé referred to two lines of thought concerning the question of ornamentation: the first wanted to preserve the remains as they were even if mutilated, the second group preferred to go ahead with a 'careful restoration'. The first group considered historic buildings as a witness, and their documentary evidence needed to be conserved intact and authentic without falsifications. Furthermore, these buildings radiated an aura of antiquity which would disappear forever if new forms were to replace the old ones. Bourassé recognized that architects had dealt with old churches as if they were newly conquered countries, doing awful damage under the name of restoration. 'Who would not be disgusted by these repairs? One would refuse to trust one's own body to the knife of a surgeon whose knowledge was doubtful, in order to make it healthy again through such necessary cruelty. Why then do we dare to entrust to the trowel and rape of an ignorant mason our works of art whose loss would generate everlasting regrets?'30

The proponents of the other opinion, in contrast, not only considered old buildings as historic monuments, but also took into consideration the fact that these buildings were still housing the celebration of the same cult and the same ceremonies, giving refuge to Christians who associated their uninterrupted traditions with the authors of these great architectural works. According to Bourassé, the Christians recognized the historic values of the churches as comparable to ancient Roman monuments, but they questioned whether this justified the preservation of all signs of ancient damage to them.

So we ask, given our convictions and our position, will we allow our sacred monuments to be torn apart by the unpitying weapons of vandals, murdered by their hammers, mutilated by their axes so that our grandchildren will be able to see for their own eyes that vandals had passed through! Unfortunately if we want to hand down to posterity traces of the tragedy of our visceral disputes we already have enough ruins in our towns and countryside for this, these ruins will surely be eloquent enough to be understood!31

Bourassé clearly took the side of this second group of 'partisans', and exposed particularly the question of traditional continuity. He accepted that ancient Roman monuments, which were part of a distant civilization - 'a closed chapter' in history - should be preserved in their present state as a document or as a fragment of a document. The Christian churches, instead, represented to him a living tradition that it was our responsibility to maintain and take care of in order to guarantee its functioning as a part of society; in fact there was later a division into 'dead' and 'living' monuments. Bourassé considered that 'living' monuments could also be important achievements of man as works of art and architecture, and treated by skilled professionals who were able to guarantee the necessary quality of work. He referred to the ongoing restoration of the cathedral in his home town, Tours, where the architect, C-V. Guérin (181581) had carefully placed original fragments of ornaments in a local museum, and skilfully reproduced old work on the building itself. The original fragments thus remained as pièces justificatives to guarantee the fidelity of the new work. In similar buildings, the aim should thus be the completion of the artistic idea -with due respect for documentary evidence. The questions thus posed by Bourassé were closely linked with the discussions carried out in England in the same period, and have, in fact, remained some of the key questions in the conservation of historic buildings till today.

The year 1848 brought into power Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor's nephew; he later established the second empire and became Napoleon III. His great dream was to rebuild Paris as Augustus had done in Rome, and he employed Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-91) for this task. During 1852-70 a huge organization demolished entire quarters of Paris, including the Ile de Paris, one of the worst centres of cholera. Inspired by the model of London, where modernization of sanitation, public utilities and transportation facilities had already started, a huge operation was begun including the construction of broad avenues and boulevards, parks and public buildings, as well as new residential areas. The new road system also served for security purposes allowing police forces to be deployed to any part of the city with rapidity.

The Service des monuments historiques had to face many problems during this period; Mérimée had to fight hard for the sake of the monuments, to defend their budget, and to argue with other administrations about historic buildings that had public functions. In 1848, a commission within the Direction générale de l'Administration des Cultes was established, the Commission des arts et édifices réligieux, which organized the work of diocesan architects for religious properties. In 1849, the commission published a document called L'Instruction pour la conservation, l'entretien et la restauration des édifices diocésains et particulièrement des cathédrales (Instructions for the conservation, maintenance and the restoration of religious buildings and particularly cathedrals), based on a report written by Mérimée and Viollet-le-Duc (Viollet-le-Duc and Mérimée, 1849). The aim of this document was to clarify any misunderstandings about the objectives and methods of restoration, considering that the work had so far been mainly in the hands of local architects, over whom the service had little control - although some, like Viollet-le-Duc himself, actually worked for both administrations.

