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Medieval Christendom and the Romanesque 900 - 1300

Origins --- Belief System --- Political Situation --- Romanesque Architecture

Romanesque in Italy ------ Pisa Cathedral------ Santa Maria del Soccorso----
Santa Maria di Collemaggio----- San Miniato al Monte---
Romanesque in France--- Amboise --- Vezelay Cathedral-- Autun Cathedral ----Sivlicane---
Romanesque in Spain and Portugal
----- Salamanca ----- Leon Cathedral----Lisbon
Romanesque in Germany------ Worms Cathedrall-----Mainz Cathedral ------- Cologne
Romanesque in England----- Durham Cathedral ----- Tower of London ----- Lincoln Cathedral and Castle

Origins

The people identified by the Romans as 'barbarians', men of the beard, managed to dismember the central Roman power by the fourth century, and slowly developed individual kingdoms and city states under their own rule. Justinian bravely tried to reunite the Roman Empire, but after his reign the empire disintegrated. Over the next few centuries leaders emerged sporadically across Europe gaining control of portions of the old empire. These men fostered a partnership with the Christian Church and established a new culture now known as Medieval Christendom.

In 800, individual city states were briefly united under Charlemagne who consolidated his empire with Aix-la-Chapelle as its center. Once settled, he called artists and craftsmen from both the Western and the Eastern Roman empires to provide adornment for his churches and palaces. This is where the Romanesque was born. The style languished after Charlemagne's death while inefficient rulers and their people let the land grow dormant and diseased convinced that the end of world was immanent. The predicted date was the year 1000. When the end failed to appear, life started up again in earnest and the Romanesque was developed as a true style.

Belief System

Travel routes established during the time of Charlemagne were maintained during the Romanesque years. These were of particular importance for the two phenomena that characterize this age: pilgrimage and crusades. Religious enthusiasm was the heart of Medieval life. Legends of the saints were kept alive by a myriad of visions, miracles, and superstitions as monks, friars and pilgrims made their way from one cathedral or set of holy relics to the next. Pilgrimages provided a platform for the exchange of stories and ideas as well as the exchange of goods and money. As the traffic between religious sites increased, so did Romanesque architecture as buildings were constructed to house and feed the growing number of pilgrims. The main arteries of travel were from central France to Santiago de Compostela on the west coast of Spain (then the Kingdom of Leon), the resting place of the remains of the apostle St. James. Pilgrims who had made the arduous journey to these remains could proudly wear a bag or a cloak with the image of the cockle shell of St. James as evidence of their pilgrimage.

In search of fame and glory, kings, lords and barons set off to the East on Crusades to try to recapture the Holy Land from the Turks.

The term Romanesque was coined during the nineteenth century when critics identified a series of buildings constructed using structural elements derived from ancient Roman architecture.This is the first building style to emerge after the 700 years of turmoil that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. Most of these buildings are centered on the Roman vault, and all illustrate an obsession with defense. Churches, baptisteries, castles and public buildings were all built as strongholds, fortresses-like and impenetrable.

Norman Architecture
In the North, the Scandinavian Vikings had been preying upon the costal cities of England, France, Spain, and even into Italy since before Charlemagne. In places where they established permanent settlements, their buildings make use of ship building techniques, interior ceilings often resemble ship's bowes. This style became known as Norman, and is best illustrated in Durham Cathedral.

Political Situation

Without the order imposed by the Roman Empire, Europe collapsed into a scattered group of city states, each vying for power and control. Along the coast of the Mediterranean, cities were vulnerable to attach from North Africa, the East, and the Normans. Across land came the Visigoths and the barbarians form the north. The experience garnered by repeated attacks from all sides, generation after generation, resulted in an obsession with security.

Few domestic buildings survive from this age because the society was largely feudal. The serfs lived in huts made of reeds or wattle and daub. The lord's manor was not much more refined generally consisting of one large room heated by a central hearth with a louvered smokehole above. Beds were arranged around the outside of the room for the higher-ups. The servants would bed down beside the fire along with the dogs and other family pets. Over the years exterior chimneys were installed which removed the smoke, and more rooms were added as sleeping chambers, kitchens and servant's quarters.

Most of the population were serfs, the high religious figures were appointed by the government and not always respected by the citizenry, but the craftsmen building the churches were the ones who produced the angles, devils, knights, gargoyles and biblical stories that provided the foundation of faith for a largely illiterate population. These men had the same respect and celebrity as the current Hollywood stars and directors.

Romanesque Architecture

The earliest Romanesque architects were priests and monks whose ideas for communal Christian living were carried out by skilled craftsmen. The buildings of the early period, 1000 - 1150, are very heavy with largely local influences seen in the detailing. By 1300 the trade routes established by Charlemagne and used by pilgrims helped to disseminate the style across Europe.

