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Romanesque Architecture In Europe - Influences

( Originally Published 1921 )

I. Geographical.—On the decline of the Roman Empire, the Romanesque style grew up in those countries of Western Europe which had been under the rule of Rome, and geographical position determined many of the peculiarities of the style in each country. Apart from its Roman origin, from which it took its name, the Romanesque style owed something to Byzantine art, which was carried westwards along the great trade routes, by way of such centres as Venice, Ravenna, and Marseilles, and thus exercised a formative influence on Romanesque, especially in certain districts, as will be seen in later chapters.

. II. Geological.—The use of local materials, whether stone or brick, marble or terra-cotta, as well as of ready-made columns and other features from old Roman buildings, accounts for many of the varying characteristics in each country over this wide area, with its different geological formations.

III. Climatic.—Climatic conditions also contributed to differences of treatment north and south of the Alps and Pyrenees. In the duller climates of the north, window openings were enlarged to admit sufficient light, while in the south they were kept small to exclude the dazzling sunshine. The slope of roofs was also largely determined by climate ; and it will be seen that the flat roofs of the south gave way to the high-pitched roofs in the north to throw off rain and snow.

IV. Religious.—Christianity, the chief source of education and culture, was gradually extending throughout northern Europe, and the erection of a church often resulted in the foundation of a city ; for the Papacy had been rising to great power and influence, and rivalled, or even controlled, such civil government as existed. The " Pragmatic Sanction " (A.D. 554) had already conferred authority on bishops over provincial and municipal governments, and this had increased the power of the Church, which now often nominated public officials. Bishops and abbots were also, by reason of their feudal rank, military chiefs who sometimes took the field in person, and thus the Church was everywhere predominant. Religious enthusiasm and zeal found their material expression in the magnificent cathedral churches and monastic buildings, which were an even more characteristic outcome of this period than were the castles of feudal chiefs. This same religious fervour led to the Crusades against the Saracens who had overrun Palestine and taken the Holy Places, and this long-continued warfare (A.D. 1096—1270) between Christians of the West and Mahometans of the East was not without its effect on Western art. Monastic communities had come into existence as early as the sixth century, and were fostered by Charlemagne, but the eleventh century was remarkable for that great development of the Monastic system which gave an impulse to civilisation, promoted new methods in agriculture, and exercised its influence on architecture ; indeed, until the middle of the twelfth century, science letters, art, and culture were the monopoly of the religious Orders. The schools attached to monasteries trained youths for the service of religion ; monks and their pupils were often the designers of cathedrals, and up to the thirteenth century architecture was almost regarded as a sacred science (For a description of the typical plan of a monastery see p. 248.)

The chief Monastic Orders were as follows :

(1) The Benedictine Order was founded during the sixth century in South Italy by S. Benedict, who decreed that architecture, painting, and all branches of art were to be taught. All the older monasteries in England, including those of Canterbury (p. 340) and Westminster (p. 344), belonged to this Order. The usual arrangement consisted of a square cloister having on one side an aisled church of cruciform plan, a transept of which bounded one side of the cloister. The refectory was generally on the opposite side parallel to the nave, while the dormitory was on another side with a stair to the church for night services. The original plan preserved in' the library of the Monastery of S. Gall, Switzerland, is a record of the typical plan of buildings of this Order (p. 293).

(2) The Cluniac Order was founded A.D. 909 with the celebrated Abbey of Cluny as headquarters. The plan had double transepts, a feature adopted in many English cathedrals, as Lincoln (p. 332 F) and Salisbury (P. 332 E).

(3) The Cistercian Order was founded A.D. 1098 at Citeaux, Burgundy. The typical church was divided transversely into three parts by screens, walls, or steps, and there were often no aisles, while the transepts and eastern arm of the cross were short, so that the choir extended westward of the transepts. There was an absence of towers and painted glass. The Cistercian influence extended to various countries of Europe, and in England the Abbeys of Furness, Fountains (p. 355), Roche, and Kirkstall belonged to this Order.

