Romanesque styles building

Romanesque styles building

Romanesque styles building

Romanesque churches are characterized by the clarity of their conception in their ground plan, elevation, and clear arrangement of space. If we leave aside for the moment any individual architectural elements that allowed for diversity (please refer to the table opposite), several fundamental building types can be distinguished. The first main group of buildings are those based on the linear planform. The second main group are centrally planned buildings, a style frequently found in eastern Europe.

Romanesque styles building

The Byzantine basilica
1. Nave. 2 Side aisles (in some cases there may be four side aisles). 3 Transept.
4 Choir/apse. 5 Clerestory (upper section of the nave walls providing lighting for the interior). 6 Crossing (intersection of the nave and transept).

The interior (top) St. Aegidius, Kleinkomburg (twelfth century), and exterior (below), St. Godehard, Hildesheim (twelfth century), both based on the linear planform of the basilica. The central nave of a basilica is usually wider than and projects far above the side aisles. The windows in the top section of the wall of the nave (the clerestory), provide for direct light to enter the church interior. The basilica is the most common type of Romanesque religious building.

The Byzantine basilica

The church in Schortens – Sillenstede (formerly St. Florian, above) dates from the twelfth century and is a good example of an aisle-less church. Its homogeneous interior space is not articulated by supports. The walls are broken up by large lancet windows which allow plenty of light into the church, emphasizing the celebratory character of the sacred interior.
In south-western Europe, particularly in the Poitou region (Poitiers, St. Pierre), one often comes across hall churches and a variant of the same, the church with raised nave and lower side aisles.
In contrast to the the latter type of church, the side aisles of the hall church are of the same height as the central nave.
In centrally planned buildings all elements relate to one central point. The ground plan is often based on a circle or a square or variants of the two. At best, this central plan integrates any apses, chapels and portals, although these are often added to the detriment of the symmetrical design.
The cemetery chapel of St. Michel – d’Entraygues (below) is circular in design with eight radiating apses.

Hildesheim st. Michaels Church

Hildesheim st. Michaels Church

Building components of Romanesque religious architecture

In an aisled basilica, the nave and the transept intersect. This intersection forms the crossing which is surmounted by the central tower. Continuing the side aisles in an eastern direction and penetrating, as it
were, the arms of the transept, there may be an ambulatory furnished with chapels. Instead of such an ambulatory there may be a number of apses adjoining the choir on the eastern side as a continuation of the side aisles. The choir ambulatory is seen as an important preliminary stage to the ambulatories of the Gothic period.
Familiar features of Romanesque architecture are the twin-towered or the singletowered west fronts. Less commonly found are a distinctive forecourt (called the “paradise” in Maulbronn), the narthex and the atrium.
The narthex makes its first appearance in early Christendom as an outer hall placed horizontally to the main body of the Roman Lateran basilica. This type can be traced back to Constantine who built the first large Christian assembly hall in Rome, the basilica by the Lateran Palace (313-319). Another standard building type is the basilica without a transept: in the fourth century, Sta. Maria Maggiore in Rome was conceived as an aisled hall without a transept. The central nave, flanked by the side aisles with flat ceilings, continues into the semi-circular apse at its eastern end.

West front without a tower
The towerless west front is very common in Italy and in the south of France. It is marked by articulating and structural devices such as pilasters, attached pillars, lesenes, ornamental band courses or sculptures. In Italy, the bell-tower or campanile is often erected next to the west front, whereas in France this is not often the case.

The west front with twin towers is the typical design employed for the Romanesque basilica and widespread in northern and western Europe. It is a symbolic reference to the gateway of the Heavenly Jerusalem.

West front with transept and with central tower

There are two variations:
1 the tower is integrated into the western transept.
2 the tower is placed within the axis of the central nave in front of the west front transept fagade.

