Abbey Church of Saint-Etienne

Abbey Church of Saint-Etienne

Date begun 1068

Movement Romanesque

Located at Caen, France

 

This impressive structure took over 100 years to complete. Unlike other Romanesque cathedral façades that are more squat and heavily decorated, Saint-Étienne’s facade has simple, geometric forms that thrust upward to create a massive vertical space, hearkening back to Carolingian styles. Four large buttresses divide the façade into three sections, two of which continue upward into the towers above. The tower helmets were added later, adding even more verticality. In the plan, note that the apse ambulatory billows out to form apsidal chapels—a practice that would become incredibly popular in the later Gothic era.The nave bays here are more square than those at the Durham cathedral; therefore, a single X formation of ribs with an intersecting transverse rib (forming a sexpartite vault) is utilized instead of a double X structure (septpartite vault) with heavier transverse arches—this allows for less bulk work and a lighter, more continuous feel overall.