Monasteries were situated outside the city gates. They were much like modern university complexes in that they provided education, medical care, and a vibrant intellectual life while being largely self sufficient with their own agriculture, kitchens, shops, etc. Experiments with water wheels, land drainage, building techniques and other engineering all took place at the monastery. Workshops with carvers, masons and other decorative arts were all attached to the abbey. The abbot was the spiritual leader of the community.

All of the Roman aqueducts had ceased to function by the eleventh century. Monasteries were among the only buildings that habitually channeled fresh water into the area and sewage away. It was only when Greek and Arab medical texts began to be brought back from the East, that people began to see the value of sanitation.

The builders of the new churches, cathedrals and public buildings were looking for a model on which to base their new style of architecture. They wanted something strong, dignified, and reminiscent of the glorious past. Many towns and cities needed to look no further than the amphitheaters and gateways built by the Romans that had remained intact for many centuries. The Port D'Arroux in Autun, below, is one of many Roman portals that were part of the city structures during the XII century and remain part of the city some two millennia after they were constructed. The large Roman arch superseded by an arcade of smaller arches forms the basic design for naves and façades of the Romanesque period.

While solidly built, Romanesque buildings were not concerned with the classical elements such as the orders and the proportions of the pediments, but used classical detailing as surface decoration that resembles neither the original Greek buildings nor the revival of the Classical style seen in the Renaissance. Columns are no longer structural, but are seen as colonnetes dividing window openings or creating patterned arcades as seen on the façade of the Pisa Cathedral.

Roman Arched Entrance Autun

Porte D'arroux - Roman Gate - Autun - (10 AD) Facade Nave Campanile Blind Arch

 

Romanesque in Italy

As Italy is the birthplace of both the Roman style and the Renaissance, it is perhaps the best place to start to study the distinctly different character of the Romanesque. Within walking distance of many of the monuments below are excellent examples of original Roman arches and basilicas, refined Renaissance palazzos and the more extreme adaptations of the Classical in the Baroque era. The detailing of the Romanesque may well be taken from the Classical period, but the effect, like that found on the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Palladian, is entirely different.

Contrast the imposing columned temple front of the Pantheon with the delicate arcades of the Pisa Cathedral. Both use the same vocabulary but that is where the similarity ends.

The Romanesque is more in tune with Roman vaulting than with Classical detailing. In Italy the Romanesque buildings are also distinct in that they are built with brick and faced with marble, a building method we have seen in Hadrian's villa.

In the Italian Romanesque as well we see not just marble but stripes of different coloured marble giving a dichromatic finish found on churches from Pisa to Sienna, including the Santa Maria dei Fiori in Florence. Brilliant sculpture is found on the bronze doors of many of these monuments, where carving and sculpture are found more on stonework in buildings further north.

During this period Italy was divided into several political areas. The buildings shown below were situated in the Holy Roman Empire which stretched from East of the Papal State of Rome to Denmark.

Cathedral - Pisa

1063 - 1092

The tiers of delicate arcades on the west front rise up to a temple front. It is a massive fortress-like building with classical elements only as decoration. The delicacy of the ornamental detail on all the buildings in this square make it one of the centers of medieval art in the world. The use of marble on the exterior of the building is characteristic of Italian Romanesque.

Pisa Cathedral

Pisa Cathedral

Along the south elevation you can see the bands of red and white marble that make up the exterior finish. On the right is the transept. Within the blind arches are lozenge patterns. Clerestory windows on the nave allow light into the building.

The interior is decorated with mosaics in the Byzantine tradition. The elliptical dome was added much later.

Pisa Cathedral

Pisa Baptistery

The barbarians brought with them greed and cruelty - not that the Romans didn't have enough of their own, but the period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the end of the dark ages is littered with eyewitness accounts of brothers torturing brothers, mothers killing sons, sons killing mothers for power and wealth, all documented by Shakespeare and others. Consequently there is an emphasis on defense in every building of the time as can be seen even here in the Baptistery.

The arcade is surmounted by Gothic additions made during the 14th century.

Pisa Baptistry Canopy Colonette Rib

Pisa Campanile

The magnificent complex of buildings that makes up this group illustrates the importance of Pisa in the commerce of Italy at the time. It was the rival of Venice and Genoa as a great naval and commercial power. Like most large port cities, Pisa sent merchant fleets to Jerusalem for the Easter Fair. The exchange of goods there as well as in Muslim Sicily may account for some of the eastern influence in this design.

The Pisa tower is 16 meters (52 feet) in diameter and rises eight stories. There is a walkway along the encircling arcade.

Pisa Tower

Pisa Baptistery

The massive bronze doors were made in the workshops of Giambologna. They were added later as well.

 

Pisa Cathedral door

Santa Maria del Soccorso.
- L'Aquila - Italy (1300)

This detail of the western entrance to Santa Maria del Soccorso in L'Aquila shows the banded red and white marble typical of the Italian Romanesque as well as the elaborate archivolt that surrounds the tympanum,typical of Romanesque doors across Europe.

The alternating red and white marble is the signature finish on Romanesque in Italy. This style is rarely seen outside the country.

