The term Romanesque
("Roman-like") was first used to designate a style of
architecture that used Roman arches and had thick, heavy walls, based upon
the basilica. The style is pervasive throughout Europe.
Romanesque period is marked by:
- Immense relief the world hadnít ended at the turn of
- The resurgence of cities and trade
- The emergence of Europe as we know it
- Strengthened Papal authority
- The emergence of a middle class and merchant class
- Evolution of the Romance languages
- The peak in feudalism as a poloitical system
Nave of St. Savin
Poitou, France c. 1100
There was continued growth in monasticism
with two prominent orders:
- Cluniac - education, music and art
- Cistercian - manual labor and self denial
Monasteries also housed the relics of
saints and during the Romanesque period the cult of relics became a major
cultural factor influencing architecture and particular. Because, devout
Christians would undertake long pilgrimages in order to
visit and venerate the relics of saints and martyrs. People traveled
widely to visit sites and see relics believing them to have curative
powers. These large numbers of people traveling created standard routes
from one monastery to another "Pilgrimage Roads" -
they became routes of trade/commerce and travel.
To meet the needs of large numbers of
travelers large scale building projects were undertaken - the first
massive building resurgence since the Roman Empire (600 years before)
At this time Rome was seen as a great model
of legendary proportion. Since there was no contemporary tradition in
building large structures people looked at what was around them - Roman
buildings (or their remnants)
This is also the time of the crusades which
from one point of view were seen as the ultimate pilgrimage. The Crusades
stimulated trade (both mercantile and intellectual) with the east ,
Byzantium and Islam and within Europe. This lead to the growing wealth and
strength of cities that supported and profited from the travel associated
with the crusades, for instance Genoa which was a major port and naval
center (Christopher Columbus was from Genoa).
Two French Pilgrimage Churches
Toulouse 1080 - 1120
Romanesque architecture is characterized
- thick heavy walls which support stone roofs
- a blocky, earthbound appearance
- large, simple geometric masses
- the exterior reflects the interior structure and organization
- interiors tend to be dark because of the massive walls that dictate
- growing sophistication in vaulting to span the large spaces - barrel
vaults, groin vaults and rib vaults are used
|St. Sernin floor plan
||View down the nave toward the apse
A major boom in building was due to the
need, in some cases, to replace wooden churches which had been burned by
the Norsemen and the continued growth in the cult of relics and
French and English builders built some of
the most adventurous buildings in terms of pushing the limits of the
San Sernin, in Toulouse, is a typical
pilgrimage style church in the Burgundian style.
The floor plan is a Latin cross w/ clearly defined parts
- basilica plan modified for large crowds - large apse
- the square of the crossing / module for the rest of the plan
- 1/2 half of the crossing square = 1 bay
- side aisles = 1/4 of the crossing square
The 4 side aisles form continuous circuit
around the transept nave and transept.
The ambulatory aisle enclosed the choir- the area east the transept-
separated by a screen to give privacy to monks doing the mass or other
- the side aisles allow visitors to walk back to view the relics without
disturbing anything going on in the nave or choir areas
|St. Sernin, looking
altar and apse
|Looking up at the
dome in the crossing. Note
the massive blocks of multi-colored stone
A prominent feature of many Romanesque
churches is the addition of multiple chapels "radiating chapels".
Early Christian churches had 1 alter - 1 focus. During the Romanesque
period churches are in the relics business- more relics - more business -
Each chapel would have different relics funded by wealthy donors
Very rhythmic vertical motion in the nave-
two story elevation - nave arcade & gallery
- Early Christian churches had 1 level
The gallery was both structural and practical it could provide overflow
space for crowds on big feast days.
The gallery walls also support the barrel
vaulted roof - a stone roof.
Early Christian churches (basilicas )had wooden roofs
- Stone barrel vaults require massive support create a lateral thrust
requiring heavy, buttressed walls
Conques, France, c. 1050-1120
is one of the earliest surviving examples of a Romanesque style
pilgrimage church. That is, a church designed specifically to
accomodate visting pilgrims.
Sainte Foy, who the church is
dedicated to, was martyred as a child in 303. The church was built
above the site of her tomb and it holds relics associated with
You can see from the plan of Sainte-Foy that it shares much
in common with the plan of St. Sernin. Sainte-Foy, however, is
much shorter in proportion. It does have radiating chapels and a
circumambulatory aisle - characteristics of pilgrimage churches.
A view of the chapels and the apse
view of the apse, transept and bell-tower. This is a nice
illustration of the massive quality of Romanesque buldings.
view of the nave, looking towards the altar, you can see how dark
the interior seems. Notice the windows around the base of the
bell-tower near the upper-left of the image.
Caen (Normandy) 1067 - 1120
St. Etienne is a good example of
the Norman style of Romanesque architecture. The style developed
during the rule of William the Conqueror, he's buried here at St.
Buttresses divide the facade into
three bays - tripartite
- there are also 3 horizontal divisions
The spires were added during the Gothic period.
St. Etienne is seen as a precurssor
of the Gothic style of church architecture that emerges in 1140
with the re-building of St. Denis in Paris.
|Looking east in the
nave of St. Etienne
||Floor plan of St.
The floor plan reflects a regular system of
square modules. Ribbed groin vaults (or just rib
vaults) replace barrel vaults allowing the addition of
Rib vaults are groin vaults reinforced with extra stone ribbing. These
vaults at St. Etienne are some of the earliest ribbed vaults. They are
supported by large complex piers covered with pilasters and engaged
St. Etienne also makes use of the alternate
support system where simple engaged columns --
engaged columns alternate with larger, more massive piers
The vaults may be described as sexpartite
vaults as there are 6 elements to each rib vault
A view of the apse and towers of the
Durham (northern England),1093 - 1272
Continental designs moved to England with
the Norman conquest of William the Conqueror in 1066
|Two views of the
nave at Durham
Like St. Etienne Durham Cathedral makes use
of ribbed groin vaults, a 3 part elevation with nave arcade,
gallery/tribune, and clerestory.
Unlike St. Etienne though it has 7 part
vaults - septpartite
- also supported by an alternating support system with large
compound piers carrying transverse arches
- simple (large) pillars carry the center of the ribbed groin vaults
Durham Cathedral, plan
Milan, late 11th c. - 12th c.
St. Ambrogio has an atrium as, it is
thought, old St. Peter's had
The crossing is capped by an octagonal tower similar to the one on the
crossing of Speyer Cathedral
- the clerestory windows in the tower provide most of the light in the
- the taller tower is much more decorated (12th c.) than the shorter one
- 2 side aisles = 1/4 of nave bay
- regular square bays with alternate support system
Pisa, 1053 - 1272
|View of Pisa Cathedral with the
baptistery in the foreground
||What familiar structure is part of
the Pisa Cathedral group?
Notice how (as is common in Romanesque
architecture) you can discern the inner structure of the cathedral from
the exterior view. Can you identify where the side aisles would be?
The Baptistery was remodeled and had some
Gothic features added. The highly carved decorative panels are called encrustation
The campanile (the Leaning Tower)
tilts as the result of the foundation settling
- it is currently 21í out of plumb (off vertical)
Baptistery of San Giovanni
Florence, 11th c.
Architecture in Italy during the Romanesque
period is much more closely based in classical models due to the ready
availability of models to work from.
Early scholars thought that the Baptistery
of Florence Cathedral dated back to the 5th or 6th century.
Its design is related to churches such as
the Pantheon and Santa Costanza. It is decorated in the distinctive
Florentine style of inlayed stone.