Located between the Seine and the Rhine sits Tournai, an ancient Belgian city under the protection of the French crown within the episcopal county of Flanders. The city enjoyed their greatest period of influence between the 12th and 15th century. One of the central features which can be seen around the city is the carboniferous limestone extracted from the subsoil. This limestone, typically a darker shade than other limestone, provides the building material for many of the buildings around the city. At the forefront of which is Notre Dame Cathedral, which still stands proud today on the city skyline. Arguably it was also the limestone that made the production of engraved tomb stones, high-relief effigies and memorial columns possible and contributed to the widespread reputation of the city workshops. On occasion such works were exported across the seas, but the floors and walls of the city’s shrines continued to reflect the great skills of the local workshops. A genuine mirror reflecting the history of the city, the shrines succinctly condensed decades of urban history. But these stone sculptures with their thousand faces and images of devotion, which themselves echo other sculptures across the city landscape, have all but disappeared. A few remain, however, notably those still adorning the western archway of the cathedral and those which cover the innumerable rood screens and altarpieces in the churches. The vagaries of history have, in a manner of speaking, left nothing behind of this great medieval pageantry. The iconoclastic crisis of 1566 proved to be instrumental in the demise of the city architecture, triggering vast redevelopment of places of worship during the 17TH and 18TH centuries and culminating in the removal of much of the fine stonework. We have been reduced to a collection of a few fragmentary pieces, much of which have been located during excavations or uncovered during construction works. Collectively these pieces form a poignant collection that reflects the unspoken sad fate of the city to art historians and the public since the medieval exhibit at the Tournai museum was closed more than a quarter of a century ago, including the period immediately thereafter. Similarly, the Gothic chancel within the cathedral is undergoing restoration. Therein lies the challenge of this book: to rediscover this concise corpus of works through which the long history of the city can be witnessed across time and finally project light upon this historic city.
La Sculpture gothique à Tournai
29,5 x 25 cm