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Session of March 17

Informative note of Mmes Claude Andraut-Schmitt and Claudine Landry Delcroix, under the patronage of M. André VAUCHEZ : « Le décor gothique de la chapelle des Apôtres à la cathédrale de Poitiers ».

Abstract : In 2015-2016, an extensive gothic painting programme was brought to light on the vaults and the walls of the south transept in Poitiers cathedral (700 m2). These paintings were known since 1848, and tests patches were realized at the end of the 20th century. The subtle colours, the sureness and purity of the outline reveal a brilliant example of “court” style. The most striking effect is due to the alternating red and blue in the starred vaults. The amazing quality of the work leads us to inquire further into the history of the building and the artistic environment.
It is difficult to provide a comprehensive survey of a wide range of subjects, even if they are all connected. The present lecture points to the restoration results (a prerequisite), the painters pigments and technique (not at all a fresco), the remarkable fine forms, and the high-level meaning (a systematically conceived programme of imagery). The more specific features are the architectural patterns, which are not purely decorative motifs but reflect an integrated programme, as well as the links between the Chapel and other liturgical places like the presbytery.
The dedication, the ancient altars and the burying records are pieces of evidence to approach the function of the place. They altogether echo the dogmatic vault scenes, the eschatological meaning, the register of single figures of apostles, saints and martyrs framed by arches. We must speculate about wealthy canons in a rich cultural context and bring up to mind the time of bishop Gautier de Bruges (1279-1306), an ancient Franciscan “minister” who was formerly a scholastic master in Paris.

Keywords : Medieval Poitiers, mural paintings, court style, gothic iconography, hagiography

Lecture of M. Martin Aurell, under the patronage of MM. André VAUCHEZ and Philippe CONTAMINE : « La bataille de La Roche-aux-Moines (2 juillet 1214), Jean Sans Terre et la traîtrise des Poitevins ».

Abstract : The predominant part of Bouvines in the “French national novel” misses out the as decisive battle, which had taken place a month before in La Roche-aux-Moines. As King John and his troop, composed mainly by barons from Aquitaine, besiege this stronghold at twenty kilometres from Angers, they learn the arrival of the army of the future Louis VIII and they retreat. The danger from the South is thus set aside for King Philip Augustus, who can devote himself to fight exclusively the Imperial and Flemish troop. The chroniclers Guillaume le Breton († 1226), chaplain of King Philip and preceptor of his illegitimate son, and Roger of Wendover († 1236), a monk of St Albans, coincide with the disbandment without any fight of King John and his Poitevins, denigrated by Wendover for their ‘customary treachery’ (solita proditio Pictavensium). Their narrative informs the historian of war and society about the sieges, the troops mobility and the bonds of fidelity between the lords of Aquitaine and the two kings. Nevertheless, Guillaume and Roger use rhetorical devices like humour or dialogue, which reflect their chief intention of telling a story in order to communicate a moral message or, more simply, to amuse their audience. Similarly, a more strictly historiographical reading of their texts makes it possible to deconstruct the widespread regional stereotype of the disloyal Poitevin, which appears around 1175 in the French translation of Dudon de Saint-Quentin (965-1026) by Benedict of Sainte-Maure; still in the middle of the 15th-Century, Villon resumes the cliché. This typecast has to be compared with others as common around 1200: cunning of the French, avarice of the Flemish, savagery of the Welsh… It raises nevertheless the problem, specific to a very precise political context, of the moving feudal allegiances of the lords of Poitou, subjected to a double monarchy.

Keywords : John Lackland, historiography, war, feudalism, regional stereotype.


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