Romanesque Architecture

Romanesque Architecture THE BASILICA AND BASILICAN CHURCHES A great deal of conjecture has been expended on the question as to the genesis of the Roman basilica. For present purposes it may be sufficient to observe that the addition of aisles to the nave was so manifest a convenience that it might not improbably have been thought of, even had models not been at hand in the civic buildings of the Empire. The most suitable example that can be chosen as typical of the Roman basilica of the age of Constantine is the church of S. Maria Maggiore. And this, not merely because, in spite of certain modern alterations, it has kept in the main its original features, but also because it departs, to a lesser extent than any other extant example, from the classical ideal.

The lateral colonnade is immediately surmounted by a horizontal entablature, with architrave, frieze, and cornice all complete. The monolithic columns, with their capitals, are, moreover, homogenous, and have been cut for their position, instead of being like those of so many early Christian churches, the more or less incongruous and heterogeneous spoils of older and non-Christian edifices. Of this church, in its original form, no one however decidedly his tastes may incline to some more highly developed system or style of architecture will call in question the stately and majestic beauty. The general effect is that of a vast perspective of lines of noble columns, carrying the eye forward to the altar, which, with its civory or canopy, forms so conspicuous an object, standing, framed, as it mere, within the arch of the terminal apse, which forms its immediate and appropriate background. S.

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Maria Maggiore is considerably smaller than were any of the other three chief basilicas of Rome (St Peter’s, St. Paul’s, and the Lateran). Each of these, in addition to a nave of greater length and breadth, was furnished (as may still be seen in the restored St Paul’s) with a double aisle. This, however, was an advantage which was not unattended with a serious drawback from a purely esthetic point of view. For a great space of blank wall intervening between the top of the lateral colonnade and the clerestory windows was of necessity required in order to give support to the penthouse roof of the double aisle.

And it is curious, to say the least, that it should not have occurred to the builders of those three basilicas to utilize a portion of the space thus enclosed, and at the same time to lighten the burden of the wall above the colonnade, by constructing a gallery above the inner aisle. It is true, of course, that such a gallery is found in the church of S. Agnese, where the low-level of the floor relatively to the surface of the ground outside may have suggested this method of construction; but whereas, in the East, the provision of a gallery (used as a gynaeceum) was usual from very early times, it never became otherwise than exceptional in the West. Taking East and West together, we find among early and medieval basilican churches examples of all the combinations that are possible in the arrangement of aisles and galleries. They are the single aisle without gallery, which is, of course, the commonest type of all; the double aisle without gallery, as in the three great Roman basilicas; the single aisle with gallery, as in S.

Agnese; the double aisle with single gallery, as in St. Demetrius at Thessalonica; and finally, as a crowning example, though of a later period, the double aisle surmounted by a double gallery, as in the Duomo at Pisa. These, however, are modifications in the general design of the building. Others, not less important, though they are less obviously striking, concern the details of the construction. Of these the first was the substitution of the arch for the horizontal entablature, and the second that of the pillar of masonry for the monolithic column. The former change, which had already come into operation in the first basilica of St.

Paul without the Walls, was so obviously in the nature of an improvement in point of stability that it is no matter for surprise that it should have been almost. universally adopted. Colonnaded and arcaded basilicas, as we may call them, for the most part older than the eleventh century, are to be found in the most widely distant regions, from Syria to Spain, and from Sicily to Saxony; and the lack of examples in Southern France is probably due to the destructive invasion of the Saracens and Northmen and to the building of new churches of a different type, in the eleventh and succeeding centuries, on the ruins of the old. The change from column to pillar, though in many cases it was no doubt necessitated by lack of suitable materials — for the supply of ready-made monoliths from pagan buildings was not inexhaustible — proved, in fact, the germ of future development; for from the plain square support to the recessed pillar, and from this again to the grouped shafts of the Gothic cathedrals of later times, the progress can be quite plainly traced. Mention should here be made of a class of basilican churches, in which as in S. Miniato, outside Florence, and in S.

Zenone, Verona, pillars or grouped shafts alternate, at fixed intervals, with simple columns, and serve the purpose of affording support to transverse arches spanning the whole width of the nave; a first step, it may be observed, to continuous vaulting. ROMANESQUE TYPES Something must now be said of the very important alterations which the eastern end of the basilican church underwent in the process of development from the Roman to what may conveniently be grouped together under the designation of Romanesque types. When, in studying the ground-plan of a Roman basilica, we pass from the nave and aisles to what lies beyond them, only two forms of design present themselves. In the great majority of instances the terminal apse opens immediately on the nave, with the necessary result, so far as internal arrangements are concerned, that the choir, as we should call it, was an enclosure, quite unconnected with the architecture of the building, protruding forwards into the body of the church, as may still be seen in the church of S. Clemente in Rome.

