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Romanesque and Gothic Architecture

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Romanesque and Gothic Architecture
14.08.2020
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Ancient Europe had different architectural styles based on the type of structure and the time of development. The two most common styles of architecture, which developed during this period, were the Romanesque and Gothic Architecture styles. Romanesque is a style of architecture that existed in the medieval age in Europe that was characterized by circular arches in buildings. On the other hand, Gothic is a style of architecture that preferred pointed arches that existed in the three styles. This paper will compare and contrast the two styles in order to create clear understanding of the medieval architecture. Specifically, the analysis will refer to Saint-Sernin in Toulouse for the Romanesque style, and to the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres for the Gothic structure.

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Romanesque vs. Gothic Architectural Styles

Romanesque Architecture

Romanesque style of architecture was the most common one that was applied during the 12th century. The use of the style was dominant from this century until the beginning of a period characterized by the use of gothic architecture (Banister 12). The style of Romanesque art was developed in Rome in 1000 AD, and was in use up to the period of 1150 AD, drawing the name from the fusion of Ottonian and Roman. The design of the structure adopted a large internal space that was filled up by barrel vaults together with squat columns. Windows and doors were made of round-headed arches, while churches were added with a basilica plan that was modified by adding transepts, towers, and buttresses (Banister 12).

Romanesque Structure: France Aachen Cathedral

The Saint-Sernin cathedral church in Toulouse was built around 790-800 AD. It is a building with great historical, as well as religious architecture. The building has a unique design with thick stonewalls and a uniquely laid roof that consists of wood (Conant 2). In addition, it includes a few windows that make the building look dark on the inside. The building also has the characteristic round arches and monumental columns made to support the structure’s weight in a characteristic Romanesque style.

The building of Saint-Sernin, the former abbey church and the current church, is situated at the location of the basilica that was built in the 4th century. The religious significance of this building was so high that it contained the body of Sernin, the saint, who was the first bishop of Toulouse. The building for the Saint-Sernin was important and was particularly regarded high due to the quantity and quality of its sculptures made in Romanesque artistic style.

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Gothic Architecture

The gothic style of artistic infrastructure was an urbanized art movement in the medieval age France and developed fully to extend during the 12th century to other European regions, such as England. Within a century, the artistic style had already spread all over Western Europe and was a significant gothic structural design for the sacred structures. The style was most common for its lightness and height of the structures that had characteristic pointed arches, traceries windows, and corrugated vaults. In addition, the style was characteristic with slender columns instead of bulky columns (Banister 12).

Gothic architectural style is regarded as one of the most basic foundations of the most beautiful pieces of art ever built by the mankind. After a century of using the Romanesque architectural artwork, the Gothic style of architecture and design replaced the former entirely. Founded by the artistic experts, such as Abbot Suger, Gothic style was used in the construction of the Notre Dame de Chartres cathedral, which was established in France at a period from 1145 and 1513 (Banister 12).This is just an example of the many works of art that show the extraordinary detail and style of the Gothic architectural design. However, all these structures that use the style are different and apply different features despite using the same gothic architectural design.

Gothic Structure: Chartres Cathedral, France

The Chartres cathedral also referred to as the Notre Dame de Chartres was established in the period between 1145 and 1513 in France as a three-dimensional structure. The cathedral was built with stone and bearing masonry using buttress and rib vault style design. The cathedral has nave features alternating over the cord piers with four attached half columns (Banister 17). In addition to the cathedral structure, the interior is filled with hundreds of carved sculptures made from limestone with a theological narrative and themes. These are in addition to the sculpture of Christ in a frame (Conant 6). The cathedral has over a hundred and seventy stained glass windows to create rich dark colored interior, as well as a style of illumination.

After the Gothic style of architecture was established in the year of 1145, many Cathedrals’ building designs were started changing to the pointed arches instead of the round arches. This created a new age of faith that was expressed by the Gothic cathedrals, an element that grew with the inspiration from mysticism and medieval Christian theology. Gothic style was first created by Abbot Suger, who constructed the church that was illuminating light through some stained glass. The main inspiration of building the cathedral was Suger’s believe that beauty had the ability to transform a church building it into a heavenly world. The intended heavenly world of stained or colored glass was regarded to be a surrogate for valuable gems (Athenapub 1). This way, the cathedral of Saint-Sernin Notre Dame de Chartres and Bourges cathedral portrayed Suger’s idea.

Further Differences

Cathedral Space and Mood

The Romanesque style cathedral space had separate compartments all round the cathedral. This was to separate the different functions of the cathedral. However, in the Gothic style, the cathedral and chapel space was unified with a complete unbroken space. The cathedral space was the one used based on the purpose for the day. The overall mood created by the Romanesque designed structures was dark and gloomy. However, the Gothic style was purposed to create a tall and light-filled mood (Rose 1).

Vault and Vault Support

In Romanesque style, the vault type was of barrel-vaults and some included groin-vaults. In addition, the main supports to the vaults were thick walls and the buttresses. However, in the Gothic style, only Groin-vaulted cathedrals were constructed. This style did not use barrel vaults at any time. In addition, the Gothic style adopted exterior flying buttresses that supported the vaults.

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Arch Type and Elevation

Romanesque style adopted rounded arches, while the Gothic style adopted the pointed arches. In terms of clerestory, the Romanesque style structures were made of the small windows. On the other hand, the Gothic style architectural design adopted large windows that were stained to create illumination in the cathedral space. In the structural design of the Romanesque style, horizontal elevation was adopted up to a modest height. However, in the Gothic structural design, the design adopted a vertical elevation that soared to average height (Lorsch 1).

Exterior and Sculptures

In terms of the exteriors, the Romanesque style used plain, little solid decorations. On the other hand, the Gothic architectural style used several delicate sculptures outside the cathedral. In terms of decoration, the Romanesque designed structures were decorated with thin and elongated sculptures of the abstract figures. However, Gothic designed cathedrals were decorated by more realistic sculptural figures of different proportions and individualized features (Rose 1).

Comparison of Similarities

In similarity, the two styles were applied for the same purpose of architecture. Each of the two styles was based on a grand scale that needed walls that were strong enough to support the arches.

In addition, both the Romanesque and Gothic styles were used at the related timing, which placed them in the same middle Ages. The development of Romanesque style of architecture was started during the 7th century and extended to the whole of Western Europe in the same century. After the Romanesque architectural art was started, it spread made it the main artistic style up to the beginning of the 12th century. After this, the reign of the architectural style ended by giving the way to gothic architecture (Banister 12). Despite being of roman origin, the Romanesque architectural styles spread to cover France and became a common French religious building style. In a similar timing, the Gothic style was developed from the inspiration of the Romanesque style of design. Even though this style was started in France, it went on to spread all over Europe just like the Romanesque.

Conclusion

The dominant architectural styles of Romanesque and Gothic had distinct features that made them different despite being built for similar reasons. Romanesque architecture was the first to be used, and later ushered in the adoption of the Gothic architectural designs. The shift from the former to the later took place due to the establishment of the pointed arches and ribbed vaulting that were considered lighter (Athenapub par 3). Due to these features and the weight of materials, the architectural style was widely used in the construction of cathedrals and religious structures. The differences between the two styles include the structural design, sculptural decoration, arch type, type of window, and exterior components. However, the similarity of the two styles relates to the period of establishment and purpose of application.

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