Romanesque art

Romanesque art

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Romanesque art refers to the art of Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style
Gothic art
Gothic art was a Medieval art movement that developed in France out of Romanesque art in the mid-12th century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, but took over art more completely north of the Alps, never quite effacing more classical...

 in the 13th century, or later, depending on region. The preceding period is increasingly known as the Pre-Romanesque. The term was invented by 19th century art historians, especially for Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

, which retained many basic features of Roman architectural style
Roman architecture
Ancient Roman architecture adopted certain aspects of Ancient Greek architecture, creating a new architectural style. The Romans were indebted to their Etruscan neighbors and forefathers who supplied them with a wealth of knowledge essential for future architectural solutions, such as hydraulics...

 - most notably round-headed arches, but also barrel vault
Barrel vault
A barrel vault, also known as a tunnel vault or a wagon vault, is an architectural element formed by the extrusion of a single curve along a given distance. The curves are typically circular in shape, lending a semi-cylindrical appearance to the total design...

s, apse
Apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

s, and acanthus
Acanthus (ornament)
The acanthus is one of the most common plant forms to make foliage ornament and decoration.-Architecture:In architecture, an ornament is carved into stone or wood to resemble leaves from the Mediterranean species of the Acanthus genus of plants, which have deeply cut leaves with some similarity to...

-leaf decoration - but had also developed many very different characteristics. In Southern France, Spain and Italy there was an architectural continuity with the Late Antique, but the Romanesque style was the first style to impact the whole of Catholic Europe, from Denmark to Sicily. Romanesque art was also greatly influenced by Byzantine art
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

, especially in painting, and by the anti-classical energy of the decoration of the Insular art
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

 of the British Isles
British Isles
The British Isles are a group of islands off the northwest coast of continental Europe that include the islands of Great Britain and Ireland and over six thousand smaller isles. There are two sovereign states located on the islands: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and...

, and from these elements forged a highly innovative and coherent style.

Characteristics


Outside Romanesque architecture, the art of the period was characterised by a very vigorous style in both sculpture and painting. The latter continued to follow essentially Byzantine
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

 iconographic
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

 models for the most common subjects in churches, which remained Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty, or Christ in Glory, in Latin Majestas Domini, is the Western Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world, always seen frontally in the centre of the composition, and often flanked by other sacred figures, whose membership changes over time and according to...

, the Last Judgement and scenes from the Life of Christ
Life of Christ
The Life of Christ as a narrative cycle in Christian art comprises a number of different subjects, which were often grouped in series or cycles of works in a variety of media, narrating the life of Jesus on earth, as distinguished from the many other subjects in art showing the eternal life of...

. In illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

s, where the most lavishly decorated manuscripts of the period were mostly bibles or psalter
Psalter
A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms, often with other devotional material bound in as well, such as a liturgical calendar and litany of the Saints. Until the later medieval emergence of the book of hours, psalters were the books most widely owned by wealthy lay persons and were...

s, more originality is seen, as new scenes needed to be depicted. The same applied to the capitals of columns, never more exciting than in this period, when they were often carved with complete scenes with several figures. The large wooden crucifix
Crucifix
A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....

 was a German innovation right at the start of the period, as were free-standing statues of the enthroned Madonna, but the high relief was above all the sculptural mode of the period.
Colours, now remaining bright only in stained glass and well-preserved manuscripts, tended to be very striking, and mostly primary. It was in this period that stained glass
Stained glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...

 became widely used, although survivals are sadly few. In an invention of the period, the tympanums of important church portals were carved with monumental schemes, often again Christ in Majesty or the Last Judgement, but treated with more freedom than painted versions, as there were no equivalent Byzantine models.

Compositions usually had little depth, and needed to be flexible to squeeze themselves into the shapes of historiated initial
Historiated initial
A historiated initial is an enlarged letter at the beginning of a paragraph or other section of text, which contains a picture. Strictly speaking, an inhabited initial contains figures that are decorative only, without forming a subject, whereas in a historiated initial there is an identifiable...

s, column capitals, and church typanums; the tension between a tightly enclosing frame, from which the composition sometimes escapes, is a recurrent theme in Romanesque art. Figures still often varied in size in relation to their importance, and landscape backgrounds, if attempted at all, were closer to abstract decorations than realism - as in the trees in the "Morgan Leaf". Portraiture hardly existed.