Santa Maria del Soccorso

Santa Maria del Soccorso.
- L'Aquila - Italy (1300)

This drawing of the above door shows the depth of the door and the molding. This is an elevation.

The drawings below are called reverse sections. They illustrate both the depth and the design of the door moldings.

Santa Maria dei Soccorso

Santa Maria dei Soffraggio - L'Aquila - Italy (1300)

Here are the sections of the moldings shown above. The section B-B, for example, shows the cross section of the cornice above the door.

Santa Maria dei Soccorso

Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio
- L'Aquila - Italy (1274)

Alternating pink and white marble patterns create a jewel like effect on the Santa Maria DI Collemaggio. The building is large and formidable. There are three doors each surmounted by its own rose window. The doors have large archivolts, each with different patterning.

The Romanesque elements are the compound archway doors, the fortress like exterior, the dichromatic marble, and the use of cornices.

Santa Maria di Colleggio

Basilica of Santa Maria DI Collemaggio
(stone detail
)

This is a detail of the pink and white marble patterns found on the front of the church.

Santa Maria di Colleggio

Basilica of Santa Maria DI Collemaggio
stone detail

The façade is composed of marble pieces in cruciform patterns. Also on the façade are six corbels, only one containing a biblical sculpture. The floral pattern on the cornice of the console is similar to that around the door on the Venetian Gothic San Gregorio. These were probably added later.

Santa Maria di Colleggio

San Miniato al Monte
Florence 1018-62

San Miniato was a terrifically influential building for the Renaissance architects because of the simplicity of the façade. The novel banding and paneling of black and white marble both on the exterior and the interior were also taken further in the Gothic period. The windows in the sanctuary are translucent marble instead of glass. This finish was used extensively in the late 20th century.

San Miniato

San Miniato al Monte
Florence 1018-62

The interior has stylized Corinthian columns along the arcade of the aisle. The capitals do not belong to the original Roman Corinthian design standards, neither do they correspond to the later Renaissance. They are most definitely and deliberately carved for this interior, to match the geometric designs of the marble on the walls and spandrels.

It is a basilica design, but there are important refinements in the design. The geometric patterns in marble are characteristic of Romanesque architecture in Italy.

San Miniato

San Gimingano
residential 1000

During the Middle Ages, security was a major concern, and addressing it was a source not only of peace of mind but also of prestige. San Gimignano is a small town within the rolling hills of Tuscany variously dominated by the neighboring bishops of Volterra or Florence, or the warring factions within their own commune, the Guelph and Ghibelline families. The town is thus spotted with tall towers, 13 in total, built by individual families to offer safety and lodging for their families and family retainers and to impress the other wealthy families in the neighborhood.

San Gimignano

 

Romanesque in France

The feudal system was the unifying force of the society throughout most of Western Europe. The church and abbey with its attached cloister was the central focus of the town. The castle with the ruling lord worked in close contact with the church to maintain peace or at least control. In France the symbolism of the churches was concentrated on the folly of man and his ultimate punishment. The key building was the cathedral that was supported by the abbey. These two working in tandem brought business to the towns that were until then largely self sufficient.

France was the starting point for the pilgrimages that gripped the heart of the continent as well as being a natural highway between the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the English channel with the large rivers that criss cross the land.

Because of the wide difference in geography and climate, and the fact that France is bordered on all sides by different influences, the character of the Romanesque is different in the various regions. In the south are graceful façades and delicate cloisters as can be seen in the monastery of Silvicane. In the north the Norman influence was stronger and the façades are usually flanked by strong towers as in Durham. Paris and the Loire Valley have very heavy buildings as seen in St. Denis Amboise. The west portals are deep and imposing with little levity or decoration.

The most remarkable stone carving is found in the Burgundy area in Autun and Vezelay where a handful of local craftsmen made magnificent capitals, tympana and bases that are unequaled in any other location.

St. Denis, Amboise
12th century

Fourth century Christians adapted the basilica form as their place of worship making practical use of the most prevalent large building style.

By the 7th and 8th centuries, churches had developed a cruciform plan. The apse could still be found on the east end, but a transept began to be formed perpendicular to the nave and the flat wooden ceilings were replaced by Roman style vaults.

St. Denis illustrates the typical massing of a small French Romanesque church. The flying buttresses were added later.

 

 

St. Denis, Amboise Apse Quoin

Vézelay Cathedral
1104 - 1170

This magnificent cathedral is situated on the crest of a large hill in the midst of Burgundy. The stone and half timber houses that surround it date from the XII to the XVI centuries. The size of the town is entirely disproportionate to the cathedral which was built as the starting point of one of the great pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela.

The façade has a large central portal with two doors separated by a Corinthianesque column. In the tympanum is a sculpture of the Last Judgment. Above this is an unusual design with a five light window, richly carved above and resplendent with figures on colonettes separating the window panes.

This window is flanked by two towers, one terminating at the top of the nave, the other higher and containing the bell.

