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Inventer la France a' Conques : de Viollet-le-Duc a' Prosper Mérimée et a' Charlemagne

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Title in English Inventing France at Conques: from Viollet-le-Duc to Prosper Mérimée and Charlemagne


Year of publication 2022
Type Popularization text
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description When French intellectuals rediscovered the Christian Middle Ages in the early 19th century, Conques attracted their attention. One of the most famous was undoubtedly Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870), writer and general inspector of historical monuments. Because of the deplorable state of conservation of the abbey church and the interest for the monument that Mérimée had managed to arouse in Parisian circles, a long campaign of restoration was launched. The important restorations carried out in Conques until the end of the 19th century must be understood in the light of what is called "the manufacture of national art" and by considering the image of the Middle Ages proper to the 19th century. In this respect, Jean-Camille Formigé (1845-1926), the architect who worked on Conques, fits perfectly into the vision of the Middle Ages advocated by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879). The abbey of Conques is an iconic monument that, in the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century, served both to construct the notion of Romanesque art and to define it. However, recent research on the abbey church and its ornaments tends to show that at the time of its construction, in the eleventh century, its sponsors had the ambition to refer to the Carolingian past. To do this, the monastic community developed an original solution by using architectural forms typical of the ninth century, or by redesigning the abbey's treasury; the monument is part of a rewriting of its history.
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