The inventive hybridity of early modern ecclesiastical architecture in France mixes the traditional and local forms derived from the medieval past with neoclassical ones imported from Italy and ultimately derived from antiquity. Although this combination of seemingly disparate styles generally characterizes sixteenth-century French churches, the flying buttresses of the Church of Sainte-Madeleine in Montargis remain exceptional in their classicizing reimagination of a conventional architectural typology. In Architectural Design as an Expression of Religious Tolerance: The Case of Sainte-Madeleine in Montargis, Maile Hutterer suggests that the unusual form of the Montargis buttresses derives from the political and religious circumstances of their creation. Calvinist Jacques Androuet du Cerceau I is the most likely designer of the Montargis buttresses, and they were constructed while Montargis was part of the holdings of Protestant sympathizer Renée de France. The designer's careful balancing of orthodoxy and heterodoxy paralleled Renée's carefully constructed position between Catholicism and Calvinism.
Most visitors to the Church of Sainte-Madeleine in Montargis first encounter the building's dramatic east end, located just off the Place Mirabeau (Figure 1).1 Reconstructed following a fire in 1525 and dedicated on 22 April 1618, this portion of the church draws on myriad architectural forms. Some, like the pointed arches of the arcades and sinuous tracery of the windows, reflect the native French style of church architecture today known as Gothic or, more narrowly, flamboyant. Others, especially the half pediments and composite columns of the flying buttresses, are evidence of the rising interest in classicism imported to France from Italy (Figure 2). This free and highly experimental combination of seemingly disparate architectural styles is characteristic of sixteenth-century French architecture, especially ecclesiastical architecture. Whereas earlier authors criticized such buildings for what they saw as their disjointed appearance, more recent scholarship considers examples like Sainte-Madeleine in terms of flexibility and invention on the part of early modern French architects.2 Yet, even in the context of a widespread mingling of medieval and antique or neoantique forms, the flying buttresses of Sainte-Madeleine stand apart. Many contemporaneous flying buttresses display classicizing detailing, but at Montargis the underlying components of the flyers have changed. The extent of their break with traditional architectural typology—their innovation of form—differentiates them from other sixteenth-century examples.3
The exceptional articulation of the Montargis flying buttresses echoes the unusual circumstances of their construction as products of religious pluralism during the Wars of Religion. Although Montargis remained a Catholic town throughout the conflict, and for the most part Sainte-Madeleine functioned exclusively as a site of orthodox worship for the townspeople, the town with its chatellenie and dependencies formed part of the holdings of Renée de France (1510–75), a Protestant sympathizer and frequent correspondent of John Calvin (1509–64).4 The most likely designer of the buttresses, Jacques Androuet du Cerceau I (ca. 1515–after 1584), was also a Protestant. It was by no means unusual for Protestant architects to produce buildings that housed Catholic worship in France—Salomon de Brosse's façade for Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais in Paris is an oft-cited example—and their role in church construction did not diminish their personal convictions.5
In contrast to de Brosse, du Cerceau served a Reform-minded patroness in a town governed by her authority. The singularity of the Montargis buttressing can thus be explained in part by du Cerceau's greater freedom to experiment with unorthodox forms in an environment of religious tolerance from the mid-1560s to mid-1570s, when Renée strove to maintain the town's neutrality amid the brutal violence of religious conflict. Its heterogeneity reflects du Cerceau's plentiful body of texts and engravings, themselves reflective of Protestant themes.6 Given the relative paucity of built works by du Cerceau, these flying buttresses are perhaps the clearest physical expressions of his reimagining of church architecture—one grounded in inventive Italianate neoclassicism and removed from traditional paradigms that had shaped French architecture for the previous several hundred years. While it would be going too far to claim that these buttresses manifest an identifiable Protestant aesthetic, their inventiveness reveals du Cerceau's departure from Catholic architecture, something made possible by Renée's tolerance of religious difference.
The Construction History of Sainte-Madeleine
The earliest part of Sainte-Madeleine dates to the late twelfth century, most likely following Philip Augustus's acquisition of the city's château from his cousin Pierre II of Courtenay in 1184 (Figure 3).7 Only the four bays of the nave, with its adjacent side aisles and the base of the bell tower, remain from this initial construction—what must have been an unassuming church serving a community comprising little more than a small group of houses protected by a castle (Figure 4). Chapels were appended to the north side of the nave during the reign of Charles VII.8 The rest of the church postdates a devastating fire that destroyed much of the town on 25 July 1525.9 Reconstruction probably began shortly after, but it took several decades to complete, in part because of the political turmoil and aggression caused by the Wars of Religion.
Work on the new choir was under way by 1538.10 Dates inscribed into the walls, arches, and vaults of the church help establish the construction chronology. The earliest date, 1545, appears on the vault of the easternmost chapel on the south side of the choir, indicating that construction began with the chapels along the Rue de Loing (see Figure 3). Construction of the chapels along the north side followed in the 1550s, as documented by inscriptions giving the date of 1558 on the church exterior. The six flamboyant piers of the hemicycle, with their hard-nosed fillet moldings, were also likely built in the first phase of work and completed by the 1540s. This first phase of construction was thus limited to establishing the general footprint of the choir, and the pace of the work appears to have been rather slow. The asymmetry of the chapels, which are deeper on the north side, is explained by the constraints of the site, namely, the Rue du Loing, which runs parallel to the south flank of the church.11 The vaults of the northern chapels and the upper parts of the choir belong to the second major phase of construction.
