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Romanesque Architecture

Romanesque Architecture

Author: Ian McConnell

Understand the basic features of Romanesque architecture.

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Notes on "Romanesque Architecture"

An introduction to Romanesque architecture.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about Romanesque architecture. As you're watch the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary. As soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are the things you're going to learn today are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the overall context of the Romanesque style, describe the basic features of Romanesque architecture, and identify specific examples of Romanesque architecture.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is Romanesque-- styles of sculpture, painting, decoration, or architecture during the period from 9th to 12th centure. Reliquary is a storage container for relics. Pilgrimage is a long journey expedition or crusade.

Big idea for today is that the Romanesque style refers to the styles of sculpture, painting, decoration, or architecture during the period in the 9th to 12th centuries. So the architecture we're looking at today originates from the 11th century.

We'll be looking at three cathedrals today. The Cathedral of Saint-James in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Durham Cathedral in Durham, England. And the Church of Saint-Etienne in Caen, France.

Historically there was a lot going on at this time. The Catholic church became a major force within the European world. Changes within the church allowed the Pope to become more involved with the sociopolitical issues at the time. The threat of Islam was very real to Christendom, and the first of several religious Crusades was called for by Pope Urban II in 1095 to help fend off the Islamic advance near Constantinople.

Now the Crusades helped in influencing religious fervor within Christendom, and then contributed to the popularity of pilgrimages at this time. A pilgrimage refers to the expedition a person of the faith makes to a holy location. In fact, the Canterbury Tales-- which you may remember from high school-- are a well known collection of stories from the 14th century about pilgrims on the pilgrimage trail to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in England.

Now pilgrimage routes develop throughout Europe, but predominantly within Western Europe. Sanctioned and encouraged by the church for those that could afford it, pilgrimages became an important source of revenue for the church. Large churches and cathedrals were constructed to house relics, which were physical objects that had religious importance. Such as the bodily remains of a Saint, or pieces of the true cross upon which Christ was crucified.

So the veneration of relics was an important part of Christianity just like the veneration of images. And in a sense, the church itself became a reliquary. Now one of the most important churches that served as the anchor for a number of pilgrimage routes was the Cathedral of Saint-James in Santiago de Compostela. It was the endpoint of a few minor pilgrimage trails within Spain and Portugal. But the major trail was the pilgrimage trail of Saint-James that originated in France, and passed through such notable places as [INAUDIBLE], and the abbey church of Sainte-Foy, which held the famous reliquary of Sainte-Foy shown here.

Now this is the Cathedral of Saint-James in Santiago de Compostela. And this church-- here it is. Like the others we see here, it's constructed in a typical Romanesque style that does feature a facade seen here that was reconstructed in a Baroque style several centuries later.

Now what is the typical Romanesque style, you may ask? Well, Romanesque means Roman-like, and the architects of these buildings used techniques that originated before and during the Roman Empire. There are a few architectural elements that typically defined the Romanesque's style, and they include the use of a rounded arch and rounded arcade. Barrel vault and/or groin vault, which is a variant of the barrel vault that originated during the Roman Empire in reliance on the outer walls for significant support.

Smaller exterior windows-- especially compared to Gothic-- and an overall visual heaviness that was largely overcome in the later Gothic architectural innovations some years later. Two other examples of Romanesque architecture can be seen on the following pages.

Here's the Church of Saint-Etienne in Caen, France, and here's an example of what's called the high Romanesque style enormity, which is an area in the north of France. It was constructed during the 11th century AD, and again, it's in Caen, France.

And Durham Cathedral in Durham, England, is a massive building that marks an important change of architectural design in churches. It's around 400 feet in length. Much longer than an American football field, and then bodies. Typical Romanesque architectural design elements like the predominant use of the rounded arch and it's visual weight.

The architects of Durham, however, made use of rib-vaulting inside. A major design element of the Gothic style, which came later.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the overall context of the Romanesque style? Can you describe the basic features of Romanesque architecture? Can you identify specific examples of Romanesque architecture?

And once again, the big idea for / Is that the Romanesque style refers to the styles of sculpture, painting, decoration, or architecture during a period from the 9th to 12th century. And there you go. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Terms to Know

A long journey, expedition or crusade


A storage container for relics.


The styles of sculpture, painting, decoration or architecture during the period from 9th-12th century.