Background


The period saw Europe grow steadily more prosperous, and art of the highest quality was no longer confined, as it largely was in the Carolingian
Carolingian art
Carolingian art comes from the Frankish Empire in the period of roughly 120 years from about AD 780 to 900 — during the reign of Charlemagne and his immediate heirs — popularly known as the Carolingian Renaissance. The art was produced by and for the court circle and a group of...

 and Ottonian
Ottonian art
In pre-romanesque Germany, the prevailing style was what has come to be known as Ottonian art. With Ottonian architecture, it is a key component of the Ottonian Renaissance named for the emperors Otto I, Otto II, and Otto III...

 periods, to the royal court and a small circle of monasteries. Monasteries remained extremely important, especially those of the expansionist new orders of the period, the Cistercian, Cluniac, and Carthusian
Carthusian
The Carthusian Order, also called the Order of St. Bruno, is a Roman Catholic religious order of enclosed monastics. The order was founded by Saint Bruno of Cologne in 1084 and includes both monks and nuns...

, which spread across Europe, but city churches, those on pilgrimage routes, and many churches in small towns and villages were elaborately decorated to a very high standard - indeed it is often these that have survived, when cathedrals and city churches have been rebuilt, and no Romanesque royal palace has really survived.

The lay artist was becoming a valued figure - Nicholas of Verdun
Nicholas of Verdun
Nicholas of Verdun was a French artist, one of the most famous goldsmiths and enamellists of the Middle Ages, a major figure in Romanesque art, and the leading figure of Mosan art in his day...

 seems to have been known across the continent. Most masons and goldsmith
Goldsmith
A goldsmith is a metalworker who specializes in working with gold and other precious metals. Since ancient times the techniques of a goldsmith have evolved very little in order to produce items of jewelry of quality standards. In modern times actual goldsmiths are rare...

s were now lay, and lay painters like Master Hugo
Master Hugo
Master Hugo was a Romanesque lay artist. His documented career at Bury St Edmunds Abbey spans from before 1136 to after 1148. He is most famous for illuminating the first volume of the Bury Bible, which "have led to a general acknowledgement of Master Hugo as the gifted innovator of the main line...

 seem to have been in the majority, at least of those doing the best work, by the end of the period. The iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

 of their church work was no doubt arrived at in consultation with clerical advisors.

Metal-, enamel-, and ivorywork


Precious objects in these media had a very high status in the period, probably much more so than paintings — we know the names of more makers of these than painters, illuminators or architect-masons. Metalwork, including decoration in enamel
Vitreous enamel
Vitreous enamel, also porcelain enamel in U.S. English, is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 °C...

, became very sophisticated, and many spectacular shrines made to hold relics have survived, of which the best known is the Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral
Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral
The Shrine of the Three Kings is a reliquary said to contain the bones of the Biblical Magi, also known as the Three Kings or the Three Wise Men. The shrine is a large gilded and decorated triple sarcophagus placed above and behind the high altar of Cologne Cathedral...

 by Nicholas of Verdun
Nicholas of Verdun
Nicholas of Verdun was a French artist, one of the most famous goldsmiths and enamellists of the Middle Ages, a major figure in Romanesque art, and the leading figure of Mosan art in his day...

 and others (ca 1180–1225). The Stavelot Triptych
Stavelot Triptych
The Stavelot Triptych is a medieval reliquary and portable altar in gold and enamel intended to protect, honor and display pieces of the True Cross. Created by Mosan artists—"Mosan" signifies the valley of the Meuse river—around 1156 at Stavelot Abbey in present-day Belgium...

 and Reliquary of St. Maurus are other examples of Mosan
Mosan art
Mosan art is a regional style of art from the valley of the Meuse in present-day Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Although the term applies to art from this region from all periods, it generally refers to Romanesque art, with Mosan Romanesque architecture, stone carving, metalwork, enamelling...

 enamelwork. Large reliquaries and altar frontals were built around a wooden frame, but smaller caskets were all metal and enamel. A few secular pieces, such as mirror cases, jewellery and clasps have survived, but these no doubt under-represent the amount of fine metalwork owned by the nobility.

The bronze Gloucester candlestick
Gloucester candlestick
The Gloucester Candlestick is an elaborately decorated English Romanesque gilt-bronze candlestick, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It was made for Gloucester Cathedral between 1104 and 1113.-Description:...

 and the brass font of 1108-17 now in Liège are superb examples, very different in style, of metal casting, the former highly intricate and energetic, drawing on manuscript painting, while the font shows the Mosan style at its most classical and majestic. The bronze doors, a triumphal column and other fittings at Hildesheim Cathedral
St. Mary's Cathedral, Hildesheim
St. Mary's Cathedral in Hildesheim, Germany, is an important medieval Catholic cathedral, that has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985....

