Gothic Cathedrals: The Cathedral of Saint Susanne

Fall 2016

Students in ARTHIST 225 Gothic Cathedrals spend the semester designing architectural plans for plausible medieval European cathedrals. They develop an historical and religious narrative, budget, iconography, and elevations, sections, and floor plans. Here is one example of such a project.


Mapping Italian Baroque Art & Architecture

Kristin Huffman LanzoniAmanda LazarusHannah Jacobs
Fall 2016

Students in ARTHIST 256 Italian Baroque Art used Omeka and Neatline to create digital archives and exhibitions that use annotated historical maps, timelines, and multimedia to construct visual narratives about significant artists, patrons, and sites created in Italy during the seventeenth century. Their projects can be viewed at

Modeling Medieval European Castles

Edward Triplett
Fall 2016

Students in ARTHIST 190S Medieval Castles of Europe worked in Autodesk 3D Studio Max to create counterfactual models of medieval castles drawing on their knowledge of medieval architecture, politics, and geography. Their projects have been made available through Sketchfab:


Castelo de Setúbal

Castello de Maggiore

Castillo de Cañaveral

Castillo de Humilladero

Great Houses Make Not Men Holy: Mendicant Architecture in Medieval Oxford

Jim Knowles (Grad ’09), Michal Koszycki (Trinity ’09)
| Project Website

Jim Knowles (Grad ’09) and Michal Koszycki (Trinity ’09) combined architectural, archaeological, and literary scholarship to create an animated film which tells the story of the Franciscan and Dominican foundations in Oxford, from their beginnings in the early thirteenth century through Henry VIII’s dissolution of religious houses in the 1530s. Using a sixteenth-century map of Oxford as their visual base layer—a map that shows no traces of the friars’ buildings—the authors first created a 3D virtual cityscape of late medieval Oxford, then superimposed new digital reconstructions (SketchUp models) of the friars’ lost buildings on this virtual map. The film narrates the development of these sites against a backdrop of increasing animosity towards the friars’ architectural expansion and the impingement of their massive compounds on the Oxford cityscape. An online streaming version of the finished film is available for viewing:

Great Houses Make Not Men Holy: Mendicant Architecture in Medieval Oxford (High Res) from Jim Knowles on Vimeo.

Mapping the Movement of People & Materials

Maiya Aiba, Camile Cleveland, Jennifer Simpson, Alexandra Wisner, Fiona Xin
Spring 2015

In Introduction to Art History with Caroline Bruzelius, students learned about the History of Art from Prehistory to the Middle Ages. A significant part of the course concerned mapping the transportation of raw materials as well as objects acquired through colonial expropriation. For their final projects, students in the course developed Neatline projects in which they mapped the development and trade of materials used in ancient and Medieval artistry within historic, social, and geographic contexts. The following projects are examples of exemplary student projects:


Maiya Aiba – Athenian Use and Acquisition of Timber in the Ancient Mediterranean

Camile Cleveland – Athenian Temples

Jennifer Simpson – Mapping the Materials and Construction of the Pyramids of Giza

Alexandra Wisner – History and Development of Greek Coinage in the Mediterranean

Fiona Xin – History and Movement of Lapis Lazuli


Access all of these projects here.

The Medieval Apostles at the Nasher Museum of Art

Katrina Robelo (Trinity ’12), Meg Williams (Trinity ’12)

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University holds four pieces of an important ensemble of Romanesque figural sculpture. These four apostles, along with two others at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, another at the Smith College Museum of Art, and one more apostle and an angel at the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester, were originally part of a 12th-century Ascension scene, probably on the exterior of a church, that would have been comprised of at least fourteen figures. Unfortunately, several pieces of the original group have been lost, but other evidence remains.

The goals of this project were to recontextualize the figures at Duke by recreating a hypothesis of their original arrangement and proposing a hypothesis of color for the girues in order to better understand how polychromy creates and enhances particular visual effects.

Meg Williams (Trinity ’12) and Katrina Robelo (Trinity ’12) thus drew upon conservation reports of the surviving sculptures, as well as Medieval manuscript illuminations to visualize these apostles as they might have originally appeared.

