PHOTOGRAPHY / GLOSSARY / BIBLIOGRAPHY / ROMANESQUE  / GOTHIC /  RENAISSANCE / BAROQUE

ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE

1000-1200 (1140)

 

INTRODUCTION TO CHURCH ARCHITECTURE

The subject of church architecture occupies volumes and volumes of scholarly and technical writings.  Over the past several years, I have purchased a large number of these books.  My bibliography is available by clicking – BIBLIOGRAPHY.  My intention in producing Cathedral Quest is to reveal to my readers the great adventures that my wife and I have had exploring 133 wonders and creations of man’s imagination in building edifices to the Glory of God.

My accounts of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture will be rather simple and basic.  For those interested in a deeper understanding, I would suggest that you read the books I have listed in my bibliography or countless books available in bookstores, the internet and libraries.

Human kind has always been a creation who sought and built places in which to honor and worship their creator.  Victor Hugo (Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1831) wrote: “During the first 6,000 years of the world, from the immemorial pagoda of Hindustan to the Cathedral of Cologne, architecture was the great handwriting of the human race.   Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought, has its page and its monument in that immense book.   The human race has had no important ideas that were not written in stone.  Humanity has two books, two testaments: masonry and printing – the Bible of Stone and the Bible of Paper.”  

 

PREHISTORIC WORSHIP SITES

A series of prehistoric finds indicates the existence of ritual cults and sacrificial ceremonies in the New Stone Age or Neolithic Age (ca. 10,000/8000-4000/1800 B.C.  Opinions differ widely as to whether a form of religion had already developed.

  The word “temple” specifically applies to man-made architectural structures built for the cult of God or the gods as distinguished from the so called high places, which normally do not consist of buildings of any sort except for an enclosure around the sacred territory.

Most ancient temples of Canaan were connected with the religion of the Semites. They are mentioned occasionally in the bible, but never described in full. There is a lot of archaeological material available. For example, there is a Chalcolithic structure (ca 3300-3000 BC) from Megiddo in Israel that could possibly have been used as a temple or shrine.

 The Book of Genesis lists the places where the patriarchs worshipped on the soil of Palestine.  In each instance God is believed to have manifested himself to the founder or founders of the sanctuary, which consisted of an open air area akin to the high places of the Canaanites, with the usual combination of sacred tree or trees, raised  stones and eventually an altar, and a well or reserve of water. Some of these places were developed in later times into popular shrines and sanctuaries.   

 SOLOMON'S TEMPLE

                                                

 The building of Solomon’s Temple as recorded in I Kings 4-7 took twenty-five years. For its time it was a great architectural achievement measuring 90x30x45 feet. The Temple  was originally built according to the Phoenician architectural patterns.  The Ark of the Covenant was moved into the temple. There were two massive, free standing pillars flanking the ornamental east door. The congregation worshipped in the court outside, near the high altar of sacrifice. The interior of the temple was divided into 3 parts: vestibule, sanctuary and the inner shrine or cella.

There were in the biblical period three successive temples in Jerusalem on the same site: Solomon’s (957-586 B.C.), Zerubabbel’s ( 516 B.C. -after the Exile and stood for 500 years) and Herod’s (20 B.C.). Herod’s temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.  

 

EARLY GREEK TEMPLES

 The first Greek temples were made of wood. Stone temples were built around 600 B.C. and were masonry versions of the timber originals.  The Greek Temples consisted of  the Cella, a plain room-the seat of the god, which was normally left empty  except for an image, and a room at back designated as the treasury. Small temples were fronted by a portico with four columns.  Larger temples were completely surrounded by a colonnade, which had no function except to signal that this was a ceremonial and sacred building.  

The model (on the left) of the Parthenon was made by my son, Mark, for an 8th grade project in 1980.  The top comes off to reveal the interior.  How many of you reading this still have your children's school projects from 30 years ago?  I proudly take this with me when I teach my cathedral classes.

  The Greek used three different styles of  columns- Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.  The most obvious difference is the capitals. There are a number of sources available where you can read about the difference.  