(4) The Augustinian Order differed little from the Benedictine and was introduced into England in A.D. 1105. Bristol, Carlisle, and Oxford Cathedrals, also S. Bartholomew the Great, London, were founded by this Order.

(5) The Premonstratensian Order was instituted at Premontre, Picardy (A.D. 1119). Castle Acre Priory and Bayham Abbey are examples of their monastic buildings in England.

(6) The Carthusian Order was founded by S. Bruno about A.D. 1080 The Grande Chartreuse, near Grenoble, is the French headquarters, and other monasteries of this Order were at Vauvert, Clermont (Auvergne), besides the Certosa near Florence, the Certosa near Pavia (p. 500), and the Charterhouse, London. Two churches were usually provided, one for the monks and the other for the people. The typical feature was the great rectangular cloister, surrounded by an arcade on to which opened the monks' cells, which were self-contained and had their own gardens. By the rules of the Order, speech was interdicted, and the Carthusians had to work, eat, and drink in solitude, and such a regime explains the original severity of their architecture.

(7) The Military Orders included the Knights Templars and the Knights Hospitallers, or Knights of S. John. Their churches were circular in plan and are supposed to have been on the model of the Rotunda of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (p. 207). The Temple Church, London (p. 320), and those at Cambridge, Little Maplestead, and Northampton were founded by these Orders.

(8) The Friars (Fratres, Freres, hence Friars), of which there were several Orders, were of later origin, and their churches were large, plain, and without aisles, designed for preaching. (a) The Dominicans (preaching or Black Friars) were founded by S. Dominic about AM. 1170, and came to England about A.D. 1217. Fra Angelico was the best-known member of this Order, which held a high place in Christian art. (b) The Franciscans (mendicant or Grey Friars) were founded by S. Francis of Assisi, A.D. 1209, and came to England A.D. 1224. Roger Bacon was one of the most distinguished members of this Order, which was noted for intellectual attainments. (c) The Carmelites (White Friars) were expelled from Mount Carmel by the Saracens (A.D. 1098), but only came to England A.D. 1229. (d) The Austin Friars (or Hermits). (e) The Friars of the Holy Trinity, instituted A.D. 1197. (f) The Crutched (or Crouched) Friars, instituted in Bologna A.D. 1169.

(9) The Jesuits were established as a counterforce to the Reformation, and they came to England about A.D. 1538.

v. Social.—The introduction of the system of feudal tenure, or the holding of land on condition of military service, caused important changes in the social and political organisation of states ; for through its operation the class of actual slaves died out, but at the same time the poorer freemen degenerated into serfs, bound to the land and passing with it on a change of ownership. As civilisation advanced the towns grew in importance, but constant warfare rendered the condition of the people unsettled and craftsmanship was consequently at a low ebb. Each country, as will be seen later, had its special social conditions which affected architecture, while in the days of its greatest prosperity the monastic system played an important part in the life of the people of all countries, especially in rural districts before the establishment of hospitals, and when all learning, even of medicine, was monopolised by the Church. Freemasons, owing to their knowledge of building and by reason of privileges gradually acquired, did much to facilitate the building of churches.

vi. Historical.—The Roman Empire in the West had already come to an end in A.D. 475. The election of the first Frankish King Charlemagne (A.D. 799) as Holy Roman Emperor marks the beginning of a new era.

From the fall of the Roman Empire till the time of Charlemagne few buildings had been erected, but he gathered artists and craftsmen around him, and before his death (A.D. 814) he had, in a great measure, restored the arts and civilisation to Western Europe. For the next two hundred years little progress was made, and it has been suggested that this was owing to a popular superstition that the millennium would bring the end of the world. After this period buildings sprang up which, with their local peculiarities, will be noticed under each country ; but change was slow, as traditional forms were first modified in design and detail, and new features were only added later. Nearly all the nations of Europe had by this time struggled into existence. France, Germany, and Spain were becoming powerful enough to begin to set aside the rule of the Holy Roman Empire, which was afterwards little more. than a title. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were distinct kingdoms, and at the end of the eleventh century England had been welded into one by William the Norman.

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