In this little guide of some twenty pages, the emphasis was given to maintenance as the best means for conservation of historic buildings: 'however well done, the restoration of a building is always a regrettable necessity which intel ligent maintenance must always prevent!'32 The guide touched on many practical aspects of restoration, starting with the work site organization, erection of scaffoldings, dealing with masonry, rainwater disposal systems, fire protection, building materials, ornaments, sculpture, stained glass and furniture. Instructions were given for drawings (using colour codes) as well as for detailed descriptions to be prepared for the execution of works. Decayed original materials, such as stone, were to be replaced with new material of the same type and form, and used according to the original methods adopted.33 A proper system of rainwater disposal was considered important in order to avoid water damage in the structures and leakage into the foundations; the original form was preferred as far as possible.

The spirit of the instructions was extremely practical and modern, emphasizing maintenance and quality of work. This document marked a new stage in the clarification of principles. In the 1830s the main concern of the inspector and the archaeologists had been for the protection of historic monuments. As a result of this respect of original character of the buildings, but also due to the lack of funds and skilled workmen, restoration had been recommended as a minimum intervention. During the following decade, however, when archaeological research had been established on a firm basis, better knowledge was acquired of the history of mediaeval architecture, architects and workmen were trained, and building methods had developed, more emphasis was given to 'complete restoration' of the most valuable historic monuments. Part of the funds were always reserved for maintenance as well as for minor restorations. The development led to the reconsideration of the values involved and a redefinition of what was intended by 'restoration'.

In the eighth volume of his Dictionary, published in 1866, Viollet-le-Duc wrote on 'Restoration' and started with the definition:

The term Restoration and the thing itself are both modern. To restore a building is not to preserve it, to repair, or to rebuild it; it is to reinstate it in a condition of completeness which may never have existed at any given time.34

Modern restoration, according to Viollet-le-Duc, had only been exercised since the first quarter of the nineteenth century. In theoretical studies on ancient art, England and Germany had preceded France, and since then also Italy and Spain had developed a critical approach. The new method of restoration consisted in the principle that 'every building and every part of building should be restored in its own style, not only as regards appearance but also structure'.35 Previously, in fact since Antiquity, people had carried out repairs, restorations and changes on existing buildings in the style of their own time. On the other hand, few buildings, particularly during the Middle Ages, had been completed all at once, and thus often consisted of different types of modifications and additions. It was therefore essential, prior to any work, to carry out a critical survey, 'to ascertain exactly the age and character of each part - to form a kind of specification based on trustworthy records, either by written description or by graphical representation'.36 The architect should also be exactly acquainted with the regional variations of the different styles as well as different schools.

The concept of style was usually given as independent from the object and it would vary according to the culture. There existed also the concept of 'relative style', which depended on the type of function of the building: e.g., the relative style of a church would differ from that of a residential building. Architecture, according to Viollet-le-Duc, was not an art of imitation, but a production by man. Forms and proportions existed in the universe, and it was man's task to discover them and to develop the principles of construction according to the requirements of his cultural context. Just as in nature, specific conditions gave birth to specific types of crystals, which in turn were the basis of the formation of mountains, so also the constructions of man resulted from the logical development of certain basic forms according to intrinsic principles or laws. The style resulted from the harmony that man's intellect was able to create between the forms, the means, and the object; 'the style is the illustration of an ideal based on a principle'.37

Viollet-le-Duc argued that in mediaeval France there had been no styles for builders to choose from. Instead, there was a cultural development, which could produce different forms characteristic to particular areas in the country. Architectural forms were a logical consequence of the structural principles, which depended on building materials, on structural necessities, on the programmes that had to be satisfied, as well as on the logical deduction of the law thus established, from the whole to the minutest detail. 'Only logic can establish the link between the parts, allocating a place for each, and giving the building not only cohesion but also an appearance of cohesion through the series of operations which are to constitute it.'38 The unity that so resulted was the first and foremost rule of art. It was one and indivisible; it was reflected in the plan and elevations of the building as well as in all its details and especially in its structure.

In classical buildings, such as Doric temples, the principles of the architectural order produced a unity with relatively limited possibilities of variation. In Gothic architecture, instead, while respecting the principles of construction, the architect's imagination could generate infinite numbers of different results depending only on particular needs. It was important to start with the first principle, and to follow the intrinsic rules of the law, 'the truth always, from the first idea through to the very last touches on the building'.39 Hellenistic art has given us immortal masterpieces, as has the French Gothic, but these two have followed different laws, which are incompatible between themselves. This was the reason why Viollet-le-Duc or Lassus did not accept additions or modifications in classical style to mediaeval buildings. In fact, for example, Lassus usually preferred to restore baroque choirs back to their original mediaeval form.

