Romanesque Art
Chapter 15
(c. 1000-1200)
• Romanesque appears to have been the first
pan-European style since Roman Imperial
Architecture and examples are found in every
part of the continent. One important fact pointed
out by the stylistic similarity of buildings across
Europe is the relative mobility of medieval
people. Contrary to many modern ideas of life
before the Industrial Revolution, merchants,
nobles, knights, artisans, and peasants crossed
Europe and the Mediterranean world for
business, war, and religious pilgrimages,
carrying their knowledge of what buildings in
different places looked like.
Monastery of Santo
Domingo de Silos, Spain.
Capitol detail
c. 1100
• The Romanesque was not confined only to architecture.
It was accompanied by changes in design for
woodworking seen, for instance in, chests and
cupboards. The exterior of the book changes at this time,
and as does manuscript design as scribes start to use a
new clear style of writing (Caroline minuscule). Texts are
set among intricate spirals and elaborate and finelydrawn nature motifs. This became an international
graphic style, influencing even Jewish illuminated
manuscripts. In western painting, mosaic and fresco
design, from around 1150 a spirit emerged across
Europe. This attempted to revive the styles of the art of
classical antiquity, and yet it also drew heavily on ancient
Christian Celtic and Byzantine arts.
The Main Characteristics
of the Style
• A combination of masonry, arch and piers is the
basis of the Romanesque style. The main
concept for buildings was the addition of pure
geometrical forms. The new concept of stone
vaulting required stronger walls for support.
Because of the lack of knowledge of the building
statics it was necessary to build strong, thick
walls with narrow openings.
• The Pier (an upright support generally square, or
rectangular in plan) is a better solution for masonry
walls, than the column. Columns are subsequently
replaced by piers, or transformed to better support the
masonry arches. Geometrisation and rigidity in
Romanesque architecture is evident in the
transformation of column capitals from Corinthian to
cubic capitals, as found in the church of St.Michael,
Hildesheim. There is also one new element in the
capitals developed during Romanesque period - the
impost. It's a trapezoid form which stands between
capital and arch.
Some important aspects of
Romanesque architecture
“Romanesque” is the first international style since
the Roman Empire.
Competition among cities for the largest churches,
which continues in the Gothic period via a “quest for
Masonry (stone) the preferred medium. Craft of
concrete essentially lost in this period.
Rejection of wooden structures or structural
East end of church the focus for liturgical services.
West end for the entrance to church.
• Church portals as “billboards” for scripture or
elements of faith.
• Cruciform plans. Nave and transept at right angles to
one another. Church as a metaphor for heaven.
• Elevation of churches based on basilican forms, but
with the nave higher than the side aisles.
• Interiors articulated by repetitive series of moldings.
Heavy masonry forms seem lighter with applied
• Bays divide the nave into compartments
• Round-headed arches the norm.
• Tripartite division of the elevation continues from the
earlier periods.
• The Romanesque period, from roughly 1000 to
1137 A.D., has been dubbed the "Period of the
Church Triumphant." It was during these years
that the Catholic Church was able to unify
Western Europe in a manner unparalleled since
Roman times. This is the Age of Monasticism,
when vast monastic settlements like Cluny were
becoming the focus of both the religious and
scholarly life of the Romanesque populace.
• This is also the Age of the Crusades, when
Western Christians sought to "liberate" the Holy
Lands. Both of these features (monasticism and
the Crusades) spurred the economy, for the
churches required mighty building campaigns
and the Crusaders (as a consequence of their
mobility) opened up new trade routes and
spurred commerce. It has been noted that the
cosmopolitan quality of Romanesque culture
was reminiscent of Roman imperial times; it is
equally appropriate to compare the unifying
power of the Pope during the 11th century A.D.
with that of the Roman Emperor. There are good
cultural reasons, thus, for naming this period
Political and Economic Life
The social and economic classes become
vividly clear in the Worcester Chronicle,
which depicts the three classes of
Medieval society:
• King and Nobles
• Churchmen
• Peasant farmers
King Henry I's Dream in the
Chronicle of John of
The author died in 1140 AD
so it's from before that.
Original work by John of
King Henry I and his Court returning to England
from The Chronicle of John of Worcester
Intellectual Life
• The 11th and 12th centuries were a time of
intellectual rebirth as Western scholars
rediscovered the classical Greek and Roman
texts that had been preserved in Islamic Spain
and the eastern Mediterranean. The first
universities were established in the growing
cities –
• Bologna
• Paris
• Oxford
• Cambridge
Romanesque Art
• The word Romanesque means “In the
Roman manner.”