No substantial work occurred after the completion of the chapel walls until 1567, when construction recommenced with the transition to the choir from the transept. The year 1572 appears on the vault of the westernmost chapel on the northern side of the choir, supporting Eugène Jarry's assertion that the northern chapels were vaulted in the period 1571–72, contemporaneous with the construction of the buttress uprights that would eventually support the flyer arches.12 One of the round pillars of the choir can be dated to 1574.13 The arcade marking the entrance to the choir carries the date 1576. The last date in the church, 1586, appears on the vault immediately behind the main altar.14 The seventeenth-century historian of the Gâtinais, Guillaume Morin, gives the date of completion as 1608 and notes that the dedication of the church occurred on 22 April 1618.15 Construction thus took the better part of a century despite the relatively modest scale of the project.
More recently, the church underwent several changes as part of restoration efforts. The first major intervention began in 1860. It included the revaulting of the choir in brick (1860), the reconstruction of the bell tower following the plans of Anatole de Baudot and Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (1863), and the construction of the three chapels on the south side of the nave (1867), which took the place of stalls that had been “slapped up against the buttresses like parasitic lichens in the rough skin of an old oak tree.”16 Although these revisions of the medieval and early modern fabric were invasive at times, they did not fundamentally alter the overarching character of the church or significantly transform the building's most unusual feature, its flying buttresses, which preserve the character of their mid-sixteenth-century design.
Patronage and Authorship at Sainte-Madeleine in the 1560s and 1570s
Attribution of the flying buttresses to Jacques Androuet du Cerceau goes back to Morin, who wrote: “In the days of Madame d'Este, Duchess of Ferrara, the inhabitants and bourgeois of Montargis together sponsored the building of the choir in the form that is visible at present. The design was made by du Cerceau, one of the most ingenious and excellent architects of his time.”17 Morin's statement finds support in a commemorative plaque of 1618 located in the sanctuary of the church, stating that the church was “built by Androuet du Cerceau with the great munificence of the noble lady d'Este.” However, these seemingly straightforward declarations belie the much more complicated circumstances of the church's construction, in terms of both patron and architect. Although some scholars prefer to assign any noble patronage of the church to Renée's daughter Anne d'Este, there is no compelling reason to do so.18 Du Cerceau's involvement in the design and construction of the church was in fact more limited than Morin and the plaque suggest, especially given that du Cerceau did not arrive in Montargis until the early 1560s, after the construction of the choir chapels.
Local tradition holds that Renée de France was responsible for the new choir, an idea that the commemorative plaque appears to confirm.19 The daughter of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, Renée took up residence in Montargis following the death of her husband, Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, in 1559.20 The marriage had not been a happy one, in part because of Ercole's displeasure with his wife's Protestantism and her support of Reform ideas. As she had done in Ferrara, Renée continued to adhere to Calvinist ideology after she assumed residence in Montargis. She corresponded with Calvin, accepted the services of Calvinist ministers—even if she sometimes clashed with them—and made her court a safe haven for Protestants, all to the displeasure of the predominantly Catholic citizenry.21
Although the destruction of local records limits our understanding of Renée's governance at Montargis, it is clear that her religious predilections placed her in conflict with the local Catholic population almost immediately. One of the primary matters of contention centered on the use of Sainte-Madeleine for Protestant worship. While Catholics stringently objected to the use of their church for Reform services, they did not necessarily ascribe blame to the duchess. The account left by the Catholic Claude Haton (ca. 1534–ca. 1605) depicts Renée as a sympathetic ruler caught between the local citizenry and her personal minister, the Calvinist pastor François Morel.22 Haton reports that when the Catholics complained to the duchess about the Huguenot services in Sainte-Madeleine in 1561 she agreed to limit Protestant worship to her château, only later reversing her decision on Morel's advice. Moreover, Haton is careful to note that Renée did not join her fellow Huguenots when they returned to Sainte-Madeleine for services the following Sunday, provoking the Catholics, who denied them entry to the church. This detail sets her apart from the active aggressors in the narrative. As described by Haton, in this dispute Renée sought a peaceful compromise between the two parties and was averse to conflict. Nevertheless, for all her willingness to appease Protestants and Catholics alike, religious hostilities between lord and citizenry intensified between 1562 and 1567, and ultimately stymied the reconstruction of Sainte-Madeleine.23
One particularly violent episode occurred on 9 May 1562.24 The churchwarden had organized a garrison of thirty men to defend the partly rebuilt church against Protestant incursion, spurring a hostile confrontation between the two parties. In response to the fighting, Renée appealed to Huguenot leaders in Orléans for help in quelling the rebellion. Protestant and Catholic accounts differ widely on the final outcome of her appeal. Thirty years later, Catholic citizens recalled that a force of five to six hundred troops entered the town, destroyed the images in the church, looted its ornaments, hanged some of the town's inhabitants, and deprived the Catholics of the exercise of their religion for some time.25 Protestant accounts report far less violence. According to Théodore de Bèze's Histoire ecclésiastique des églises réformées au royaume de France, an unspecified number of Huguenot forces disarmed and captured the rebel Catholic citizens and took their weapons to the château. Although a few of the prisoners were hanged, the rest were released by Renée's mercy, an act that restored tranquility to the town, according to the Huguenot account.26 Despite the conflicting partisan narratives, Robert Crespin uses this event to discount Renée as a likely patron of Sainte-Madeleine's east end, assigning that role to her daughter Anne d'Este and the local Catholic community instead.27 Crespin too easily attributes reconstruction of the choir to Anne based on her 1548 marriage to the militant Catholic François de Lorraine II, Duke of Guise, and dismisses the potential role played by Renée, especially in the first half of the 1570s, the moment of the buttresses’ construction. Although Anne was not a Protestant, she “honored her mother's sympathies.”28 I would argue that her marriage to François should not be taken as indicative of any militancy in her own beliefs; rather, she followed the model of tolerance set by Renée. Moreover, while both Renée's Protestant leanings and the local violence in Montargis are clear, it does not appear that Renée was the driving force behind the antagonisms.
