(active 855-873 in Corvey)

Interior view

Imperial Abbey, Corvey

One of the most significant developments in the Carolingian period was the abandonment of the exclusively squat, earthbound nature of the extended early Christian basilicas in favour of the increased use of towers. The tower structure of the westwork was designed either as a means of highlighting a separate devotional space for an additional church patron, or as a part of the building attached to the church and reserved for the emperor.

An impressive example from the Carolingian period survives in the monastery church of Corvey (822-848). This westwork, added between the years 855 and 873, underwent no further alterations and still conveys the full power of the Carolingian concept of architecture. Rising above the low, heavy basement, whose groin vaults are supported by piers with mock classical capitals, without transverse arches or bays, is the quadrum. This is a steep, open, central space surrounded by an ambulatory with three arcades on each side, and each with a gallery above. A semi-circular arch, opening out onto the centre of the western gallery, allowed an uninterrupted view of the emperor's throne.

The photo shows the ground floor hall of the westwork.

View the ground plan of the Imperial Abbey, Corvey.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.