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Westwork of Corvey Abbey

A westwork (German: Westwerk), forepart, avant-corps or avancorpo is the monumental, often west-facing entrance section of a Carolingian, Ottonian, or Romanesque church. The exterior consists of multiple stories between two towers. The interior includes an entrance vestibule, a chapel, and a series of galleries overlooking the nave.[1] A westwork is usually broader than the width of the nave and aisles. It is sometimes used synonymously with narthex.

The westwork of Corvey Abbey (873–885), Germany, is the oldest extant example. The frescos (originally of the 9th century) inside the westwork show scenes from the Odyssey. The King, later the Emperor, and his entourage lodged in the westwork when visiting the abbey during their travels around the country.[citation needed] This is known as the Kaiserloge on the upper, or second story.

The primary source of Trajan's Aqueduct, the Aqua Traiana, a nymphaeum known as the Madonna della Fiora near Rome, is documented in the Historical Diocesan Archive of Nepi and Sutri as having been converted into a church in medieval times by constructing a westwork. "It was adapted to a church by building a two-floor masonary forepart: the lower floor as the facade of the church; the upper floor as residence of the parish priest divided into 5 rooms."

The feature was introduced into Norman architecture in the 11th century by Robert of Jumièges at the church of Jumièges Abbey, consecrated in 1067. The pattern was continued in German Gothic architecture.


  1. ^ Stokstad, Marilyn; Cothren, Michael W. (2011). Art History. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 225. ISBN 978-0205744220.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Westworks at Wikimedia Commons