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Romanesque Architecture vs. Gothic Architecture

By TCrosby24 Oct 14, 2012 1120 Words
Tabitha Crosby
Dr. Maineville
10/07 /2012

Romanesque Architecture and Gothic Architecture
Throughout history it’s simple to understand how so many were inspired to create masterpieces we see and love today. Many years ago beauty was shaped in almost every feature, sculpture, and building. One of the most memorable of these iconic creations can be seen in Romanesque and Gothic architecture; however even though they are both similar they also have many differences. These themes were carried out throughout many parts of Europe sending both fear and beauty through the hearts of every being to lay their eyes upon them. Whether it was in its distinctive windows, unique exterior and interior designs, or any of the other myriad architectural features, Romanesque and Gothic architecture are identifiable if one can distinguish the two types of styles. It was the age of the development of Romanesque and Gothic Architecture where the battle began to reach greater and higher achievements. During this new development a new task was held that gave a new appreciation for light, during the medieval age many structures were built sheltered and isolated from the world outside. The inside of these buildings would seem dark and on some occasions moldy. With the development of new structures the idea for these new Gothic structures was to make a more pleasant place to be. By allowing higher and grander windows it allowed more light in these usual dark places, it removed many issues with mold and eliminated the use of open doors on raining days. It was a great achievement for the new structures and it was a feature that remained with them throughout time. However many were not so focused on the idea of an open and airy concept. The Romanesque buildings are known for their straight and boxy appearance. In Roman structures the walls were large and thick and had to create smaller windows as to not weaken to walls with large gaps. The Civic Hall in Massa Marittima, Italy has a very popular boxy appearance, and is limited on large or thick windows. By making these windows lean and tall it allowed for light while maintain a strong and sturdy fortress. It was a trait that allowed for simplicity and convenience for both styles of building and was in time considered the norm for both of their establishments. To consider these fortresses and churches as the norm could be understatement for such ginormous master pieces. With gothic structures it is very easy to identify typical features for these unique buildings, everyone can say the vaulted ceilings and large towers, but it’s the small detail that makes it all flow together. Gargoyles have been apart Gothic structures since the beginning being both practical and intimidating. Originally their use was to sprout out water from the roof tops and to flow them to the street below, but for unreligious citizens it was to motivate them in to the safety of church. With a world filled with fear and superstitions it was the perfect way to lure people into the safety with the stone cold glares.(Morris) By allowing such a positive and protective presence in the center it draws your attention away from the demons above; allowing for an excellent way to attractive its citizens to the safety of insideAlthough in stocking fear was a tactful tool, the Romanesque style of detailed and religious art was also effective. Romanesque buildings wanted to tell stories, similar to Gothic structures, with their buildings to let all citizens see the religious stories chiseled in stone. Many of the buildings had carved in stories that were Biblical in subject and included scenes such as the Creation and the Fall of Man (Notre). The tympanum on Vézelay Abbey, Burgundy, France (Vézelay), is a perfect example to fully grasp the detail and message of Romanesque exterior art. It shows the depictions of people lining up to enter heaven all facing Christ who remains in the center. Both themes were inclined in showing stories about the religion, and both succeeded leaving behind hundreds of tales of a salvation and resurrection that will forever be marked in stone. In Gothic buildings were built with an attachment of ribbed vaults. Ribbed vaults were the most common vaults used in Gothic structures, with high vaulted ceiling it’s one of its most popular traits in their buildings. An example of these remarkable ceilings can be seen in the Bourges Cathedral in Bourges, France; this memorable Cathedral shows the perfect use of ribbed vaults. These vaulted ceilings were constructed for weight to be distributed throughout the structure and toward the ground, however an almost identical trait followed through Romanesque architecture. It was in ingenious ideas that in time lead to giving both themes an extraordinary way to distribute the buildings weight. However vaulted ceilings were not the only tools that helped support these old buildings. In Gothic structures pointed arches had become a very popular and common trait amongst their buildings. With the Gothic’s pointed arch it allowed for more height development since most of the pressure would return to the ground. The reason in Gothic structures it was common to see such height in their towers, because a majority of the weight was resting on the surface. While in Romanesque arches were rounded, mostly commonly known as a semi-circle arch. A very popular place to see these arches is at the Pont du Gard in Roman Gual. The semi-circle arches allowed for many gallons of water to flow to Rome, with the support of these strong arches it has been able to remain standing even through all these year. It is hard to imagine words to describe these structural themes. These architectural beauties have inspired and entertained millions throughout the world. Sending a message of power and wealth to all who look upon it, with so much alike Romanesque and Gothic will remain different from others and themselves. From the ribbed ceilings, unique window differences, majestic features, and innovative structural results. These great themes will live forever not just in physical form but in our imaginations, fully understanding the art like this cannot just be built over and over again.

Bibliography page
"Notre-Dame De Paris." Notre-Dame De Paris. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <>. Morris, E. "The Seven Key Characteristics of Gothic Architecture." : From the Gargoyle to the Flying Buttress. Castles Blog, n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. "Vézelay Abbey (Basilique Ste-Madeleine)  ." Vézelay Abbey (Basilique Ste-Madeleine). Sacred Destinations, n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2012. <>.

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