Thirteenth-Century Wall Painting of Salisbury Cathedral

Thirteenth-Century Wall Painting of Salisbury Cathedral

Art, Liturgy, and Reform

Matthew M. Reeve


Boydell Press



Revisionist study of the wall-paintings of Salisbury Cathedral, setting them in the context of thirteenth-century religious reform.
Although Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most famous surviving buildings from medieval Europe, the monumental cycle of vault paintings which adorns the eastern arm has not received the attention it deserves. Here, for the first time, the wall-paintings are considered fully, and set properly within the architectural and liturgical contexts of the Cathedral church, which was designed as the flagship of thirteenth-century church reform. The author argues that they were an integral component of the cathedral church as it was planned out before 1220, and that they were designed to complement and inform the new liturgical rite, the Use of Sarum. In contrast to a tradition that considered Salisbury's response to reform to be an ascetic one, then, this book shows that the painting, architecture, and liturgy of the cathedral were geared to providing a highly sensory, emotive and transformative religious experience for Salisbury's secular canons.

MATTHEW M. REEVE is Associate Professor of Art History at Queen's University and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.


March 2008
17 colour, 42 black and white illustrations
230 pages
24.4x17.2 cm
ISBN: 9781843833314
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

The Arts of Reform at Salisbury
The Architectural Context: Construction and Interpretation c. 1220-58
The Polychromy in Context: Evidence, Date and Style
The Spatial Map of the Eastern Arm: the Vault Paintings and their Architectural and Liturgical Contexts
Imagery and Experience in the Eastern Arm


[An] impressive book. . [A] well-researched, tightly argued, and conceptually ambitious analysis. CHURCH HISTORY

Weaves an interesting and solid argument for the cathedral as a unified architectural and visual structure that responded to recent reform efforts, enhanced liturgical performance, and promoted complex ideas about liturgy, reform, time, and history. COMITATUS: A JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE STUDIES

[A] rich investigation. [...] Reeve makes good on scholarly appeals of the past fifteen years or so that call for analyses of premodern spaces as integrated arenas where architecture, adornment, and ritual collectively shaped viewer experience. [...] This elegant book makes important contributions to the study of Gothic architecture and liturgical space in general. CAA
Readers will profit from the presentation of these important paintings and their significant issues as well as appreciate the extensive, up-to-date bibliography. CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW>BR> A fine example of the more 'archaeological' strand of medieval art history. [...] This study has stimulating things to say in general about the relationships between medieval art, architecture, liturgy, literature and drama. [...] This measured work is a model of how a convincing art-historical interpretation can be constructed through careful exposition of demonstrable relationships. A quietly exciting book, it offers a convincing reconstruction of the many layered nature of medieval experience and interpretation. MEDIEVAL ARCHAEOLGY
Exemplary in every respect, from the author's limpid prose to his lucid exposition of how a major, if irrevocably damaged, ensemble of paintings bears on the study of English Gothic art. SPECULUM
It is a declared aim of this study to "re-position Salisbury's polychromy as a central and integral component of the cathedral church" (127), and in this it is very successful. [...] Argues successfully that a painted cathedral can and should be interpreted differently from an unpainted one and for the value of a fuller understanding of liturgical reform and liturgical interpretation. JOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES
Intellectually challenging in its overall thesis, this monograph is full of large assertions. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW
A brilliant and thought-provoking book. TLS