I’ve been slowly working my way through a fairly comprehensive book all about Valle Crucis which Roger the custodian lent me. The Cistercian’s relationship with ornamentation really intrigues me and having dipped into the architecture chapter I’ve now really begun to notice the strange extent of simplicity and decorative stonework around the site.
A few nice quotes from the book, Valle Crucis Abbey, by G. Vernon Price, providing food for thought this week:
“The 1134 statutes also relate to sculpture and painting in the following terms, “That there may not be any sculpture nor picture in our churches nor in any parts of a monastery, we hereby issue interdict: for so long as attention is given to such things, the good utility of meditation, or the religious discipline of gravity, is often neglected; we have however some painted crosses which are of wood.”
“Notable superfluities and curiosities in sculptures, pictures, edifices, pavements and other such objects, which deformed the ancient honesty of the Order, and are incongruous with our poverty, we hereby order shall not exist in abbey, granges or store rooms, nor shall any picture save an Image of the Saviour (which are attached on a board to the alters, and are only painted in one colour).”
Of course, then there is “ample evidence to show that they [architects and builders] attempted to produce imposing and magnificent edifices, venturing to disregard the original spirit of the Order as far as they possibly could.”
“It has been recognised that this disregard of rules has resulted in a peculiar sense of architectural insincerity, combining a style of ostentatious display and strained Puritanism.”