- Building Information
√Čtampes
(Essonne, France)
Notre-Dame-du-Fort
Surveyed: 1969, 1977, 1980-83, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2015, 2017
- Locator Map
√Čtampes (Essonne, France) - Notre-Dame-du-Fort
- Disclaimer
The dating for many of the buildings presented in fabricae.org is based on the work of John James, and is meant on this site to serve as a starting point. It is one of the goals of this project to evaluate that chronologies of all of the buildings and present revised chronologies where necessary.

I have added the idea of the "project" as a way of separating work in buildings. In my mind, a "project" is a discrete section of work in a building that resulted from the one-time acquisition of funding. "Projects" are generally separated by at least a decade where no work was being done. It is my view that it would have been unwise to start a "project" that could not be finished and protected from the elements, and as such a "project" usually involved a wing or multiple wings of a building, from floor to roof. Rural churches, which could only secure small amounts of funding at irregular intervals, often were the result of many small projects, while the great churches, which benefitted from relatively consistent funding, may have involved only a few large projects.
- Project A - Earlier - Phase 0 - Comment -
This particular chronology for Notre-Dame-du-Fort at Étampes is the result of a long process of study and 3D modeling, as well as a colloquium held at Étampes in 2017 with recent scholars of the building. The resulting chronology is not derived from the earlier work of John James (as noted in the disclaimer), and varies widely from his most recent interpretations. His chronology can be viewed at creationofgothic.org. This chronology is a work in progress.
- Project A - Earlier - Phase 1 - Crypt - Entire Crypt
The crypt predates the current church, and is likely a survival from the original 11th-century building. The current arrangement of stairs - perpendicular to the crypt - is unusual, and it is likely they were displaced by later construction of the choir. Windows on the north and east sides suggest the crypt was originally partially exposed above ground. The alignment of the crypt is not the same as that of the later nave, but is consistent with the alignment of the later choir.
- Project B - Earlier - Phase 2 - Narthex - Entire Narthex
In the west there are remains of what appears to be earlier construction, evidenced by rubble construction in the stair vise and at the southwest corner. This suggests the remains of a two-level narthex, possibly built at the time of Robert the Pious after 1022. The stairs have a rubble newel of 29 treads to the entry into the lower level and 31 treads to the next. The rubble narthex walls were encased with ashlar in later campaigns, disguising their presence.
- Project C - Earlier - Phase 3 - North Building - Original Building
To the north of the site of original church there is a small building which now serves as the sacristy. It seems unlikely that there was a formal connection between this building and the original church. It has variously been identified as an ossuary, the Chapelle Saint-Sépulchre, and sacristy. Its location north of the church, near the cemetery, and its later functions as ossuary and chapel dedicated to the Holy Sepulcher, all indicate a funerary function from the start. This building was modified on several occasions, but it seems likely that its first manifestation predates the current church. The lowest level is mostly underground, and is presumably the earliest part of the building. There is no evidence of any access to this underground level at the floor level, supporting an interpretation of its use as an ossuary from an early date. The building above this has been heavily modified, and there is evidence that the height of the building was raised at some point. Removing all of the later accretions and modifications, we are left with a fairly simple building, with entrance on the south, and window openings in the upper parts of the walls on all four sides, and topped by gables at north and south. It was likely freestanding. It is possible that this upper space served as a funerary chapel serving both the church and the adjacent Hotel-Dieu.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 50 - Nave - Pier Bases
The eight bases of the nave are equally spaced in both north-south and east-west directions. The only variance is that the easternmost pair are set lower than the rest, suggesting that perhaps there was a lower area in front of the crypt that provided visual access to the relics.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 60 - Nave - Piers to Aisle Capitals
It has been suggested that the westernmost piers were set first, as their course heights are consistent, whereas the rest seem to have a short make-up course just below the capitals, probably intended to bring each pier to the same level as the first ones placed. This seems reasonable. The lower courses of certain of these piers have masons marks on them, including a stylized "A" and a stylized "S". The capitals at the aisle level are all of a consistent character.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 70 - Nave - West Wall
There are disruptions in the imposts of the westernmost piers, the western extremities of the capitals are covered over, and there are slight inconsistencies between the heights of the stones and mortar beds between the piers and the walls adjacent. Yet the character of the stone is very similar. It seems that at this early date there was no clear plan for how the building would terminate, or how the new nave would be connected with the older narthex. Very soon after the completion of the piers to the level of the aisle capitals, flanking walls running north and south were set against the piers and some attempt was made to match the coursing of the piers. On the aisle sides, these walls ran a short distance to the north and south, and then turned to the west a short distance. They were left keyed in anticipation of later construction. On the side of the central vessel, these walls probably terminate in vertical joints, now concealed by the much later woodwork beneath the organ loft. I seems likely that the nave of the original church extended all the way to the narthex, and that both were still in place, obstructing any extension of these flanking walls across the central vessel. This situation would persist, and the joint is visible all the way up to the clerestory capitals, strongly suggesting that the original nave was in place until the new nave was roofed over.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 80 - Nave - Arcade
