Western Europe

The early nineteenth century in Spain was characterized by internal wars and conflicts, including occupation by France from 1804 to 1814. A more stable period began when the so-called moderados came into power (in 1844-54). Although the Jesuits had been expelled (1767), and religious properties had met with a period of suppression and destruction, the traditional Catholic society continued strong, and the ideas of the Enlightenment were considered heretical. The beginning of Romanticism coincided with the 1830s, a period of civil unrest, and was marked by a growing interest in the history of the country, and a gradual concern for the repair and protection of historic buildings. The initiatives in France and Italy were known in Spain, and similar ideas were first expressed in the magazine El Artista, founded in 1835. In 1835, the Academia de San Fernando started active efforts to protect suppressed convents and monasteries, and from the beginning of 1936 there was a series of government orders and lists for protection. Valentin Carderera (1796-1880), a Roman scholar, was commissioned to record monuments in Valladolid, Burgos, Palencia and Salamanca, as well as the complex of the Alcázar de Sevilla.

In 1844, the government established a Central Commission and a number of Provincial Commissions on Monuments (Comisión Central and Comisiónes Provinciales de Monumentos), later absorbed by the Academia, which had the task of preparing inventories and evaluating the national cultural heritage. Restoration activities started towards the end of the decade. There was interest particularly in mediaeval cathedrals and Islamic monuments. The complex of Alhambra in Granada and the Giralda in Sevilla were amongst the first major monuments to be restored, initiated by Rafael Contreras. Other restorations included the cathedrals of Léon, Burgos, Sevilla, Córdoba and Palma de Mallorca, as well as the church of San Vicente de Ávila. The cathedral of Léon was in a ruinous condi-

Figure 9-3 Léon Cathedral, Spain, before the nineteenth-century restoration. Engraving from Parcerisa, 1855. (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas)
Figure 9.4 Léon Cathedral in 1895, showing the restoration 'in style'. The new parts are visible due to lighter tonality in stone colour. (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas)

Figure 9-5 La Alhambra, Palacio de los Leones, Patio del Harén. Detail of the west portico in which are visible the criteria used by L. Torres Balbás in the 1920s. The work consisted of the reconstruction of the original space and the general decorative frame. The block of the reproduced element is left without decoration. (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas)

Figure 9-5 La Alhambra, Palacio de los Leones, Patio del Harén. Detail of the west portico in which are visible the criteria used by L. Torres Balbás in the 1920s. The work consisted of the reconstruction of the original space and the general decorative frame. The block of the reproduced element is left without decoration. (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas)

tion, and became a major subject for structural studies as well as a school for restoration architects and technicians from 1858 to 1901. Restoration developed in three main periods; the 'Romantic' (1835-1864) was marked by historiography and inventories, the 'stylistic' (1865-1915) followed the French models, the 'scientific' (1916-1936) was characterized by influences from Italy and England, and showed a growing respect to original material (Ordieres, 1995).

The French Voyages Pittoresques were known in Spain, and found a counterpart in the work of Perez de Villaamil y Escosura; the Annales Archéologiques published articles on Spanish 'archaeological movement', and Viollet-le-Duc's Dictionary was translated into Spanish in 1860s, contributing to the start of systematic studies on mediaeval buildings at the School of Architecture. The French principles were followed by, e.g., Elias Rogent (1821-97), characterized as archaeological-philological, José de Manjarres y Bofarull (1816-80), who reflected Didron's principles, Juan Bautista Lázaro (1849-1919), who was the principal restoration architect in Spain from 1870. In his writings, Lázaro emphasized the historical specificity of each building, and criticized the danger of formalism in restoration. There was contact also with England: G. E. Street published Some Accounts of Gothic Architecture in Spain in 1865. The writings of Boito were known in the 1880s, but Ruskin and Morris, although not ignored, had an impact on restoration works only in the first quarter of the twentieth century. The most important exponent of the conservation movement was Leopoldo Torres Balbás (1888-1960). From 1923, he was responsible for the works in the Alhambra, introducing the conservation approach instead of the previous restoration. In 1931, in the international meeting in Athens, he summarized this approach:

Ancient structures have been fully respected in agreement with their archaeological and artistic interests; the essential effort has been to conserve and repair, and using real restoration only as the last resort; the aim has been to assure that modern work would never be falsification, and that it could always be distinguished from the original . . . The purpose has been to re-establish the main features and masses whenever this has been feasible on the basis of reliable documents; any additions have been left plain. At a certain distance, there is an impression that the building is complete in its primitive form; but coming closer, one can well distinguish ancient and modern parts.1

Torres Balbas concluded by stating that each historic building had its individual character, and that it would be 'childish' to try to establish general rules for restoration. The only possibility would be to provide general guidelines, i.e., to have an absolute respect for the ancient building avoiding any additions if not indispensable; any new works should be made distinguishable from the old, and should not harm the artistic effect of the monument.

