Monday, April 9, 2012

Bayeux Cathedral

The French town of Bayeux is best known for that medieval comic strip, Bayeux Tapestry, which is its main tourist attraction. The Romanesque cathedral, however, is also worth visiting. It even has something for a calligraphy enthusiast: the Gothic murals in the crypt, where figures talk to each other like in another medieval comic strip. An angel praises Mary in lombardic versals, while a pious monk prays for her intercession in textualis quadrata. There are also some epitaphs elsewhere in the church, one of my favoured is one from 1660 written in graceful antiqua

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cerne Abbas

This is a village famous for the obscene chalk figure cut into a hill nearby. The church is much less of a tourist attraction, but a calligraphy enthusiast may want to have a glance there - its walls are covered in quotations from the Bible written in blackletter calligraphy. Some inscriptions are dated 1679 and others 1701, which means it is baroque calligraphy, a result of an iconoclastic movement which made a sort of a cultural revolution in England. For a few years bands of angry Puritans went from village to village, entered churches and destroyed images. Churches were decorated in calligraphy afterwards, but the Cerne Abbas example shows that real artists were hard to find. The Cerne Abbas inscriptions are of poor quality, a far cry from what was produced at the same time in East Germany.


Sunday, February 12, 2012


An ancient city, it was already a spa in Roman times. Today the Roman baths are the main tourist attraction. The little museum by the baths contains some tombstones with fine Roman calligraphy. Some are written in the classical Capitalis Quadrata, others in a similar, but slightly narrower style, that might perhaps be termed Capitalis Rectangularis. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Benedictine Monastery in Tyniec

The Benedictine monastery in Tyniec (pron. Tyhnyets) stands on an isolated hill overlooking Vistula river. It is one of the oldest monastic establishments in Poland. The oldest part of the extant buildings are the cloisters; some Gothic textura inscriptions are visible there on the wall. Its present church is Baroque in style, one can see there some wall inscriptions in italics from the period. Artistically the best is, however, capitalis elegans from some epitaphs. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A monument of a deer in Briesen

Briesen is a little town in East Germany, not far to the East of Berlin. The monument of a deer stands actually in a forest near the town. It comemorates a hunt of one of the rulers of Brandenburg. There is a date of the event within the inscription, so one may gather that the date of the inscription itself is aproximately the same. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tomb of queen Matilda and stained glass windows in abbey churches of Caen.

Caen was the capital of William the Conqueror before his conquest. Here he and his wife Matilda founded two great abbeys, one for women and one for men. Both abbeys are excellent examples of the Romanesque style of Normandy that led to the emergence of the Gothic architecture. There is not much calligraphy to be seen there at present, but what there is, is quite interesting.
The church of the Abbaye aux Dames has only one epitaph: that of the foundress, queen Matilda herself. It is a simple tombstone with only an inscription on it, it dates from late eleventh century. The letters are versals that seem to be Anglo-Saxon in style, which is perhaps not entirely surprising, as Matilda was the queen of England. The square "C" and "G", pointed "O", the broken cross bar of "A" and a bar at the top of the same letter bring to mind the incipit pages of such books as "Lindisfarne Gospels", but also books by the School of Winchester, closer in time. Interesting is the inconsistency: "E", "C" and "G" all appear sometimes square and sometimes round.
The church of St. Etienne of the Abbaye aux Hommes has no epitaphs at all, but it has interesting Gothic stained glass windows with some inscriptions in Gothic versals.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Parish church of Luckau in East Germany

Luckau is a little town in East Germany. The name sounds Slavonic, which is not surprising, as it lies on the verge of the area still today inhabited by Slav-speaging Sorben people. There are, however, no inscriptions in Slav language, even though one of vicars, whose epitaphium I reproduce here, came apparently from Bohemia (which is now Czech Republic). The area was strictly Protestant after the Reformation, which is probably the reason why there is very little figurative art in the church. Calligraphy, on the other hand, was fluorishing, the church is full of it. There are fantastic tombs in Baroque style with no images, just inscriptions. Various styles of calligraphy were used, often one inscription is part in Latin in italic script and part in German in Baroque fractur script. Here I reproduce some of those inscriptions. 


Friday, January 20, 2012


Ewelme lies away from the main roads and popular tourist trails, but for a calligraphy enthusiast it would be worthy to make a detour. Ewelme is a little village in southern Oxfordshire, six miles from Wallingford. The parish church there, built in perpendicular style, is very well preserved, but what is especially interesting is the chapel of St. George, whose walls inside are covered from top to bottom in medieval blackletter calligraphy. From the calligraphic point of view even better quality is the inscription on the tomb of Thomas Chaucer (son of the poet) in the same chapel. Other tombstone calligraphy in the church is also of good quality; here I present the best examples of various epochs. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jesuit church in Antwerp

The Jesuit church of St. Carol Borromaeus in Antwerp has supposedly been designed by Peter Paul Rubens himself. There are three inscriptions on the fa├žade. I am not sure whether Rubens had anything to do with them, but they are quite interesting from the formal point of view.