, the Gniezno Doors
Gniezno Doors
The Gniezno Doors are a pair of bronze doors at the entrance to Gniezno Cathedral in Gniezno, Poland, a Gothic building which the doors pre-date, having been carried over from an earlier building. They are decorated with eighteen scenes in bas-relief from the life of St...

, and the doors of the Basilica di San Zeno
Basilica di San Zeno
The Basilica di San Zeno is a religious building of Verona, Northern Italy. Its fame rests partly on its architecture and partly upon the tradition that its crypt was the place of the marriage of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Together with the abbey which forms an annex, it is dedicated to St....

 in Verona
Verona
Verona ; German Bern, Dietrichsbern or Welschbern) is a city in the Veneto, northern Italy, with approx. 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven chef-lieus of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of North-Eastern Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona...

 are other substantial survivals. The aquamanile
Aquamanile
In modern usage, an aquamanile is a ewer or jug-type vessel in the form of one or more animal or human figures. It usually contained water for the washing of hands over a basin, which was part of both upper-class meals and the Christian Eucharist...

, a container for water to wash with, appears to have been introduced to Europe in the 11th century, and often took fantastic zoomorphic forms; surviving examples are mostly in brass. Many wax impressions from impressive seals survive on charters and documents, although Romanesque coins are generally not of great aesthetic interest.

The Cloisters Cross
Cloisters Cross
The Cloisters Cross, also referred to as the Bury St. Edmunds Cross, is an unusually complex 12th century ivory Romanesque altar cross in The Cloisters, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The cross is carved from walrus ivory and measures 22 5/8 x 14 1/4 in...

 is an unusually large ivory
Ivory
Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

 cruxifix, with complex carving including many figures of prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

s and others, which has been attributed to one of the relatively few artists whose name is known, Master Hugo
Master Hugo
Master Hugo was a Romanesque lay artist. His documented career at Bury St Edmunds Abbey spans from before 1136 to after 1148. He is most famous for illuminating the first volume of the Bury Bible, which "have led to a general acknowledgement of Master Hugo as the gifted innovator of the main line...

, who also illuminated manuscripts. Like many pieces it was originally partly coloured. The Lewis chessmen
Lewis chessmen
The Lewis Chessmen are a group of 78 12th-century chess pieces, most of which are carved in walrus ivory...

 are well-preserved examples of small ivories, of which many pieces or framents remain from croziers, plaques, pectoral cross
Pectoral cross
A pectoral cross or pectorale is a cross, usually relatively large, suspended from the neck by a cord or chain that reaches well down the chest. It is worn by the clergy as an indication of their position, and is different from the small crosses worn on necklaces by many Christians, which have no...

es and similar objects.

Architectural sculpture


With the fall of the Roman Empire, the tradition of carving large works in stone and sculpting figures in bronze died out, as it effectively did (for religious reasons) in the Byzantine world. Some life-size sculpture was evidently done in stucco
Stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

 or plaster, but surviving examples are understandably rare. The best-known surviving large sculptural work of Proto-Romanesque Europe is the life-size wooden Crucifix commissioned by Archbishop Gero of Cologne
Gero Crucifix
The Gero Cross or Gero Crucifix , of around 965–970, is the oldest large sculpture of the crucified Christ north of the Alps, and has always been displayed in Cologne Cathedral in Germany. It was commissioned by Gero, Archbishop of Cologne, who died in 976, thus providing a terminus ante quem for...

 in about 960–65, apparently the prototype of what became a popular form. These were later set up on a beam below the chancel
Chancel
In church architecture, the chancel is the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical east end of a traditional Christian church building...

 arch, known in English as a rood
Rood
A rood is a cross or crucifix, especially a large one in a church; a large sculpture or sometimes painting of the crucifixion of Jesus.Rood is an archaic word for pole, from Old English rōd "pole", specifically "cross", from Proto-Germanic *rodo, cognate to Old Saxon rōda, Old High German ruoda...

, from the twelfth century accompanied by figures of the Virgin mary and John the Evangelist
John the Evangelist
Saint John the Evangelist is the conventional name for the author of the Gospel of John...

 to the sides. During the 11th and 12th centuries, figurative sculpture flourished.

Sources and style


It was based on two other sources in particular, manuscript illumination and small-scale sculpture in ivory and metal. The extensive friezes sculpted on Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

n and Syriac churches are have been proposed as another likely influence. These sources together produced a distinct style which can be recognised across Europe, although the most spectacular sculptural projects are concentrated in South-Western France, Northern Spain and Italy.


