Essay: Romanesque Architectural Construction

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Romanesque_Construction

The term Romanesque is an architectural class that refers to the art and architecture of the Mid -- Late Medieval Period in Europe (1000 to 1240 AD). It was coined in the nineteenth century to describe features of the post-Roman Empire style. This period saw the decline and downfall of the Roman Empire. Romanesque elements comprise round-headed arches, barrel vaults, apses, and decorations, and in southern Europe are often blended with Byzantine elements (Atrisgerinko). Additionally, the Romanesque style developed to reflect a rebirth of art, science, and culture in the High Middle Ages. This European intellectual revival came with a great deal of social, political, and economic transformation (Benson).

The Romanesque architectural style coincided with the twelfth-century renaissance. One therefore expects to find evidence for cultural and scientific influences in construction technology. In cultural terms, the heavy, strong, and dark building that characterizes the Romanesque is reminiscent of Crusader castles. While Romanesque churches are religiously motivated, the style and motif take after the militaristic fortress. It is clear that influence has come back from the Crusades experience and combined with the new power of the Catholic Church to produce these monumental ecclesiastical structures. Perhaps sensing impending defeat at the hands of the Muslims as well as the devastation of the plague, there is a sort of defensiveness to the thick Romanesque style that reflects cultural awareness.

In terms of science, the Romanesque style is built on rounded arches, barrel vaults, and apses. The exterior walls and pillars are thick and heavy. These were constructed on Roman models that sought harmonious proportions, as well as symmetrical planning and design ratios based on the classical and Arabic mathematics recovered from the Crusades. They clearly represented the intellectual revival that was going on during the High Middle Ages and centred on the newly established universities brought over from Islamic models. In these universities, classical and Islamic texts in all fields of science and literature were being consumed. Through the education system that trained master builders within the nobility, all this knowledge was applied to the field of construction.

Beautiful craftsmanship is also in evidence in the renewed emphasis on building interior spaces that were comfortable. Indoor plumbing advanced as never before. Blind arches were used decoratively, along with small windows, arched roof supports, and painting. Walls were covered with Persian tapestries as much for aesthetics as for insulation. Stained glass was advanced, as evident at Chartres Cathedral (thirteenth century). Attention was paid to interior furniture that used skilled wrought-iron workmanship. None of this is surprising given the cultural advances during this time in enamel and ivory work (from exposure to trade with the East during the Crusades) and the wealth of the renewed church, which could pour its resources into building programs. There were also advances in bronze and gold sculpture, embroidery, and the illumination of manuscripts (Toman). All this signifies a period of tremendous vitality for crafts, at least in the construction of interiors, which would be expected to contribute to the ardent decoration of Romanesque architecture. It was the gentle side of military architecture that was carried over from castle interiors.

Pisa Cathedral (1063 -- 1118 AD) demonstrated both sides of early Romanesque architecture. The exterior was made of Tuscan marble. The cathedral had arcaded galleries, round-headed arches, a coffered ceiling over the nave, reused classical columns of granite or marble, and an ellipsoidal dome at the crossing. Around AD 1180 a bronze door with biblical scenes designed by Bonnano Pisano was installed. Inside, the decagonal white marble pulpit carved from AD 1302 to 1311 by Giovanni Pisano formed one of the most impressive features. The cathedral was clearly a synthesis of working labour and skilled artisanship.

Though in principle called Romanesque, the Cathedral of Pisa exhibits aspects of Romanesque, Islamic, Byzantine, and trans-Alpine architectural influence. The plan is more Early Christian, or even Roman, than Romanesque in nature. Each arm of the transept has its own apse, like two small basilicas fastened to a larger one. The Piazza del Duomo has archaeological beginnings that date back to at least the 6th century B.C. Remains of a Paleo-Christian church also exist underneath the foundations of the cathedral today.

