Posted: May 4, 2011 in Uncategorized


Romanesque Architecture springs up all over Europe as builders grapple with the problems of providing larger, structurally stable churches to accommodate crowds of pilgrims and worshippers, good light and acoustics, and fire resistance. They cease to copy buildings they know and strive to respond to current architectural, practical, and liturgical needs and patrons desires.


Emphasis is on massing, architectural elements, moldings, and sculpture to articulate design features. Symmetrical compositions and ordered arrangements of building forms are common. Religious structures convey the best examples of design vocabulary.


Important motifs include: the round arch, figures, corbel tables (projecting walls composed of brackets connected to round arches), animals, grotesques and fantastic figures, foliage, heraldic devices, linenfold, zigzags, lozenges, and geometric forms. Molding designs include the zigzag, star, billet (dental-like), and lozenges (diamond shaped).


An international ecclesiastical architectural style with regional variations. Forms and details grow from a common and logical architectural language that is an outgrowth of a more intellectual approach to buildings that replaces tradition and intuition

Public Buildings 


Churches and monasteries are the primary building types. Churches serve as places of worship, entries, and hostels. Other types include public buildings, town houses, castles, manor houses, and farm houses.

St. Ambrogio, Milan

Abbey (reconstruction Drawing)

Site Orientation 

Churches are usually located along pilgrimage routes or in town centers. In monasteries, the cloister, dormitory, refectory, and kitchen surround the church. Other structures include guesthouses, schools, libraries, barns, stables, and workshops. Monasteries are walled for protection and privacy.

Floor Plans 

Early examples of a round church plan reflecting the Byzantine influences. Many churches follow the pilgrimage plan in which the side aisles flanking the nave extend around the the transept and circular apse. Besides adding needed space, this innovation allows clergy to continue their duties despite the crowds.

St Ambrogio plan


Primarily use masonry to prevent fires. A few retain wooden ceilings and roofs. Local stone dominates. Exteriors often feature several types in contrasting colors. Areas lacking good building stone use brick.


Round arches and delineated architectural elements are key features. Fronts have three parts, each with a portal (main entrance with tympanum). Twin towers are common or multistoried combinations of towers and entrances. Simple elaborate sculpture programs embellish facades. Front and side walls are divided into bays using buttresses, engaged columns, or pilasters, often corresponding to interior units.

basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Durham Cathedral, Durham

Doors and Windows 

Rounded doors, windows, and arcades display figural and non figural sculptures. Recessed portals feature columns forming the jambs and sculpture in the tympanum and archivolts (arch molding). Windows are as large as construction permits. Stained glass emerges late in the period.

Durham Cathedral, Durham


Timber roofs are usually gabled with less pitch then Gothic. Chapels and towers may have conical or pyramidal. Sometimes the nave and flanking aisles have their own roofs.


Churches feature many of the common characteristics: round arches, repeated modules, ribbed vaults, compound piers, triforium, thick walls, and masonry ceilings.

Public Buildings 


Most churches walls and ceilings are painted, which emphasizes their architectonic nature. Treatments very from simple washes of color to extensive figural and decorative schemes. Colors include yellow, ocher, sandstone, gray, or red. Contrasting color, borders or ornamental patterns highlight architectural elements.

Notre-Dame-la-Grande, Poitiers


Important design elements because there are no pews or seats and few furnishings. Treatments vary from plain stone or brick with simple washes of color to elaborate patterns in tile or marble.

Worms Cathedral, Worms


Nave walls feature round arches. Two and three-story nave elevations are typical. The lower portion is an arcade carried on piers. above is the triforium, composed of two or more round arches carried on columns. Clerestory windows, also with round arches, only appear in groin or rib-vaulted naves. Openings reveal wall thickness and weight.

Sainte-Foy, Conques

Nave Vaults 

The earliest nave vault is the barrel vault, which requires thick walls for support. A variation is a pointed barrel vault with pointed transverse arches and a nave arcade. Besides allowing grater triforium and clerestory windows.


When defense is not a concern ceilings are flat and beamed. when defense or fireproofing is necessary, ceilings are of masonry and vaulted, and made of timber.

Sainte-Foy, Conques


Church furnishings consist mainly of alters, canopies, and shrines. Accessories, such as silver Chalices, are particularly luxurious and elaborate.


Local woods such as oak, walnut, and elm are used because of transportation issues. Turning and painting in bright colors are the main decoration.


Limited use of chairs during the period. Elaborate, massive throne chairs proclaim the status of the ruler. The occasional chairs are large, heavy, and simple in design.

Throne Chair


Chests and ivory caskets with decorative patters store important materials.

Ivory Casket


The most well known of the period is the Bayeux Tapestry.

Bayeux Tapestry

Decorative Arts

Illuminated manuscripts, produced in monasteries, have flat spaced, lively lines and patterns, ornamental initials and bright colors.

  1. I never thought of it that way, well put!

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