 

 

 

Vezelay

Vézelay Cathedral
Romanesque Nave

The nave is composed of immense transverse arches creating a domical vault. There is no triforium, but small windows appear at the clerestory level illuminating the the vault and the huge supporting piers.

The arches are composed of alternating pink and white voussoirs. Along the nave separating it from the aisles are arcaded colonnades with similar alternating pink and white stonework. The capitals are carved with stories from the first testament and there is an ornate carved archivolt around each arched opening.

The apse and crossing were added later and are in the Gothic style as can be seen in this image.

 

 

 

Vezelay

Vézelay Cathedral
Romanesque Aisle

The cathedral was built over a number of years and consequently reflects both the Romanesque and the Gothic influences. Standing in the south aisle and looking west towards the narthex and west portal, the style is decidedly Romanesque. The vault is semicircular with the use of alternately colored stone. The capitals on the engaged columns of the piers are not done in any Classical style, but are triangular, each with an illustration of a biblical story as shown below.

Separating the aisle from the narthex is an Roman arch with a square door. This is also seen in the Worms cathedral door.

Clustered columns make up the piers that support the roof. They provide substantial support for the superstructure.

 

Vezelay Capital

Vézelay Cathedral
Gothic Ambulatory

Only a few paces east from the above aisle towards the apse and it surrounding ambulatory the style is decidedly Gothic. Through the pointed arch can be seen the ribbed vault of the ambulatory. The column capitals supporting the vault are once again in a Corinthianesque style.

 

 

 

Vezelay

Vézelay Cathedral
North Transept Crossing

The south transept illustrates the pointed arch of the Gothic style below the double Roman arches of the Romanesque. On the aisle to the right you can see the dichromatic arch, the chevron pattern, and the column capital shape of the Romanesque.

The transept on the left is monochrome with stylized Corinthian capitals.

 

 

 

Vezelay

Vézelay Cathedral
narthex 1104 - 1132

The column capitals throughout the narthex and nave are similar to those in Autun. They deliver a parable or story. They also tell us a lot about medieval visual culture.

The population was largely illiterate. There were constant territorial battles among the clergy and between the clergy and the duchies. The sculptures provide a visual story for the populace, but were probably also an important function for the patrons of the church who got both power and ligitimacy by providing decoration for the church.

Notice that Jesus has a halo.

 

 

Vezelay Capital

Vézelay Cathedral
Capital

These are referred to as narrative capitals because they depict a story from the bible.

 

 

 

Vezelay Capital

Autun Cathedral
1120 - 1146

The structure now known as Autun Cathedral was originally built as a pilgrimage location between Vezelay and Santiago de Compostela.

The structure was begun shortly after 1120 and 1150 by was largely complete. Very little of this original structure is visible from the outside. Here you can see the Gothic windows of chapels built along the original aisles in the XVIth century. The tower was part of the original structure but was modified in the XVIII century, and modified again in the XIXth so that the original Roman structure is barely visible.

On the right is the chapter house which was built in the Gothic period.

Despite the eclectic nature of the exterior, this is one of the most important Romanesque structures because of the sculpture on the interior and the West Portal.

Autun

Autun Cathedral
West Portal and Tympanum

The Last Judgment is found on the West Portal tympanum. In the center is a giant figure of Christ presiding over this final ceremony. Angels weigh the souls while devils try to tip the scales in their favor. The elect are shown rising to heaven and the damned are devoured by serpents or demons.

The tympanum was carved by Gislibertus, the most important sculptor of the XIIth century. His signature is clearly visible along the lintel.

Gislebertus Hoc Fecit
Gislebertus made this

The carvings within the cathedral are either by him or closely supervised by him, creating a unity in aesthetic that is rarely found on such a large structure.

The medieval style of figure representation went out of style in the XVIIth century. In 1766 the canons decided that the sculptures were mediocre and unworthy, and ordered to have the entire tympanum covered with plaster. This preserved the work from vandalism during the ensuing revolution.

Autun

Autun

Autun Cathedral
Tympanum

The right side of the tympanum shows the weighing of the souls. St. Michael is adding weight and applying some of his own to tip the scales up while devils on the right grab the souls and force them into hell.

On the bottom, a disembodied pair of hands captures a soul by the neck, a woman's breasts are gnawed at by two serpents, a man's neck is breaking from the weight of his worldly possessions, and the souls writh in agony.

 

 

 

Autun Colonette Tympanum hoodmold

Autun Cathedral

 

In the narthex of the church each column and pillar has a different scene from the new testament. Here we see the second temptation of Christ. The devil is standing on the tower, which represents the tower of Jerusalem and tempting Jesus to jump off “Throw yourself off and he’ll catch you” (Matthew 4:6). Jesus has a huge hallow surrounding his head.

The tower was supposedly Herod's royal portico towering 450 feet over the Kedron Valley. Jesus was not tempted and did not fall 450 feet to his death. The moral of this story is that God protects His children, but also expects them to exercise sound judgment.

