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Christian buildings are among the privileged monuments of heritage. Since the creation of national monuments, a certain number of them have been listed and protected. However, these monuments protected and visible under a mostly finished aspect have for the most part a rich history made up of destruction, reconstruction, development, etc.
Moreover, the first Christian buildings of the Middle Ages are quite rare in France and only archeology can fill in certain gaps in these important and essential buildings of the Middle Ages. The number 363 of Archeology files entitled "The first Christian buildings" coordinated by Jean-François Reynaud lifts the veil a little on this largely buried heritage.
After an introductory article presenting the subject treated in this issue, the first part of the dossier devoted to the first Christian buildings and the liturgy begins with a general panorama of the Christianization of the urban changes in Gaul linked to the Christianization of it. The article is clear and embellished with many useful maps for understanding these phenomena. The contribution of Charles Bonnet on the episcopal group of Geneva shows the continuity of the central places (and of power) in this city. The following article presents a very clear and successful synthesis of the contribution of archeology to the liturgy in the medieval church. Thus the place of the celebrants, of the sanctuary with its altar and of the presbyterium contributed to the evolution of monuments and was very different from that established by the Council of Trent.
The second part is devoted to the study of different religious buildings and the different approaches used to better understand them. The first article by Jean-François Reynaud shows the contributions of religious texts on certain Christian buildings but also all the interest that there may be in comparing written sources with archaeological sources. Numerous articles take stock of a discipline, a problem or a technique related to the question such as the choice of materials, the archeology of roofs, archaeological analyzes, etc. The last three articles are devoted to two major Christian buildings, the Saint-Jean de Poitiers baptistery, which has benefited from in-depth research funded by the Ministry of Culture and the monastery of Cluny. On the latter, the emphasis is on the difficulties in returning the monument to tourists (a large abstract puzzle for the public). This last article announces to a large extent the last part of this dossier.
This addresses the development and educational presentation of many European sites. The first article devoted to the Saint-Laurent church in Grenoble is a success and shows the museographic choices made very early on. The complexity of the site is not spared to the visitor: it is in a way a tribute to the diachrony which requires in return "to create the conditions for an interesting, educational visit, where questions can arise to which answers are provided. ". We will not discuss all the sites mentioned in this part here, but we would like to draw the reader's attention in particular to the contribution of Renato Perinetti on the cathedral and the Saint-Ours church in Aosta, which is accompanied by magnificent photographs of 11th century frescoes.
The articles are once again very richly illustrated. Some articles may put off some readers because of their technicality but others counterbalance this and allow to admire or better understand these buildings. The first Christian buildings are largely neglected in the common culture in the face of the masterpieces of Romanesque and Gothic in France even if secondary school curricula now include the study in sixth grade of a Christian basilica from the first centuries of our era. Not neglecting certain epistemological, conservation or enhancement (educational or heritage) issues, this issue can be an interesting first approach to Christian buildings from the early Middle Ages.
Archaeological files n ° 363: the first Christian buildings. June 2014, on newsstands and by subscription.