The hostilities of May 1562 marked a turning point in Renée's administration.29 Although she continued to offer protection to Protestant refugees, she limited Montargis's entanglement in religious violence by rescinding her offer to house Huguenot leaders and simultaneously refusing to garrison royal troops within the town. Whereas the violence of the first of the religious wars spilled over into her domain, during the second war of 1567, Renée tenaciously maintained Montargis's neutrality and protected her subjects, Catholic and Protestant alike, from the looting, rape, and murder that would likely have accompanied the town's garrisoning of military units. In so doing, Renée fulfilled her duties as lord while also reconciling familial loyalties and personal faith.30 Her self-styled neutrality continued into the late 1560s, even as she came under increasing attack by the crown for her protection of Protestants. Following the massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day in 1572, it appears that she attended Mass while at the same time protecting Protestants as a means of maintaining peace in her lands.31 It is equally possible that her seignorial duties could have led her to participate in the reconstruction of the town's primary church, at least to a nominal degree, perhaps in an attempt to appease her angry citizenry following the events of 1562 or as a show of public acquiescence to her royal relatives Charles IX and Catherine de’ Medici, to whom she owed allegiance. The repairing of a church damaged by partisan violence would be in keeping with her expressed stance of neutrality and with her role as Dame de Montargis.32
Renée purposefully cultivated an ambiguous outward expression of her religious leanings. While she adhered to Reform teachings privately, she was not militant in her beliefs, nor did she ever publicly proclaim her acceptance of the Protestant faith, to the displeasure of John Calvin. Historian Charmarie Jenkins Blaisdell has argued that Renée maintained a tolerant attitude toward spiritual matters, suggesting an openness to religious pluralism within her jurisdiction.33 Although Calvin clearly saw Renée as an important ally in France, her loyalty to her family, especially her son-in-law the Duke of Guise, sometimes strained the relationship between them. This tension is most apparent in an exchange of letters following the duke's assassination in 1563. Renée objected to the condemnation of the duke's soul by Protestant ministers. In response, Calvin wrote:
For though I pray for the salvation of any one, that does not imply that in all respects, and everywhere, I recommend him as if he were a member of the church. We demand of God that he would bring back into the right path those who are on the way to perdition. But it will not be in placing them in the rank of our brethren in order to desire for them all kinds of prosperity.34
While Calvin acknowledged that the damnation of the duke's soul went “too far, unless one had some certain and infallible mark of his reprobation,” he simultaneously accused Renée of allowing her affection for the duke to cloud her judgment of his character.35 Renée's devotion to her family members, who were largely adversarial toward the Reformed religion, prevented her from pursuing Calvin's agenda with the zeal he encouraged.36
Renée's relative tolerance, combined with her political self-interest in maintaining good relations with the crown, may have motivated her involvement in the reconstruction of the east end of Sainte-Madeleine following the resumption of work in the late 1560s and early 1570s. Moreover, while she was privately committed to Calvinism, when threatened by authority she publicly conformed to the expectations of the crown, which remained Catholic. In this context, it is not out of the question that Renée may have had some involvement in the reconstruction of Sainte-Madeleine following the cessation of violence in Montargis, a point reinforced by the close relationship between the duchess and du Cerceau, the designer of the church's exceptional flying buttresses, and who produced other drawings for Renée in the early 1570s.37
Du Cerceau arrived in Montargis in the early 1560s, perhaps in 1563, when he sought the protection of Renée's court as a Protestant fleeing the violence in Paris. By 1564 he was in Renée's employ, from which he received an annual pension of 255 livres and housing.38 Although the specifics of his architectural projects in Montargis remain murky, he includes in his Les plus excellents bastiments de France detailed plans and elevations of Renée's château, which, according to his own account, he “repaired, embellished, and enriched with several new structures, gardens, and other conveniences.”39 Given that construction was essentially at a standstill following the events of 1562, the earliest that du Cerceau could have been involved in the reconstruction of Sainte-Madeleine is the late 1560s, limiting his potential role to the chapel vaulting and upper parts of the choir. However, it remains unclear how involved du Cerceau would have been in this campaign.40
The choir chapels of the 1540s and 1550s document an increasing use of classicism over the course of these two decades as construction progressed from the south to the north. For example, the three westernmost gargoyles along the south side of the choir retain the bestial appearance common to ornaments from the preceding centuries (Figure 5). In contrast, the gargoyles along the north side more frequently take the form of women and not of composite monsters (Figure 6). The capitals similarly reflect this trend, becoming increasingly Ionic in style as one moves around the choir from south to north. The pointed arches of the chapel windows, which tie the building to the more recent Gothic, temper the classicism of the pilasters and gargoyles and place the building within the eclectic style of mid-sixteenth-century French architecture (see Figure 2).