 

 

Autun

Autun Cathedral

When the famour architectural restoration architect Violette-le-Duc visited the cathedral in the XIXth century, he agreed with the caretakers that the four pillars supporting the belfry were likely to collapse. Under his direction, the capitals from these pillars were removed and set in the Chapter House. The pillars were then replaced with copies of the original capitals.

This one shows the angel bringing news to the three wise men. The star shines brightly overhead.

 

Autun

Autun Cathedral
West Portal Capital

The West Portal is obviously from the Romanesque period with Gislibertus being, if not the sculptor, certainly the overseer of the sculpture. It is possible that all the sculptures in this church were done by him. Here is the Hanging of Judas. Two devils pull on the ropes that are strangling him.

We are very lucky that so much of the building is still intact.

The tympanum of the North Portal was removed in 1766 and sold to a local builder who used the carved stone to decorate many houses around town. Gislibertus's famous 'Eve' relief was recognized 100 years later on a wall in the main square of Autun.

 

 

 

Autun

Silvacane

This is a Cistercian monastery built in 1144 on the reedy banks of the Durance River, quite a long distance from any local town. It became prosperous in the end of the century and was an important agricultural center for nearly 500 years.

Water was such an important part of the life of monasteries that this trough was the central focus of the front of the monastery.

 

 

 

Silvacane

Silvicane

An integral part of a monastery is the cloister. This is a square, enclosed garden, often with a well, surrounded by four corridors with windows facing into the garden, but no windows looking out. It was a sanctuary for quiet meditation.

This window in Silvicane was typical of the period. It has a geminated (twin) capital and a simple rondel in the center.

 

 

Silvacane

Silvicane

At the end of the Romanesque period galleries with central columns and triple corbels can be found.

The shaft of the column is twisted. The column capital is simple and stylised.

Note the similarity between this corbel spring and the corbel in the Lisbon Cathedral.

 

 

 

Silvacane

 

Romanesque in Spain and Portugal

One positive aspect of the Crusades was that trade routes were established in the wake of the advancing (or retreating) armies and Muslims and Christians both could make use of these routes for personal gain while expanding the channels of communication in all directions. New ideas spread quickly. Spain's intellectual prowess during this time was the result of having a unique concentration of a peaceful cohabitation of Moslems, Jews and Christians, all sharing the knowledge and study that came from each individual culture. This came to an end in 1492 when Jews and Muslims were expelled, but during the several centuries prior to expulsion, during the Romanesque era, this relaxed, sophisticated culture spawned some of the best architecture and intellectual thought on the continent.

The monasteries and universities that were built during this time reflect the influence of Islam though Christian elements eventually dominated. The Alhambra in Granada and the Great Mosque in Cordoba were simply too magnificent to ignore.

Again geography played a large part in the development of regional architecture. The French influence can be seen in the north western regions of Spain and these were carried across the Pyrenes by pilgrims headed for Santiago de Compostela.

In the south there is more Moorish influence where Christian craftsmen adopted Muslim design traditions and visa versa. The south saw much more building in brick and much more use of the horseshoe arch.

Salamanca Vieja(old) Cathedral
1110 - 1180

Like St. Denis in Amboise, this cathedral is massive stone ashlar construction. Any opening that would allow entry is well above street level. The window treatments and roof finish show a Moorish influence.


Salamanca

Salamanca Vieja (old) Cathedral

1110 - 1180


The ornament along the archivolts of the windows on the old cathedral are rounded billets in varying sizes. The cornice along the bottom of the window is also five rows of alternating billet pattern. The capitals on the columns are influenced by Moorish architecture.

The window is very deeply set with a splayed opening to allow for arrows to be shot out with little chance of the archer being hit.

Salamanca

St. Isidoro Leon

1054 - 1101

St. Isidoro in Leon was originally built by Ferdinand I of Castile. It has much more Moorish influence than shown above. The transept arch over the crossing leading to a very shallow south transept has a Moorish multifoil arch, almost unheard of in a Christian church. It rises to the same height as the very generous clerestory.

The niche along the nave has Roman arches. The nave itself (shown on the right) was much later and is done in the Gothic style.

 

 

Leon Cathedral

Leon

1054 - 1101


The aisles show the shifting of many centuries.

Aisle Leon Cathedral

Leon

1054 - 1101

The column capitals in this church are among the most impressive in Romanesque Spain. Notice how they have the same tortured souls found in the French Romanesque capitals of Autun and Vezelay.

Leon Cathedral

Santa Maria Major Lisbon Portugal
1147 - 1200

The cathedral has been largely rebuilt over the centuries due to a succession of styles as well as damage during wars and conflict. The façade of the cathedral has the twin towers and fortress like appearance of Norman cathedrals such as Durham and Lincoln.

The central rose window shows the influence of France, the style being brought across with the crusades and in evidence in Santiago de Compostela.

Two small Byzantine arches are found on the same level as the rose window. These reflect the Moorish influence as does the style of crenellation.

The cathedral is not far from the port and was large enough to house a great many people when Lisbon was under siege.