 

ROMAN TEMPLES

Roman temples were not replicas of the Greek Temples.  They used Corinthian and Ionic columns, almost never Doric.   The temples were raised upon a podium approached by steps. They usually had a portico with one or two columns deep at one end and often attached demi-columns or half columns along the sides. A typical Roman Temple is which is well preserved  is Maison Carree at Nimes in southern France. I made of the model of Maison Carree on the left.

 

 

CIRCULAR TEMPLES

The Greeks did build circular structures, but not temples.  There are Roman examples of circular temples.  The largest of the circular temples is the Pantheon in Rome.  It was dedicated to all the gods.  The interior was more important than the exterior as far as appearance is concerned.  It was made of brick and concrete which were new forms. The dome is a spectacular  architectural fete.  I will discuss the Pantheon when we visit on our “quest” of Italy in 2004.   

THE BASILICA  

The name, basilica, goes back to the royal hall of a king.  Basilicas were public assembly halls or law courts.  They consisted of  a building with a central nave flanked by aisles divided from the center by rows of columns.   The column supported wall that rose above aisle height, containing windows (literally a ‘clear story’) and a wooden roof.  There was often an apse (a semi-circular vaulted extension at the east end) where court was general held. This design which we will look at in more detail became the architectural model for Christian Churches throughout the period of the building of the great cathedrals rather than the style of the Greek and Roman temples.

 

EARLY CHRISTIANITY

It is not my purpose, at this point, to write a history of Early Christianity.  There are thousands of sources that can enlighten you.   I simply want to say that the early Christians did not worship in churches as we know them until the time of Constantine in the early 4th century.  During the first three hundred years, Christians were subjected to persecution by a number of different Emperors.  Instead of church buildings, many Christians worshipped in private homes or in the catacombs.  

With the Edict of Milan under Constantine, in 313, Christianity was recognized as a legal religion. In 326 Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  Constantine immediately set in motion an ambitious program of church building in Rome and the East.  Between 326 and Constantine's death in 337 six major churches were begun: Old St. Peters, St. John Lateran and S. Maria Maggiore all in Rome; Old St. Sophia in Constantinople; Nativity in Bethlehem; and Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The reign of Constantine marks the beginning of Christian architecture. Suddenly, without previous experiment, a major new building type was invented.  Early Christian churches did not follow design of  the classical Greek or Roman temple because the Christian church's use was different.  The need for blood sacrifices had been superseded by vicarious offering of Christ himself, and churches were intended primarily as meeting places where the faithful could celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  

 

ROMANESQUE CHURCH DESIGN 

The standard design was that of the Roman basilica-the meeting hall. The basilica consisted of a two story structure that could measure up to 65 ft wide.   To this was added one  or two story side aisle on each side. The building was very wide and the clerestory windows at the top of the  nave or middle section provided sufficient light for the entire building.

 

 

 

Often side arms, called transepts, were added on either side of the nave to accommodate the great number of people who came to worship.  These additions gave the churches a Latin Cross floor plan. The apse or the east end was the place of the court in the Roman basilica.  In the new church it became the holy of holies- the sanctuary- the place of the altar. Between the apse and the nave was an area known as the chancel or choir.  In the earliest days, the clergy, known as the cathedral chapter, occupied this space for worship.  With the advent of popularity of relics, a means of “crowd control” was needed so the area in the apse behind the altar became known as the ambulatory.  Often small altars or chapels were constructed in the ambulatory. The chapels generally contained a relic.  Worshipper would enter one side and “amble” around the apse to venerate these relics and exit on the other side. Tall towers were added to the exterior.  Often their was a pair on either side of the front -West Facade.  There were also towers build over the great cross - the point where the nave, the transepts and the chancel met.  