West front with central tower

Central west tower above church

Tower of the cathedral of Paderborn. Around 1075.
The massive tower has no windows in the lower section and possesses two circular stair turrets – all features relating to the original fortified character of the building.
St. Benoit-sur-Loire, mid eleventh century. An exceptional single-tower west front.
Romanesque churches are often distinguished by their decidedly fortified appearance, a feature that is further emphasized by massive porches with towers at the western end. A particularly striking development is the westwork, consisting of several components, often flanked by towers and furnished with a portico.
Both liturgically and architecturally, the westwork is an independent building component comprising several storeys and erected in front of the actual church. According to the symbolically meaningful polarity of east and west, the latter was regarded as the side threatened by evil powers. The fortified porches were meant to defend the church against these powers. The west front is the main view and at the same time displays the image of a building. Here we generally find the entrances or the single main portal as well as a sophisticated system of articulation. The area of the portal itself can be emphasized by complex building sections. This is also the area where sculpture is situated.
The term narthex area is used if the west front is situated in front of the basilica-type nave like a cross-section. In most cases, the structure of the fagade provides clues as to the articulation of the interior space. The use of pilasters or lesenes can indicate the distribution of the main nave and side aisles.
A blind west front (screen west front) is conceived independently of both the interior space and the shape of the roof.
Typically rectangular and devoid of any pediments, it often lines the end of the basilica-type nave. Thus it serves to hide the latter’s outlines while at the same time enjoying a structurally aesthetic life of its own. In many instances the west front is highly structured and richly decorated. (Examples of the structural and ornamental repertoire of Romanesque architecture can be found on the page opposite.)
A further criterion to distinguish between the various types of west front is provided by the number of the staircase turrets (and the presence or absence of a west choir and/or an antechurch, if applicable).

West front with three towers

West front with three towers

The Benedictine Abbey church of Maria Laach (pictured) takes its place amongst the monumental Romanesque buildings and has remained virtually unaltered since the twelfth century. Boasting two transepts and two sets of triple towers, this church has to be seen in relation to the imperial cathedrals of Worms and Speyer.
The westwork makes its distinctive appearance in the Carolingian architecture of the late eighth century and comes to the fore in the first part of the ninth century. From about the year 1000, a modified version of the Carolingian westwork together with numerous architectural details were taken over or developed further and varied by Ottonian architecture. Examples of Ottonian buildings can be found all over northern and eastern France, in the southern part of modern Holland, in Belgium and throughout Germany. There is a wealth of variations which reflect the diversity between different countries and different cultural regions.
The westwork usually consists of a central part with an atrium (forecourt) and a multistorey upper church, and may also be connected with transept-like side-wings, galleries and various flanking towers.
The characteristic exterior feature of the Carolingian westwork is the west front with three towers which remained in use for centuries. The fact that all westworks are built in a similar fashion and their wide geographical distribution clearly suggest that this building type must have been based on the architectural style and program of the Carolingian Empire.
One variant of westwork takes the form of a transverse structure the width of the nave and aisles. The windows above the portal indicate galleries for the nobility.

Blind west front

The exterior west 2

The blind west front of San Michele in Pavia is reminiscent of an imposing theatrical backdrop. One can frequently see such steep, high fagades in the cities of Northern Italy. The west front is divided into three parts by powerful, vertical clustered pilasters
The raking blind arcades along the edge of the gable reconcile the horizontal sweep of the pitched roof and the vertical lines of the pilaster strips. The west front is further accentuated by the symmetrical arrangement of the portals and the windows. There are also numerous reliefs distributed freely along the wall spaces.

West front with central tower

West front with central tower

The west front of Santa Maria di Tiglio at Gravedone features a number of details which emphasize the ascending line and the height of the whole building. Set onto the lower rectangular base, the octagonal tower extends as far up as the ridge of the roof and is divided into several storeys.
The lower rectangular part of the integrated bell tower is traversed by a slender lesene – a simple and elegant solution to the problem of dividing the base into two zones.

Pilasters and columns

West front with apse

1. Engaged pilaster 2. engaged column, half-column 3. multi-shaft, compound or clustered pilaster (II) 4. blind arcades, raking.
I and II: ground-plans of engaged column and multi-shaft pilaster: a. plinth; b. engaged column; c. pilaster strip; d. engaged column/infill pilasters; e. attached column/three-quarter circle profile.
Arcades and arches
It is in the top belfry of church towers where one can often observe the interplay of blind arcades (A) and blind arches (B). The blind arcades take up and vary the arch motif. Together with the cornice (C) and the cupola, they form the completion of the tower.

West front with central apse and twin towers
Trier, St. Peter’s Cathedral
The church with two choirs was first introduced in the Carolingian period. It finally produced its own distinctive west front, known as the west front with central apse and towers and included two or more towers. Trier’s Salian cathedral is a pronounced variation of this type, with a central pediment and four towers. The west choir which defines it as a building with twin focus space (see ground plan) is usually found in the German-speaking areas of Europe. This type also occurs sporadically in Burgundy, Lorraine, Lombardy and Tuscany.
Ground plan (left):
A: east choir; B: west choir; C: nave; D: side aisles; E: staircase turrets of the west front.

Articulation of the west front

Articulation of the west front

The west front of Notre-Dame-la-Grande in Poitiers (above) is regarded as the perfect example of a fagade rich in sculptural decoration that has been worked out in great detail.
Emphasized by vertical friezes of round arcading, the structure can be understood to represent an all-encompassing icono- graphical program.