Lisbon Cathedral

Portugal

1110 - 1180

Clustered columns are standard in the Romanesque period. They are often carved with narrative scenes and mythical beasts as shown here.

Lisbon Cathedral

Leon

1110 - 1180


This corbel is found outside the cathedral in the cloister. The rib vault has been removed, but the console shows the triple base that is fairly standard as well as a charming scene of birds at a bird bath.

Lisbon Cathedral

 

Romanesque in Germany

The country that we now know as Germany was not unified until the 19th century. During the Romanesque period, it was largely a conglomeration of independent states and powers all under the heading of Holy Roman Empire, like much of France.

As in France, the access to the major centers in Germany, for the Romans and later for pilgrims, was along the major river, in this case the Rhine. Christianity took root in the Rhineland while much of the other parts remained pagan. The churches, cathedrals, abbeys and castles here reflect an interesting mixture of Christian and pagan symbolism.

Germany was a feudal district, like much of Europe at the time, and had a similar tendency to fall back on independent feudal states, the dukes being drawn to the power of having their own independant state than being part of a larger whole.

 

 

 

Worms Cathedral

1110 - 1180

Worms was settled by the Romans in 14 BC. There was a large town with a forum and temples to the main gods, Jupiter, Minerva, and Mars. The first Christian church was built in the 7th century. A cathedral was built in the early Romanesque style around 1000 AD. This was replaced by the current structure in the 12th century. The west end, shown here, was completed in the 13th century.

Unlike most churches in Europe, the east end has two massive towers and the west end has a rounded choir with two towers. The door is on the aisle, accessed from the south façade. This plan is also found in England.

The building is constructed of red sandstone. Looking at the west end you are struck by the sheer mass of the stone work. There are very small windows on the towers, three rose windows on the choir, and gablets on the roof. The rest is a mass of stone.

Worms Cathedral

Worms Cathedral

Notice that the two towers are completely different. This is not unusual during the Romanesque and Gothic eras. The tower on the right has scalloping along the upper and middle cornices. The windows have three lights which are separated by colonettes. Each window set is separated by a simple engaged pillar detail. The arcade along the bottom has bell arches. This is more Byzantine inspired.

The tower on the left has ogee arched single light windows. The windows are deep-set and separated by an ornate pillar carved with crockets. The arcade below has trefoil arches. This is heading to Gothic.

Worms Cathedral

Worms Cathedral

The nave vault of Worms is important because it is built in the late Romanesque style with clustered columns supporting round arches along the roof but cross ribs between each arch. The clerestory section of the roof is large with clear windows for light. The arches below this are where the triforium would be on a Gothic church. A row of round headed arches adorns this band.

Worms Cathedral

Worms Cathedral

The interior of the west choir is a spectacular example of Romanesque molding and detailing. There is a band of 'billet' molding, a design typical of the middle ages.

 

Chevron molding, also called zigzag molding, is found on the intrados of all openings.

Worms cathedral

Worms Cathedral

This is an indication of a "Middle Ages" Church. It has both the Romanesque and the Byzantine influences, but it is also largely influenced by the largest and most popular art form of the day, manuscript illumination.

There are carved figures all around the cathedral. Lions are found throughout, as are mythical creatures such as these guarding the windows.

Worms Cathedral

Worms Cathedral

This side door is part of the original cathedral built in the year 1000.

Worms Cathedral

St. Martin Worms 1080

St. Martin's is another Romanesque building in Worms that was originally part of a monastery. It was dedicated to St. Martin in the 16th century.

The building, like Vezelay, has two towers but only one is finished. Over the door on the west end is a rose window.

StMartin

St. Martin - Worms 11th

The door has the characteristic Romanesque jamb or side which is composed of several receding molded planes. The planes in this case each contain a column shaft with a continuous central torus ring and a medieval capital surmounted by a continuous abacus. The semicircular arch above is also constructed in receding planes.

The tympanum has a relief of a floral pattern. The outer ring on the archivolt also has a floral pattern, typical of the late medieval period.

St. Martin's Door

Mainz Cathedral

The three 'imperial Rhine cathedrals' from the Romanesque period are this one, the cathedral in Worms, shown above, and the Speyer cathedral, not far away. Like the others in Germany, it is hard to get an overall look at the cathedral because it is entirely surrounded by residential buildings and there is a market in the square adjacent to the church at least one day per week. This attests to the fact that the church was a very vibrant, integral part of the society.

Mainz was the most important northern city in the Holy Roman Empire. The Archbishops were primas germaniae, the substitutes of the Pope north of the Alps, thus the cathedral is much larger than Worms.

 

Mainz cathedral

Mainz Cathedral

The nave of Mainz is important because the clerestories and engaged columns are definitely Romanesque, but the roof vaulting is in the late Romanesque early Gothic style. This is one of the first German churches to have three stages; aisle, triforium and clerestory. The triforium is not open the way it is in the later Gothic styles, but it certainly is there, the round-headed arches have biblical scenes.

