Romanesque and Gothic Architecture of Medieval Europe

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Romanesque and Gothic Architecture of Medieval Europe
The world around us is built up by influences from many different places in our pasts: whether that may be from the Italian Renaissance or Marilyn Monroe, every piece of history has shaped the way we view our world, and how we will continue to grow and shape alongside it. With Christianity and the immense sense of renewed spirituality spreading across Western Europe, architecture, politics, and technological advancements would never be the same. Two strong examples from earlier times in architecture are the Romanesque churches of eleventh and twelfth century Western Europe, and Gothic cathedrals from the mid twelfth century to the fifteenth century, beginning in the Île-de-France and expanding through most of Europe and Iceland.

The word Romanesque literally means “in the Roman Manner” (Janson 214), and is based upon the principles of solidity and strength, very much referring to early Roman times and the Roman lifestyle and values. Janson states that the most striking feature of Romanesque art and architecture is the astonishing increase in building activity (216). Stone-vaulted buildings decorated with wall arcades and architectural sculpture still survive in great numbers to this day throughout Lombardy in northern Italy, southern France and northeastern Spain. The churches were not only more numerous than the ones in the Middle Ages, but they were also bigger, “more richly oriented” (Janson 217), and Roman-looking.

A perfect example of one of these, is the Church of Sant Vincenç. Located in Cardona, in the walled enclosure of the castle on the southern strip of the Catalan Pyrenees. The church has a barrel-vaulted nave that creates a continuous space marked off by transverse arches. These run across the width of the nave, and divide into units called bays, a signature of Romanesque style. The blind niches in the chancel walls establish a “rhythmic variety” (Janson 217) that is highlighted by the...
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