Much of the post-1567 construction presents a stylistic mixture comparable to that found in the chapels. For example, whereas the westernmost bay of the main arcade rests on round pillars, the earlier hemicycle piers display the hard-nosed fillet moldings characteristic of flamboyant architecture (Figure 7). Similarly, although the majority of the arches throughout the choir are pointed, some, including those framing the three clerestory windows of the apse, are semicircular. The tracery of the clerestory windows varies from curvilinear in the east to rectilinear toward the west.41 The seemingly haphazard combination of these traditional and classicizing features makes it unlikely that du Cerceau had much influence over the design or construction of the clerestory walls or choir interior.
Du Cerceau knew Gothic architecture, as demonstrated by his inclusion of several medieval structures in Les plus excellents bastiments, but there is little indication of his attitude toward the great churches of the Middle Ages. Among the medieval structures illustrated in his treatise are the Grande Salle at Montargis, the Grande Salle du Palais de la Cité in Paris, and the castle of Vincennes. Ecclesiastical structures are notably absent. This is not to say that du Cerceau ignored the major churches of France's medieval past. There is evidence to the contrary in Étienne Pasquier's report of a conversation held with the artist on the subject of the Sainte-Chapelle, in which du Cerceau remarked, “Among all the buildings constructed in the modern style, there were none bolder than that one.”42 However, his own designs for Christian churches, found in the suite of engravings known as the Moyens temples, published in 1549, are more or less strictly based on examples from antiquity and sixteenth-century Roman churches, with no trace of the pointed arches or sinuous tracery forms that appear in Sainte-Madeleine's east end. Du Cerceau's interest in France's medieval heritage does not seem to have overtly influenced his designs for new church buildings.43
In the rebuilt choir of Sainte-Madeleine, it is the flying buttresses, with their quadrant arches, half pediments, and classicizing columns, that most closely parallel the neoantique language of du Cerceau's graphic work. If du Cerceau was consulted about the Montargis church's reconstruction, his involvement was probably restricted to this particular feature of the church. Since the buttress uprights were probably built contemporaneously with the chapel vaulting, it seems most likely that du Cerceau provided a design for the superstructure without actively participating in the construction itself. With Renée as the patroness and du Cerceau as the designer, it appears to me that the highly unusual flying buttresses are closely linked to Calvinists in a city governed by a closeted, yet steadfast, Protestant sympathizer. The question remains as to what degree the religious proclivities of du Cerceau and Renée influenced the buttresses’ singular form, especially in the context of Renée's continued, though discreet, proselytizing. While the decision to employ flying buttresses reflects the traditional architecture of orthodox Catholicism in early modern France, du Cerceau's design distinguishes the flyers of Montargis from this embedded pattern.
Du Cerceau's Design as Historicizing Invention
The peculiarity of Sainte-Madeleine's buttresses derives primarily from their divergence from traditional paradigms. By the 1570s flying buttresses had some four centuries of use in France.44 As with all architectural components, masons modulated the design of flying buttresses to suit the structural and aesthetic requirements of individual construction projects. Nevertheless, the most basic components of the flying buttress—a segmental arch topped by a sloping strut—remained largely consistent over this extended period even as the arrangement, decoration, and detailing of the buttressing varied. The stylistically disparate yet coeval churches of Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais (1494–1657) and Saint-Eustache in Paris (1532–1632) illustrate this uniformity of conception (Figures 8 and 9). In both cases a largely independent external arch spans the distance between the clerestory wall and the supporting pier that rises above the roof of the radiating chapels below. The arch meets the clerestory wall at a point higher than where it abuts the buttress pier, such that it descends at an incline.45 A sloped strut tops the arch. The primary differences between the designs lie in the decoration of the buttressing: whereas at Saint-Gervais the straight strut carries an open tracery panel topped by a second inclined bar, at Saint-Eustache Ionic columns support the head of the flyer where it meets the clerestory wall. Similarly, the curvature of the arch itself reflects changing geometrical preferences aligned with stylistic differences. While flyer arches of the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries define arch lengths of a single circle, those of the fifteenth century often incorporate a second curvature near the flyer head, smoothing the juncture between the flyer and the wall. The ovoid arches of the Sainte-Eustache flyers can be seen as an extension of this trend that simultaneously capitalizes on the rising popularity of this shape over the course of the sixteenth century.46
The basic designs of the buttresses at Saint-Gervais and Saint-Eustache rely on an established and recognizable typology.47 Moreover, even their differences—openwork tracery and classicizing column—have their roots in earlier buttress designs, underscoring their continuation of an existing architectural tradition. Openwork tracery first appeared in the flying buttresses of Chartres Cathedral.48 The use of columns to support flyer arches was common in buttress designs of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries but had disappeared by the fifteenth century, when flyer arches began to take on more complex curvatures.49 The sixteenth-century designs’ connection to earlier, traditional practices remained stable despite changes to architectural fashion.