There were problems with funding at the end of the Romanesque age, so the column capitals have remained severe block shapes.

Mainz Cathedral

Mainz Cathedral

The red sandstone used in this cathedral is the same as that in the buildings shown above in Worms. Like the French Romanesque capitals, some of the capitals here are carved with mythical creatures and protective animals. This capital is along a door jamb and has the characteristic receding planes of columns and abacus. This series has a griffin on the right, with two lions surmounting a lamb. Note the similarity between this lion and ram and the ones on the window ledge at Worms.

Mainz

Gross St. Martin Cologne
1150 - 1250

Cologne has 12 Romanesque churches that were beautifully restored in 1985 after massive damage during WWII. The restoration crews were meticulous in following originally detailing where possible.

In the Gross St. Martin church there is a clover leaf choir, characteristic of Romanesque, plus a central tower with four turrets.

Mainz cathedral

Gross St. Martin

One of the most endearing characteristics of the Romanesque is the use of animals on capitals, walls, floors etc. Here a stylized mosaic lion is found on the floor of Gross St. Martin. The lion was a huge symbol during the Romanesque period. Lions were found on all sorts of heraldry, shields, doors, flags, etc. as the lion symbolized both strength and beauty.

Like the paintings of the time, this is not meant to be naturalistic or realistic.

Mainz Cathedral

St. Aposteln - Cologne

Like the Gross St. Martin, this church is made of light sandstone. It has been restored to much of the original beauty with colonettes on the upper three light and two light windows.

The muntin bars on the lower windows are not made to the original.

St. Aposteln

Nuremberg Residential

Most towns in Germany, as elsewhere, were controlled by only a few families who built large manor houses and castles. Building across water was an attractive option where possible due to the increased difficulties for attack.

In Germany, one form of late medieval house had two main floors and then layers of dormers up under the roof.

Mainz Cathedral

Nuremberg Castle

The Nuremberg castle was built to house the kings of the western Holy Roman Emperor. They were in residence on and off from 1050 to 1571.

The castle is built on the top of a large hill. There are many towers and look outs around the perimeter which is enclosed by a stone wall. A

This tower shows many elements of the other Romanesque buildings. A huge mass of stone was used , smaller stones on the upper level and huge blocks on the bottom. There is only one door and very few windows. A band of scalloping is found above a grilled arched window. Another is found further up . A few corbels are found, but that is the only adornment.

Mainz

Nuremberg Castle

Like most medieval castles, there was a surrounding moat, shown here. The gate was usually quite small, and the walls fairly high and made of stone, as shown here. The bridge was wooden with a section that could be drawn up against intruders.

Mainz

 

Romanesque in Britain

During the Romanesque years, large sections of England and France were under the rule of one monarch and considered one country. In 1066 William the Conqueror defeated the Saxon kings of England and established the rule of the Normans. He enticed a group of friends to come from France and help him rule as barons. They set up castles in strategic positions throughout the country offering protection and order in exchange for taxes for the central government. For centuries lords and barons were making shaky alliances with other gentry and church officials to overthrow the government which was based sometimes in France and other times in various castels throughout England. Castles and abbeys were vying for power as a violent feudalism which kept most people poor and all people nervous.

Because of continuing raids by warring barons and and bands of starving outlaws, fortified towns and villages were a necessity throughout Britain. People living outside towns and villages fortified their houses by building up the lower level with thick walls of stone so that the people living in the house could resist attack from below.

During times of trouble, the townspeople would take cover either in the church or in the castle. At one point in 1041, warring King Stephen and his followers were held up in Lincoln Cathedral while the opposing Queen Matilda, then in power, had her retinue in Lincoln castle, some 200 yards away.

Battles with the French over territory lasted well into the 16th century.

Durham Cathedral
1093 - 1133

Durham Cathedral is the most important Norman Cathedral in Britain. Its extraordinary nave and vaulting not found elsewhere in England, puts it squarely in the main stream of European architectural innovation.

Durham's importance as a monastic center was solidified in the 12th century when the body of St. Cuthbert, who had died in 687, was laid to rest in the cathedral. The casket was opened during the moving of the body, and St. Cuthbert's body was found to be perfectly preserved with no decomposition.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral 1093

The cult of St. Cuthbert drew monks from across northern England to Durham where a solid monastic community was growing and thriving. The monks were tireless in their efforts to promote the church and thereby secure enough money to build an impressive resting place for the body. Durham became the most important pilgrimage center in England.

The designers of the church in their efforts to make it the largest and most impressive, used diagonal arches to span the bays. The ribbed vault was born.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Nave

The aisle of the nave, shown here, has all the markings of the Romanesque. The supporting members are more piers than columns. They are mamoth to support the large barrel vaulted roof. The shafts of the columns are decorated with chevron, lozenge or diaper, and vertical channelling patterns. The size of two piers is roughly equal to the size of the opening. The capitals are squared or cushion shaped, with little carving.