Images that occurred in metalwork were frequently embossed. The resultant surface had two main planes and details that were usually incised. This treatment was adapted to stone carving and is seen particularly in the tympanum
Tympanum (architecture)
In architecture, a tympanum is the semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance, bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculpture or other imagery or ornaments. Most architectural styles include this element....

 above the portal, where the imagery of Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty, or Christ in Glory, in Latin Majestas Domini, is the Western Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world, always seen frontally in the centre of the composition, and often flanked by other sacred figures, whose membership changes over time and according to...

 with the symbols of the Four Evangelists
Four Evangelists
In Christian tradition the Four Evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the authors attributed with the creation of the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament that bear the following titles:*Gospel according to Matthew*Gospel according to Mark...

 is drawn directly from the gilt covers of medieval Gospel Book
Gospel Book
The Gospel Book, Evangelion, or Book of the Gospels is a codex or bound volume containing one or more of the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament...

s. This style of doorway occurs in many places and continued into the Gothic period. A rare survival in England is that of the "Prior's Door" at Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon...

. In South-Western France, many have survived, with impressive examples at Saint-Pierre, Moissac
Moissac
Moissac is a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southern France. It is famous world-wide mostly for the artistic heritage handed down by the ancient Saint-Pierre Abbey.-History:...

, Souillac
Souillac, Lot
Souillac is a commune in the Lot department in south-western France, on the river Dordogne. It is the site of the new Brive – Souillac Airport, that opened in 2010. The abbey has famous Romanesque carvings....

, and La Madaleine, Vézelay
Vézelay Abbey
Vézelay Abbey was a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery in Vézelay in the Yonne département in Burgundy, France. The Benedictine abbey church of Ste-Marie-Madeleine Vézelay Abbey (now known as Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine) was a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery in Vézelay in the Yonne...

 – all daughter houses of Cluny, with extensive other sculpture remaining in cloisters and other buildings. Nearby, Autun Cathedral has a Last Judgement of great rarity in that it has uniquely been signed by its creator, Giselbertus.

A feature of the figures in manuscript illumination is that they often occupy confined spaces and are contorted to fit. The custom of artists to make the figure fit the available space lent itself to a facility in designing figures to ornament door posts and lintels and other such architectural surfaces. The robes of painted figures were commonly treated in a flat and decorative style that bore little resemblance to the weight and fall of actual cloth. This feature was also adapted for sculpture. Among the many examples that exist, one of the finest is the figure of the Prophet Jeremiah from the pillar of the portal of the Abbey of Saint-Pierre, Moissac
Moissac
Moissac is a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southern France. It is famous world-wide mostly for the artistic heritage handed down by the ancient Saint-Pierre Abbey.-History:...

, France, from about 1130.

One of the most significant motifs of Romanesque design, occurring in both figurative and non-figurative sculpture is the spiral. One of the sources may be Ionic capitals
Ionic order
The Ionic order forms one of the three orders or organizational systems of classical architecture, the other two canonic orders being the Doric and the Corinthian...

. Scrolling vines were a common motif of both Byzantine and Roman design, and may be seen in mosaic on the vaults of the 4th century Church of Santa Costanza
Santa Costanza
Santa Costanza is a 4th century church in Rome, Italy, on the Via Nomentana, which runs north-east out of the city, still under its ancient name. According to the traditional view, it was built under Constantine I as a mausoleum for his daughter Constantina who died in 354 AD...

, Rome. Manuscripts and architectural carvings of the 12th century have very similar scrolling vine motifs.


Another source of the spiral is clearly the illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

s of the 7th to 9th centuries, particularly Irish manuscripts
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

 such as the St. Gall Gospel Book
St. Gall Gospel Book
The St. Gall Gospel Book is a medieval insular Gospel Book. It is now in the Abbey of St. Gall cathedral library . It has 134 folios. Amongst its illustrations are a Crucifixion, a Last Judgement, a Chi Rho monogram page, a carpet page, and Evangelist portraits....

, spread into Europe by the Hiberno-Scottish mission
Hiberno-Scottish mission
The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a mission led by Irish and Scottish monks which spread Christianity and established monasteries in Great Britain and continental Europe during the Middle Ages...