In the four greater basilicas, however, as well as in a few other instances, a transept was interposed between the nave and the apse, affording adequate space for the choir in its central portion, while its arms (which did not project beyond the aisles) served the purpose implied in the terms senatorium and matroneum. Now it is noteworthy that the transept of a Roman basilica is, architecturally speaking, simply an oblong hall, crossing the nave at its upper extremity, and forming with it a T-shaped cross, or crux immissa, but having no organic structural relation with it. But it was only necessary to equalize the breadth of transept and nave, so that their crossing became a perfect square, in order to give to this crossing a definite structural character, by strengthening the pieces at the four angles of the crossing, and making them the basis of a more or less conspicuous tower. And this was one of the most characteristic innovation or improvements introduced by the Romanesque builders of Northern Europe. In fact, however, before this stage of development was reached, the older basilican design had undergone another modification.

For the simple apse, opening immediately to the transept, church builders of all parts of Europe had already in the eighth century substituted a projecting chancel, forming a fourth limb of the cross, which now definitively assumed the form of the crux commissa, by contrast with the crux immissa of the Roman basilica. The earliest example of a perfectly quadrate crossing, with a somewhat rudimentary tower, appears to have been the minster of Fulda, built about A. D. 800. It was quickly followed by St.

Gall (830), Hersfeld (831), and Werden (875); but nearly two centuries were to elapse before the cruciform arrangement, even in the case of more important churches, can be said to have gained general acceptance (Dehio and v. Bezold, Die kirchliche Baukunst des Abendlandes, I, 161). The differences which have already been mentioned were, however, by no means the only ones which distinguished the Romanesque from the Roman transept. The transept of a Romanesque church, especially of those which were attached to monasteries, was usually provided with one or more apses, projecting from the east side of its northern and southern arms; and from this it appears, plainly enough, that the purpose, or at least a principal purpose, of the medieval transept, was to make provision for subsidiary altars and chapels. A pair of transept apses, projecting eastwards, already makes its appearance at Hersfeld and Werden.

At Bernay, Boscherville (St- Georges), and Cerisy-la-Fort (St-Vigor), each arm of the transept has two eastern apses, corresponding respectively to the aisle and to the projecting arm. The same arrangement is found also at Tarragona. At La Charit, a priory dependent on Cluny, each arm had three apses, so that there were seven in all, immediately contiguous to one another, and varying in depth from the central to the northern and southern members of the system. The plan of Cluny itself was that of a cross with two transverse beams. Of the western transept each arm had two apses; of the eastern each had three, two projecting eastwards and one terminal. Saint-Benot-sur-Loire had likewise a double transept, furnished on the same principle with six subsidiary apses. Among English cathedrals — it may here be mentioned — both Canterbury and Norwich have a single chapel projecting from each arm of their respective transepts; and at E1y the Galilee porch, which has the form of a western transept, opens eastwards into two apsidal chapels, contiguous on either side to the main walls of the cathedral.

Far more important in their bearing on the later history of architecture than these developments of the transept were certain changes which gradually took place in connection with the chancel. It is not unusual in Romanesque churches, to find the chancel flanked, like the nave, with aisles, terminating in apsidal or square-ended chapels. But in more considerable edifices especially in France, the aisle is often carried round as an ambulatory behind the chancel apse; and when this is the case, the ambulatory most commonly opens into a series of radiating chapels. These are, in the earliest examples, entirely separate from one another, being sometimes two or four, but more usually three or five, in number. In later examples the number of chapels increases to seven or even nine; and they are then contiguous, forming a complete corona or chevet.

The first beginnings of this system go back to so early a date as the fifth century. De Rossi has argued, apparently on good grounds, that some early Roman, Italian, and African basilicas were furnished with an ambulatory round the apse. This form of design, however, was soon abandoned in Italy, and in the Romanesque pre-Gothic period it cannot be said to have been usual anywhere except in France, where it proved a seed rich with the promise of future developments. The earliest instance of its adoption there was almost certainly the ancient church of St-Martin of Tours, as rebuilt by Bishop Perpetuus in A. D. 470. This edifice, as Quicherat has shown, had a semicircular ambulatory at the back of the altar, in which, a few years later, was placed the tomb of Perpetuus himself.

From Tours the type seems to have passed to Clermont-Ferrand (Sts. Vitalis and Agricola), and thence, many centuries later, to Orlans (St-Aignan, 1029). Meanwhile, in 997, the church of St. Martin had been rebuilt, and in the foundations of this edifice, which can still be traced, we find what is probably the earliest example of a chevet or corona of radiating chapels. It served, in its turn, in the course of the following century, as the model, in this respect, of Notre-Dame de la Couture at Le Mans (c.