The second pier from the east on the north side has been completely rebuilt. When this was done, the restorers noted the presence of the springing of an arcade arch to the east. The equal spacing of the piers and the evidence of an arch spring support a conclusion that the nave was planned to have three bays rather than the two currently surviving. All evidence of this eastern bay is concealed beneath later shafting, but there is ample circumstantial evidence for their existence. The arcade extended up to a stringcourse that provided a logical stopping point for this phase.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 90 - Nave - North Aisle
The central bay of the north aisle is centered on the central bay of the nave, but the shafts are spaced 54cm farther apart than the piers of the nave. This continues in the two adjacent bays, resulting in a misalignment of 81cm at each end. The tops of the imposts are also 24cm higher than those opposite. These inconsistencies suggest that the area of construction was not an open site but one that had impediments that precluded accurate alignments. It has already been suggested that the central vessel of an earlier church likely remained in place until the nave reached its full height. The new nave piers were set in the aisles of this earlier building, and the outer aisle walls would have created a formidable impediment to the desired alignments, especially since it is likely the roofs of the aisle were retained until the nave arcade reached a level where it became necessary to remove them. At that point the earlier aisle walls would have been obsolete and could also have been removed. All of this suggests that the aisle walls were constructed after the nave piers but before the arcade reached any significant height. The formeret arches of the aisle wall present a bit of an anomaly. They are provided with a roll molding, a detail not found in any of the other moldings of the nave, which are either square or chamfered. Their alignment with the edges of the pilasters behind the wall shafts suggests they were planned from the start, but the absence of these moldings from the other three sides of the bay demonstrates that they were not a necessary prelude to groin vaulting.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 100 - Nave - South Aisle
The shafts of the south aisle are aligned with the piers of the nave, with the exception of the second shaft from the west, which is shifted 21cm to the west.The tops of the imposts are only 5cm lower than those opposite. This greater degree of consistency compared with the north aisle suggests that the area of construction was a more open site and not one that had impediments that precluded more accurate alignments. It may be that after their experience on the north, a determination was made to remove the original south aisle wall in order to be able to establish the desired alignments. This still suggests that the aisle walls were constructed after the nave piers and before the arcade reached any significant height, and also that the south aisle postdates the north. As on the north, the formeret arches of the aisle wall present a bit of an anomaly. They are provided with a roll molding, a detail not found in any of the other moldings of the nave, which are either square or chamfered. Their alignment with the edges of the pilasters behind the wall shafts suggests they were planned from the start, but the absence of these moldings from the other three sides of the bay demonstrates that they were not a necessary prelude to groin vaulting. In the south aisle, there are assorted and mismatched corbels set into the corners of the groin vaults. It has been argued that these demonstrate an intent to cover the aisle with groin vaults from the start, but the fact that they are a mismatched jumble of what appear to be spolia suggests that they were inserted after the fact, perhaps as a way of providing seating for later groin vaulting.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 110 - Nave - Triforium Level
With the construction of the aisle walls, transverse arches could be extended across the aisle connecting the aisle walls with the nave piers. With the perimeters of each bay defined, the nave could be raised to the level of the clerestory capitals. At this early date, it is likely that this part of the wall was either plain, or provided with simple openings into the dark space under the aisle roofs. It is also at this level that bracing was provided for the high transverse arches of the nave. This bracing took the form of a simple triangular strut, matching the intended line of the aisle roof. Evidence for these struts can bee seen in the eastern end wall of the north aisle, and a fragment can also be seen on the exterior on the south. Once completed, the aisle roofs could be installed.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 120 - Nave - Clerestory
The current clerestory windows are not original. They are the result of an enlargement that occurred in the 13th century. The original windows would not have extended below the clerestory capitals, and they would have been far simpler, probably similar in appearance to the north aisle windows, both inside and out. Once completed the nave could be roofed over, the original nave demolished and the new nave put to use. However, this tall building had no support at the east end, and as it rose there must have been some temporary bracing to account for the forces from the arcade arches and the relieving arches at the clerestory level.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 130 - Tower - Tower I
The earlier narthex was constructed of rubble, noted above. At some point the stair vise was raised another 25 steps, characterized by steps which include a much smaller newel and exterior walls in cut ashlar.
