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Gothic vs. Romanesque Architecture

Apr 21, 2002 2198 Words
Where are you when wake up? Where are you when you are learning? Where are you when you go to pray? Where are you when you go to work? Where are you when you are having fun? The answer is that you are in a building or structure of some kind and style. All of the buildings and structures that one sees around them is designed and built with much thought and care. They are all designed and built by what we call architecture. According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary architecture is "the art or science of building; specifically: the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones, a method or style of building". Architecture is a science according to Merriam-Webster because it is "a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study, something that may be studied or learned like systematized knowledge" . This can be seen as that buildings and structures have certain rule and laws that apply to them when they are design, constructed and inhabited. Architecture is an art according to Merriam-Webster because it is "the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects" . This can be seen as that buildings and structures do not only follow form and function but expression and feeling. Architecture has basically three steps. They are design, construction, and usage of the space or how the space is inhabited. Architecture is to building or structure as literature is to a book or novel. Over the course of western history there has been many periods and styles of architecture, spanning from pre-history where mainly stone and timber were used to the 20th century where glass and steel seem to have seemed to take over. Each style and - 2 -

period have given there own part to today's architecture such as the Greek's ideas of columns, to the Roman's usage of arches, to the Industrial Age of building with iron, steel and glass. When buildings and structures were first constructed there was very little interior space and there was much more emphasis on exterior space, such an example is that of the Greek and Roman architecture. The reason that there was more emphasis on one then another was simply because of the technology and techniques that was available at the time and the limited amount of ideas and understanding of architecture. It wasn't until about 1000 AD that new technology and ideas came about that allowed the shift from exterior to interior. It was finally time that architecture now mastering the interior of buildings and structures. The first two periods of time that this shift was made was the Romanesque style and the Gothic style of architecture. Both of these styles have made great contributions that can still been seen in today's architecture. With Romanesque being the first stylistic period in time with Gothic immediately following it there is much to be said about the similarities and differences. The Romanesque period of architecture has its roots deep into western civilization. Even though it is said that the Romanesque style of architecture was first since and applied around 1000 AD its history goes back almost 500 years. During the rule of the Roman Empire much of Europe was influenced by the Roman and Greek classical styles, it wasn't until the Roman Empire fell that most of Europe was able to

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diverge from traditional styles and form their own styles. It was only with time and separation that other styles were able to grow. With the Roman Empire gone Europe was breaking apart and developing in small pockets on it own, this caused for greater advancements in many areas such as architecture. Yet with all the growing change there was still one thing that linked much of Europe together, that was the Christian church and Christianity. That is why much of the advancements of architecture can be seen in churches, temples and other religious buildings and structures. Now that there was growing changes in much of Europe and the common link to the Christian church and Christianity that came from the Roman Empire the new period of architecture was called Romanesque, meaning "in the manner of the Roman." With each period of architecture in history there are certain characteristics that are first seen. There were many new ideas and techniques used in the Romanesque style of architecture. The great advancement that the Romanesque period had on architecture was the development of stone vaulted buildings. The reason that this advancement came along was that stone vaulting was needed to replace the wood and timber vaulting of styles of periods before the Romanesque period, which were very flammable. During this time was the first widespread usage of many kinds of vaults, most frequently used was the barrel vault, which was a series of round arches placed on after another (See Appendix Figure 1.1). A barrel vault was also used to form a groin vault, which was

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when two barrel vaults were crossed with each other (See Appendix Figure 1.2). Also at this time domes were widely used in architecture. By taking numerous round arches and placing them on different axes but with a same apex or top of the arch domes were formed. To support this vaults and domes the walls of Romanesque buildings and structures were made very thick and had projecting piers called buttress, which helped to bare the weight of the heavy stones. The massive size of the stones used in Romanesque buildings and structure is another characteristics of this style. Because of the massive stones vaults, walls and piers most of the Romanesque buildings and structures were composed of many small units called bays that together completed the whole design. When these bays when placed in a long row down the center of a Romanesque building or structure they were called a nave. The naves of the Romanesque period were much higher and narrower then of periods before it. This allowed for clerestory windows that were larger and higher then ones that came before it but they were still very small and many of them did not contain glass. Almost all of the doors and windows of the Romanesque style were capped with round arches. Towards the end of the Romanesque period decorative moldings and carvings and sculptures were used in many buildings and structures. The period of architecture that immediately follows and somewhat overlaps the Romanesque period of architecture is the Gothic period of architecture. Both periods

