Free-Standing Chapels in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Session for the Society of Architectural Historians 2013 Annual Conference, Buffalo, New York, USA, 10-14 April 2013
The urban and rural landscapes of pre-modern Europe were dotted with free-standing chapels serving a wide variety of functions and constituencies. Many still stand above ground (sometimes with new uses), whereas others are documented to varying degrees through archaeological reports, drawings, and written accounts. Yet, despite—or perhaps because of—their ubiquity, these chapels still await the kind of thorough, systematic studies made of chapels built directly onto churches (as at Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella in
Florence) or elite households (e.g., the Sainte-Chapelle). The premise of this panel is that a better understanding of the architectural features and functions of free-standing chapels is crucial to forming a more nuanced picture of their counterparts within churches and households, as well as to broadening our understanding of pre-modern European architecture. Even when visually modest—as many of them were—free-standing chapels raise complex issues of site, social functions, and semantic and architectural relationships to other elements of the built and natural environments. For example, as architecturally discrete religious spaces, free-standing chapels were always to some degree “a place apart,” emphasizing separation and distinction, whether devotional (as for the cult of a particular saint), liturgical, social, or some combination of these. Why erect a separate structure, and why in a particular place? Who designed and paid for them? Who used them, and how? This session invites participants to consider these questions and others in regards to free-standing chapels from any period between the High Middle Ages and the Council of Trent, whether presented as individual case studies or as groups of buildings united by shared patronage, architect, forms, or functions. Please submit a CV and an abstract of not more than 300 words by 1 June 2012 via SAH’s online submission system:
For questions or preliminary proposals, you may also e-mail Seth Hindin, firstname.lastname@example.org.