To 19 th century art historians, Romanesque architecture looked like a derivative of ancient Roman art, and they titled the period “Romanesque,” or “in the Roman manner.” Although there are some superficial resemblances in the roundness of architectural forms, the Romanesque period is very different from its namesake
Key Ideas Romanesque art shows a revitalization of large-scale architecture and sculpture Pilgrimages to sacred European shrines increase the flow of people and ideas around the continent Romanesque churches develop their apse to accommodate large crowds of pilgrims Church portal sculptures stress themes of the Last Judgment and the need for salvation Manuscript painting and weaving flourish as art form
Historical Background By 1000, Europe had begun to settle down from the great migration of peoples that characterized the Early Medieval period. Wandering seafarers like the Vikings were Christianized when they colonized Normandy, France, and southern Italy and Sicily. Islamic incursions from Spain and North Africa were neutralized; in fact, Europeans began a counter invasion of Muslim lands called the Crusades. The universal triumph of Christianity in Europe with the pope cast as its leader was a spiritual empire not unlike the Roman secular one.
Historical Background Even though Europeans fought with equal ardor among themselves, enough stability was reached so that trade and the arts could flourish – cities, for the first time in centuries, expanded. People began to crisscross Europe on religious pilgrimages to Rome and even Jerusalem. The most important attraction was the shrine dedicated to Saint James in the northwestern Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela. A magnificent Romanesque cathedral was built as the endpoint of all western European pilgrimages.
Historical Background The journey to Santiago took perhaps a year or longer to make. Shrines were established at key points along the road, so that pilgrims could enjoy additional other holy places, many of which still survive today. This pilgrimage movement, with its consequent building boom, is one of the great revitalizations in history. Each country was host to numerous pilgrimage sites to local saints and their relics fueled the artistic innovations of this period.
Patronage and Artistic Life Medieval society was centered on feudalism, which can be expressed as symbiotic relationship between lords and peasants. Peasants worked the land, sustaining all with their food. Lords owned the land, and they guaranteed peasants security. Someplace between these stations, artists lived in what eventually became a middle class. Painting was considered a higher calling compared to sculpture or architecture because painters worked less with their hands.
Patronage and Artistic Life Women were generally confined to the “feminine arts” such as ceramics, weaving, or manuscript decoration. However, few women, such as Hildegard von Bingen, were able to carve out a niche in what was otherwise a man’s world. Powerful and wealthy women (queens, abbesses, and so on) were active patrons of the arts, sponsoring the construction of nunneries or commissioning illuminated manuscripts. Hrotswitha of Gandersheim, a nun, wrote plays that were reminiscent of Roman playwrights and poets.
Patronage and Artistic Life Although Christian works dominate the artistic production of the Romanesque period, a significant number of beautifully crafted secular works also survives. The line between secular and religious works in medieval society was not so finely drawn, as objects for one often contain symbolism of the other. Secular = no religious or spiritual basis.
Patronage and Artistic Life The primary focus of medieval architecture is on the construction of castles, manor houses, monasteries, and cathedrals. These were conceived not by architects in the modern sense of the word, but by master builders, who oversaw the whole operation from designing the building to contracting the employees. These master builders were often accompanied by master artists, such as Gislebertus, who supervised the artistic design of the building.
Innovations in Romanesque Architecture Cathedrals were sources of civic pride as well as artistic expression and spiritual devotion. Since they sometimes took hundreds of years to build and were extremely expensive, great care was lavished on their contraction and maintenance. Church leaders sought to preserve structures from the threat of fire and moved away from wood to stone roofs. Those that were originally conceived with wood were sometimes retrofitted. This revival of structures entirely in stone is one reason for the period’s name, “Romanesque”.
Innovations in Romanesque Architecture But stone caused problems. It was heavy—which meant that the walls had to be extra thick to sustain the weight of the roof. Windows were small, so that there were as few holes in the walls as possible. The interiors were correspondingly dark. To bring more light into the buildings, the exterior of the windows were often narrow and the interior of the window wider— this way the light would come in through the window and ricochet off its thick walls and appear more luminous. However, the introduction of stained glass darkened attempts at lightening the interiors
Innovations in Romanesque Architecture To help support the roofs of these massive buildings, master builders designed a new device called the rib vault, first seen at Durham Cathedral. At first, these ribs were decorative moldings placed on top of groin vaults, but eventually they became a new way of looking at roof support. While they do not carry its full weight, they help channel the stresses of its load down to the walls and onto the massive piers below, which serve as funtional buttresses. Rib vaults also open up the ceiling spaces more dramatically, allowing for larger windows to be place in the clerestory. During construction, rib vaults were the first part of the roof to be built, the stones in the spaces between were added later.
Innovations in Romanesque Architecture Besides the advantage of being fireproof, stone has several other positive properties. It is easy to maintain, durable, and generally weatherproof. It also conducts sound very well, so that medieval music, characterized by Gregorian chant, could be performed, enabling even those in the rear of these vast buildings to hear the service.
Innovations in Romanesque Architecture The basic unit of medieval construction is called the bay. This spatial unit contains an arch on the first floor, a triforium with smaller arches on the second, and windows in a clerestory on the third. The bay became a model for the total expression of the cathedral—its form is repeated throughout the building to render an artistic whole.
Innovations in Romanesque Architecture In order to accommodate large crowds who came to Romanesque buildings during feast days of for pilgrimages, master builders designed an addition to the east end of the building, called an ambulatory, a feature that was also present in Early Christian churches such as Santa Costanza. This walkway had the benefit of directing crowds around the church without disturbing the ceremonies taking place in the apse. Chapels were placed at measured interval around the ambulatory so that pilgrims could admire the displays of relics and other sacred items housed there. The ambulatory at St. Sernin is a good example of how they work in this context.