The flying buttresses at Montargis display a reconceptualization of the underlying component parts (Figure 10). Rather than applying classicizing detailing to a traditional buttressing paradigm, as at Saint-Eustache, du Cerceau invented a faux-antique variant that is distinct from medieval and contemporaneous versions. Instead of an arch topped by a straight strut, each of the flying buttresses at Sainte-Madeleine comprises a half Roman arch and a half pediment. In essence, the buttresses appear as half triumphal arches. The lines of the horizontal and raking cornices define the triangular shape of the pediment, distinguishing it from the flyer arch and courses of masonry below. Consequently, while the raking cornice serves the same purpose as a straight coping, visually and conceptually it is quite distinct. Moreover, the larger size of the horizontal cornice in comparison to its partner above minimizes the overall sense of the flyer's diagonality. As a result, the flying buttresses at Montargis appear dignified and staid rather than dynamic and thrusting, as in the designs of Saint-Gervais and Saint-Eustache. In other words, du Cerceau rejected the numerous and varied models for flying buttresses on existing churches, preferring to construct a new architectural typology. Whereas the buttresses of Saint-Eustache (and numerous other contemporaneous examples) remain visually connected to established tradition—segmental arches topped by sloping struts—du Cerceau's innovative design ties his buttresses to a more modern architectural fashion.50 His buttressing paradigm diverges from the preexisting meanings associated with traditional buttressing forms, which so commonly constituted one of the primary visual features of Catholic church exteriors in sixteenth-century France.
Du Cerceau's rejection of ecclesiastical architectural tradition is further underscored by the most likely source of his inspiration for these unusual buttresses: the terminal flyers of the central lantern tower at Château de Chambord, a royal château built for François Ier (Figure 11).51 Not only did du Cerceau supply a buttress design for Sainte-Madeleine that rejected the traditional pattern of a segmental arch topped by a sloping strut, but he also based that design on flying buttresses that were themselves removed from religious architecture. Like the Montargis flyers, those of Chambord employ heavily classicizing articulation. A quadrant arch supports a horizontal cornice. Large buttressing volutes, decorated with roundels, extend above the cornice, forming a transition between the buttresses and the smaller turret above. Du Cerceau included a drawing of the lantern tower in his album Curiosités d'architecture (ca. 1545–50) (Figure 12).52 He also included two façade views of the château in volume 1 of Les plus excellents bastiments, published in 1576, both of which show the lantern. The differences between the physical building and du Cerceau's drawings hint at his design for Montargis. In the earlier drawing he replaced the scrolls with quarter circles—each essentially half of a curved pediment—and added a column to the outer edge of the buttress pier.
In replacing the Chambord volute with a half pediment, du Cerceau invented an antique history for the flying buttress where none had existed previously—one based on monumental entrances and triumphal arches. Just such an entrance appears in du Cerceau's project P from his Temples et habitations fortifiés (1545–50), a series of designs for temples based on examples from antiquity and sixteenth-century Roman churches.53 One of du Cerceau's early works, Arcs de triomphe modernes et antiques, published in Orléans in 1549, depicts twenty-five triumphal arches, several of which reveal similarities to the half triumphal arches that make up the Montargis buttressing (Figure 13). Many of these designs include the use of circles to relieve the spandrels of the arches, Corinthian columns next to pilasters, and decorative volutes against pedestals. Other designs use semicircular pediments that, when bifurcated, closely resemble his drawing of the Chambord lantern tower from 1545–50. These arches, which du Cerceau states in the colophon were “partly invented by me and partly copied from ancient monuments still extant sometimes in Rome or sometimes elsewhere,” also demonstrate his easy manipulation of antique forms. Through his buttress designs du Cerceau maintained the dynamic and undulating exterior familiar to church architecture in France, yet at the same time he undermined local architectural tradition through his inventive historicism. In so doing, he deviated not just from recognized designs but also from local traditions, a decision with ramifications beyond the aesthetic.
The Montargis Buttresses in Relationship to Catholic and Protestant Architecture in Sixteenth-Century France
The religious violence of the sixteenth century prompted the destruction of most of the early Protestant temples in France, hampering the efforts of historians to reconstruct the totality of a Huguenot architectural aesthetic, including the role of architectural structure in that aesthetic.54 In the past several decades, however, scholars including Andrew Spicer, Catharine Randall, and Nigel Yates have mined extant architectural descriptions and graphic documents to provide a general sense of the characteristics shared by these structures.55 These studies have demonstrated that the distinct foci of worship in Reformed and Catholic rituals catalyzed the construction of buildings with different plans and internal arrangements. Two polemical engravings published by an anonymous German artist clearly illustrate this disparity.56 True Image of the Papal Church depicts the high altar and the consecration of the Host at the center, suggesting the importance of the Eucharist in Catholic devotion (Figure 14). In contrast, True Image of the Ancient Apostolic Church foregrounds preaching, with communion administered at two altars in peripheral positions (Figure 15).
