About the CRSBI
Romanesque sculpture marks a high point of artistic production in Britain and Ireland, corresponding to the boom in high-quality building that followed the Norman Conquest in 1066, and reflecting a new set of links with mainland Europe. A good deal of this sculpture remains in parish churches and cathedrals, houses and halls, castles and museums throughout these isles.
The aim of the project is to photograph and record all the surviving sculpture, making this important part of British and Irish heritage available over the Internet. A committee of experts in the field leads a team of skilled and dedicated volunteer fieldworkers, who locate and visit sites where Romanesque sculpture survives, describing, measuring and taking photographs. The project editors convert the raw materials of their research into an electronic archive. Church plans, generously made available by the Church Plans Online project and National Monuments Record, are included where available as an additional visual aid. The website is updated regularly; information on the current status of fieldwork completed and in progress is provided in the 'news' section on the website homepage.
The CRSBI has already established itself as an authoritative scholarly resource. Significant quantities of previously unrecorded material have come to light in the course of the project, and there are many examples of sculpture that are here being recorded, catalogued and photographed in an academic context for the first time. Concurrent with its academic importance is the project's role in raising awareness of the British Isles' rich twelfth-century heritage, helping to ensure its conservation and preservation. Much of the sculpture is exposed to the risk of wear, damage and theft. Records of the sculpture's condition are invaluable for conservators and the church and heritage bodies responsible for its protection. The Shobdon Arches are a case in point.
The CRSBI owes its inception to Professor George Zarnecki CBE FBA, the doyen of the study of Romanesque sculpture in Britain and former Deputy Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art. Professor Zarnecki began researching English Romanesque sculpture at the suggestion of Fritz Saxl of the Warburg Institute in 1945, resulting in his 1950 dissertation at the Courtauld Institute entitled Regional Schools of English Sculpture in the Twelfth Century. This has never been published, but his two slim but lavishly illustrated volumes English Romanesque Sculpture 1066-1140 (1951) and English Romanesque Sculpture 1140-1210 (1953) have served to introduce the subject to generations of scholars. He was responsible for the major exhibition English Romanesque Art 1066-1200 (Arts Council 1984), and his Gislebertus, Sculptor of Autun (London 1961) with photographs by Denis Grivot, set the standard for a biography of a twelfth-century sculptor. Most of his publications have been admirably short and pithy, and the best of them are collected in Studies in Romanesque Sculpture (1979) and Further Studies in Romanesque Sculpture (1992).
After his retirement from the Courtauld Institute he turned his attention to a project he had long envisaged; the establishment of a complete archive of photographs and scholarly descriptions of British and Irish Romanesque sculpture. In May 1988, following the submission of a proposal by Zarnecki and Neil Stratford of the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities at the British Museum, the British Academy gave its approval to the CRSBI, which has been an Academy Research Project ever since. The first meeting of the committee was held on 19 July 1988, under the chairmanship of Professor Peter Lasko, a distinguished medieval art historian and former Director of the Courtauld Institute. Lasko guided the project through its early stages, retiring in 1999 when Sandy Heslop, Dean of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia took the helm.
Professor Zarnecki died on 8 September 2008.