Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Romanesque or Norman Architecture (and Gothic)

The Romanesque architectural style called Norman in England developed almost simultaneously in the Normandy region of northern France and in England. Most Romanesque building in England began after the Conquest. Some Romanesque or Norman architectural elements had already been brought to England before the Conquest; the principal example of this, perhaps, was Westminster Abbey, which was originally built just before the Conquest in a Romanesque style, but which has since been more or less all replaced by later rebuilding. Westminster Abbey is believed to have been the earliest of a major Romanesque building in England. 

Romanesque [Norman] was influenced by Roman architecture, hence its name. Similarities between Roman and Romanesque include the use of round arches and stone materials, and a basilica-style plan for ecclesiastical buildings. English Norman architecture was characterised by long plans and construction on a massive scale, especially in the erection of large round columns in the naves of churches, and the use of elaborately carved geometric decoration.

It has been commented that the introduction of Romanesque architecture to England was part of William the Conqueror's plan to Normanise his new kingdom following the Conquest. He had Normanised the clergy: nearly all the bishops were now Normans, the Anglo-Saxon ones having been deposed. Now it was the turn of the cathedral buildings. They too would be Normanised. England was now part of Normandy. Perhaps the new Norman bishops wanted to civilize what they saw as the uncouth English, or maybe, along with the new castles springing up everywhere, the new architectural style brought with it a stamp of authority representing the imposition of the new Norman power in England. The new massive buildings perhaps symbolised that the Normans were now the new masters in the land. Romanesque architecture linked England with the architectural fashions then currently being used all over Western Europe. England was now no longer a remote island just off the coast of Europe but would now to be part of mainstream Europe. Romanesque architecture symbolised all that. England had re-entered the empire of the Western Roman Empire and its Church with the pope at its head.


Ecclesiastical Buildings
Many of the major English cathedrals contain examples of Romanesque architecture; the more significant are the following: Durham, Canterbury, Ely, Gloucester, Rochester and Southwell Minister. Others include Peterborough, St. Albans

Non Ecclesiastic Buildings
Of non-ecclesiastical work, the best surviving example is probably the White Tower, the stone keep at heart of the Tower of London.  which was begun in 1078.

The arrival of Early English Gothic
After a fire had damaged Canterbury Cathedral in 1174 Norman masons introduced the new Gothic architecture to England. Around 1191 both Wells Cathedral and Lincoln Cathedral were built in the new Gothic style, known as Early English Gothic.


Eric Fernie (2002). The Architecture of Norman England. Oxford University Press. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-0-19-925081-3.

Hugh M. Thomas (2008). The Norman Conquest: England After William the Conqueror. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 129–. ISBN 978-0-7425-3840-5.

Bates (1994). "Chapter 8: E.C. Fernie - Architecture and the Effects of the Norman Conquest"England and Normandy in the Middle Ages. Continuum. pp. 105–. ISBN 978-0-8264-4309-0.

Some Examples in France


The central feature behind Gothic architecture is the pointed arch. This may have had an Islamic origin, and the idea brought to North West Europe after the second crusade, possibly by the Knights Templar. One of their roles was that they were Master Stonemasons designing and building formidable castles, chapels and cathedrals across Europe and the Levant. They introduced "holy geometry" into the building of Gothic masterpieces such as Chartres Cathedral in France. 

Others argue that Gothic Architecture simply evolved from the ribbed vault.

The Arch that never Sleeps  ACF4FB.pdf

Karen Ralls (15 April 2015). Gothic Cathedrals: A Guide to the History, Places, Art, and Symbolism. Nicolas-Hays, Incorporated. ISBN 978-0-89254-627-5.

Robert A. Scott (2011), The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-94956-0

Benjamin Winkles (1837). French cathedrals. C. Tilt. pp. 1–.

George Lesser (1964). Gothic Cathedrals and Sacred Geometry, Vols. 1-3, by G. Lesser. Alec tiranti.

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