The prioritization of the altar and the pulpit in Catholic and Reform worship, respectively, results in contrasting arrangements of interior space.57 Whereas the image of the Catholic church depicts a hierarchical and compartmentalized progression toward the sanctuary, the image of Reform worship reveals a more uniform space in which the faithful surround the preacher on all sides. However, while scholarship has largely focused on the internal arrangement of worship spaces, the exteriors of these buildings also stood as highly visible symbols of their respective faiths. As with interior layout, the envelopes of Catholic churches and Calvinist temples were visually distinct. Du Cerceau's design cleverly balances conformity to the paradigm of Catholic architecture through the use of traditional architectural structure with subversion of that pattern in the inventive refashioning of flying buttresses.
Although flying buttresses are today most closely associated with the great cathedrals of the High Middle Ages, in France, and especially northern France, they remained common elements of church construction well into the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont (ca. 1492–1626) and Saint-Eustache in Paris, Saint-Pantaléon in Troyes (sixteenth century), Saint-Jacques-et-Saint-Christophe in Houdan (ca. 1525–ca. 1650), Saint-Louis in Blois (ca. 1544–ca. 1700), and a number of other examples all employed flying buttresses in the traditional pattern of segmental arch topped by a sloping strut, thus preserving the high relief of the rippling envelope established in the thirteenth century. Catholic churches underwent significant changes in design as a response to the religious pressures instituted by the Reform movement. Rather than constituting a fundamental redesign of established architectural structure, however, many of these changes reflected a return to the importance of preaching as part of the Catholic Mass, a point promoted by the Jesuits.58 In other words, while internal organization changed, the essential components of church exteriors remained more consistent, even if those forms increasingly took on the guise of Italianate neoclassical ornament, as had become popular in France and as is visible in all of the examples mentioned above.
Not only did Catholic churches continue to exhibit the traditional features of externalized support according to the established language of a segmental arch topped by a sloping strut, but French Catholics also eventually legislated against the appropriation of these marks of religious authority. The rules and regulations governing the construction of Protestant temples following the Edict of Nantes (1598) recognized the symbolic power of architecture and restricted numerous architectural features to Catholic churches.59 In 1666 the lawyer and judge Pierre Bernard outlined these restrictions in his Explication de l'Edit de Nantes. He wrote that “the places of practice, or temples, that those of the supposed reformed religion have permission to build … must not be made in the form of churches, nor should they have towers or grand belfries; this would be a parallel and equivalence with our churches.”60 As David Thomson has argued, these prohibitions ensured that the Protestant temples would not be called churches and would not look like churches.61 Flying buttresses and their supporting piers contributed to the dynamic richness of church envelopes, part of the paradigmatic structural system for French architecture since the mid-twelfth century, and may well have been part of the “form of churches” referred to by Bernard, a point underscored by their absence in temples like Le Paradis in Lyon. While this legislation postdates the construction of Sainte-Madeleine by almost a century, it indicates the perceived importance of church exteriors in the construction of architectural identity.
Although French Protestants frequently adopted existing Catholic churches for their assemblies, as those in Montargis attempted to do at Sainte-Madeleine, Protestant temples constructed specifically for Reform worship took radically different forms, typically being self-contained structures without significant externalized buttresses of any kind.62 The earliest Huguenot temples appeared in the 1560s. Among the known examples is Le Paradis, built in Lyon in 1564. The form of Le Paradis survives in drawings and a painting by Jean Perrissin (Figures 16 and 17). It was an oval structure with the minister's pulpit in the center, reflecting the Protestant emphasis on preaching. Benches surrounded the pulpit, and a wooden gallery provided a secondary viewing space. Interior wooden pillars supported the roof. The exterior of the building was modest, with little decoration beyond the restrained classical detailing of the first- and second-story entrances.
The centralized, theatrical building of Le Paradis finds parallels in a number of other early Reform temples, including those at La Rochelle (begun 1577), Bourg l'Abbé (1611–12), Quevilly (1600–1601), and Dieppe (1600–1601). The oval or polygonal plans of these structures distinguished them from the Latin cross plan commonly employed by Catholic churches in France. In addition, the architectural structure of these temples depended not on the externalized systems of flying buttresses frequently found on major Catholic churches and cathedrals, but rather on internal wooden supports, as are visible in Perrissin's painting of Le Paradis (see Figure 17). Indeed, a visitor to La Rochelle in 1645 made note of this distinction in describing the temple there as “an octagon, yet irregular, because two façades are a little longer than the six others. There are no buttresses or pillars, but the (wooden) ceiling is a rounded vault, attached to the roofing.”63 This account makes clear that at least for some observers, the lack of a visible, external support system was worthy of comment as a distinguishing feature of the Protestant structure.
