Byzantime, Romanesque, and Gothic Architecture and Design

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Now known as Istanbul, Byzantium played a very big part in architectural history. Its people, the Byzantines, developed some of the main architectural features that we still see today. They, although originally developed in Rome, are renowned for their development of the basilica, and their use of domes and alabaster, among many other things, such as religious depictions and silken textile.

A basilica is a building typically used for Christian devotion. It is a rectangular, building, with colonnades running down either side of its nave to an apse (or a half dome) behind the altar. Domes are also depicted on top of these buildings to signify their importance. Famous examples of these buildings can be found at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, or St. Peters Cathedral in Vatican City. The use of these two features can still be found today. The basilica style floor plan in our traditional churches, and the large domes on our government buildings.

Basilica were highly decorated buildings with statues, stained glass, artistic depictions of religious scenes, mosaics and murals. The most popular form of art was religious depictions, and so artists were encouraged to be creative when it came to their work. There use of colour and light were intense and usually placed higher worshipped figures such as Christ, in a position in which they would be instantly recognised, for example on the top or in the middle

Due to the enormity of such buildings, alabaster was used in windows to allow some natural light to pass through. Alabaster is a dense translucent, white or tinted fine grained gypsum, which is a mineral commonly used to make cements and plasters today. Alabaster can vary in colour from pale yellowish pink to yellowish grey. An example of this can be found in St. Pauls Basilica, Rome- Italy

The Byzantines also upgraded the process of building by adding brick and plaster in addition to stone during this period, which is the main form of building we still use today. Silken textile was also developed during this period. The Byzantine capital of Constantinople was the first silk weaving centre in Europe, making things such as dress, furnishing fabrics and tapestries. This has hugely influenced our way of design today.

During the 5th-10th centuries, very little was developed due to the plague of invasions across Europe. These centuries have thus been named “the dark ages”. Buildings were erected purely on the study of old roman remains, hence they looked Romanesque in style. However, it is during the 11th-12th centuries where we see a major change in development, making the name “Romanesque” almost moot.

The arches, arcades and clerestories were some of the main architectural features of this period. Arches were built because they formed a strong structure to frame openings in a wall such as windows and doors, or to support roadways or aqueducts. Although decorative, they were a highly important practical feature, and were needed to support the thick walls that were built in this era. Such arches can be found at St. James’ church in Castle Dermott- Ireland or at the Ripoll monastery in Spain

In large builds such as churches, arches were used hugely in both interior, and exterior. Although when used in interior, where one arch ends, another must begin! The process of using multiple arches in one row is called arcading; arches are depicted side by side, and in between them, a design at the top, and a sturdy pier or column at the bottom. Arcades could be free standing in the case of builds such as the Coliseum in Rome- Italy, or used as wall decoration in the case of a building such as Cormacs Chapel Co. Tipperary

It was during this time that the use of the clerestory became widespread. The interior walls of buildings such as churches were built higher than the external walls, allowing windows to be placed at the top of them. This let in some natural light to these very dark buildings. Although...
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