Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

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Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814–1879), French architect and art historian.  Portrait of Nadar.
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, portrait by Nadar .

Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (born January 27, 1814 in Paris , † September 17, 1879 in Lausanne , Switzerland ) was a French architect , monument conservator and art historian ; he gained fame through his restorations of medieval buildings and his scientific work on the history of architecture .


From the early 1840s he made a significant contribution to the restoration movement of medieval buildings in France . In 1840 he was commissioned by Prosper Mérimée to restore the abbey church of Vézelay . This was the beginning of a long series of restoration work ( Notre-Dame in Paris , cathedrals of Saint-Denis , Amiens , Reims , Clermont-Ferrand , the fortifications of Carcassonne , Basilica of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse, Pierrefonds Castle , Castle Roquetaillade etc.) , which made Viollet-Le-Duc the leading restorer in France. He was never general inspector of historical monuments in France, but in 1853 he became the superintendent of all religious buildings in France ( Inspecteur général des édifices diocésains ).

Research into medieval architecture is one of his special achievements . Viollet-le-Duc published his research results between 1854 and 1868 in the ten-volume Dictionnaire raisonné de l'architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle ("Dictionary of French architecture of the 11th to 16th centuries"). For this purpose, he made a large number of high-quality drawings during his research trips that document floor plans, elevations and details as well as showing his attempts to reconstruct medieval buildings.

His knowledge of medieval construction technology was used both in the restoration of historical buildings and in solving contemporary construction tasks. With his designs Viollet-le-Duc contributed to the architecture of historicism . The activity of Viollet-le-Duc in the field of monument preservation is still controversial in research today . "Restored" buildings could end up in a condition that they never had. Sometimes Viollet-le-Duc and his students are also referred to pejoratively as vandalisme restaurateurs ("restoration vandals"). They found their opponent in John Ruskin .

In 1869 Viollet-le-Duc was one of the first foreigners to be elected honorary member (Hon. RA) of the British Royal Academy of Arts . In 1876 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . Viollet-le-Duc was buried in the Cimetière du Bois-de-Vaux , the main cemetery of the city of Lausanne. The grave still exists today (as of September 2017).

Work (selection of its restoration work)

Reconstruction drawing of Viollet-le-Ducs for Pierrefonds Castle
Town halls
City walls, castles and palaces
Other profane structures
  • Bishop's Palace in Sens

A few pupils

Title of the Dictionnaire raisonné de l'architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle (Paris, 1868)



Web links

Commons : Eugène Viollet-le-Duc  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Eugène Viollet-le-Duc  - Sources and full texts (French)

Individual evidence

  1. List of Honorary Foreign Academicians, 1868-1904 . In: JE Hodgson, Fred A. Eaton: The Royal Academy and its Members 1768–1830. Scribner, New York; Murray, London 1905, p. 359.
  2. ^ Rik Van Beveren: Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. In: Find a Grave . November 24, 2009, accessed April 16, 2019 .