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were during the Middle Ages with the Gothic period occurring in the later half of the Middle Ages. The Gothic period of architecture was from about the 12th century to the 16th century. The style began in France and spread through out the rest of Europe in the following years. The Gothic period of architecture ended with the start of the Renaissance in Italy, but the Gothic style could still be seen all over Europe during this time. The Gothic style of architecture took a back seat until the 19th century when the style was made a come back, it was called the Neo-Gothic style of architecture. The Gothic style of architecture wasn't called Gothic until the Renaissance. During the Renaissance writers used the term Gothic as a negative term to describe all art and architecture of the Middle Ages that was like the works of the barbarians named the Goths. The Gothic style of architecture was not only the last style of the Middle Ages but is as now considered to be Europe's finest artistic periods. Just as the Romanesque period of architecture had added its elements to architecture so did the Gothic period and most of the elements that were added can be found in the churches of this time. It was only by combining the ideas of architecture and religion that these new ideas and techniques were finally realized. The greatest element or idea that came out of the Gothic period of architecture is the development of the ribbed vault. The buildings and structures of the Gothic period of architecture were made of stones and because of these heavy stones used in the buildings and structures they could

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only get to be so high. So with the development of the pointed arch and ribbed vault the buildings and structures of the Gothic period could reach new heights. The pointed arch was very similar to the round arch in that it was used to distribute the weight of the walls above it, but instead of being a round top it had a slight point to it which allowed it to arched higher and distribute the weight evenly to both sides of the arch (See Appendix Figure 2.1). The way that the ribbed vault was designed was that in had small arches of smaller stones that ran diagonally across a barrel or groin vault to hold up the ceilings of the Gothic buildings and structures (See Appendix Figure 2.2). Late in the Gothic period the fan vault was designed in which the ribs of a ribbed vault are multiplied and grouped in the shape of an open fan, this also allow for even more support. During the Gothic period of architecture it was noticed that the weight from the buildings and structures was placed on the ribs of the vaults and was pushing outward on the walls. Using narrow buttresses and external arches, called flying buttresses, the weight of the buildings and structures was counteracted (See Appendix Figure 2.3). Now with the main weight of the buildings and structures on the ribs of the vault and flying buttresses the walls became thinner and higher with more room for glass windows. Higher clerestory windows were design and much of them contained stained glass in which the glass used in the windows had a dye or pigment about them. These windows were used to let more natural light into the buildings and structure, the best example of these types of windows in the rose or rosette windows. These windows were large round

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circular windows in which complex patterns and design of stained glass were used to create an overall image in the window, somewhat resembling a rose or flower. The basic design of Gothic architecture differed little from the design of Romanesque architecture. The design of Gothic architecture was just more involved and more complex. With the advancements that were made there was much more to be done, and the Gothic architecture could reach new highs and cross boundaries that were never crossed before. In the history of architecture both the Romanesque style and Gothic style of architecture have made their mark. They were truly the first two periods in which the interior of a building or structure was attacked. Many of the advancements made in history to the interior of a building or structure was made during these two periods. There are many similarities and differences between the two styles. They both used forms of arches, but the Romanesque style used the round arch while the Gothic style used the pointed arch. They both used forms of vaults, but the Romanesque style used the barrel vault while the Gothic style used the ribbed vault. They both used forms of buttresses, but the Romanesque style used just normal buttresses while the Gothic style used flying buttresses. There are also many elements of architecture that separate both styles. The elements that defined some of the Romanesque style was that it was the first style to use mainly all stone and build thick heavy walls in buildings and structures. The elements that defined some of the Gothic style was that it had thinner walls that could reach much

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higher highs and there were also huge stained glass windows. Both of these styles have there own elements and also share some elements. Today both of these styles can both be seen in use today. The round arch and barrel vault are still used and stained glass and flying buttresses are still used today. To be able to look around the world today and see the buildings and structures that were built during the Romanesque and Gothic period of architecture is amazing. During those periods the advancements that were made would allow their buildings and structures to last hundreds of years. To be able to go to Europe and see the same buildings and structure that were seen over hundreds of years ago is unbelievable. Even though there have been great advancements in architecture over the years the basic of much of today's architecture goes back to the Romanesque and Gothic period and other periods of architecture. It was from the great ideas of these periods that the great ideas of the present come. The courage and ingenuity of the people of the past helps the people of today challenge what they can do and pushes them to strive further. So with what was done before makes what is done today possible and helps to push the ideas and concepts into the future.

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