. In these illuminations the use of the spiral has nothing to do with vines or other plant forms. The motif is abstract and mathematical. The style was then picked up in Carolingian art
Carolingian art
Carolingian art comes from the Frankish Empire in the period of roughly 120 years from about AD 780 to 900 — during the reign of Charlemagne and his immediate heirs — popularly known as the Carolingian Renaissance. The art was produced by and for the court circle and a group of...

 and given a more botanical character. It is in an adaptation of this form that the spiral occurs in the draperies of both sculpture and stained glass
Stained glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...

 windows. Of all the many examples that occur on Romanesque portals, one of the most outstanding is that of the central figure of Christ at La Madaleine, Vezelay
Vézelay Abbey
Vézelay Abbey was a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery in Vézelay in the Yonne département in Burgundy, France. The Benedictine abbey church of Ste-Marie-Madeleine Vézelay Abbey (now known as Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine) was a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery in Vézelay in the Yonne...

.

Another influence from Insular art
Insular art
Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, is the style of art produced in the post-Roman history of Ireland and Great Britain. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe...

 are engaged and entwined animals, often used to superb effect in capitals (as at Silos) and sometimes on a column itself (as at Moissac). Much of the treatment of paired, confronted and entwined animals in Romanesque decoration has similar Insular origins, as do animals whose bodies tail into purely decorative shapes. (Despite the adoption of Hiberno-Saxon traditions into Romanesque styles in England and on the continent, the influence was primarily one-way. Irish art during this period remained isolated, developing a unique amalgam of native Irish and Viking
Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

 styles which would be slowly extinguished and replaced by mainstream Romanesque style in the early 13th century following the Anglo-Norman invasion
Norman Ireland
The History of Ireland 1169–1536 covers the period from the arrival of the Cambro-Normans to the reign of Henry VIII of England, who made himself King of Ireland. After the Norman invasion of 1171, Ireland was under an alternating level of control from Norman lords and the King of England...

 of Ireland.)


Subject matter


Most Romanesque sculpture is pictorial and Biblical in subject. A great variety of themes are found on capitals and include scenes of Creation and the Fall of Man
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

, episodes from the life of Christ and those Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 scenes which prefigure
Typology (theology)
Typology in Christian theology and Biblical exegesis is a doctrine or theory concerning the relationship between the Old and New Testaments...

 his Death and Resurrection
Resurrection
Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

, such as Jonah and the Whale
Jonah
Jonah is the name given in the Hebrew Bible to a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC, the eponymous central character in the Book of Jonah, famous for being swallowed by a fish or a whale, depending on translation...

 and Daniel in the Lions' Den
Daniel
Daniel is the protagonist in the Book of Daniel of the Hebrew Bible. In the narrative, when Daniel was a young man, he was taken into Babylonian captivity where he was educated in Chaldean thought. However, he never converted to Neo-Babylonian ways...

. Many Nativity
Nativity of Jesus in art
The Nativity of Jesus has been a major subject of Christian art since the 4th century. The artistic depictions of the Nativity or birth of Jesus, celebrated at Christmas, are based on the narratives in the Bible, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and further elaborated by written, oral and...

 scenes occur, the theme of the Three Kings being particularly popular. The cloisters of Santo Domingo de Silos Abbey in Northern Spain, and Moissac
Moissac
Moissac is a commune in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Midi-Pyrénées region in southern France. It is famous world-wide mostly for the artistic heritage handed down by the ancient Saint-Pierre Abbey.-History:...

  are fine examples surviving complete.

A feature of some Romanesque churches is the extensive sculptural scheme which covers the area surrounding the portal or, in some case, much of the facade. Angouleme Cathedral in France has a highly elaborate scheme of sculpture set within the broad niches created by the arcading of the facade. In Spain, an elaborate pictorial scheme in low relief surrounds the door of the church of Santa Maria at Ripoll.

The purpose of the sculptural schemes was to convey a message that the Christian believer should recognize wrong-doing, repent and be redeemed. The Last Judgement reminds the believer to repent. The carved or painted Crucifix
Crucifix
A crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....

, displayed prominently within the church, reminds the sinner of redemption.


Often the sculpture is alarming in form and in subject matter. These works are found on capitals, corbels and bosses, or entwined in the foliage on door mouldings. They represent forms that are not easily recognizable today. Common motifs include Sheela na Gig
Sheela Na Gig
Sheela na gigs are figurative carvings of naked women displaying an exaggerated vulva. They are found on churches, castles and other buildings, particularly in Ireland and Britain, sometimes together with male figures. One of the best examples may be found in the Round Tower at Rattoo, in County...