In Belgium the earliest orders for the protection of churches go back to the time of the union with Holland; a decree to this effect was issued in East-Flanders in 1823, and other regions followed. The Commission Royale des Monuments was founded in 1835, and in 1912 its scope was enlarged to include also historic sites. Amongst the first stylistic restorations were the town halls of Louvain (1829-40) and Bruges (1854-71). The principal promoter of the Gothic Revival in Belgium was Baron de Bethume (1821-94), who had studied glass-painting with English artists, and was a good friend of Pugin. Viollet-le-Duc was consulted about several restoration works in the 1860s and 1870s, including the town hall of Ghent. The theory of stylistic unity remained strongly in favour until the end of the century. In 1893, Louis Cloquet (1849-1920), an engineer from Ghent who promoted the Gothic as a rational structural system, divided monuments into 'dead monuments' (having mainly documentary value), and 'living monuments' (such as churches and other buildings with contemporary use). He could accept 'the English formula' of conservation so far as 'dead' monuments were concerned, but he considered it totally unacceptable for 'living' monuments. It was obvious to him that eighteenth-century furnishings should be removed from mediaeval buildings, and that these should be restored to their original form. Cloquet brought his ideas to the attention of the international congress of European and American architects in Madrid in 1904. The resulting recommendation on 'The preservation and restoration of architectural monuments' reflected the principles of stylistic restoration, and proposed that while 'dead' monuments belonging to past civilizations and serving obsolete purposes should be consolidated and preserved, 'living' monuments that continued to serve the originally intended purpose ought to be 'restored so that they may continue to be of use, for in architecture utility is one of the bases of beauty.'

In 1938, Canon Raymond Lemaire,2 Professor at the University of Louvain, in Belgium, published La Restauration des Monuments anciens, in which he divided the approaches to the treatment of historic buildings into two groups, 'the maximalists' and 'the minimalists'. The first group included Montalembert, Pugin, Tornow and Mérimée, who aimed at a unity of style; the second included Ruskin and those who aimed at the conservation of the original archaeological and documentary values of the monuments. For his part, Lemaire maintained that historic buildings could have four types of values: use value, artistic value, historical-archaeological value and picturesque value and that the aim of restoration should be to maintain or augment each of these values as far as possible. In a case when there was a risk that a value might be diminished, the results should be judged from the point of view of benefit to the whole. Lemaire accepted the division of historic buildings into 'living' and 'dead', and considered that some values, such as the picturesque, were less relevant when dealing with 'living' historic buildings.

In the Netherlands, the ideas of the Gothic Revival found an echo around the middle of the nineteenth century. Amongst its principal promoters was J. A. Alberdingk Thijm, editor of Dietsche Warande and Spectator and a follower of Montalembert and Pugin; he wrote about the Christian aspects and the treatment of mediaeval art. Influences came also from German countries; architect Alfred Tepe from Utrecht and the Sint Bernulphus gilde, a society for Catholic art chaired by G. W. Van Heukelom, represented this impact. Dr Petrus Josephus Hubertus Cuypers (1827-1921) from Roermond, a Gothic Revival architect and restorer, who worked in Amsterdam, was one

Figure 9-6 Kasteel de Haar, the Netherlands, in ruined state in 1887. (Rijksdienst voor de Monumentenzorg, Zeist, Netherlands)
Western Europe Architecture
Figure 9-7 Kasteel de Haar after restoration by P. J. H. Cuypers, the 'Dutch Viollet-le-Duc'. (Rijksdienst voor de Monumentenzorg, Zeist, Netherlands)

of the principal followers of Viollet-le-Duc. Known as 'the Dutch Viollet-le-Duc', he was responsible for numerous restorations in this spirit. Cuypers, who had known Viollet-le-Duc since 1854, consulted him amongst others in the 1860s about the much discussed restoration of the exterior of the Munsterkerk of Roermond, and as a result the church was 'purified' to Romanesque form. Cuypers rebuilt the ruined mediaeval water castle Kasteel de Haar in the fashion of Pierrefonds, and restored churches, including St Odilienberg and Susteren.

In 1873, Victor E. L. de Stuers (b.1843), a lawyer from The Hague and Member of Parliament, published his cri-de-coeur, 'Holland op zijn smalst', (Holland at its narrowest) complaining, as had Victor Hugo in France earlier, that historic buildings were not taken care of, but treated with ignorance and recklessness. As a result, the Government established an Advisory Council on Historic and Artistic Monuments in 1874, including Cuypers and de Stuers as members. The Council provided measures for the inventory and protection of objects and monuments significant for the nation's history. A more conservative approach was introduced by Dr Jan Kalf (1873-1954), who attacked Cuypers and de Stuers, in 1911, considering any stylistic restoration a fake, and emphasized the documentary value of the original material. In 1917 he wrote an introduction to the new conservation law, referring to the various approaches in the history of restoration. Personally, he favoured a continuous use of historic buildings, and insisted that any additions should be made in the style of the time in order to avoid falsification.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Meditation Mastery Breath Watching

Meditation Mastery Breath Watching

Discover How Breath Watching Meditation Turned My Mind From Cluttered To Laser Focus. You Can Get More Things Done When You’re Focus And Aware Of Your Mind.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment