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Lefèvre-Pontalis, Eugène

    Full Name: Lefèvre-Pontalis, Eugène

    Other Names:

    • Eugène Lefèvre-Pontalis

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1862

    Date Died: 1923

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): archaeology, French (culture or style), Medieval (European), monuments, Romanesque, and sculpture (visual works)


    Medieval archaeologist who helped establish a chronology for Romanesque monuments in France. Chair of Medieval Archaeology at the École Nationale des Chartes. In 1924 he was succeeded a as chair at the École by Marcel Aubert. Lefèvre-Pontalis was an exponent of the archaeological approach to medieval study, which contrasted the more theoretic approach of the Germans. He set out the structure for how the French archaeologist would approach monographic writing on chruches: determination of the campaings of construction, analysis of the fascade, and stylistic connections with schools working at the time (Murray). He along with Robert Charles de Lasteyrie du Saillant and François Deshoulières were responsible for establishing the relative chronological development of Romanesque sculpture (Hourihane). He was also one of the major theorists in the origins and function of the flying buttress. Viollet-le-Duc had treated the topic, but Lefèvre-Pontalis published the first thorough investigation of them in 1919. Lefèvre-Pontalis adopted Viollet-le-Duc’s structural explanation of the buttresses. His account remained the standard one until the 1970s. He disagreed with German historians on the origin of the Hall Church. Germanic scholars, whose country these churches were most commonly found, saw them as indigenous building types. in 1922, Lefèvre-Pontalis contended that the hall church was in fact a modified basilica, nef sans fenêtres (Kunst). Lefèvre-Pontalis was part of the debate which took nationalistic overtones on the origin of the Romanesque. It had been launched by the American A. Kingsley Porter when he posited that pilgrimage and monastic reform explained the stylistic progress of the Romanesque, eminating not from France, but from Spain. The French academy rejected Porter’s thesis in favor of their regional hierarchy. The attack was led by Paul Deschamps who published the most virulent corrections (Maxwell) to Porter’s evidence. Dechamps was joined by François Deshoulières, Charles Dangibeaud and Lefèvre-Pontalis who wrote essays attempting to defend the academy’s classification.

    Selected Bibliography

    “L’Origine des arcs-boutants.” Congrès archéologique de France 82 (1919): 367-96; “Les Nefs sans fenêtres dans les églises romanes et gothiques.” Bulletin monumental 81 (1922): 257-309;


    Clark, William C. “Buttress.” Dictionary of Art; Kunst, Hans-Joachim. “Hall Church.” Dictionary of Art; Cahn, Walter. “Henri Focillon.” Medieval Scholarship: Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline. Volume 3: Philosophy and the Arts. New York: Garland Publishing, 2000, p. 265, mentioned; Hourihane, Colum. “Romaneque Sculpture in Northern Europe.” in Rudolf, Conrad, ed. A Companion to Medieval Art : Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 324-325; Maxwell, Robert. “Modern Origins of Romanesque Sculpture.” in, Rudolf, (above), pp. 338-339; Murray, Stephen. “The Study of Gothic Architecture.” in Rudolf (above), p. 387.


    "Lefèvre-Pontalis, Eugène." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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