Modeling Medieval British Castles

Students in ARTHIST 290 and 89S The Medieval Castle in Britain were tasked with creating 3D models of real or imaginary medieval British castles as part of their final projects. Each class was divided into teams of 3 students, each being assigned a role in the project: building manager, architect, or historian. The building manager researched the building process and economic and environmental aspects of building a medieval castle. The historian gathered information on the history of the castle and its family/families. The architect built the castle according to both the building manager and the historian’s research. The students in these classes had very little or no 3D modeling experience when they entered the class. The architects created their models in SketchUp under the guidance of Andrea Giordano and Cosimo Monteleone (University of Padua) and Hannah Jacobs (Wired! Lab, Duke University).

The following are three of the models created by the students:


Norwich Castle

This model is based on the stone keep of Norwich Castle, built between 1095-1110. Norwich Castle was chosen because of its intricate design – note the copious blind arcading, crenellations, and fake portcullises.


Faversham Castle

Our team consisted of John, our architect, Luke, our engineer, and Yifan, the building manager/historian. We decided to construct a nonexistent but historically accurate castle and chose Faversham, England for its location. It is an Edwardian castle of the mid fourteenth century.


Barmouth Castle

Barmouth Castle is a fictitious castle that we created to show our knowledge and understanding of the architecture and history of medieval castles in Great Britain. It was built by Edward I from 1282 to 1287 in Barmouth, Wales, as part of his campaign to conquer and control the Welsh people. It is grand in size and concentric in design, drawing inspiration from Harlech Castle, Beaumaris Castle, and Conwy Castle. Like all castles of this time period, it was built to show the king’s power and wealth.


Old Stones and New Technologies: Computer Vision and Medieval Stone Carving

Caroline Bruzelius, Carlo Tomasi

This project is a Humanities Writ Large funded initiative between Professors Caroline Bruzelius and Carlo Tomasi. It focused on capturing data on medieval chisel marks through photography in order to analyze chisel marks and process in the carving of stones for medieval sculpture and buildings.

Simon Verity, a stone carver from St. John the Divine, visited Duke to give students, graduate students & faculty experience in stone cutting. It was featured on Duke Today. Photo by Jared Lazarus/Duke University Photography.

San Lorenzo Maggiore in Naples

San Lorenzo is founded in the heart of historic Naples in the location of the ancient Roman market, the remains of which can still be visited underneath the church. After a mud-slide in the 6th century C.E., a Christian church, the foundations of which were rediscovered in excavations after World War II, was built over the market.

In 1234 the site was given to the Franciscan order and became the major center of Franciscan spirituality in the Kingdom of Sicily. The friars gradually transformed the old basilica, expanding it to the sides with lateral chapels (probably in the 1250s and 1260s), extending it to the east with a new Gothic choir (starting in the 1270s), and after c. 1324 enlarging it to the west with a new west façade. In the last expansion of the church, the old basilica was demolished and a transept was inserted within the structure. Each addition was conceived in relation to the pre-existing building, even as they partially modified or (even) destroyed it. In the process, the builders entirely voided out the interior of the old basilica while keeping the exterior “envelop” intact.

How can we explain this kind of complex narrative to the public that now experiences San Lorenzo as one vast and unified interior space? Archaeological plans are usually understood only by specialists with deep historical knowledge: our project has therefore attempted to create an animated and illustrated narrative to explain the complicated and on-going process of episodic and gradual transformation that created the church we see today, one that is deeply in the heart of Neapolitan life and culture.

A video of the model developed for this project can be viewed here:

Lux from Umberto Plaja on Vimeo.

San Francesco a Folloni

Campania, Italy

Michal Koszycki, Rebecca Wood

San Francesco a Folloni, located to the southeast of Naples near the ancient Appian Road from Rome to Brindisi, is a Franciscan convent founded in the thirteenth century. It is still the home of a small community of friars who are actively engaged with the nearby town of Monella. The church and convent have been repaired, expanded, and reconstructed on many occasions – the axis of the church was even rotated 180 degrees from its original alignment. In 2009 a group of four Duke undergraduates worked closely with the prior of the community, Fra Agnello, to propose an animated reconstruction of the history of the convent and its buildings. Thanks to funding provided by Dean Lee Baker, the students were able to travel to Italy and spend ten days working on site, living in the Franciscan community with the friars.

The reconstruction presented by the Duke University students presents an innovative interpretation of early Franciscan architecture, representing it as an additive process supported (and even driven) by the donations of private patrons who requested burial in the church and cloister. The complex was built in a series of incremental steps of additions and expansions that spread out over at least 8 centuries.

A video explaining the project can be viewed here:

San Francesco a Folloni from AAH&VS on Vimeo.