Color in Suger’s Saint-Denis : Matter and Light

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VIRDIS Alberto

Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Convivium
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords Abbot Suger; color; gemstones; Heavenly Jerusalem; lapis lazuli; materia saphirorum; metaphysics of light; pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite; Saint-Denis; stained glass
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Description The vast examination and analysis of Abbot Suger and the choir of Saint-Denis have mainly focused on the role and importance of the light coming through the stained-glass windows, neglecting the role of color in defining the cathedral’s interior space. The same can be said of the references in Suger’s writings to the colors of the stained-glass windows as well as of other early medieval goldsmithery objects once held in the basilica. This article analyzes mentions of color in Suger’s writings in connection with related works of art. Considerations include the different ways in which color was understood in medieval culture, possible interpretations of the expression materia saphirorum and the vexata quaestio of the links between Suger and the metaphysics of light in Dionysius the Areopagite. Altogether, these considerations show how a full understanding of color-related issues is necessary for a correct interpretation of both Suger’s writings and the stained-glass windows in the basilica’s choir.
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