The re-united kingdom : Henry I Beauclerc

The architectural works of Henri I

Henry I Beauclerc holding the model of Reading AbbeyThe reign of Henri I marks an apogee in the period of Romanesque art. Normandy saw the completion of major construction sites where work had started at the end of the 11th century in Rouen, Fécamp, Caen and Avranches for example. The destruction caused by the wars between Henri I and the partisans of Robert Curthose were followed by reconstructions, the most significant of was the Bayeux cathedral, which had been burnt down within the town when it was besieged by Henri I in 1105. Finally new sites were begun such as at Saint-Georges de Boscherville. The reign of Henri I was also characterised by the large number of rural sanctuaries built or rebuilt in the Cotentin, Bessin, Pays de Caux regions, or in the south of the Duchy around Sées, Alençon, and Domfront.

In England which had been cut off by conflicts, Anglo-Norman architecture experienced original developments in Ely, Peterborough, Romsey, Winchester, Canterbury, and Norwich. The first vaults on ogive crossings were experimented with at Durham cathedral. Greater importance was given to sculpted décor which developed geometric figures, or was inspired by the art of illuminated manuscripts or the resurgence of Nordic themes. This tendency was seen in many of the sites begun on both sides of the Channel.

Castle of Caen, Hall of the ExchequerWhile King Henri was not himself a great builder of churches - with the exception of his foundation of Reading abbey - he intervened more directly in the military field.
Castle of Caen, towers of the curtain wallHaving ordered the destruction of castles built in defiance of Ducal authority at the Assembly of Lisieux in 1106, he developed power politics as was demonstrated in a number of new constructions.
The keeps of Arques, Falaise and Caen, which were built between 1115 and 1130, contributed to the dissemination of the quadrangular keep which originated in the regions of the mid Loire and were widely copied in the Anglo-Norman domain under Henri I and his successors.

In Caen, the construction of the keep was accompanied by the erection of vast palatial hall, the Exchequer's Hall, where from the reign of Henry I, the Duke-King regularly held court.

Finally, the King displayed his prestige through significant gifts to major sites located outside his domains, in Marmoutiers, Chartres and also the abbey Church of Cluny, dedicated in 1130.


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