At her death on March 6, 2015, Barbara Abou-El-Haj left a book, long in the works, unfinished. Her title was Lordship and Commune: A Comparative History of Building and Decorating in Reims and Amiens. The book was to engage with the ways in which the differing political structures of the medieval cities of Reims and Amiens affected the construction of their respective Gothic cathedrals in the thirteenth century. Abou-El-Haj observed that scholars have noted the differences in the apparent quality and variety of sculptural decoration at Reims and Amiens but failed to consider the dissimilar political situations in the cities. The archdiocese of Reims was ruled by an autocratic archbishop-count, who held the power to levy taxes on its citizens, while Amiens, a suffragan of Reims, was a self-ruled commune independent of episcopal jurisdiction. She maintained that it was precisely the governmental differences at the sites and the resulting disparity of resources that were reflected in the buildings themselves.
The text Barbara Abou-El-Haj was incomplete, un-proofed, and in places a series of notes. We have done our best in this project to offer up the most refined parts of her work and fill in gaps. So the text on this site is a hybrid – of words written by Barbara Abou-El-Haj, and those composed by members of the collaboratory team, aiming to capture the spirit and approach of the original author.