Medieval Period – Feudal System and Architecture

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When people think about the medieval period, they tend to think about the knights in shining armor, crusades, castles, and kings; however, there was more to the medieval period than just this. There are also the buildings that housed these great nobles and the men who influenced their design. The designs for these buildings did no simply materialize out of thin air. These ideas evolved from concepts derived from various cultures. The interaction between the feudal system and the architecture of the medieval times influenced the evolution of the later designs. The early architecture of England starts off with the Carolingian family, who dominated most of Western Europe politics. They tried to emulate the Roman architecture and also borrowed the architectural style of Early Christian and Byzantine architecture. The Carolingians took from those styles what they liked and created a very unique style of their own. A monastery at Lorsch, in Germany, is an exemplary model of what the Carolingians drew from and incorporated into their architecture. The gateway is built as a triple arched hall; in-between the openings are columns with pilasters above them (Pevsner 174-175). The Carolingians also borrowed the basilica style church from the Early Christians of Rome. The term basilica was first used to describe public buildings and was later used as in extension to the church given ceremonial rights by the Pope. The architecture of a basilica contains a large hall constructed for business transactions and the handling of legal matters. The inside of these structures were separated by columns making aisles and there would be an apse at one or, very unlikely, both ends of these aisles. In these apses the magistrates sat, usually raised up on a terrace. The center aisle is often wider and raised higher than the side aisles so that the light from the high placed windows could reach it. (Pevsner 213-214) Other such characteristics of churches during these times are buttresses. Since the Romanesque style of church utilizes very wide, massive walls buttresses as significant now as they are in later years. The buttresses used at this time were usually flat and square and did not stick out far from the wall. In the cases where the church used a half-barrel vault, a vault ceiling that resembles a barrel cut lengthwise, the buttresses effectively became "flying buttresses." These somewhat similar structures are set up in aisles that extend through two stories rather than only one like in the Gothic style, doing it this way better supports the weight of the highly vaulted ceilings (Harvey 46). In somewhat infrequent occurrences these buttresses would be located on the interior of the church so that it seemed less noticeable, thus making the cathedral's aesthetic properties acquiesce to the eyes of those in its domicile. Other important structures that the Romanesque style utilizes are towers and many of them are still standing today. Towers are constructed in many different shapes; square, circular, and octagonal are a few. They are also positioned in different ways in relationship to the layout of the church. Normally, the larger Romanesque towers are square shaped with buttresses positioned low and at the corners of the tower. The towers would increase in height but would not decrease in volume. The towers are commonly marked at certain stages by courses as you progress upward stating a place where stone masons would start another level while building. In England, for large cathedrals, three towers were mostly used, with the tallest tower in the middle. The three towers would often not be finished until much later, due to stoppages in the building phase, and in some instances the upper parts of the towers would not be finished until centuries later (Harvey 112). Another feature of Romanesque architecture is arches. Arches are used countless amounts of time throughout this period. Most of the arches are semicircular;...
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