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Romanesque architecture

romanesque architecture

Exterior view of the abbey of Sant Antimo, Tuscany, Italy, 1120. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

This Benedictine abbey is a text-book example of Romanesque architecture, with its square tower, solid construction, and small, round-arched windows.

The abbey was the most important foundation in Tuscany. It had imperial connections, was on the route to Rome, and had extensive landholdings. It has an interesting historic parallel to Durham: The abbot was so powerful that he held the title of Earl Palatine, and had similar secular authority as the Prince Bishops of Durham.

The cloisters at the Abbey of St Pierre de Moissac, France. Completed in 1100. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

The cloisters of Moissac have an airiness similar to that of the arcades of the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral built almost a century later, (see next image) and both have much in common with the architecture of Islamic Spain.

Arcades of the Galilee Chapel, Durham Cathedral, 12th century.

The graceful arcades of the Galilee Chapel at Durham Cathedral were possible because, unlike the rest of the building, they do not support a heavy or massive superstructure.

In inspiration, they seem to draw much from the architecture of Muslim Spain.

© Michael Sadgrove

Detail of the cloisters at the Abbey of St. Pierre de Moissac, France. Completed circa 1100. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

The capitals of the columns in the cloisters at Moissac are among the earliest and finest examples of figural stone carving in Romanesque architecture. They narrowly escaped demolition at the end of the nineteenth century to make way for a railway line!

Capital depicting St Martin of Tours cutting his cloak in two to give half to a pilgrim, Abbey of St Pierre de Mossaic, France, circa 1100. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

© Adrian Fletcher, (www.paradoxplace.com)

Detail of the stone pier in the doorway of the Abbey of St Pierre de Moissac, France, circa 1100. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

The carving depicts St Jeremiah, and is remarkably well preserved. Both the detail, and the expressive manner in which the scene is depicted indicate that the sculptor was truly a master. It is thought that he also worked in Spain, at the monastery of St Domingo de Silos. Then as now, exceptionally talented individuals were much sought after, and thus applied their skills around the world.

© Adrian Fletcher, (www.paradoxplace.com)

View of the nave of the abbey of St Pierre de Moissac, France, circa 1100. (For more about the building see Paradox Place ).

The repetitive patterns of the wall painting seen here are extremely similar to traces of paint found in the side aisles of Durham Cathedral. They remind us of a fact often forgotten: that the interiors of most Romanesque buildings would have originally been very colourful.

© Adrian Fletcher, (www.paradoxplace.com)

Capital depicting Daniel in the Lion's Den, abbey of St Pierre de Moissac, France, circa 1100. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

© Adrian Fletcher, (www.paradoxplace.com)

The bell-tower of Amalfi Cathedral, Italy, originally built between 1180 and 1276 (but partially reconstructed in the 19th century). (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

There are two striking similarities with Durham Cathedral: the intersecting arches, and the lozenges (diamond shapes) at the top of the belltower. (See next image).

Detail of the stone carving on the exterior of Durham Cathedral. Circa 1100.

The use of lozenges (diamond shapes) and intersecting arches was common in Romanesque architecture. (See previous image). The combination of recessed and projecting lozenges, as seen here, would have been especially effective in sunny climates where the contrast between the recesses and the projections would have been striking. This pattern may have been seen in Spain and copied from there.

Detail of the painted vaulting at the Basilica of St Julian, Brioude, France, 11th-12th centuries. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

Romanesque architecture is often pleasing to contemporary eyes because of its austerity, especially in comparison to gothic architecture. In reality, most Romanesque religious buildings would have been heavily decorated, depicting religious scenes, not just in stone, but in paint as well.

This wall painting in the Galilee Chapel at Durham Cathedral is very similar in style to those in other contemporary buildings around Europe. (See previous image).

Interior of the Basilica of St Julian, Brioude, France, 11th-12th centuries. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

The frescos show an interesting combination of geometric patterns, and representative scenes. The drapery painted at the base of the columns is similar to that in the Galilee Chapel of Durham Cathedral. Paint did much to soften the effect of stone.

Detail of arcade, Bitonto Cathedral, Puglia, Italy, twelfth century.(For more information see Paradox Place ).

Mythical creatures and fearsome beasts, such as this lion, appeared frequently in Romanesque architecture.

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

A view of the exterior of Bitonto Cathedral, Puglia, Italy, constructed in the 12th century. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

The pulpit of Bitonto Cathedral, Puglia, Italy. Probably 13th century. It depicts Frederick II, King of Sicily, a colourful character who became Holy Roman Emperor in 1215, at the age of 19, and his family. (For more information see Paradox Place ).