Structural elements
The horizontal cornice (1) often occurs in conjunction with a frieze of blind arcading (2). Horizontal blind arcades (3) and vertical lesenes (4) are elements frequently used to articulate towers and fagades. The towers in question are usually massive west towers.

The choir, its spatial structure and its elements

Choir with chapels in echelon

Originally the choir was the place in the church where the clergy sang. This space was extended and later became the liturgical center containing the high altar. Later a sanctuary or apse was added at the eastern end. The whole complex was now generally referred to as the choir. The extension of the side aisles into the choir resulted in the ambulatory. From the ninth century onwards the latter is often accompanied by semi-circular chapels known as radiating chapels which are organized into a chevet (St. Martin at Tours). The enlargement of the choir area began at Cluny III (1088): the erection of a choir transept created a crossing which was surmounted by the central choir tower. The eastern sides of the transept are furnished with side apses which together with the radiating chapels form a dense ring of apses. This development of the choir area made Cluny III the model for many Romanesque churches, not only its affiliated monasteries such as La Charite, but also for other buildings outside France which, however, tended to be executed on a more modest scale than Cluny III.

The east end of the former abbey church of St. Sever (photo and ground plan) is a remarkable example of a choir with chapels in echelon. The transept seems to have disappeared, as the area broadens out towards the choir as a result of the ‘flight’ of apses. There are a total of seven chapels to the east of the crossing oriented towards the choir. The central transept chapels communicate with each other via arcades, thus enhancing the prominence of the choir.

Central apse with side apses

Central apse with side apses

The central apse with the smaller side apses (Rivolta d’Adda, Sta. Maria e San Sigismondo, twelfth century) point to the basilica form of a high nave and lower side aisles. The side apses with the friezes of round arcading below the roof-line form the end of the side choirs. The central apse is decorated with a high band of blind arcading.
Hirsauer Bauschule (The Hirsau School)

Characteristic features

Characteristic features of the so-called Hirsau School are the choir with chapels in echelon and the absence of a crypt. Another typical and novel development is the choir side aisles which communicate with the main choir via arcades. This Chorus Maior further underlines the already dominant position of the choir. Situated in front of it is the Chorus Minor (for the lay brothers not taking part in the singing).
The first church of Hirsau, St. Aurelius, probably served as the model for Klosterreichenbach in its conception of the choir. St. Aurelius was, however, built with towers flanking the choir. It is very likely that these were also included in the plans for St. Peter and Paul but were never completed.
St. Peter and Paul provided the inspiration for the positioning of the choir and transept of the AllerheiligenmOnster (All Saints Cathedral) of Schaffhausen. Alpirsbach, too, was probably influenced by St. Peter and Paul, since at Alpirsbach, too, the crossing was transformed into a Chorus Maior. Many factors indicate that a second choir-flanking tower was planned for Alpirsbach, similar to those at St. Aurelius and in Klosterreichenbach

Chancel with five radiating apsidal chapels
At St. Maria in Gengenbach we find a choir end with five radiating apsidal chapels. Two smaller apses are placed in the axis of the transepts, next to the central apse. A further apse is added to each of the transept arms. These strikingly small apses are also known as apsidioles.

Polygonal choir
The semicircle of an apse is broken up into a number of facets. The basic models most frequently employed are the octagon or the dodecagon whose interior opens into the choir area. This method enables the construction of a polygonal termination like the one in the parish church of Neuengeseke (thirteenth century).
The simple design of the choir is articulated only by a frieze of round arcading, circular windows and a shallow plinth.

Saint Martin de Londers

Ambulatory and radiating chapels
Following the basic basilica plan, the long central nave leads via the crossing into a choir which is surrounded by an ambulatory. Radiating out from this ambulatory are three rectangular chapels (apses) which are arranged concentrically but not connected with each other.
The choir, the ambulatory and the radiating chapels are constructed over a crypt built according to the same shape and design.
The polygonal choir of St. Peter in Sinzig (thirteenth century) boasts a wealth of details: the two-storey complex is articulated by a plinth and blind arcading and by lesenes made of masonry.
Interest is created by the alternation of semi-circular headed and barrel-vaulted windows. The second storey terminates in a blind arcade which is surmounted by pediments.
Small side turrets have been inserted between the apse and the choir, and there are apsidioles attached to the choir side aisles.