The Basilica of St. Sernin is a church in Toulouse that was built in the Romanesque style between about 1080 and 1120. It is positioned on the site of a previous basilica of the 4th century which contained the body of Saint Saturnin or Sernin, the first bishop of Toulouse in c. 250 (Saint-Sernin basilica Toulouse, 2011). Because the region around Toulouse had very little building stone, the church was primarily built of local peach-colored brick. The builders utilized stone only for such special details as window-openings, doorways, corner-moldings and sculptural decoration.

In spite of being called a basilica, Saint-Sernin departs from the basilica plan of early Christian architecture in a number of ways. Saint-Sernin is much bigger compared to earlier churches. It is also built just about entirely of brick. It is a cruciform, or cross-shaped building. The ceilings are vaulted, dissimilar from a lot of the earlier churches. Saint-Sernin contains shining chapels which were utilized to display important relics. Another deviation from the earlier Christian churches is the addition of a walkway that goes around the nave and side aisles to allow viewing of the radiating chapels, which could be done while mass was being held without disturbing the ceremony. For these and other reasons, Saint-Sernin is frequently said to follow the Pilgrimage Plan as an alternative to the traditional Basilica plan (Saint-Sernin basilica Toulouse, 2011).

The St. Sernin, Toulouse is one of the earliest examples of stone vaulting, and was a stop on the pilgrimage route through southwestern France to Santiago de Compostela. The architects designed this church to meet the demand of the large amounts of people who came through on their pilgrimages. The architects did a number of things to make sure that there would be enough space available. They augmented the length of the nave, doubled the size of the side aisles, and added a transept, ambulatory, along with radiating chapels.

Durham Cathedral has been portrayed as one of the great architectural experiences of Europe. It is well-known as a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture. It was started in 1093 and mostly finished within forty years. It is the only cathedral in England to keep hold of roughly all of its Norman craftsmanship, and one of the few to protect the unity and integrity of its original design.

William St. Carileph was the man who was responsible for constructing the Cathedral of Durham. Carileph designed the biggest part of the Cathedral of Durham as it stands today and started its construction in the year 1093. Living in the site of the old stone minster built by Uchted, the new building was finished to the bishop's designs in about forty years. Regrettably Carileph did not live long enough to see the conclusion of his cathedral in 1135 (Durham Cathedral Carileph's Cathedral, 2009).

Building technology throughout this time lagged behind that of the early Romans, the Muslim people and the Chinese. During this time a number of cathedrals of exceptional size and height were constructed. In order to achieve these stunning dimensions, mostly noticeable in the roomy interiors, the cathedral buildings utilized three technical innovations. These were the ribbed vault, the pointed arch and the flying buttress. These three elements were first utilized together at the Durham Cathedral. Even though the ribbed vaults were essential to the first design and the pointed arch was added over a quarter of century later, the fundamental structure of the Durham Cathedral was replicated soon afterwards in a number of cathedrals all across Europe (Bunch & Hellemans, 2004).

This building is notable for the ribbed vault of the nave roof, with pointed transverse arches supported on moderately slender composite piers varying with massive drum columns, and flying buttresses or lateral abutments hidden within the triforium over the aisles. These features emerge to be precursors of the Gothic architecture of Northern France a few decades later, undoubtedly due to the Norman stonemasons responsible, although the building is considered Romanesque overall. The skilled utilization of the pointed arch and ribbed vault made it possible to cover far more complicated and complex ground plans than ever before. Buttressing made it feasible to build taller buildings and open up the dominant wall spaces to generate larger windows (Clifton-Taylor, 1967).

2__Romanesque_Master_Builder

5. Conclusion

The skilled labour was astute during the Romanesque period. All the previously mentioned ornamentation indicated a high level of craftsmanship. Perhaps many of the workers came out of the cottage industry style of organisation that had developed during the twelfth-century renaissance. This social arrangement of industry was like a collective workshop where families who lived adjacent to one another gathered in a specialised division of labour to make a particular product. This foreshadowed later Industrial Revolution techniques. Each house represented a different step in the production process. There was no centralized authority and the work… [END OF PREVIEW]

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