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Conant, K(enneth) J(ohn)locked

(b Neenah, WI, June 28, 1894; d Bedford, MA, March 4, 1984).

Conant, K(enneth) J(ohn)locked

(b Neenah, WI, June 28, 1894; d Bedford, MA, March 4, 1984).
  • Joseph R. Kopta

American architectural historian. Conant was the leading 20th-century American architectural historian specializing in Romanesque architecture, and was the primary archaeologist of the monastic complex at Cluny. He earned his degrees from Harvard, including a BA in Fine Arts in 1915, an MArch. in 1919, and a PhD with a dissertation on the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, supervised by Arthur Kingsley Porter, in 1926. He trained in archaeological practices in 1926 at the excavations of Chichén Itzá and Pueblo Bonito before directing excavations in earnest at Cluny starting in 1928. He was Professor of Architecture Emeritus at Harvard University, retiring from teaching in 1954.

An active member of the Medieval Academy of America (which funded his excavations after initial funding from the Guggenheim Foundation), Conant published frequent field reports documenting the excavations of Cluny as articles in Speculum. Additionally, Conant published a monograph on the sum of the excavations in 1968, following with a 1975 article in Speculum summarizing discoveries between 1968 and 1975. At Cluny, he identified and clarified the separate medieval construction projects at odds with existing records through careful measurement (see Cluniac Order §III).

Conant’s restoration drawings of medieval sites are well known, particularly those of Cluny, Santiago de Compostela, and Montecassino. His scholarship is characterized by avenues of stylistic influence based upon careful examination of the material evidence through medieval construction practices. He argued for the primacy of Cluny as the epitome of the Romanesque in terms of its architectural relevancy to other sites on pilgrimage routes.

Aside from his Cluny studies, he is best known for his general monograph, Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture 800–1200, written in 1959 as part of the Pelican History of Art series, which broadened the scope of his scholarship to include all of Europe.

Writings

  • The Early Architectural History of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (Cambridge, MA, 1926)
  • A Brief Commentary on Early Mediaeval Church Architecture, with Especial Reference to Lost Monuments (Baltimore, 1942)
  • Benedictine Contributions to Church Architecture (Latrobe, PA, 1949)
  • Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture 800–1200, Pelican Hist. A. (Baltimore, 1959)
  • Cluny: Les Eglises et la Maison du Chef d’Ordre (Cambridge, MA, 1968)