 

RELICS

Relics become very important in the early Middle Ages and in some respect are still important to many Christians.  During the early days of Christianity many people were persecuted or put to death for their belief.  These martyrs became venerated.  In 326, St. Helena , mother of Constantine, is said to have visited the holy land, and afterwards the imperial commissioner began to identify the holy places and to supervise the construction of basilicas in each of  them. There were over two hundred churches constructed in this period in Palestine.  Every altar needed the relics of a saint to act as its sacred guarantor of consecration. Until the 10th century the body had to be intact.  Later bones and other body parts of those who were martyred became holy objects and were said to possess healing properties and ability to work miracles. Other objects such as a part of the clothing of saints were venerated.  In a sense, it became a popularity contest – which church or individual had parts of the most famous saint. Small bones, finger nails, hair of the martyred were in great demand.  Human nature being what it is, selling of “non- martyred” bones became a great scam. I guess much of this could have been avoided if they had had DNA.  I recently read a medieval mystery where a few hairs from the beard of some obscure saint became the source of conflict between two rival churches.  Christians would go on pilgrimages to visit these famous relics.  Many churches were named for particular saints whose bones reside there. There was generally an “admission charge” for the pilgrims. The more famous the saint, the larger the income which enabled the congregations to build bigger churches.  

 

THE ADVENT OF MONASTICISM

The conversion of Constantine and the end of imperial persecution of Christians necessitated a change in Christian heroism.   Under Constantine’s rule was almost impossible to get oneself martyred. With martyrdom no longer readily available, dedicated Christians eager to excel in their faith, abandoned the world and lived lives of great austerity. Their lives were dedicated to seclusion, prayer, self denial and spiritual contemplation. Monasticism began in Egypt around the start of the 4th c.  

During the Middle Ages, monks became members of various orders: the Benedictines, Franciscans, Cistercians, Carthusians, and Dominicans.   These orders  began to build monasteries.  Many faithful Christians felt the call to join one of the orders and to live in seclusion in a monastery.   Monasteries began to crop up all over the Roman Empire.  One of the most famous was Cluny which was founded in 910.  By the 14th century, 825 monasteries owed their allegiance to Cluny (model of Cluny on the right).  As monasticism spread so did the need for more and more church buildings or abbeys. There is an abundance of literature about the various orders. 

 

    THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

Though Germanic peoples had been pushing against the borders of the Roman Empire for centuries, they did not became an acute threat until the 4th century.   Rome had been weakened by military usurpers and unqualified leaders for some time causing emperor Diocletian to split the empire in 286 into two distinct units - East and West. In 330 Constantine moved the capital to Constantinople.   It became the new Rome.  Old Rome and the Western Empire were left in the hands of corrupt and inadequate administrators, managing under trained and under paid soldiers.

In 370, Huns rode out of the East.  They were skilled archers who could move in tandem in cavalry maneuvers for which the Romans were completely unprepared.  From the north came the Vandals, who pushed into Gaul. Finally the Goths took Rome in 410.  In 476 a German chieftain, Odoacer, deposed the last Western Emperor and proclaimed himself king.  There many interesting books written on the Fall of the Roman Empire.  There are countless reasons for this decline.  Somewhere I obtained a list of 210 reasons for the Fall of the Roman Empire!!!

THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES - THE RISE OF THE PAPACY

After the Fall of the Roman Empire, the Bishop of Rome, better known as the Pope had no rival patriarchs.  The church in Rome was the only church in the West to claim to have been founded by an Apostle - Peter.   Since Constantine had moved to the East, the Pope became the recognized head of the church.  During the invasions of the various tribes, the Church was the one institution that was strong enough to resist the invaders and even win their respect.  The Franks converted to Christianity, which started with the baptism of Clovis in 496 and 3000 of his followers. 

Another important person was Gregory the Great, a Benedictine monk, who was elected Pope in 590.  It was Gregory who sent Augustine to Canterbury.  Among the next  important persons in the growth of the church was Charlemagne who became Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 800. It was at this point that the question arose as to who had the final authority - the Pope or the Emperor. This conflict was really never settled. It all depended on who was stronger at the time.  

We don't know too much about the Romanesque churches during the Early Middle Ages.  Most buildings did not withstand a long history.  Except for two of the churches that Constantine built, they had been destroyed or replace including Old St. Peter's.