1000), St-Remi at Reims (c. 1010), St-Savin at Saint Savin (1020-30), the cathedral at Vannes (c. 1030), St-Hilaire at Poitiers (1049), and the abbey church at Cluny, as rebuilt in 1089. Shortly before 1100 the church of St. Martin was once more rebuilt, on a scale of greater splendour; and once more the new building became the model for other churches, chief among which were those of St-Sernin at Toulouse (1096), of Santiago at Compostela (c. 1105), and of the cathedral at Chartres (1112).

ROMANESQUE VAULTING The history of ecclesiastical architecture in Western Europe during the relatively short period which alone deserves to be regarded as one of more or less continuous and steady advance, and which extends, roughly speaking, from 1000 to 1300, may be described as the history of successive and progressive attempts to solve the problem, how best to cover with stone vaulting a basilican or quasi-basilican church, that is to say, a building of which the leading feature is a nave flanked with aisles and lighted with clerestory windows (Dehio and v. Bezold, op. cit. I, 296; Bond, op. cit., 6). It was the conditions of this problem, and the failure, more or less complete, of all previous attempts to solve it satisfactorily, and by no means a mere aesthetic striving after beauty of architectural form, which led step by step to the development of the Gothic architecture of the thirteenth century in its unsurpassed and unsurpassable perfection.

The advantages of a vaulted, as compared with a timber, roof are so obvious that we are not surprised to find, dating from the tenth century or at latest from the beginning of the eleventh, examples of basilican churches with vaulted aisles. Indeed these first attempts at continuous vaulting would probably have been made much earlier, but for the invasions of Saracens and Northmen, which delayed till that period the first beginnings of a steady development in ecclesiastical architecture, but which by their wholesale destruction of pre-existing buildings may be said to have prepared the way for that same development. The vaulting of the nave, however, in the case of any church of considerable size, was a very different matter; and it was not until the eleventh century was well advanced that the problem was seriously faced. And when at last it was definitely taken in hand, this was done under pressure of dire necessity. Everyone who is at all conversant with medieval chronicles, or with the history of the cathedrals of Western Europe, must be aware how extremely frequent were the disasters caused by conflagrations, and it was natural enough that the church-builders of the later Middle Ages should aim at making their buildings, at least relatively, fire-proof.

The simplest form which the vaulting of a rectangular chamber can take is, of course, the cylindrical barrel-vault; and this is, in fact, the form which was adopted in many of the earliest examples of vaulted roofs, especially in the south of France; a form, too, which was extensively used in Italy during the age of the Renaissance. But, though simplest alike in conception and in construction, the cylindrical barrel-vault is in fact the least satisfactory that could be devised for its purpose; and the objections which militate against its employment are equally valid against that of the barrel-vault whose cross section forms a pointed arch. Of these objections the chief is that the horizontal thrust of a barrel-vault is evenly distributed throughout its entire length. Theoretically, then, this thrust requires to be met, not by a series of buttresses, but by a continuous wall of sufficient thickness to resist the outward pressure at any and every point along the line. Moreover, the higher the wall, the greater is the thickness needed, assuming of course that the wall stands free, like the clerestory wall of an aisled church.

Much, too, will depend on the cohesiveness of the vaulting itself; and as the Romanesque church-builders were either unacquainted with, or unable to use, the methods by which the Romans and the Byzantines respectively contrived to give an almost rigid solidity to their masonry, it is no matter for surprise that in two large classes of instances they should have been content to sacrifice either the clerestory or the aisles to the advantages of a vaulted roof and to the exigencies of stability. Of aisleless churches indeed, we must forbear here to speak. But of an important group of buildings which German writers have designated Hallenkirchen (hall- churches) a word must be said, as they unquestionably played a part in preparing the way for the final solution of the problem of vaulting. The most rudimentary form of hall-church is that in which the nave and aisles are roofed with three parallel barrel-vaults, those of the aisles springing from the same level as those of the nave. Examples are found at Lyons (St-Martin d’Ainay), at Lesterps, at Civray, and Carcassonne (St- Nazaire).

An improvement on this design, in view of the illumination of the nave, consists in giving to the vaulting of the aisles the form of a rampant arch, as at Silvacanne, and from this it was but a step to the arrangement by which the section took the form of a simple quadrant as at Parthenay-le-Vieux, Preuilly, and Fontfroide. This method of quadrant vaulting, as Viollet-le-Duc and others have observed, provides a kind of continuous internal flying buttress, though it is by no means certain that the idea of the flying buttress in the Gothic architecture of Northern France was actually suggested by these Southern buildings. In point of stability. the hall-churches of the eleventh century leave nothing to be desired. Their great defect is want of light.

And this defect almost equally affects a class of buildings which may be described as two-storied hall-churches, and which are found principally, if not exclusively, in Auvergne and its neighbourhood. These are furnished, like a few of the Roman basilicas and certain Byzantine churches, with a gallery, which is not a mere triforium contrived in the thickness of the w …


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