Other Huguenot temples used rectilinear designs, alternative ground plans that similarly allowed for unencumbered preaching space. As with the centrally planned examples, the rectilinear temples featured simple envelopes of planar walls with minimal decoration. The most famous of the Huguenot temples, that at Charenton, exemplifies these characteristics. Jacques Androuet du Cerceau II, the son of Jacques Androuet du Cerceau I, constructed the first temple at Charenton, a reconstruction of his earlier building at Ablon. After Catholic rioters burned this structure in 1621, Salomon de Brosse (grandson of du Cerceau I and nephew of du Cerceau II) erected a new temple, possibly drawing on his uncle's earlier design.64 The relationship between Ablon and the two iterations at Charenton suggests a continuity of form between the late sixteenth-century structure and de Brosse's building of 1621. As seen in an engraving of de Brosse's building by Jean Marot, internal columns supported the galleries and the wooden roof, whereas the exterior consisted of a planar wall punctuated by regularly placed windows (Figure 18).65 The design exhibits great restraint in terms of ornamentation, but what little there is draws on classicizing forms, including the colossal columns spanning the first and second stories to support the interior galleries.66 The exterior itself was exceptionally plain, with little to relieve the flat exterior walls beyond the three horizontal rows of windows. A short octagonal tower rose from above the roof on one side.
In comparison with the realized Reform temples considered thus far, the theoretical models for temples published in Jacques Perret's Des fortifications et artifices, architecture et perspective (1601) present more richly ornamented exteriors (Figure 19). Nevertheless, even these imagined designs display a similar reliance on internalized supports and restrained classicizing decoration. The detailing applied to the exteriors largely consists of engaged Tuscan columns supporting simple cornices that delineate the horizontal divisions of the buildings. Thus, while it has long been observed that the internal arrangement of Protestant temples differed from that of their Catholic counterparts, the temples’ exterior form followed a loose pattern characterized by limited classical ornament on an otherwise unfluctuating surface. This model remained consistent from the second half of the sixteenth century to the early seventeenth century. The flat purity of this aesthetic distinguished Protestant temples from the major structures of the Catholic Church, which much more frequently bristled with flying buttresses, gargoyles, and rich programs of portal sculpture in both Gothic and Italianate neoclassical styles. As the most readily visible aspect of temples, their external articulation served as a powerful symbol of the rising popularity of Reform worship, just as the internal arrangement of temples illustrated the community's emphasis on scripture and preaching.
While modern scholars have linked the differences in internal arrangements between Protestant and Catholic houses of worship to divergent liturgical priorities, it is similarly possible to understand the variation of building exteriors in relationship to theological concerns. The polemical German engravings of a church and a temple mentioned above allude to the complicated associations of architectural design (see Figures 14 and 15). Whereas the artist chose to represent the papal church as a Gothic structure, the apostolic church appears in a more classicizing style. Given the similar basic plans of the two buildings, each consisting of three longitudinal spaces demarcated by arcades, the style of articulation appears more symbolic than functional, with the Gothic chosen as appropriate for Catholic devotion.
The classicizing ornament of Catholic churches like Saint-Eustache and Protestant temples constructed in the Gothic tradition, such as that in Schermerhorn, which uses pointed arches and intersecting tracery, demonstrate that there is no simplistic stylistic division between Catholic and Reform architecture.67 Nevertheless, rib vaults and flying buttresses were part of an architectural tradition long associated with buildings constructed for the celebration of the Mass. In France, ogival construction based on the pointed arch and rib vault remained the dominant mode of construction for ecclesiastical structures well into the 1500s, sometimes even taking on an explicitly historicizing character, as at L’Épine, a mid-fifteenth-century church modeled on the nearby thirteenth-century cathedral at Reims.68 As another example, the nave of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont in Paris (after 1547) preserves the traditional profile of the ogive arches even as the nave arcade displays classicizing semicircular arches. Images like Jean Fouquet's depiction of Étienne Chevalier being presented to the Virgin from about 1450 reinforce the dichotomy between traditional indicators of sanctity and updated classicizing fashion (Figure 20). In this painting, Étienne kneels before a background of Corinthian pilasters, whereas a Gothic portal shelters the Virgin and Child. Although the Gothic and classicizing together form a single Catholic devotional moment, the choice of the former as the backdrop for the Virgin underscores its heightened associations with sanctity.69 Flying buttresses were equally part of this paradigm of medieval French architecture and would have similarly signaled the divine kingdom of God as constructed in Catholic architecture according to French tradition since the mid-twelfth century.
In contrast, as the up-and-coming architectural fashion, classicism presented an alternative mode that was more easily distanced from orthodox religious practices, as Andrew Spicer has noted.70 It is not that classicism is in itself Protestant, but that in France classicism was not so directly and so synchronously tied to the Catholic Church and its elaborate rituals. This relative freedom likely encouraged its use in the design of some Protestant temples in France, especially given Calvin's stance on architecture, to the extent that he articulated it. Calvin located sanctity not in a place but in the assembly of the faithful.71 The true temple was not a physical building; rather, it was the act of worship:
We may also add, as God's temple is spiritual, our fault is the more atrocious when we become thus slothful; since God does not bid us to collect either wood, stones, or cement, but to build a celestial temple, in which he may be truly worshiped.72
Following Calvin, who separated sacredness from place, the visual indicators of the sacred used in Catholic churches, such as rib vaults and flying buttresses, seem to have become inappropriate for Protestant temple architecture, especially to the degree that they may have indicated church architecture specifically.73 In this context, I interpret the absence of characteristic forms of medieval French architecture—pointed arches, rib vaults, and flying buttresses—as an intentional distancing from an opposing religious tradition, even if the break was neither universal nor absolute.
