Donnemarie-Dontilly, Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativité


    Foundation of a chapter of secular canons dependent upon the counts of Champagne goes back to the 11th century; c. 1100 on episcopal initiative regular canons installed: chapter included a hundred canons. The nave (demolished) may belong to the period of Count Henry the Liberal, a generous patron of the abbey.


    Begun ca. 1200


    A basilica with projecting transept and apsidal chevet which has lost its nave (currently only two bays of the nave are extant).


    The three-story elevation with arcade, blind triforium and tall clerestory continues around the aisled transept and nave as well as the aisleless chevet. The arcade is support on elegant cylindrical columns. The tracery of clerestory is tightly linked with the triforium. We see a continuing play on the geometric forms of window tracery moving from east to west.


    The church, built from east to west belongs to the second quarter of the 13th century (c.1225-50's). No written sources document the construction. The old nave was demolished in the 18th century. The abbey received much damage in WWI and was largely rebuilt.


    In its overall shape the church refers to S-Léger of Soissons, also a chapter of regular Augustinian canons. The articulation indicates links with not only local (Braine, Orbais) buildings, but also the Île de France (the linked clerestory and triforium recall Saint-Denis of the 1230's). Robert Branner has associated these elements of the court style. For Jean Bony the elision between triforium and clerestory signals connections with the nave of Amiens Cathedral and S-Remi of Reims.

    J. Bony, French Gothic Architecture, 373.
    R. Branner, St Louis and the Court Style, London, 1965, 18
    P. Héliot, "Deux églises champenoises méconnues. Les abbatiales d'Orbais et d'Essômes," Mémoires de la Société d'agriculture, commerce, sciences et arts du département de la Marne. 80, 1965, 87-112
    P. Kurmann, "L'ancienne abbatiale d'Essômes: nouvelles considérations sur son architecture," Congrès archéologique, 1994, 309-326