The romanesque architecture it developed in Europe during the Middle Ages (c. 950 ~ 12th century). It can be characterized by the reintroduction of the ancient Roman technique of the stone vault, generally semicircular. The columns that support the arches are typically cylindrical and are topped by capitals often sculpted with representations of animals or plants or more or less geometric symbols.
Any definition of Romanesque architecture like the one above is necessarily reductionist insofar as this architecture encompasses a wide variety of different constructions built over a long period. The term “Romanesque” is sometimes attributed to buildings whose dating is highly uncertain, simply because they contain techniques or an atmosphere that appear Romanesque to the modern observer: barrel vaults, semicircular arches, or decorated capitals, for example… In fact, there are Romanesque buildings that are framed and not vaulted (especially in Scandinavian countries), while the semicircular cradle is rather the exception compared to the slightly broken arch. Finally, many Romanesque capitals are not historiated.
Therefore, we can define the romanesque architecture on more subjective criteria, more or less well supported by what we think we know of the religious interpretations of these periods. Therefore, it could be said, although this presentation does not apply well to the ascending character of the great churches of Auvergne, that Romanesque architecture, especially in the small buildings, gives the visitor the sensation of a certain massiveness that evokes more shadow. , the penumbra or that “deep light” that Yves Bonnefoy speaks of than the luminous flights of the Gothic windows. It would not come from an ascendancy for a glorious purpose, but from a “downward transcendence”, in a cryptic and initiatory way through an atmosphere of original mystery.
Historical context of the emergence of Romanesque architecture
The romanesque architecture It comes from Carolingian architecture and develops in parallel with Ottonian architecture.
Carolingian architecture stems from an intellectual renaissance linked to Charlemagne and his coronation by the Pope. Charlemagne thus becomes heir to the Roman Empire. And it was by bringing together at his court great scholars from all over the Empire that he created an intellectual renewal in the fields of art, writing and spiritual life, which was characterized by a return to ancient models: the Carolingian Renaissance. With the death of Charles the Bald in 877, the Empire and Carolingian art came to an end. The barbarians invade the territory, favoring the first known Romanesque constructions, fortified castles, and therefore feudalism.
The Battle of Hastings allows the Normans to occupy England. They create a specific Romanesque art from the 11th century. Otto I, for his part, dominated the Germanic feudal system. He promoted the creation of an Ottonian art at the service of the magnificence of the imperial image.
The intellectual center of feudalism was located essentially in the abbeys and monasteries where the romanesque architectural art. The first Romanesque art was born then, which brings together all the new experiences and creations of the rest of the old Empire (that is, without Normandy or Saxony).
The large number of churches built in the Romanesque period was replaced by the even more active period of Gothic architecture, which partially or fully rebuilt most Romanesque churches in prosperous regions such as England and the Middle East Portugal. The largest groups of Romanesque survivors are found in regions less prosperous during later periods, including parts of southern France, rural Spain, and rural Italy.
Characteristics of Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architects built a wide variety of different buildings, the most common being: village churches, abbey churches, cathedrals, and castles. The most important were the great abbey churches, many of which are still in use. The typical characteristics of Romanesque architecture are:
Round arches. Most of the arches were semicircular, although some buildings (Autun Cathedral, France; Monreale Cathedral, Sicily) have pointed arches.
Narrow windows/doors can be finished with a stone lintel. The largest openings were almost always arched.thick walls. These massive retaining walls had few and relatively small openings and almost eliminated the need for buttresses.arcades. This was a particularly popular feature. Note: An arcade consists of a row of arches, supported by columns or pillars. The pillars were generally built of masonry and were square or rectangular.rooftops. These were made of wood, then of stone. Vaulted ceilings generally featured barrel vaults and ribbed vaults of stone or brick.towers. These were a regular feature of Romanesque churches. Types included: square, circular and octagonal towers.
Examples of Spanish Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture developed in Spain in the north of the peninsula