María de los Ángeles Utrero Agudo

The Artisans behind Visigothic Buildings: the Materiality of Identity (pdf)

(*En Portugués aquí; En Español aquí; En français ici)


Based primarily on examples corresponding to ecclesiastical architecture, it has been commonly said that the artisans responsible for Visigothic constructions (6th and 7th centuries) were able to inherit and preserve previous Roman techniques and forms by copying earlier structures and by reusing old materials. They would have been capable as well of introducing features of Byzantine origin, which would explain the extraordinary quality of Visigothic architecture and sculpture in relation to others coeval in the Mediterranean area. However, since Visigothic architectural culture has been recently critiqued and its chronology set into question, on the one hand, and the ways of transferring building technological knowledge reconsidered in the light of updated anthropological and archaeological approaches, on the other, this traditional explanation needs to be revised.

This essay aims thus to make visible, if possible, the builders of the 6th and 7th centuries and their technological knowledge. In order to get at this, I will analyze the materials the artisans employed (both new and reused) and how they did it, the instruments they used,  how they combined all of this with their own skills and how this activity is recorded in the material culture. This approach will hopefully make it possible to understand the training and experience of these artisans and to better contextualize their work in relation to the architectural products of their near contemporaries.











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