Viollet-le-Duc insisted that a restoration architect should not only have good knowledge of the working methods in different periods and schools, but also that he should be able to make critical assessments. Ancient building methods were not necessarily of equal quality, and could have their defects. This had to be taken into account when evaluating historic monuments, and if an originally defective element of the building had been later improved, e.g., introduction of gutters to the roof structure, it was certainly justified to keep this later modification. On the other hand, if later repairs had weakened the original structure without having other merits, it was justifiable to restore the building back to its original unity. Keeping later changes and additions could be justified if these were significant from the point of view of the history of architecture, such as important changes in the progress of art, as well as the joints and marks that indicated that certain parts of a building had been a later addition. One should remember, however, that the issue was about 'restorations', and if such building elements were to be renewed, the new work should respect the original forms. It did not necessarily mean conserving the original material!40

In Vezelay, Viollet-le-Duc replaced the defective flying buttresses of La Madeleine with new ones to give necessary structural stability. He did this in a form that was coherent with the mediaeval building logic -although these particular buttresses had never existed in the past. The aisle roofs were restored back to the original form, which not only corresponded to the architectural unity of the church but was necessary for technical reasons as well. In Chartres, Lassus paid considerable attention to the repair of roofs; the fifteenth-century gargoyles were preserved in order 'not to destroy the traces of an interesting primitive arrangement',41 and their preservation consequently influenced decisions about the rest as well. When certain capitals or sculptures were replaced in La Madeleine with new elements, original pieces were deposited in the church as evidence; the same was done in the cathedrals of Troyes, Tours and Notre-Dame of Paris.

Viollet-le-Duc saw restoration always as a trial for the building due to vibrations and shocks, and he recommended improving the structure where possible; new parts should be made with additional strength, and particular care should be given to the choice of materials - if possible to have them of better quality than the originals. Underpinning and shoring had to be made with full understanding of the behaviour of the structure; any sinking should be avoided during the works, and time should be allowed for the new work to settle before removing the supports. The architect in fact had to understand the structure well, its anatomy and temperament, 'for it is essential above all that he should make it live. He ought to have mastered every detail of that

Figure 6.15 The church of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse was reinstated by Viollet-le-Duc to the 'condition of completeness' represented by its Romanesque style. This meant removal of later, Gothic modifications. The first plans were prepared in 1847, based on archaeological examination, and the works initiated in 1860

Figure 6.15 The church of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse was reinstated by Viollet-le-Duc to the 'condition of completeness' represented by its Romanesque style. This meant removal of later, Gothic modifications. The first plans were prepared in 1847, based on archaeological examination, and the works initiated in 1860

structure, just as if he himself had directed the original building; and having acquired this knowledge, he should have at his command means of more than one order to be able to undertake the work of renewal. If one of these fails, a second and a third should be in readi-ness.'42 It may be noted here that when Viollet-le-Duc started the restoration of La Madeleine, he surveyed all the ancient quarries in the neighbourhood in order to find exactly the same type of stone as had been used originally in the building. In the case of Saint-Sernin of Toulouse which he 'gothicized' during 1860-77, he chose a harder and apparently stronger stone than the original that had not weathered well. The new stone, however, has also failed, and, a century later in the 1980s, has been one of the reasons justifying the 'de-restoration' conducted by Yves Boiret in order to give the building its Romanesque appearance again.43

In the 1830s, when the first efforts were made in France to save historic buildings, the main focus was on artistic and documentary values. When activities increased, it became clear that restoration also served practical purposes. The provinces, which due to centralized administration (much criticized by Mérimée and Viollet-le-Duc) had suffered from a lack of qualified workers, had now gained a great number of devoted and skilled craftsmen, who were able to work together with the architects and assist them in solving

Figure 6.17 The castle of Pierrefonds was rebuilt by Viollet-le-Duc to the order of Napoleon III. The project was prepared starting from 1857, and the construction continued until 1885

various difficulties that arose on site. In addition there were utilitarian requirements resulting from the daily use of the buildings. Although some 'speculative archaeologists', according to Viollet-le-Duc, would not have always agreed, he insisted that 'the best means of preserving a building is to find use for it, and to satisfy its requirements so completely that there shall be no occasion to make any changes'.44

