MAA News – 2024 Baldwin Fellowship

We are very pleased to announce that the 2024-2025 Birgit Baldwin Fellowship has been awarded to Gabriela Chitwood (University of Oregon) to support her dissertation project, “Toulouse Cathedral: Understanding Life in and Around a Cathedral under Construction.” In her words:

My dissertation interrogates how three audiences—the clergy, laity, and civic institutions—engaged with the Saint-Étienne Cathedral of Toulouse during the protracted construction of its gothic choir (1272-1614). Those three hundred years of erratic construction have left Toulouse Cathedral in two discrete sections—the choir and the nave—which are poorly integrated and of drastically different scales. For 342 years, clergy, laity, and the city at large relied on an incomplete structure—a building form that is ephemeral by nature.

The preserved disparity between Toulouse Cathedral’s early thirteenth-century nave and its monumental choir, in conjunction with extant archival records, supplies an opportunity to explore the social life of a church during construction. Cathedral construction campaigns were often protracted—stretching over many decades—impacting generations living in the shadow of a cathedral in progress. While we know master masons continuously redesigned buildings throughout these lengthy projects, my dissertation considers how cathedral users adapted to their local cathedral’s ever-changing form and continuous construction.

My project analyzes archival records documenting events and rituals at the cathedral and maps them onto the church space. My first chapter, “Toulouse Cathedral: A Construction History,” articulates the cathedral’s construction chronology and traces changes in generational sentiments towards the church through a close analysis of the extant structure. The subsequent four chapters illustrate the experience and perspective of distinct types of users within the cathedral’s iterative structure. Chapter Two, “The Cathedral and its Canons in the 14th Century,” focuses on the clergy, who, as those who perform liturgy, have the most intimate relationship with the space. I map cleric burials and liturgical performances found in the cathedral’s manuscripts onto the cathedral’s fragmented fourteenth-century space. Using the British Library’s Egerton MS 1897, I demonstrate in Chapter Three, “Toulouse, the Inquisition, and its Cathedral,” how Bernard Gui, chief inquisitor in the early fourteenth century, used sermons amidst the cathedral construction to bolster civic opinion of ecclesiastic power in Toulouse. Chapter Four, “Toulouse Cathedral and Saint-Étienne Parish,” turns to the cathedral parish to consider the laity’s reactions and adaptations to the cathedral’s shifting architecture. In my final chapter, “The Race Skywards: The Cathedral Belltower and Toulouse’s Towers,” I weave together a close architectural analysis of Toulouse’s extant towers, sixteenth-century illustrations, and archival material to trace the impact of Toulouse’s early modern economic boom and the rise of its merchant class on the cathedral’s construction, namely the building of its tower.

My dissertation makes three primary contributions to studies of late medieval architecture. First, it pushes beyond the traditional canon of French gothic architecture and refocuses academic studies on a monument of Southern France. Second, my considerations of Toulouse Cathedral reveal how users adapted to the ever-changing form of their cathedral’s space, shedding light on the complex relationship between people and architecture during construction. Third, it expands the audiences considered in relationship to cathedral construction from masons and clergy to include laity and understudied populations. This project builds a greater understanding of the social impacts of the common phenomenon of glacial church construction.

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