, fearsome demons, ouroboros
Ouroboros
The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. The name originates from within Greek language; οὐρά meaning "tail" and βόρος meaning "eating", thus "he who eats the tail"....

 or dragons swallowing their tails, and many other myth
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

ical creatures with obscure meaning. Spirals and paired motifs originally had special significance in oral tradition
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 that has been lost or rejected by modern scholars.

The Seven Deadly Sins
Seven deadly sins
The 7 Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of objectionable vices that have been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning fallen humanity's tendency to sin...

 including lust, gluttony and avarice are also frequently represented. The appearance of many figures with oversized genitals can be equated with carnal sin, and so can the numerous figures shown with protruding tongues, which are a feature of the doorway of Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral
Lincoln Cathedral is a historic Anglican cathedral in Lincoln in England and seat of the Bishop of Lincoln in the Church of England. It was reputedly the tallest building in the world for 249 years . The central spire collapsed in 1549 and was not rebuilt...

. Pulling one's beard was a symbol of masturbation, and pulling one's mouth wide open was also a sign of lewdity. A common theme found on capitals of this period is a tongue poker or beard stroker being beaten by his wife or seized by demons. Demons fighting over the soul of a wrongdoer such as a miser is another popular subject.


Late Romanesque sculpture


Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

 is usually considered to begin with the design of the choir at the Abbey of Saint-Denis, north of Paris, by the Abbot Suger
Abbot Suger
Suger was one of the last Frankish abbot-statesmen, an historian, and the influential first patron of Gothic architecture....

, consecrated 1144. The beginning of Gothic sculpture is usually dated a little later, with the carving of the figures around the Royal Portal at Chartres Cathedral, France, 1150–55. The style of sculpture spread rapidly from Chartres, overtaking the new Gothic architecture. In fact, many churches of the late Romanesque period post-date the building at Saint-Denis. The sculptural style based more upon observation and naturalism than on formalised design developed rapidly. It is thought that one reason for the rapid development of naturalistic form was a growing awareness of Classical remains in places where they were most numerous and a deliberate imitation of their style. The consequence is that there are doorways which are Romanesque in form, and yet show a naturalism associated with Early Gothic sculpture.

One of these is the Pórtico da Gloria dating from 1180, at Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, Spain.The city's Cathedral is the destination today, as it has been throughout history, of the important 9th century medieval pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James...

. This portal is internal and is particularly well preserved, even retaining colour on the figures and indicating the gaudy appearance of much architectural decoration which is now perceived as monochrome. Around the doorway are figures who are integrated with the colonnettes that make the mouldings of the doors. They are three dimensional, but slightly flattened. They are highly individualised, not only in appearance but also expression and bear quite strong resemblance to those around the north porch of the Abbey of St. Denis, dating from 1170. Beneath the tympanum there is a realistically carved row of figures playing a range of different and easily identifiable musical instruments.

Painting



Manuscript illumination


A number of regional schools converged in the early Romanesque illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

: the "Channel school" of England and Northern France was heavily influenced by late Anglo-Saxon art
Anglo-Saxon art
Anglo-Saxon art covers art produced within the Anglo-Saxon period of English history, beginning with the Migration period style that the Anglo-Saxons brought with them from the continent in the 5th century, and ending in 1066 with the Norman Conquest of a large Anglo-Saxon nation-state whose...

, whereas in Southern France the style depended more on Iberian influence, and in Germany and the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

, Ottonian styles
Ottonian art
In pre-romanesque Germany, the prevailing style was what has come to be known as Ottonian art. With Ottonian architecture, it is a key component of the Ottonian Renaissance named for the emperors Otto I, Otto II, and Otto III...

 continued to develop, and also, along with Byzantine styles, influenced Italy. By the 12th century there had been reciprocal influences between all these, although naturally regional distinctiveness remained.

The typical focii of Romanesque illumination were the Bible, where each book could be prefaced by a large historiated initial
Historiated initial
A historiated initial is an enlarged letter at the beginning of a paragraph or other section of text, which contains a picture. Strictly speaking, an inhabited initial contains figures that are decorative only, without forming a subject, whereas in a historiated initial there is an identifiable...

, and the Psalter
Psalter
A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms, often with other devotional material bound in as well, such as a liturgical calendar and litany of the Saints. Until the later medieval emergence of the book of hours, psalters were the books most widely owned by wealthy lay persons and were...