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

The ruins of Buildwas Abbey, Shropshire, built in the 1150s. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

One of the essential differences between Romanesque buildings like this one and later gothic buildings was that Romanesque architecture was much more robust -exemplified in the massive columns seen here. This was primarily due to the limits of architectural technology. Columns that were more

slender probably would have been desirable, but the skills to construct them successfully had not yet been developed.

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

Detail of the carving from the cathedral of St Lazare in Autun, France, built between 1120 and 1146. This scene shows the Adoration of the Magi (The three kings bringing gifts to the newly-born Jesus). (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

Durham Cathedral has fewer examples of figural representation than many other Romanesque buildings. However, a few remaining fragments from the stone Rood Screen which once stood in the transept indicates that the Cathedral once did have some figural carvings (See next image).

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

Fragment from the Rood Screen of Durham Cathedral, dating from around 1150. It shows the type of figural carving that would have once been found inside the Cathedral (but which was removed and often destroyed in the 16th century after the English Reformation).

Detail of a capital from the Cathedral of St Lazare, Autun, France, 12th century. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

Historic buildings need to be seen in the context of contemporary literary, artistic and musical traditions that were inseparable from the architecture itself. This expressive scene shows the Gregorian chants, which, by the twelfth century, were very much part of the musical traditions associated with the Church.

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

Detail from the cloister of the abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, Fidenza, Italy, circa 1135. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

These intersecting arches are similar to those in the nave of Durham Cathedral, (see next image) and are likely to have been influenced by the architecture of Muslim Spain.

Detail of the intersecting arches in the nave at Durham Cathedral, circa 1100.

The similarity of these arches to those in other buildings in Spain is testament to the cross-cultural influences that shaped medieval architecture, sometimes through the movement of craftsmen, at other times, because people travelled and returned home inspired by what they saw abroad.

The exterior of the Jafiriyya Palace, Saragossa, Spain, 11th century.

The intersecting arches above the palace doorway are very similar to those in the nave of Durham Cathedral, seen in the previous image. The palace was built when Saragossa was under Muslim rule.

Exterior view of the Church of Sainte Foy at Conques, France, constructed between 1087 and 1107, and therefore contemporary with Durham Cathedral. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

In form, the western side of the church at Conques (with the two towers) resembles Durham Cathedral, which would have originally had the same type of spires.

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

View of the nave of the church of St Foy, Conques, France. Constructed between 1087 and 1107 (for more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

The nave of this church is almost contemporary with that of Durham Cathedral. It is covered with a simple stone vault, and due to the structural difficulties of building stone vaults, the nave is extremely narrow. It was the successful use of the pointed arches and more complex ribbed vaults at Durham Cathedral for the first time that enabled the vaults to span a much greater width, and achieve greater height. This paved the way for gothic architecture, making the soaring later churches and cathedrals of Europe possible.

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

Exterior view of the Church of St Pierre, Aulnay, France, second half of the 12th century. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

Entrance to the Church of St Pierre, Aulnay, France. Second half of the 12th century. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

© Adrian Fletcher, (www.paradoxplace.com)

Apse of the Church of St Pierre, Aulnay, France, second half of the twelfth century. (For more information see Paradox Place) .

The eastern end of Durham Cathedral would have looked similar before the construction of the Chapel of the Nine Altars in the mid-thirteenth century.

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

The nave of the Church of St Pierre, Aulnay, France, second half of the twelfth century. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

© Adrian Fletcher (www.paradoxplace.com)

Detail of the arcading in the cloister, Church of the Holy Trinity, Torri, Tuscany, 13th century (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

The use of different materials to create contrast, and the reliance on geometric patterns and interlocking designs was common to both Romanesque and Islamic architecture. Note the checkerboard effect on the third column from the right. The deep carving creates areas of light and shadow that create striking patterns using a very simple pattern.

The nave of Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, late eleventh to late twelfth century, (For more information about the builkding see Paradox Place ).

Apart from its nineteenth-century painted wooden ceiling, the nave of Ely Cathedral has much in common with that of Durham Cathedral. Both naves are almost contemporary.

© Adrian Fletcher (paradoxplace.com)

The ambulatory of Fleury Abbey, France. Early twelfth century. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

This image gives some idea of what the area around the shrine of St Cuthbert at Durham Cathedral may have looked like before it was modified in the 13th century.

© Adrian Fletcher (paradoxplace.com)

Detail of the choir of Fleury Abbey showing columns with figural carving. Early twelfth century. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

Many religious buildings from the Romanesque period, especially in France and Italy, had extremely detailed figural carving, often depicting biblical scenes. Fleury Abbey is a good example.

© Adrian Fletcher (paradoxplace.com)

The Romanesque undercroft (space under a church) at Fleury Abbey, France. Early twelfth century. (For more information about the building see Paradox Place ).

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