In our modern world, you can find items described with the word “art” in a variety of places. Architecture plays a large role in the art world. Whether it is a lovely shadow that forms in a particular nook or a perfectly placed niche, many look at a buildings’ architecture as a stable structure upon which to gaze and ponder. The Renaissance period is another area in which one could gaze and ponder. Filled with humanists and scholars, the Renaissance brought an era of artists who studied the natural world as well as many other natural aspects.
Architectural buildings are as much considered works of art as they can be symbols and sanctuaries from the natural elements. One of the most beautiful architectural innovations utilized in the Romanesque era is the pointed arch and vault. The pointed vault can be seen specifically in Durham Cathedral.
Durham Cathedral shows a number of innovations that changed church-building. Previously, many buildings would use the round arch or barrel vault as part of their main architecture. These arches, although beautifully designed, were limited by height and width as well as weight. The pointed arch is similar, however it allows for greater height and width due to the side arcs that point to a steeper angle. This allows the weight the arch carries to distribute differently and the arch can be taller. It also creates a striking visual with deep shadows caused by the reinforcements, or ribs, in the arch. If you consider the masons creating these incredible cathedrals, their goal was to achieve the greatest height. Height would have been ideal for several reasons, including a feeling that the cathedral ceiling could reach as close to God as possible and could be visible from far away.
As our textbook states, “any building is a defiance of gravity.” The lines and shadows witnessed in many of the great cathedrals indicate this defiance well. With the columns that traditionally accompany the walls of cathedrals, it appears as though the ceiling just keeps going and going. Stepping into the sanctuary of these buildings immediately takes your breath away and offers a moment of silence in your soul. It also allows for a feeling of security and stability. With stone walls and ceilings, it seems as though nothing can get to you while you reside in the cathedral and the entire world seems to be shut out into a lovely silence.
A recent trip to England with my family allowed me to personally discover the awe that comes with visiting these remarkable structures. We traveled from London across the countryside and ended up in Bath, England. Walking through London, trying to get into every cathedral we passed, it was amazing to see the feelings of wonder repeated, regardless of the size or build of these magnificent buildings. As our road trip progressed, we found ourselves in Bath. Aside from the sheer age of the buildings we witnessed, the splendor was around every corner. Walking through the Roman Baths, with their columns and arches, was breathtaking. You could imagine yourself being able to just jump in a take a dip in the spring-filled green water. In the distance, Bath Abbey stands with its beautiful arches, flying buttresses and lovely stained glass windows. Standing in a city such as this filled me with a feeling of being in another time. Nothing seems to have changed much, if you take the tourists with the most up to date cameras away. I felt immediately the young age of our country and how much of the “old world” feel touched my soul. To be reminded that this part of the world had been moving and growing so much longer than our baby country, was pretty impactful. I am so grateful to have been able to witness these remarkable buildings and take a step back in time to visit leaves of my family tree.
In as much as the buildings and architecture of the “old world” touched me, art from the Renaissance period also intrigues me. Artists of this period were...
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