Triple-apse (trefoil) plan

Ambulatory and radiating chapels

The little priory church of Saint-Martin-de- Londres (see ground plan above) was founded in 1088 and is a remarkable example of the early Romanesque style in the Bas-Languedoc region. The doublebayed nave leads over into a crossing from which apses extend in a way similar to a transept. The main apse is separated from the crossing by means of an extended bay. This “east formation” is referred to as trefoil or triple-apse plan.

Ambulatory with three apsidal chapels

Ambulatory with three
The eastern part of the Church of St. Godehard in Hildesheim consists of the ambulatory with three apsidal chapels or apsidioles, the apse, the choir and the choir side aisles. The shallow apses of the transept emphasize its close structural affinity with the choir complex. The eastern part of the church forms the central tower rising above the choir square. The architectural structuring results in a heightened symbolic significance of the choir.

Churches with towers above the choir area – variations
The little church of St. Candidus at Kentheim in the northern part of the Black Forest (eleventh century) exemplifies the southwest German Romanesque church of this type. There are numerous little Romanesque village churches nearby with similar towers above the choir area, forming a real landscape of choir towers in this region. One reason might be the fact that the dedications are dominated by the saints Stephanus, Remigius, Markus and Maria, and not by Martin and Michael, as is usually the case. This change of patron saint is one result of Frankish missionary work: using Frankish patron saints such as Remigius or Stephanus was a means of emphasizing that the Alemannian region was part of the Frankish Empire.
The choir, usually rectangular in shape, is surmounted by the tower, which thus provides a symbolic link between heaven and altar.
Often this type of church also possesses an apse. If this is the case, the tower, as a kind of raised choir, is rounded off by an apse.

Ambulatory and radiating chapels (Chevet)

Kintheim st. Candidus

Typical of the Romanesque architecture of the Auvergne are basilicas featuring an ambulatory surrounding the choir with a ring of radiating chapels (chevet). St. Austremoine in Issoire is further distinguished by a rectangular Lady Chapel placed between the innermost of the four ambulatory apsidally rounded chapels. This formation may be the result of a change in the building plans. One can also detect the beginnings of the design that was to evolve into the Gothic choir ambulatory.
The choir bay is flanked by the east towers which are flush with the side aisles. They frame the choir with the apse and contain the choir side chapels.

The interior/west

The interior west

In the basilica of the early Middle Ages, the western end had the character of an independent structure in front of the main church. It usually consisted of a two-storey central hall with three-storey side compartments. The galleries enabled the rulers to be present at the service and participate from an elevated position. Until the time of the Cluniac reform, the westwork was used for worldly matters, for example as a courtroom for the ruler. It was not until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that alterations were made which integrated the western section into the main body of the church.
The westwork with its own choir is a reference to the liturgical autonomy of this section of the building, and to the place of the rulers. The latter often had a gallery built in the west choir from which they would take part in the services and beneath which they would later be laid to rest. Thus the western transepts with their galleries gradually emerged as a symbol of majestic dignity for the dignitaries of the realm, such as the archbishop or the emperor.
Basilica /hall church

Basilica hall church

Elevation of the galilee of the cathedral of Casale Monferrato (twelfth century)
The Piedmontese cathedral of San Evasio, built at the time of the Lombards, represents a blend of basilica and hall church. The main complex with its four aisles is preceded by an unusually large galilee. The two outer bays, when related to the nave, result in a ratio of bays of 3:3. The double-crossed transverse arches extend far down into the interior – a characteristic more often found in Armenian architecture. It might have been introduced to Northern Italy after the Second Crusade.

Nuns’ gallery
The high gallery opening towards the nave is constructed over an aisled, low western hall. Nuns’ galleries can often be found in convent churches of Benedictine nuns, for example in the convent church of Lippoldsberg in Hesse (now the Protestant parish church).
Western choir, two-storey
The two-storey western choir of the church of St. George in Cologne (twelfth century) projects from the square central section of the western hall and is spanned by a domed ceiling. The wall system is articulated by means of pilasters and round arched windows. On the top storey, there is a corridor behind the wall. In the western section; the top storey used to function as a gallery.
Western transept with gallery
The Schottenkirche (Scots church) in Regensburg (St. James’, eleventh/twelfth century, right), an aisled columned basilica, features a western transept. A gallery, which was used by choristers, was put in front of the southern and northern termination of the transept.