- Project D - 1110s - Phase 140 - Tower - Tower II
Third floor level and scalloped glacis, arched bell chamber
- Project E - 1120s - Phase 150 - Choir - Pier Bases and Plinths
The new choir is not aligned with the nave, but is aligned with the earlier crypt. If we assume the new nave was aligned with the original, then the 1-degree difference in alignment was carried over from the original building to the new. This created a bit of confusion where the choir joined the new nave, a situation exacerbated by the bracing installed to provide temporary support for the east end of the nave. The three eastern pairs of piers of the choir are aligned, but the fourth, comprising shafting appended to the existing easternmost drum piers of the nave, are shifted to the interior by a considerable distance. Irregular coursework on the northern of these piers supports a theory that these shafts were installed along the interior face of the bracing, which was centered on the drum piers exactly in the desired position of the new shafts. It could not be removed without compromising the integrity of the nave, so the masons worked around it. There is also evidence in the south freestanding pier that there are shafts along the exterior sides of the new choir piers, presumably in anticipation of future construction in the choir aisles. These were completely covered up by later shafting, but due to damage at the base of this southern pier, evidence that the original base provides for such a shaft can be seen. It would not have been logical for the designers of the choir piers not to account for shafting on the outsides of these piers. It is also the case that the piers do not seem to be designed for rib vaulting. Although there are shafts at the diagonals, they are not sufficiently spaced to provide the necessary seating for ribs. This will be addressed further below.
- Project E - 1120s - Phase 160 - Choir - Piers and Walls to Stringcourse
To the oculi
- Project E - 1120s - Phase 170 - Choir - Piers and Walls to Clerestory Capitals
To clerestory capitals
- Project E - 1120s - Phase 180 - Choir - Clerestory
To top
- Project F - 1130s - Phase 190 - North Choir - Pier Bases and Plinths
Plinths and bases
- Project F - 1130s - Phase 200 - North Choir - Eastern Walls to Stringcourse
Walls to stringcourse
- Project F - 1130s - Phase 210 - North Choir - Piers and Walls to Capitals
To capitals
- Project F - 1130s - Phase 220 - North Choir - Completion to the Roof
To top
- Project G - 1130s - Phase 230 - South Portal - Installation of the Royal Portal
- Project H - 1130s - Phase 240 - North Transept - East Wall and Connection to North Building
East wall and connection to North Building
- Project H - 1130s - Phase 250 - North Transept - Western Half and Connection to Nave Aisle
Decision to widen transept and connection to north nave aisle
- Project H - 1130s - Phase 260 - North Transept - Lower Windows
Lower windows
- Project H - 1130s - Phase 270 - North Transept - Walls to Clerestory Capitals
To vault capitals
- Project H - 1130s - Phase 280 - North Transept - Walls to Roof
Upper Windows.
- Project H - 1130s - Phase 290 - North Transept - Dismantle North Aisle Bay and Fill In Above
Dismantle eastern bay of north aisle, fill above strut
- Project H - 1130s - Phase 300 - North Transept - Shafting at West Crossing and Central Pier
Shafting where nave aisle removed, central pier
- Project I - 1140s - Phase 310 - South Choir - Pier Bases and Plinths
Plinths and bases
- Project I - 1140s - Phase 320 - South Choir -
To stringcourse
- Project I - 1140s - Phase 330 - South Choir -
Lower windows
- Project I - 1140s - Phase 340 - South Choir -
To capitals
- Project J - 1150s - Phase 350 - South Transept -
Plinths and bases
- Project J - 1150s - Phase 360 - South Transept -
To window sills
- Project J - 1150s - Phase 370 - South Transept -
To clerestory
- Project J - 1150s - Phase 380 - South Transept -
Upper windows, connection to south aisle
- Project K - 1190s - Phase 390 - West Facade - Plinths
Plinths and bases
- Project K - 1190s - Phase 400 - West Facade - Side Chapels
Side chapels
- Project K - 1190s - Phase 410 - West Facade - Lining of Narthex and Final Connection to Nave
Lining of narthex and final connection to nave
- Project K - 1190s - Phase 420 - West Facade - Crenelation
Crenelation
- Project L - 1190s - Phase 430 - North Choir - Crenelation
Crenelation
- Project M - 1510s - Phase 440 - North Building - Conversion to Chapel of Saint-Sepulchre
Conversion of sacristy
- Project N - 1520s - Phase 450 - South Choir - Conversion of Treasury
Conversion of treasury
- Project O - 1210s - Phase 460 - Nave - Enlargement of Clerestory Windows
Enlargement of clerestory windows
- Project P - TBDs - Phase 470 - Tower V - Tower III
Addition to tower
- Project Q - 1200s - Phase 480 - Tower VI - Tower IV
Addition of level with bell turrets
- Project R - 1200s - Phase 490 - Tower VII - Spire
Spire
- Project S - TBDs - Phase 500 - Choir - Flèche
Flèche
- Project T - 1863s - Phase 510 - North Building - Conversion to Sacristy and Expansion
Expansion to the east