2012: The Textual-Sonic Landscapes of Jacques Perret's Des Fortifications et Artifices

Current art-historical scholarship on Renaissance print culture rarely acknowledges the full range of sensory experiences once evoked by this communicative medium. Intellectual and social historians, by contrast, have demonstrated that print constituted far more than a regime of "visuality" during the early modern period. Texts were not only largely read aloud—in the long tradition of oral recitation—but reading itself was considered a holistic bodily practice, which could affect physical health and profoundly alter the passions. This paper brings such insights to bear on late-Renaissance church and city planning, through the lens of Jacques Perret of Chambéry’s military-architectural treatise Des fortifications et artifices.

Published three years after the 1598 proclamation of the Edict of Nantes, the Huguenot architect’s treatise reveals a tight bond between notions of sound and territoriality during the French Wars of Religion. Inscriptions on Fortifications’ illustrated plates borrow scriptural verses co-translated into French by poet Clément Marot and theologian Theodore Beza for Calvinist Psalters. These were among the most widely circulated printed books of the French Renaissance, and Huguenots wielded them toward militant ends: Psalms were sung to steel Protestant soldiers marching into battle, to disrupt Catholic services, and to rouse anti-clerical sentiment during mass demonstrations.

Considered within this context, the treatise’s understudied inscriptions open new interpretive avenues into Perret’s designs. Against a Catholic conception of sacred geography, Perret’s radially-planned ideal cities function as open commercial and transportation infrastructure. Urban space is perfectly choreographed for the easy movement of Protestant worshippers, whose songs could spread unimpeded through the all the cities’ streets. There is also a unity of conception between Perret’s famous "perspectives" and his invocation of the aural experience of his cities. Cut-away axonometric representations of Protestant temples invite faithful readers to enter and fill the structures with a living, breathing, and worshiping body of saints.