Deschamps, Jean

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Jean Deschamps

Early 13th century–Late 13th century


A Family of Master Builders.

The inscription of his lost tombstone in the cathedral of Clermont-Ferrand informs modern scholars that Jean Deschamps ("Joannis de Campis") began construction of the choir of the church in 1248 and was buried alongside his wife, Marie, and their children. Judging from the forms and construction methods employed at Clermont, Deschamps came to that city in the central French province of Auvergne from Paris, for the cathedral's design can be linked closely to work at Saint-Denis, the Notre-Dame nave chapels, and the Sainte-Chapelle of the 1230s and 1240s. In 1286, a Jean Deschamps was appointed "first master" ("premier maistre") of the works at Narbonne Cathedral, an event that offers the tempting possibility to propose that this is the same builder four decades later in the twilight of his career. Despite general similarities with Clermont, Narbonne appears to be the work of a different master, who headed construction until 1295 and left drawings for piers in the floor of one of the choir chapels. Nevertheless, Jean Deschamps of Clermont may have been the eldest member of an extended family of architects that included not only his namesake at Narbonne, but also a Pierre Deschamps, who worked at Clermont and possibly at Rodez in the mid-fourteenth century, and Bertrand Deschamps, master mason of Bordeaux Cathedral around 1320. Familial connections in the craft are common in architecture and are encountered in the late Gothic German "dynasties" of the Parlers, whose members worked at Cologne and Prague or the Roriczers. These ties would also explain the similarities between the southern French cathedrals of Clermont, Limoges, Rodez, Narbonne, and Bordeaux, based on northern French verticality enriched by the linearity characteristic of the rayonnant style.


Robert Branner, Saint Louis and the Court Style in Gothic Architecture (London: Zwemmer, 1965).

Michael Davis, "The Choir of the Cathedral of Clermont-Ferrand: The Beginning of Construction and the Work of Jean Deschamps" Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 40 (1981): 181–202.

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Deschamps, Jean

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