, where major initials were similarly illuminated. In both cases more lavish examples might have cycles of scenes in fully illuminated pages, sometimes with several scenes per page, in compartments. The Bibles in particular often had a very large page size, and might be bound into more than one volume. Examples include the St. Albans Psalter
St. Albans Psalter
The St Albans Psalter, also known as the Albani Psalter or the Psalter of Christina of Markyate, is an English illuminated manuscript, one of several Psalters known to have been created at or for St Albans Abbey in the 12th century...

, Hunterian Psalter
Hunterian Psalter
The Hunterian Psalter is an illuminated manuscript of the 12th century. It was produced in England some time around 1170, and is considered a striking example of Romanesque book art. The work is part of the collection of the Glasgow University Library, cataloged as Sp Coll MS Hunter U.3.2 ,...

, Winchester Bible
Winchester Bible
The Winchester Bible is a Romanesque illuminated manuscript produced in Winchester between 1160 and 1175. With folios measuring 583 x 396 mm., it is the largest surviving 12th-century English Bible...

 (the "Morgan Leaf" shown above), Fécamp Bible
Fécamp Bible
The Fécamp Bible is an illuminated Latin Bible. It was produced in Paris during the third quarter of the 13th century, and belonged the collection of Henry Yates Thompson....

, Stavelot Bible
Stavelot Bible
The Stavelot Bible is a Romanesque illuminated manuscript bible in two volumes datable to 1093-1097. It was produced for, but not necessarily in, the Benedictine monastery of Stavelot, in the Principality of Stavelot-Malmedy of modern Belgium, and required four years to complete...

, and Parc Abbey Bible
Parc Abbey Bible
The Parc Abbey Bible is a 12th century illuminated Bible. It was made in the Leuven region of Belgium at the Abbey of St. Mary of Parc. A colophon on folio 197 indicates that the codex was produced in 1148. The text is Latin and written in proto-gothic book script on vellum...

. By the end of the period lay commercial workshops of artists and scribes were becoming significant, and illumination, and books generally, became more widely available to both laity and clergy.

Wall painting



The large wall surfaces and plain, curving vaults of the Romanesque period lent themselves to mural decoration. Unfortunately, many of these early wall paintings have been destroyed by damp or the walls have been replastered and painted over. In England, France and the Netherlands such pictures were systematically destroyed or whitewashed in bouts of Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

. In Denmark
Church frescos in Denmark
Church frescos or church wall paintings are to be found in some 600 churches across Denmark, no doubt representing the highest concentration of surviving church murals anywhere in the world. Most of them date back to the Middle Ages...

 and elsewhere many have since been restored. In other countries they have suffered from war, neglect and changing fashion.

A classic scheme for the full painted decoration of a church, derived from earlier examples often in mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

, had, as its focal point in the semi-dome
Semi-dome
A semi-dome, also called a "half-dome", is the term in architecture for half a dome , used to cover a semi-circular area. Similar structures occur in nature.-Architecture:...

 of the apse, Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty, or Christ in Glory, in Latin Majestas Domini, is the Western Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world, always seen frontally in the centre of the composition, and often flanked by other sacred figures, whose membership changes over time and according to...

 or Christ the Redeemer enthroned within a mandorla and framed by the four winged beasts, symbols of the Four Evangelists
Four Evangelists
In Christian tradition the Four Evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the authors attributed with the creation of the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament that bear the following titles:*Gospel according to Matthew*Gospel according to Mark...

, comparing directly with examples from the gilt covers or the illuminations of Gospel Book
Gospel Book
The Gospel Book, Evangelion, or Book of the Gospels is a codex or bound volume containing one or more of the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament...

s of the period. If the Virgin Mary was the dedicatee of the church, she might replace Christ here. On the apse walls below would be saints and apostles, perhaps including narrative scenes, for example of the saint to whom the church was dedicated. On the sanctuary arch were figures of apostles, prophets or the twenty-four "elders of the Apocalypse
Heavenly host
Heavenly host refers to an army of good angels mentioned in the Bible. It is led either by the Archangel Michael, Jesus, or by God himself. Most descriptions of angels in the Bible describe them in military terms, such as encampment , command structure , and combat...

", looking in towards a bust of Christ, or his symbol the Lamb, at the top of the arch. The north wall of the nave would contain narrative scenes from the Old Testament, and the south wall from the New Testament. On the rear west wall would be a Last Judgement, with an enthroned and judging Christ at the top.