• The word was coined in the 19th century to
describe European church architecture,
which often displayed solid masonry walls
and rounded arches and vaults
characteristic of imperial Roman buildings.
Interior, Church of Sant Vincenc, Cardona 1020s – 1030s
Church of Sant Vincenc, Cardona
1020s – 1030s
Pilgrimage Churches
• The growth of a cult of relics and the
desire to visit shrines such as Saint
Peter’s in Rome or Saint James in
Spain inspired people to travel on
pilgrimages. Christian victories against
Muslims also opened roads and
encouraged travel.
Plan of
Cathedral of
Saint James,
Santiago De
Durham Cathedral Durham, England early 12th century
Reliquary Statue of St. Foy from the Auvergne region,
France Silver gilt over wood core, with gems and rock crystal
Late 9th century with later additions
This complex contains a baptistry, a church and a bell tower. The bell tower
or campanile is the most famous of all. The "Leaning tower of Pisa" is 6
stories of arcaded galleries. Round arches were a Roman inspiration. The
foundation lies on tufu and is sinking. Efforts have been tried to raise it
upright. Most of them have been disastrous and nearly destroyed the
tower, such as when they flooded the foundation with water to "float" the
tower, which only made it lean more. It is 13 feet out of plumb.
• The Baptistry of Pisa is part of the church
complex, and as with most baptistries, is usually
round or octagonal in shape. The sacrament of
baptism is administered. Inside is a baptismal
front, a receptacle of stone or metal which holds
water for the rite.
**NOTE: The baptistry also kept accurate
population records in bean jars, a jar for girls
and a jar for boys. As one is born or dies the
bean is added or subtracted from the jar.
Church of Saint-Étienne
Caen, France
Church of Sant’Ambrogio
Milan, Italy
Creation and Fall
Wiligelmus, sculptor
Modena Cathedral
Modena, Italy
Cathedral of Saint-Lazare West Portal Last Judgment
Autun, France ca. 1120-1135
Cathedral of Saint-Lazare West Portal Last Judgment
Church of Saint-Pierre
Moissac, France
South Portal
ca. 1115-1130
Virgin and Child
from the Auvergne region of
Painted wood
late 12th century
Batlló Crucifix
from Catalonia, Spain
Painted wood
mid 12th century
Church of Saint-Savin-surGartempe
ca. 1100
Christ in Majesty Church of San Clemente, Lérida, Spain
Fresco ca. 1123
The Bayeux Tapestry
England or France
wool embroidery on linen
ca. 1066-1082
The Bayeux Tapestry - detail
The Bayeux Tapestry
Hildegard and Volmer
Liber Scivias
Cast bronze
baptismal font by
Renier de Huy,
1107–18. In the
church of SaintBarthélemy, Liège,
Belgium. Height 64
Romanesque metalwork
• In the 12th century the church
supplanted secular rulers as the chief
patron of the arts, and the work was
carried out in the larger monasteries.
Under the direction of such great
churchmen as Henry, bishop of
Winchester, and Abbot Suger of SaintDenis, near Paris, a new emphasis was
given to subject matter and symbolism.
• Craftsmen were no longer anonymous; work
by Roger of Helmarshausen, Reiner of Huy,
Godefroid de Claire (de Huy), Nicholas of
Verdun, and others can be identified; and the
parts they played as leaders of the great
centers of metalwork on the Rhine and the
Meuse are recognizable. Their greatest
achievement was the development of the
brilliant champlevé enameling, a method that
replaced the earlier cloisonné technique.
Gold and silver continued to be used as rich
settings for enamels; as the framework of
portable altars, or small devotional diptychs
or triptychs; for embossed figure work in
reliquary shrines; and for liturgical plate.
• The masterpieces of the period are
great house-shaped shrines made to
contain the relics of saints; for
example, the shrine of St. Heribert at
Deutz (c. 1160) and Nicholas of
Verdun's Shrine of the Three Kings at
Cologne (c. 1200). In the latter, the
figures are almost freestanding, and in
their fine, rhythmic draperies and
naturalistic movement they approach
the new Gothic style.
Detail of baptismal font by Renier de Huy
Page with the
Tree of Jesse
Explanatio in
(St. Jerome’s
commentary on
the book of
Burgundy, France
ca. 1125
Page with
(Angel locking the
gates of Hell)
Winchester Psalter
ca. 1150
Page with self-portrait
of the nun Guda
Book of Homilies
from Germany
early 12th century
First self-portrait of a
Woman artist.