Viollet-le-Duc held a strong belief in the skills of the designer, as well as in the final perfection of life and development. The task was rather delicate and it was necessary for the architect to restore the building with respect for its architectural unity, as well as to find ways to minimize the alterations that a new use might require. As a positive example he gave the adaptation of the beautiful refectory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs to library use for the Ecole des arts et métiers. He argued that: 'In such circumstances the best plan is to suppose one's self in the position of the original architect, and to imagine what he would do if he came back to the world and were commissioned with the same programme that we have to deal with.'45

From a total respect for historic monuments some thirty years earlier, there now opened a way for the restorer to act in the place of the original creative architect. This development could be detected in the restoration of La

Madeleine, where the work began as consolidation, and ended up with the completion of ornamental details even where nothing had been there before. The idea, however, of restoring a monument to its ideal form seems to have existed in Viollet-le-Duc's mind already around 1842, when he noted about a church that 'total abandon was preferable to a misconceived restoration',46 meaning that it was better to wait until there were skilled workmen for the job rather than spoil the building through unskilled labour. In Paris, the demolition of historic buildings around Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame did not necessarily shock the architects, and Lassus insisted on clearing all obstructing buildings should the opportunity arise; he was only concerned that new constructions not obstruct the monuments.

Although Lassus' 1845 statement and the Instruction of 1849 emphasized conservation aspects, utilitarian requirements and the question of maintenance, they already indicated a new justification for the re-creation of an architectural unity. At the beginning, recarv-ing of sculptural details (as in Notre-Dame) had been accepted only as an exception. Later, changes and even new subjects could be allowed, as happened in the case of La Madeleine. The elevation of the Synodal Hall of Sens was rebuilt on the basis of some fragments, and the Romanesque Saint-Sernin of

Figure 6.18 Courtyard of the reconstructed castle of Pierrefonds

Toulouse was restored into a hypothetical Gothic form. There were those who objected to the completion of destroyed parts; Didron wrote on Reims Cathedral in 1851: 'Just as no poet would want to undertake the completion of the unfinished verses of the Aeneid, no painter would complete a picture of Raphael's, no sculptor would finish one of Michelangelo's works, so no reasonable architect can consent to the completion of the cathedral.'47 The emperor wanted to rebuild the ruined Castle of Pierrefonds, north of Paris, as his summer residence. Viollet-le-Duc, who had known these picturesque ruins since his youth, was reluctant at first, but then accepted a complete reconstruction, including sculptural ornaments, painted decoration and furniture; he was even proud of having given life back to the castle -just as Vitet had proposed in the graphic reconstruction of the Castle of Coucy, but this time in stone and mortar. This was one of Viollet-le-Duc's late commissions, and he worked there from 1858 to 1870. Modern building materials and new additions to historic buildings had been treated with caution in the early days of the administration. The re-establishment of the original structural system was one of the main objectives of restoration, and in principle this was to be done with materials similar to the original. Viollet-le-Duc, however, also accepted the use of modern materials such as steel instead of timber in roof structures -

so long as the original structural ideal was maintained and the weight of the structure not increased. This solution was used in the new sacristy of Notre-Dame, which he built on the south side of the cathedral.48

Restoration had thus come to mean, as Viollet-le-Duc had defined it, reinstating a building 'in a condition of completeness which might never have existed at any given time.' (Viollet-le-Duc, 1854-68,VIII:14). This also meant replacement of historical material with new stone, and although the original piece may have been stored as justification, it was lost to the building itself. These restoration principles were approved not only in France, but also abroad; recognition for the work of Viollet-le-Duc arrived from many countries: in 1855 he was nominated an honorary member of the RIBA in England, where he had travelled five years earlier; in 1858 he became a member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan, and was later honoured by other institutions in the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Cote-d'Or, Mexico, Austria, United States of America, and so on. Some were, however, sorry at losing the aspect of age of historic buildings; Monsieur Castagnary expressed his feelings about this matter in 1864: 'I am among those who believe that decay suits a monument. It gives it a human aspect, shows its age and by bearing witness to its vicissitudes reveals the spirit of those generations that passed by in its shadow.'49 In fact, these feelings were echoed more widely, and Viollet-le-Duc with his English counterpart George Gilbert Scott became the symbols of destructive restoration in contrast to the conservation movement headed by John Ruskin and William Morris.

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