If the rejection of the recent architectural past reflects the Protestant church's disassociation from the corrupt Catholic Church, does the embrace of classicism reflect a Protestant interest in antiquity? Mario Carpo argues that Protestant theology's grounding in the vernacular translation of the Bible found an echo in the Protestant architect's adoption of Vitruvius's De architectura as the “bible of the architects.”74 According to his argument, the interest in classicism observed in the work of the Protestant north, including that of du Cerceau, derived from “an abstract principle of sobriety in decoration” that is itself attributable to Vitruvius and the inventive abstraction of Vitruvius by Sebastiano Serlio and others.75 In this context, the restrained classical ornamentation of temples like Le Paradis and Charenton denotes the purity of Reform worship, based directly on the word and free of the corruption of the elaborate trappings of liturgy and performance.
The classicizing detailing of Protestant temples in France may also have reflected an interest in the buildings of early Christianity.76 Calvin stringently objected to the extravagant rites of Catholic liturgy and sumptuous church decoration:77
[Since it is thus,] in what manner will the temple of God be properly used, and be its true triumph, in its true glory? It will not be when it is covered with great adornments, when it is filled with great festivities, when it is full of fine gilding, when there are great riches of gold and silver and other things that we have become accustomed to in the world: for the glory of the temple of God does not consist in all that, but in that we know that God is our Father, who lives among us.78
In returning to a purified form of worship centered on the word of God and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, Calvinism sought a return to the uncorrupted practices of the Catholic Church before the “tyranny of the papacy,” when bishops “tried with a sincere effort to preserve God's institution and did not wander far from it” and when “poverty [was] proclaimed glorious in the priests of the Lord.”79 Although Calvin did not specifically address classicism as an architectural style, he did exalt the products of antiquity as the result of God's gifts, again suggesting the appropriateness of classicism as a style for Calvinist architecture.80 The rejection of traditional forms in favor of those stemming from Vitruvius and the Renaissance reimagining of Vitruvius appropriately—though not compulsorily—visualized a return to the unadulterated practice advocated by Calvin. This interest in early Christianity was not unique to Reform worship. The Catholic Church similarly sought to renew its spiritual climate, and the use of classicizing detail on new construction, not to mention the restoration of early Christian basilicas, was a physical manifestation of this larger trend toward historicism in the service of religious ideals.81 The use of classicism by Catholics does not necessarily diminish its significance for Protestants, or vice versa, especially given the fact that in both contexts classicism was tied to a sense of paleo-Christian purity.
The Sainte-Madeleine flying buttresses are part of a wider embrace of classicism applied in both Catholic and Protestant buildings. While the buttresses share aspects of their articulation with examples from Catholic churches, such as the use of classicizing columns, they are fundamentally distinct in their rejection of the traditional segmental arch topped by a sloping strut (see Figure 10). Du Cerceau inventively extended the classicizing impulse to the point of reformulating the architectural structure such that it becomes a quotation of an antique type—the triumphal arch. His modifications of the Chambord design speak to his construction of a fictive antique precedent, and replacing the volute with a pediment further purified the design's classicism. Du Cerceau's new, modern classicism, which rejected traditional Catholic forms while appropriating their structure, was likely made possible by Renée's influence, a point underscored by the singularity of du Cerceau's classicism in ecclesiastical architecture.
Du Cerceau produced his design for the flying buttresses of Sainte-Madeleine soon after work resumed on the church in the aftermath of religious violence in Montargis. Although it was not unusual for a Protestant architect to work on a Catholic building, in most cases the architect was in the employ of a Catholic patron. In this instance, however, du Cerceau's close association with Renée produced a different result, providing an opportunity for the artist to risk more experimental designs than might have been possible with strict Catholic oversight. In rejecting the long-established form of flying buttresses as used in ecclesiastical architecture for several hundred years, du Cerceau crafted a new language for a traditional form. He exploited the architectural language of antiquity and its associations with a time of imagined religious purity.
The prominence of the flying buttresses of Sainte-Madeleine's new choir drew a clear link to indigenous religious traditions and authority through their adherence to established French architectural patterns. Like Renée's carefully constructed position between orthodox Catholicism and intolerant Calvinism, these buttresses existed between the long-established precedent for church architecture and a newly emerged reimagining of it. The familiar look of the externalized buttressing linked the building to an architectural style historically associated with the kingdom of France and may have acted as a mechanism of legitimating Renée's Calvinist leanings through her patronage of the church. Simultaneously, du Cerceau's novel composition of the buttressing worked against traditional patterns, indicating a movement away from religious orthodoxy as represented by Catholic architecture.
In this context, an understanding of the building in terms of its complicated religious dynamics imbues du Cerceau's novel forms with newfound meaning. Sainte-Madeleine's hybridity prevents it from fitting easily into the stylistic categories of flamboyant or French Renaissance.82 As a complement to stylistic analysis, it is productive to consider the renovations to the chevet at Montargis as emblematic of the types of imaginative projects common in the sixteenth century whereby reformers of all stripes, both Protestant and Catholic, challenged established traditions with recourse to still older ones.83 The local politics of the Reformation reveal the distinctiveness of du Cerceau's design as architectural innovation from the perspective of Reform-minded religious practitioners.