The Romanesque time period was in a time more commonly known as the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages came about after the fall of Rome. Not much is known about this time period because little or no documentation exists. The one common thread that tied this chaotic kingdom was Christianity. Although the Dark Ages had very unstable governments and rulers, the church remained strong and came out of the Dark Ages more powerful and influential than before. An important tradition in the Romanesque time was a pilgrimage. These pilgrimages usually took place in the Holy Land and inculded Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth. The pilgrimages put a pressure on the Holy Land and eventually ended in the crusades.


The round Arch, figures, corbel tabels- projecting walls composed of brackets connected by round arches.

Molding designs- Zigzag, star, billet (dentil-like), and lozenge ( diamond shaped)


Grotesques and Fantastic Figures

File:Autun Cathedrale Chapiteau pendaison de Judas.jpg


Eve, Romanesque relief

Heraldic Devices


 Public Buildings

Churches- serve as pleaces of worship, eateries, and hostels. Churches are usually located along pilgrimage routes or in town centers.

Monasteries- They are walled for protection and privacy.

Other types of architecture include town houses, castles, manor houses, and farmhouse.  Although there are only a few structures that survive, mainly castles that rarely have stylistic characteristics.


Floor plans- Many churches follow the pilgrimage plan in which the side aisles flanking the nave extend around the transept and circular apse. Plans are based on a module composed of one nave bay. Aisles are half of the unit in width. Modules allow infinite varation in size and configuration. The crossing is square or nearly so and marked by a tower or octagonal dome.


Materials- Churches are primarly of masonry to prevent fires. Local stone dominates because of transportation diffulties. The Lombard style in Italy features plain brick exteriors. Elaborate marble facades distinguish the Pisan style.

The Lombard style


The Pisan style


Facades- Round arches are key features. Fronts may have three parts, each with a portal; which is a main entrance with tympanum. Twin towers are common. Simple to elaborate sculpture programs embellish facades. Front and side are divided into bays using buttresses, engaged columns, or pilasters, often corresponding to interior units.

Doors and Windows- Rounded doors, windows, and arcades display figural and nonfigural sculptures. Reccesed portals feature columns forming the jambs and sculpture in the tympanum and archivolts; arch moldings. Windows are as large as construction permits. Stained glass emerges late in the period.


Color- Most Romanesque church walls and ceilings are painted, which emphisizes their architectonic nature. Colors include yellow, ocher, sandstone, gray, or red.

Walls- Nave walls feature round arches, reminisent of those used in Roman aqueducts, basilicas, and baths. Two and three-story nave elevations are typical. Clerestory windows, also with round arches, only appear in groin or rib- vaulted naves.

Nave Vaults- The earliest nave vault is the barrel vault, which requires thick walls for support. Their are no clerestory windows.

Ceilings- They are flat and beamed when defense is not a concern. They are of masonry and vaulted when defense and fireprofing is a concern.

Furnishing and Decorative Arts

Church furnishings consist of altars, canopies, and shrines.

Materials- Local woods, such as oak walnut, and elm were used because of transportation difficulties. Turning and painting bright colors are the main decoration.

Seating- There is a limited use of chairs during this period. Elaborate, massive throne chairs were used to show the status of the ruler.

Storage- Chest and ivory caskets with decorative patterns store important materials.

Textiles- The most well known textile of the period is the Bayeux Tapestry; detail of knights feasting, and embroidery of wool on linen.

Decorative Arts- Illuminated manuscripts, have flat shapes, lively lines and patterns, ornamental initials, and bright colors.

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