miércoles, 4 de junio de 2008

Romanesque Architecture

Romanesque architecture presents a great regional variety determined by the traditions of each European territory it developed in. It was founded on the subtract of Roman antiquity, with which German countries influences were mixed. At the beginning there were different styles, known as pre-Romanesque but about the 11th century there is a certain unification of the style.
Basically, it is religious architecture, with dominance of the church in which we can find the two characteristics that gave solidity to the movement: monumentality, creating wide spaces and durability, doing something eternal, linked to the divininity.

The plan of the building is Latin cross, with three or five naves, being the central one higher and wider than the lateral. The transversal nave is called transept and the intersection point is the crossing. In pilgrimage churches the apse tended to be surrounded by an ambulatory in which pilgrims could spend the night. In the façade it is normal to find high towers, the same as over the crossing. At the feet of the church is the nartex. The plan of the church may vary and be substituted by central plans.
The elevation of the building presents naves of different high, being the main one the central. When the central nave has two floors, the second one is called tribune and has a corridor overlooking the central nave. Over the crossing is common to find a tower, sometimes polygonal, called ciborium.
The foundations of the buildings tend to be solid and deep because the strong walls of the building demand it. Walls are thick and reinforced in the outside by buttresses. This need for supports made difficult to open windows. At the same time, the existence of such a wall demand a lot of decorative elements, such as pilasters, blind arches, Jaca’s taqueado, or modillions.

Cover systems evolved from the wood lintelled covers to stone made barrel vaults, that are divided by fajon arches. Where two barrel vaults cross transversally it appears a rib vault. Apses are covered with a quarter of sphere vaults. Domes standing of squinches or trumps can be used too.
Internal support system: weighty covers are sustained by the walls and strong pillars and columns. The classical Romanesque pillar has a central-squared-body to which different columns are linked complicating its section. In the outside there are buttressed corresponding with the internal pillars. The capitals are full of relieves, narrating Biblical passages.
The façades or portals are at the feet of the church and in both sides of the transept. They are normally limited by towers. These façades are coincident with the internal distribution of the building. It is common to be formed by several arches decorated, the same as the tympanum inside them.
The cloisters are characteristic of the monasteries. It is an squared courtyard with a covered gallery sustained by semicircular arches.
Romanesque architecture symbolised the house of God. There are elements linked to both, human and divine. In general, circular parts such as the axis or the vaults are considered more perfect because of their shape. The relation among apse, nave and tower represent the union of the holy and human worlds. The nave is an squared construction with four angles, symbol of the earth (four elements, four seasons, four cardinal points).
Apart from that, the Romanesque symbolism is related to the light too. The church has its head oriented toward the East, the place from where the sun shines. In the same way, the altar in the apse is Christ’s light that illuminates the humans to rescue them from the dark.

Other buildings
Other important Romanesque building was monastery. It was organised as an small celestial city and consisted of different dependencies: church, cloister, monks’/nuns’ houses, hospital, refectory or dinning room, capitulary room for meetings, scriptorium for working in manuscript copying, library.

Castles were the most important of civil constructions. They were essential in this period due to the lack of security of the moment. They were built in areas easy to defend and frequently in mountains from where it was easy to observe the surroundings. Walls were strong and there was a protective wall all around the circuit ending in crenelations at the top. Inside there were different dependencies organised around a courtyard. The residence of the lord of the castle was the homage tower.

A construction directly related to pilgrimage were bridges. They were built to make it easier to pilgrims to continue with their journey. Normally they were a bit elevated in the middle.

Romanesque appeared in France, around Cluny abbey. From there it expanded following the pilgrimage routes, mainly Santiago. It has several styles: in Provence they used domes and façades decorated with arches; in Auvergne they have long choir, and side aisles around the semicircular sanctuary forming an ambulatory in which radiating chapels were open. In Burgundy buildings were barrel-vaulted and with three aisles. In Normandy there are Lombard influences with groined vaults supported by flying buttresses and façades with two flanking towers.
Italian provinces developed a great diversity of architectural styles. Lombardy was known by its groined vaults of heavy proportions. In central Italy decorative elements were classical: Corinthian capitals, coloured marble, open arches, colonnades and galleries and façades with sculptures. In the South Romanesque combined with Byzantine and Arabic influences, using mosaics and interlaced pointed-arches.

It was common to find separate buildings: the cathedral, the campanile or bell tower and the baptistery in three separe buildings.

Churches were planned on large scale and they were very high. They had an apse at each end and there was frequent to find round or octagonal towers in them.

Before the 10th century churches were made of wood and stone buildings were of small proportions until the Norman style replaced the Saxon style in 11th century. Buildings are long and narrow, with heavy walls and piers, rectangular apses, double transepts and deeply recessed portals. The naves were covered with flat roofs, later replaces by vaults, and side aisles were covered with groined vaults.

The first Romanesque appeared in Catalonia, influenced by Lombardy and France. The rest of Spain received this style through the pilgrimage. Catalan churches present an exterior of ordered volumes, decorated with Lombard bands and blind arches and galleries. The inside is divided into three naves with a small narthex and the hear presents triple apse.
Santiago’s route was important for the expansion of Romanesque art. The pilgrimage churches had a plan with three to five aisles and a transept in which there were radial chapels. Inside there is a tribune and it has ambulatory. Sometimes buildings can be polygonal, influenced by the Temple who was inspired in Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre.
In Castile and Leon there is an important influence of pilgrimage routes and the churches are identified with the spirit of the Reconquist. Buildings are simple and small, in contrast with the Muslim architecture.

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