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Movements, Styles, and Tendencies Romanesque Architecture and Art

Romanesque Architecture and Art

Romanesque Architecture and Art Collage

Started: 963

Ended: 1120

"Gregorian chant, Romanesque architecture, the Iliad, the invention of geometry were not...occasions for the manifestation of personality."


Capturing the aspirations of a new age, Romanesque art and architecture started a revolution in building, architectural decoration, and visual storytelling. Starting in the latter part of the 10th century through the 12th, Europe experienced relative political stability, economic growth, and more prosperity during this time and coupled with the increasing number of monastic centers as well as the rise of universities, a new environment for art and architecture that was not commissioned solely by emperors and nobles was born. With the use of rounded arches, massive walls, piers, and barrel and rib vaults, the Romanesque period saw a revival of large-scale architecture that was almost fortress-like in appearance in addition to a new interest in expressive human forms. With the Roman Church as the main patron, Romanesque metalwork, stonework, and illuminated manuscripts spread across Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, creating an international style that was adapted to regional needs and influences.

19th-century art historians who coined the term Romanesque thought the weighty stone architecture and the stylized depiction of the human form did not live up to the standards of the classical ideas of humanism, but we now recognize that Romanesque art and architecture innovatively combined Classical influences, seen in the Roman ruins scattered throughout the European countryside and in Byzantine illuminated manuscripts and mosaics, with the decorative and more abstract styles of earlier Northern tribes to create the foundation of Western Christian architecture for centuries to come. While an immediate precursor to the Gothic style, the Romanesque would see revivals in the 17th and 19th centuries, as architects (masons) came to appreciate the clarity and formidable nature of the Romanesque façade when applied across a range of buildings, from department stores to university buildings.

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