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Romanesque Architecture In Europe - Comparative Analysis

( Originally Published 1921 )

A. Plans. The Roman basilica had been the model for Early Christian churches, the plan of which was subject to new developments during this period. The addition of transepts and the prolongation of the sanctuary or chancel made the church a well-defined cross on plan, as at S. Michele, Pavia (p. 26o E). Transepts were generally the same breadth as the nave, which was usually twice the width of the aisles. The choir was often raised on piers above the level of the nave and over a vaulted crypt, in which saint or martyr had been buried, as at S. Miniato, Florence (p. 259 B) and S. Michele, Pavia (p. 26o A). In later churches aisles were sometimes carried round the chancel to form an ambulatory. Cloisters in connection with monastic churches are often very elaborately treated with twisted columns, carved capitals, and sculptured arches. Towers, square, octagonal, or circular, are prominent features at the east and west ends and over the crossing of nave and transepts, as in the Church of the Apostles, Cologne (p. 291 c), and they often rise to a great height in well-marked stages, pierced with windows.

B. Walls.—Roman methods of craftsmanship still influenced constructive art in Europe, but technical skill in general was at a low ebb. Walls were roughly built, and were relieved externally by buttresses formed as pilaster strips and connected at the top by bands of horizontal mouldings, or by a series of semicircular arches on corbels (pp. 291 c, 285 c). Attached columns, with rough capitals supporting semicircular arches, formed wall arcading, which was a frequent decorative feature (p. 285 G).

C. Openings.—Arcades consisted of massive circular columns or piers which supported semicircular arches, as in the naves of Norman cathedrals (p. 336 B). Door and window openings are very characteristic, with jambs or sides formed in a series of receding moulded planes known as " orders," in which are circular shafts surmounted by a continuous abacus. The semicircular arch above was also constructed in receding concentric rings (p. 267 B), which followed the lines of the recesses below. A rose or wheel window was often placed over the principal west door, as at S. Zeno Maggiore, Verona (p. 265 A), and in South Italian churches, as at Palermo.

D. Roofs.—The general employment of vaulting in the eleventh century, especially over side aisles, may have been due to the desire to fire-proof the building, although the central nave often had only a simple wooden roof. The form of arch employed in vaulting as elsewhere was semi-circular, often raised or " stilted " (p. 302 C). Unmoulded ribs were first used about A.D. 1100, and later on they were moulded quite simply. Intersecting barrel or cross-vaults (p. 324 A) were usual over a square plan, but the difficulty in constructing these over oblong bays finally led to the use of pointed arches in the Gothic period (p. 302 G). When the crossing of nave and transepts was crowned by an octagonal dome, four of its sides were carried on " squinch " arches (p. 26o A, D). Romanesque architects began to use flying buttresses under the aisle roofs to counteract the thrust of a vaulted nave roof (p. 276 c) ; but it was left for Gothic architects to place these flying buttresses outside the aisle roof and to weight them with pinnacles.

E. Columns.—Columns were either cylindrical and of stumpy proportions or formed as massive piers, and the shafts were treated with flutings of vertical, spiral, or trellis form, or sometimes carved with ornament (p. 336 B). Variations of Corinthian or Ionic capitals are used, as in S. John's Chapel, Tower of London (p. 413 A), and elsewhere (pp. 268 E, F, 286 c, G), and in later times the capital was often of a cushion (cubiform) shape, as also in S. John's Chapel, Tower of London (p. 364 c), and Winchester (p. 410 c), and is sometimes richly carved and scalloped (p. 410 B, D, E).

F. Mouldings.—These were often elaborately carved, as will be seen in English Romanesque (Norman) architecture (p. 415). The base of the column is generally an adaptation of the old Attic form, but the circular moulding often projects over the square plinth below, at the angles of which flowers or animals were occasionally carved to fill up the triangular part (p. 410 H). The abacus above the capital (p. 410 E) is distinctive in form ; it is higher, but projects less than in the Classical column and is moulded with alternate fillets and hollows.

G. Ornament.—Ornament, into which entered vegetable and animal forms, was treated conventionally, and carving and sculpture were often rough (pp. 268, 286, 296, 415). For interiors, frescoes were more usual than mosaics, which had been such a feature of Early Christian churches, while stained glass was as yet little used. Ornament, like all other features, was affected by various influences which are referred to in the chapters special to each country.

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