Westwork of Corvey Abbey

A westwork (German: Westwerk) is the monumental, west-facing entrance section of a Carolingian, Ottonian, or Romanesque church. The exterior consists of multiple stories between two towers. The interior includes an entrance vestibule, a chapel, and a series of galleries overlooking the nave.[1] A westwork is usually broader than the width of the nave and aisles. It is sometimes used synonymously with narthex.

The westwork of Corvey Abbey (873–885), Germany, is the oldest extant example. The frescos (originally of the 9th century) inside the westwork show scenes from the Odyssey. The King, later the Emperor, and his entourage lodged in the westwork when visiting the abbey during their travels around the country.

The feature was introduced into Norman architecture in the 11th century by Robert of Jumièges at the church of Jumièges Abbey, consecrated in 1067. The pattern was continued in German Gothic architecture.


  1. Stokstad, Marilyn; Cothren, Michael W. (2011). Art History. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. p. 225. ISBN 978-0205744220.

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