Romanesque Art A bay with arches, a triforium and celestory
Romanesque Art Ambulatory
Romanesque Art Romanesque Portal
Characteristics of Romanesque Architecture After six hundred years of relatively small buildings, Romanesque architecture with its massive display of cut stone comes as a surprise. The buildings are characterized as being uniformly large, displaying monumentality and solidity. Round arches, often used as arcades, are prominent features on facades. Concrete technology, a favorite of the ancient Romans, was forgotten by the tenth century.
Characteristics of Romanesque Architecture There are many regional variations to Romanesque architecture, from the austere simple and dignified interiors of the Cistercian monks to the opulently decorated and massive buildings of the Cluniac order. Italian buildings look back to the Early Christian models of horizontal naves and long main aisles and French and English buildings forecast the Gothic with their verticality. Interiors are dark; facades are sometime punctured with round oculus-type windows.
Characteristics of Romanesque Architecture Although some buildings, such as Pisa Cathedral, were built with wood ceilings, the tendency outside Italy is to use Roman stone-vaulting techniques, such as the barrel and groin vault to cover the interior spaces as at Saint Sernin. However, later buildings like Sainte-Etienne and Durham Cathedral, employ rib-covered groin vaults to make interiors seem taller and lighter. Italian buildings, like Pisa Cathedral, have separate bell towers called campaniles to summon people to prayer. Northern European buildings incorporate this tower into the fabric of the building often over the crossing.
Romanesque Art Pisa Cathedral
Pisa Cathedral Pisa Cathedral, begun 1063, Pisa, Italy Campanile: the detached bell tower of an Italian church Baptistery: a separate chapel or building in front of a church used for baptisms
Blind Arcade: Arches against a wall and are not self- supporting
Pisa Cathedral Arcades and blind arcades used on façade Separate campanile, famous for its unintended lean
Pisa Cathedral Wooden roof over nave continues tradition of Early Christian churches Groin vaults over side aisles Inspired by classical architecture in the use of arches, columns, and capitals; granite columns in nave taken from a Roman temple in Elba Transept is actually a second basilica with apses intersecting the nave at the crossing Traditional Roman walls broken up with openings for galleries and slender windows. Round Roman arches produce Romanesque barrel vaults and wide naves, while the stone walls rest on Corinthian columns, resisting the pressure of the arches. Wooden roof like the Christian basilicas before
Pisa Cathedral Plan is the Latin cross, classical, based on the long Roman basilica, with two transept arms Each arm is a basilica itself Classical Roman colonnades at each level. Romanesque tower. Corinthian columns, closed by horizontal cornice. Exterior marble facing typical of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany
Saint Etienne Saint Etienne, 1067, Caen, France Façade looks forward to verticality of Gothic; spires are a Gothic feature added later Originally had a timber roof, replaced by sexparitite rib vaults; added engaged columns Piers are uniformly articulated
Saint-Sernin Saint-Sernin, 1070-1120, Toulouse, France Pilgrimage church containing ambulatory around apse with radiating chapels for relics Barrel-Vaulted interior with demarcated ribs; corresponding buttresses on the exterior Double side aisles Buttress strips on exterior mark the internal structure of the bays Square schematism: a church plan in which the crossing square is used a s a module for all parts of the design— each nave bay ½ central square; each said aisle ¼ central square Very dark, lacks a clerestory
Durham Cathedral Durham Cathedral, begun 1093, Durham, England First use of rib vaults English tradition: very long nave Abstract patterns on the piers derived from metalwork from Early Medieval art Alternating rhythm of piers Slightly pointed arches foreshadow the Gothic
Gislebertus, Last Judgment Gislebertus, Last Judgment, 1120-1135, marble, St. Lazare, Autun, France Scene of the Last Judgment: Jesus at the second coming, with those saved on his right and those damned on his left To enter the church, people walk through the door on the right below the scene of the condemned, and exit out the door on the left where the saved are depicted Figures are linear, twisting, and writhing; they have an emaciated appearance Weighing souls is a tradition that goes back to ancient Egypt Hierarchy of scale ranks, importance of figures Horror of the evils of hell are vividly contrasted with the sanctity of the angels
Virgin and Child in Majesty or The Morgan Madonna Virgin and Child in Majesty or The Morgan Madonna, 1150—1200, wood, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Mary appears as the Throne of Wisdom, holding Jesus in her lap Jesus’s great wisdom is reflected in his adult head on a small person’s body Jesus would have held a Bible, a symbol of his spiritual authority Chambers in the back of the two figures would have held relics; this functioned as a reliquary They sit emotionless and erect Wooden sculpture at one time brilliantly painted
Hildegard von Bingen’s Vision Hildegard von Bingen’s Vision, 1050—1079, now destroyed, exists as a copy, manuscript Bingen’s divine visions come from heaven and pour down on her as if they were flames She sits as an author portrait recording her vision Her scribe, Volmar, waits by her side with a book Heavy black outline defines the forms Figures dominate architectural setting Expressive drapery fold indicate legs and arms but little other body form
Bayeux Tapestry Bayeux Tapestry, 1070—1080, embroidery, wool on linen, Bayeux Tapestry a misnomer; actually an embroidery Probably designed by a man; executed by women Commisioned by Bishpo Odo, half brother of William the Conqueror Tells the story (in Latin) of William’s conquest of England at the Battle of Hastings in 1066
Bayeux Tapestry Fanciful beasts in upper and lower registers Borders sometimes comment on the main scenes, or show scenes of everyday life Color used in a non-natural manner; different parts of a horse are colored variously Neutral background Flatness of figures; no shadows Narrative tradition going back to the Column of Trajan 75 scenes, over 600 people 230’ long; continues narrative tradition of Medieval art Uncertainty over how this work was meant to be displayed