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Romanesque art and architecture is the artistic style that prevailed throughout
Europe from about 1000 1270 AD, although it persisted until considerably later in
certain areas. The term Romanesque points to the principal source of the style, the
buildings of the Roman Empire. In addition to classical elements, however,
Romanesque architecture incorporates components of Byzantine and Eastern origin.
The name comes from 19th century art historians, as it was the first time
since ancient Rome that Roman architectural forms were clearly used.
Romanesque means "in the style of the Roman" marked by a renewed
interest in Roman construction techniques and revival of monumental forms.
The Period was marked by:

Huge physical migration (1095-1220) in Western Europe: France, Italy,

Britain, Germany & Spain
Immense relief the world hadnt ended at the turn the millennium

The resurgence of cities and trade

The emergence of Europe as we know it

Strengthened Papal authority

The emergence of a middle class & merchant class

Evolution of the Romance languages

The peak of feudalism as a political and economic system

Romanesque Art
The art of the Romanesque period was characterized by an important revival of
monumental forms, notably sculpture and fresco painting, which developed in close
association with architectural decoration and exhibited a forceful and often severely
structural quality. At the same time an element of realism, which parallels the first
flowering of vernacular literature, came to the fore. It was expressed in terms of a
direct and naive observation of certain details drawn from daily life and a heightened
emphasis on emotion and fantasy. For many aspects of its rich imagery Romanesque
art depended on the heritage of antiquity and of earlier medieval art, while the
prestige of Byzantine art remained high in Western eyes. The pilgrimages and
Crusades contributed to an unprecedented expansion of the formal vocabulary
through the development of closer contacts between regional cultures and distant
Artistic Influence

1. Roman antiquity Classical

2. Early Medieval art
3. Byzantine and Eastern
European art/arch
4. Northern European insular
Subject Matter & Themes

1. Christ in Majesty
2. Madonnas
3. Christ suffering and contorted
in crucifixes
4. Scenes of Old and New
5. Saints and clergy
6. Last Judgment (the damned
and the blessed)
7. Fantasy
8. Military

Art Genre

Illuminated Manuscript

The first important monuments of Romanesque sculpture were created in the
last decade of the 11th cent. and the first decades of the 12th cent. The primary
source of artistic patronage was provided by the monastic institutions, for whom
sculptors executed large relief carvings for the decoration of church portals and richly
ornate capitals for cloisters. Romanesque sculpture produced an art of extraordinary
ornamental complexity, ecstatic in expression, and very abstract, combining stiff
formal forms with fantastic carvings of real and imaginary animals and demons in
In France themes portrayed on tympanums of such churches as Moissac,
Vzelay, and Autun emphasized the awesome majesty of Christ as ruler and judge of
the universe. They often depicted terrifying spectacles of hell. English sculpture
showed a tendency toward geometric ornamentation. However, with the introduction
in England of continental influences in the mid-12th cent. there also appeared
gruesome renditions of the Last Judgment, e.g., at Lincoln Cathedral. In contrast with
the demonic nature and animated quality of sculpture in France and in England, there
was an assertion of more massive and ponderous figures in N Italy, with the narrative
reliefs from Genesis designed by Wiligelmo in Modena and by Niccol in Verona.
Fresco painting has been more adversely affected by the accidents of time,
but several large cycles, as well as numerous other fragments of Romanesque wall
painting, have survived. The large and relatively unbroken expanses of wall space
within Romanesque buildings presented an excellent ground for the work of the
painter, and the basic forms of Romanesque fresco painting are typically monumental
in scale and bold in coloristic effect. Among the foremost examples of this art still
largely extant are the cycles of Saint-Savin in western France and Sant'Angelo in
Formis in S Italy.
Illuminated Manuscript
Manuscript illumination of the Romanesque period was characterized by a

vast enlargement of the traditional fund of pictorial imagery, although in terms of

overall execution and calligraphic quality Romanesque illuminated books often show
a certain carelessness and lack of refinement. The Psalter, as in the early Middle
Ages, continued to be the most widely read volume for religious use, and numerous
sumptuously illuminated copies of this work were executed. The Romanesque
scriptorium also produced large editions of the Bible, often extending to several
volumes. A splendid example of such a work is the Winchester Bible, executed in the
course of several generations and decorated with numerous scenes from the Old and
the New Testaments. Romanesque manuscripts are enlivened by elaborate and highly
inventive initial letters, on which the artists of this period lavished their bent for rich
ornamental display.
Tapestry is a form of textile art. It is woven by hand on a vertical loom. It is
weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work,
unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In this
way, a colourful pattern or image is created.
Not only were medieval tapestries works of courtly elegance with rich fabrics,
they also had a practical use, providing insulation for castle walls, covering openings
as hangers, or as a tapestry throw and giving privacy around beds. Kings and nobles
took their family tapestry on their travels from castle to castle for reasons of comfort
and prestige. These tapestries were symbols as much as they were items for practical
A famous tapestry in the Romanesque period is the Bayeux Tapestry, an
embroidered tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest. Woven in woolen threads of
eight colours on coarse linen, it is about 231 ft (70 m) long by about 20 in. (50 cm)
wide. It consists of 79 consecutive scenes, with Latin inscriptions and decorative
borders. Stylistically it resembles English illuminated manuscripts.
Another aspect of the Romanesque revival was the production of metalwork
objects, of which many outstanding examples, such as crucifixes, reliquary shrines,
and candlesticks, are still preserved in church treasuries. The most productive
centers of this art were the regions adjacent to the Rhine and the Meuse rivers,
where the art of bronze casting reached a level of technical mastery sufficient to
permit the execution of works of considerable dimension. An outstanding example of
Mosan bronze casting is the baptismal font of St. Barthelemy in Lige, a large vessel
supported by 12 oxen and decorated with scenes in high relief, executed by Rainer of
Huy between 1107 and 1118. It was during this same period that Limoges, in central
France, became an extremely active center of metalwork production, specializing in
Romanesque Architecture
In general the Romanesque churches were heavy and solid, carrying about
them an air of solemnity and gloom. Each building has clearly defined forms and they
are frequently of very regular, symmetrical plan so that the overall appearance is one
of simplicity when compared with the Gothic buildings that were to follow. The style
can be identified right across Europe, despite regional characteristics and different

Although there was much building of castles during this period, they are
greatly outnumbered by churches of which the most significant are the great abbey
churches, many of which are still standing, more or less complete and frequently in
Main Features of Romanesque Architecture

Massive walls
Rounded Arches
Groin Vault
Thick piers

5. Large towers


Decorative arcading
Architectural sculpture

10. Few windows

Basic Parts of a Church

Two Types of Church Plans

1. Greek-cross Plan - style of church with four equal arms.

2. Latin-cross Plan - church plan with one arm longer than the other three.

Noted Romanesque Architecture


St. Madeleine Vzelay in France(c.10901130)

Paray-le-Monial in France (early 12th cent.)
Cathedral of Speyer in Germany (c. 1060)
Church of St. Mary in Cologne, Germany (1049);
Cathedral (106392) and baptistery (1153) in Pisa, Italy
Church of San Miniato al Monte (c.1070) in Florence, Italy

7. Cathedral of Monreale in Sicily, Italy (1174 )