Architecture, Photography

Heavenly Vaults: The Cathedral Photography of David Stephenson

Photographer David Stephenson was born in 1955 and received an MFA at the University of New Mexico. Stephenson has had solo exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. His work is represented in collections including, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the National Gallery of Australia, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the George Eastman House, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. [Jackson Fine Art]

The Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages are among the world’s greatest architectural achievements. Looking up at the soaring vaulted ceiling of a Gothic church, it is impossible not to marvel at the seemingly unending design variations of these transcendent structures. In his book, Heavenly Vaults:   From Romanesque to Gothic in European Architecture, Stephenson explores the architecturally sublime by focusing his camera on the amazing vaulted ceilings of the medieval churches, cathedrals, and basilicas of Europe. Stephenson presents more than eighty Romanesque and Gothic vaults in kaleidoscopic photographs that reveal their complex geometrical structures, decorative detailing, and ornamental painting in ways they have never before been seen.

From simple arched stone tunnels, or so-called barrel vaults, to quadripartite and sexpartite rib vaults, to intricate tierceron and lierne vaults with their added decorative ribs, to complicated net, fan, and diamond vaults of the late Gothic period, Stephenson’s visual taxonomy of this ancient structural form is strikingly beautiful and showcases numerous varieties across time and location. In an accompanying essay, the author charts the history of the vault and explains its technological developments. A foreword by photography curator Isobel Crombie puts Stephenson’s work in context. [PAPress]

Here follow a number of examples from Stephenson’s book, along with examples from his companion volume, Visions of Heaven: The Dome in European Architecture.

VAULTS

David Stephenson, Nave, Laon Cathedral, Laon, France, 2006

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David Stephenson, Nave, Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France, 2006

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David Stephenson, Nave, Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France, 2006

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David Stephenson, Nave, Exeter Cathedral, Exeter, England, 2006

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David Stephenson, Nave, Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, Assisi, 2008

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David Stephenson, Octagon, Ely Cathedral, Ely, England, 2006

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David Stephenson, Choir, Gloucester Cathedral, Gloucester, England, 2006

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David Stephenson, Nave, St. Anne’s Church, Annaberg-Buchholz, Germany, 2008

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David Stephenson, Nave, Hieronymite Monastery, Belém, Portugal, 2003

DOMES

David Stephenson, Sala de las Dos Hermanas, Alhambra, Granada, Spain, 2003

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David Stephenson, Salon des Embajadores, Alcazar, Seville, Spain, 1997

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David Stephenson, Duomo, Parma, Italy, 1993

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David Stephenson, San Lorenzo, Turin, Italy, 1997

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David Stephenson, Santa Maria la Blanca, Sevilla, Spain, 1997

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David Stephenson, Stift Haug, Wurzburg, Germany, 1997

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David Stephenson, Madonna degli Angeli, Turin, Italy, 1993

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Heavenly Vaults: The Cathedral Photography of David Stephenson

  1. Thanks Elliott, little by little, city by city I am becoing a great fan of cathedrals.

    Posted by Nick Van Zanten | April 19, 2012, 10:55 pm
  2. Absolutely breathtaking.. The vaulted ceilings and the photographs.. I have never been inside a grand cathedral or anything that remotely had ceilings like these. I would want to lie on my back and just gaze for hours marveling at the beauty and workmanship.
    A friend told me if we saw all of the beauty in this world we would surely go blind.. I think that is true..
    Wonderful post!!

    Posted by free penny press | April 20, 2012, 8:21 pm

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