One of the most intact schemes to exist is that at Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe
Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe
The Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe is located in Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, in Poitou, France.-Description:The Romanesque church was begun in the mid 11th century and contains many beautiful 11th- and 12th-century murals which are still in a remarkable state of preservation...

 in France. The long barrel vault of the nave provides an excellent surface for fresco, and is decorated with scenes of the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

, showing the Creation
Creation according to Genesis
The Genesis creation narrative describes the divine creation of the world including the first man and woman...

, the Fall of Man
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 and other stories including a lively depiction of Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

 complete with a fearsome figurehead and numerous windows through with can be seen the Noah and his family on the upper deck, birds on the middle deck, while on the lower are the pairs of animals. Another scene shows with great vigour the swamping of Pharaoh's army by the Red Sea. The scheme extends to other parts of the church, with the martyrdom of the local saints shown in the crypt, and Apocalypse
Apocalypse
An Apocalypse is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted. The Apocalypse of John is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament...

 in the narthex and Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty, or Christ in Glory, in Latin Majestas Domini, is the Western Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world, always seen frontally in the centre of the composition, and often flanked by other sacred figures, whose membership changes over time and according to...

. The range of colours employed is limited to light blue-green, yellow ochre, reddish brown and black. Similar paintings exist in Serbia, Spain, Germany, Italy and elsewhere in France.

Embroidery


Romanesque embroidery is best known from the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

, but many more closely worked pieces of Opus Anglicanum
Opus Anglicanum
Opus Anglicanum or English work is a contemporary term for fine needlework of Medieval England done for ecclesiastical or secular use on clothing, hangings or other textiles, often using gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen grounds...

 ("English work" - considered the finest in the West) and other styles have survived, mostly as church vestment
Vestment
Vestments are liturgical garments and articles associated primarily with the Christian religion, especially among Latin Rite and other Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans...

s.

Stained glass


The oldest-known fragments of medieval pictorial stained glass appear to date from the 10th century. The earliest intact figures are five prophet windows at Augsburg, dating from the late 11th century. The figures, though stiff and formalised, demonstrate considerable proficiency in design, both pictorially and in the functional use of the glass, indicating that their maker was well accustomed to the medium. At Le Mans, Canterbury and Chartres Cathedrals, and Saint-Denis, a number of panels of the 12th century have survived. At Canterbury these include a figure of Adam digging, and another of his son Seth from a series of Ancestors of Christ. Adam represents a highly naturalistic and lively portrayal, while in the figure of Seth, the robes have been used to great decorative effect, similar to the best stone carving of the period. Glass craftsmen were slower than architects to change their style, and much glass from at least the first part of the 13th century can be considered as essentially Romanesque. Especially fine are large figures of 1200 from Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Strasbourg, France. Although considerable parts of it are still in Romanesque architecture, it is widely consideredSusan Bernstein: , The Johns Hopkins University Press to be among the finest...

 (some now removed to the museum) and of about 1220 from Saint Kunibert's Church in Cologne
Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

.

Most of the magnificent stained glass of France, including the famous windows of Chartres, date from the 13th century. Far fewer large windows remain intact from the 12th century. One such is the Crucifixion of Poitiers, a remarkable composition which rises through three stages, the lowest with a quatrefoil depicting the Martyrdom of St Peter, the largest central stage dominated by the crucifixion and the upper stage showing the Ascension of Christ in a mandorla. The figure of the crucified Christ is already showing the Gothic curve. The window is described by George Seddon as being of "unforgettable beauty". Many detached fragments are in museums, and a window at Twycross
Twycross
Twycross is a small village and civil parish in Leicestershire, England on the A444 road. Parts of it are called Norton juxta — Latin for 'next to' — Twycross or Little Twycross...

 Church in England is made up of important French panels rescued from the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. Glass was both expensive and fairly flexible (in that it could be added to or re-arranged) and seems to have been often re-used when churches were rebuilt in the Gothic style - the earliest datable English glass, a panel in York Minster
York Minster
York Minster is a Gothic cathedral in York, England and is one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe alongside Cologne Cathedral. The minster is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second-highest office of the Church of England, and is the cathedral for the Diocese of York; it is run by...

 from a Tree of Jesse
Tree of Jesse
The Tree of Jesse is a depiction in art of the Ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David; the original use of the family tree as a schematic representation of a genealogy...

 probably of before 1154, has been recycled in this way.

See also

  • Romanesque architecture
    Romanesque architecture
    Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

    • Regional characteristics of Romanesque architecture
      Regional characteristics of Romanesque architecture
      Romanesque architecture is the term that is used to describe the architecture of Europe which emerged in the late 10th century and evolved into the Gothic style during the 12th century...


External links