The Imperial Abbey of Farfa
Architectural Currents of the Early Middle Ages
Imprint: Yale University Press
While its historical importance has long been recognized, the physical remains of the abbey have received little attention until now. This book by Charles B. McClendon is unique in combining an assessment of Farfa’s place in the overall development of medieval architecture with an analysis of the abbey’s historical role. McClendon has based his study on a detailed architectural survey of the medieval abbey church and on the extensive excavations of the site carried out under his co-direction between 1978 and 1983. By examining archaeological, architectural, and historical sources, McClendon reconstructs the various phases in the growth of the monastic layout from late antiquity to the early Renaissance, analyzes the circumstances under which they were built, and relates his findings to the architectural currents of the day. He shows, for example, that the ninth-century additions to the abbey church by Abbot Sichardus reflect the Carolingian revival of the plan of Old St. Peter’s in Rome; that the design of other features points to influence from north of the Alps; that the east end of the abbey church, extensively rebuilt in the mid-eleventh century, should be considered a major monument of the early Romanesque period. Demonstrating that each phase of the architectural history of Farfa reflects the latest developments not only in Italy but also in the north, McClendon makes clear that Farfa provides a valuable understanding of the dynamic forces that helped shape the architecture of the early Middle Ages.
“Scholarship at its best. . . . This volume will be the standard reference for many years to come.”—Richard Krautheimer, New York University