Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Construction Contracts, Medieval Style

1340 Contract for reconstruction of
the Sansedoni Palace in Siena.

This Friday will be my first time to lecture on Romanesque and Gothic architecture after completing a degree in law.  Reviewing my lecture from a couple of years ago, I thought it would be interesting to research what a medieval construction contract looks like.  The oldest contract I have found concerns the a Gothic renovation of the Sansedoni Palace in Siena.  The contract is dated 1340.  The most intriguing aspect of the contract is that over half of the .5m x 1.2m document is an illustration of the proposed fa├žade.  The text of the contract is not dissimilar from modern contracts.  The first paragraph identifies the parties and purpose of the contract.  The second paragraph describes what will be constructed.  The following paragraphs address the financial terms and period for construction.  The contract includes a description of the funds placed in escrow and is signed by the parties and third party sureties.  
Sansedoni Palace today.

For more information, see Toker, Franklin, "Gothic Architecture by Remote Control: An Illustrated Building Contract of 1340.  The Art Bulletin.  Vol. 67, No. 1 (March 1985).  pp 67-95. 

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