The arches above the columns are round headed, as in all Romanesque work. Around the extrados is chevron and billet moulding.

While the nave is clearly constructed using Romanesque forms and shapes, the vault is a rib vault. Durham is the only medieval church designed initially with a rib vault system. The aisle vaults were finished in 1096. and the high vault was finished in 1107.

Durham architrave

Durham Cathedral Towers

St. Cuthbert was an Irish monk, brought up in the Celtic traditions. Durham, situated in the north of England, was quite removed from the Romanesque decoration found on the continental churches and abbeys. Durham also attracted a largely English base of monks who promoted the anglo- saxon traditions of the north. The Norman invasion of England resulted in much turmoil, but the monks in Durham, of the anglo-saxon traditions, were not much displaced.

At Durham is an interesting mix of the Ango-Saxon ornament on a largely Norman structure. The towers are Norman in design.

Irish Doleman

Archivolt

An archivolt is a semi-circular architrave over the top of an arched opening. Here the archivolt has several layers of interesting meideval molding very different than that found in Salamanca or Vezelay.

Durham architrave

Durham Impost

The impost blocks are also different than those further south. They have the simple triangular shape and simplified carving characteristic of the period.

Durham Impost

Tower of London 1086-1097

Of the 1500 castles in England, 1200 of these were built during the Norman period. The Tower of London went through many reigns and modifications, with each successive monarch adding more fortifications until it became a concentric castle with successive lines of towers and ramparts. The double bridge, towers and moats here illustrate the importance of a fortified stronghold. The successive lines of fortification were probably taken from the Moslems castles.

Tower of London

Lincoln Castle
1068

William the Conqueror began building the castle in 1068, just two years after the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest of England. By the time of his death in 1087, there was virtually no land in England that was owned and controlled by an Englishman, though William did keep many of the customs, including the tax system.

Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Cathedral

Here once again is a cathedral that has a rich and colorful history. King Stephen and his followers took refuge in the nave, the horses were in the aisles, while he fought to regain the kingdom from Matilda who was resident in the castle, shown above, 200 meters away.

Like most Romanesque cathedrals, there are elements of Gothic throughout. The front façade is a good study in the transformation of styles.

The main portal on the west is the original Romanesque and it is, by itself, a colossal size. Across the top of the main façade is a Gothic screen from the 13th century, and this is surmounted by two 14th century towers. Flanking and enclosing the façade are two Gothic turrets.

There are five deeply inset doors with round-headed arches all across the west front. The central three doors have the elaborate archivolts of the Romanesque period. Below are some details from the doorways.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Archivolt

On the west side of the main portal are five columns with highly carved shafts and Romanesque capitals. This doorway has some of the best medieval molding available.

On the outer rim is a simplified Greek Key molding. The two column shafts inside this have floral patterns. Next are two column shafts carved with figures and animals depicting sins (detail below). The column shaft on the right is carved with the beak-head design. A line of double chevrons looking like sharks teeth trims the doorway on all sides.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Archivolt

These shafts are all carved in typical medieval designs. Symbolic use of snakes and birds, shown on the left shaft, is common.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Archivolt

Most of the same detailing is found on the right side of the door. Chevrons trim the door itself followed by a row of beak-heads. Next to that is a series of battle scenes, then a column carved with a series of roundels with affronted figures.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Beak-head

Beak head molding is found most prominently on English Romanesque buildings. Lincoln has some of the best beak-head molding in the country as can be seen here in this detail.

Lincoln Cathedral

St. Ebbes Beak-head

St. Ebbes in Oxford has a similar row of beak head ornament.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Roundels

The dogs are signs of loyalty. They flank a fleur de lis, the floral emblem of France. At that time Normandy, the north east of France, was the home of the Norman kings who ruled most of England. Queen Matilda arrived from France to rule when King Stephen was defeated, and returned back to France when he regained the thrown. The aristocracy, kings, dukes, earls, ladies and most monks spoke French. It was the official language until the Black Plague wiped out most of the upper classes in the 14th century.

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Roundels

These birds symbolize fertility. Note the similarity in design to those of the Portuguese cathedral in Lisbon.

 

 

Lincoln Cathedral

Dublin Cathedral

Like Lincoln, Dublin cathedral is part Romanesque and part Gothic.

 

 

Lincoln Cathedral

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Romanesque Extra Reading

Books

Follet, Kenneth, Pillars of the Earth, New York : Random House, 1992

Frazer, Sir James G., The Golden Bough, New York, The MacMillan Company, 1951

Grivot, Denis, Zarnecki, George, Gislibertus Sculpteur d'Autun, Paris : Trianon Press, 1960

Kritzeck, J., Peter the Venerable and Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964

Rivoira, G. T. Lombardic Architecture: Its Origin, Development and Derivatives, London: William Heinemann, 1910

Rutherford, Edward, Sarum, Baltimore : Penguin Books, 1966

Films

Mel Gibson, Braveheart

Liam Neeson, Tim Roth, Rob Roy

 

 

 

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