So by the year 1000 a find a great boom in church building.  Congregations quickly outgrew their facilities.  Most of the churches that survived the Early Middle Ages had be replaced.  Many had been destroyed by the invaders, some fell down and other burned.

 

THE FAILING AND FALLING OF ROMANESQUE CHURCHES 

The Romanesque style of church had many failures.  They were rather dark on the inside because the high walls would not support large openings for windows. The wall were very thick. The arches were rounded and as such would not tolerate a lot of weight without crumbling. There was the need for larger and larger churches by the time of Charlemagne. The influence of the papacy resulted in more and  more people being converted to Christianity. The traffic of those wanting to honor relics increased. Many Christians went on pilgrimages.  Cathedrals became the center of activity of the community. The main problem with these large Romanesque churches was that they kept falling down.  In the illustration above, notice how the stress on the walls push them out causing the ceiling to fall and the walls to crumble. I would highly recommend Ken Follett’s book, "Pillars of the Earth" as an interesting and enjoyable read on the demise of the Romanesque structure and the birth of Gothic. Not only did many Romanesque churches fall down, they also burned down.  They had timber roofs which were often struck by lightening or in some cases they burned along with other buildings in the community when there was a major fire. It was only a little over a hundred years from the beginning of the Romanesque style until many of the architectural problems were solved and corrected as Abbot Sugar began his remodeling of St. Denis in Paris in 1140. He became the father of Gothic architecture which will be discussed on another page.  

There are very few surviving original Romanesque churches. The list below names those churches which can be classified Romanesque because they were begun between 1000 and 1200. Most of them were added to or sections rebuilt when they were damaged by fire or in war.  The World Wars severely damaged  many European cathedrals and churches.  Most of them have been rebuilt, and thus rebuilt with more modern materials.  As repairs and enlargements of the Romanesque churches took place, they adopted Gothic and later period characteristics.  As we go on our quest we will visit cathedrals and churches where part of the exterior is Romanesque with Gothic flying buttresses and Baroque altar pieces.

Below is a list of the Romanesque churches that we have visited.  As I write about these churches on the various travel pages, I will provide a link from the church listed below to a full description of that particular church.

Present

Finish

City

Country

Church Name

started

Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

326

 

Trier

Germany

Cathedral

330

 

Trier

Germany

Basilica

526

 

Ravenna

Italy

San Vitale

549

 

Classe (Ravenna)

Italy

Sant Apollinare in Classe

561

 

Ravenna

Italy

Sant Apollinare Nuvov

800

 

Aachen

Germany

Cathedral

900

 

Venice

Italy

St. Felice

935

 

Sieci

Italy

S. Giovanni Battista a Renole

974

1220

Cologne

Germany

St. Andreas

975

 

Mainz

Germany

St. Martin's Cathedral

1000

 

Lindau

Germany

St. Peters

1005

1034

Reims

France

St. Remi

1008

 

Torcello -Venice

Italy

Cathedral of Sant Maria Assurto

1011

 

Torcello -Venice

Italy

Santa Fosca

1012

1095

Como

Italy

Sant Abbondio

1019

 

Basel

Switzerland

Munster

1025

 

Speyer

Germany

Imperial Cathedral

1028

 

Fiesole

Italy

Cathedral - San Romolo

1035

1084

Mont St. Michel

France

Mont St. Michel

1040

1067

Jumieges

France

Jumieges

1042

 

Como

Italy

San Fedele

1043

1073

Venice

Italy

St. Mark's Basilica

1049

 

Cologne

Germany

St. Maria im Kapitol

1050

 

Paris

France

St. Severin

1060

1065

Caen

France

St. Trinite'

1060

1065

Caen

France

St. Etienne

1063

1170

Pisa

Italy

Cathedral

1100

 

Cologne

Germany

St. Gereon

1100

 

Zurich

Switzerland

Gross munster

1125

 

Worms

Germany

Dom St. Peter

 

 

 

 

 

 

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