The galilee

Western gallery singley storey

The galilee is a variation of the atrium or the narthex in the western part of a church (see page 21). The galilee to the convent church of Maulbronn is also called the paradise (1210-15). It is regarded as a unique and perfect example of art from the time of the Hohenstaufen dynasty (left).
The influences from Burgundy are obvious and can be seen in the special finish of the capitals and in the high plinths.
Each of the three bays has been constructed above a square. The portal and the twin arcades open onto the forecourt. The monumental cross-ribs extend like transverse arches from the mighty responds which are placed on high plinths. Together with the transverse ribs, the ribs which diagonally cross the cross vault form semi-circles. The varying spans of the bay arches contribute to the dynamics of th$ interior. In spite of the massive elements used for its articulation, and despite the squat proportions, the interior has an atmosphere which is anything but heavy or dark – a quality that was emphasized as a specific characteristic of classical Hohenstaufen architecture.
Western gallery, single-storey
An imposing effect is created by the interior of the westwork of the abbey church of Essen (eleventh century). The high gallery forms a striking contrast to the thick-set arches of the ground-floor and is probably inspired by the Carolingian Palatine Chapel in Aachen.

The interior Construction of the nave

Three-tier construction

The design of the wall of the nave in Romanesque churches is often conceived as a multi-storey system. One or two stages (triforium or blind triforium) and/or a clerestory were constructed above the arcades, depending on the size and proportions of the building. The bays comprised either one or two arches.
This structure is continued in the upper storeys. Such a concept is dependent on the overall building plan. One system uses the crossing square as its basic proportion, which is repeated in the bays of the nave. Each bay has its own vault, the thrust being taken by the pillars. Sometimes the nave is articulated by a rhythmic alternation of pillars and columns. Such a design lends movement and expression to an interior.
The Church of St. Gertrude in Nivelles/ Belgium (around 1000-1046) is a typical example of a wall constructed in two stages.
The four-zone wall construction is layered from bottom to top as follows: arcades, galleries, blind triforium, and clerestory. The bay is separated from the gallery level by a lesene.
Fontenay, former Cistercian abbey church of Notre Dame (from 1139). The singlesection wall construction does not allow for a clerestory, which would have been the nave’s light source. Two rows of semicircular headed windows in the western wall were inserted for that purpose. The wall section above the arcades is articulated by means of lesenes.
This type of wall construction is likely to occur in large Romanesque cathedrals, such as the one in Worms. The central section is reserved for the gallery or the triforium. While in most cases it is used for a gallery, there are some churches which do not utilize the space behind this central section. In such cases a blind triforium is applied purely for reasons of surface articulation which can be structured by arcades.
If the wall construction is in two stages, the high nave is divided by means of a clerestory with a row of semi-circular headed windows and by the arcades. Pilasters or attached columns without structural function are inserted in front of the arcades in order to articulate the wall space. The groin vaulting of the individual bays is framed by transverse arches which radiate from the capitals of the pilasters and attached columns in the clerestory. In both cases the church in question is a groin- vaulted arcaded basilica with nave walls resting on pillars, a type particularly common in twelfth-century Germany. The picture on the left shows a bay containing an arcade and a clerestory window, while the second example illustrates a bay housing two arcades and two clerestory windows.
Such a blind triforium can be seen in the wall elevation of Winchester Cathedral (1080). The strictly horizontal layering of the various building sections is typical of English architecture. In order to try and relieve this emphasis on the horizontal, slender arcades and flat, articulating pilasters were installed.

Rhythmic alternation Three-tier construction


Durham Cathedral in northern England was begun in 1093 and finished in 1128. Its monumental pillars are constructed onto cruciform bases and surrounded by attached columns which lead up to the vaulting where they branch out. Alternating with these half-columns are columns placed within the bay.
Assigned to each of the two arcades within the bay are one double window in the gallery and one single semi-circular headed window in the clerestory. The gallery window “repeats” the structure of the two arches integrated by the bay. The cterestory windows are already part of the vaulted section which starts above the gallery.

Three-tier construction with gallery
Saint-Lazare in Autun was begun in 1120 as an arcaded basilica with side aisles after the model of Cluny. The elevation of the nave shows a three-tier construction with a gallery above the high nave arcades. Roman city gates served as models (see illustration above), with their pilasters placed between the gallery windows. The beads and reels and rosette friezes are further references to Classical antiquity. However, there is only one clerestory window per bay.

Choir and crypt

The choir
Originally the choir denoted the place where the singing in church took place. Soon it was designated the liturgical center around which the church interior or the basilica developed. The simple early choir was extended by the chancel square and the apse or chevet. From the thirteenth century onwards, the border area between the monks’ and the lay church has been marked by the chancel or choir screen which also serves as a platform for singers or as a lectern. The size of the choir is usually dictated by the width and height dimensions of the nave, except where partial closure of the crossing allows a narrowing of the choir.
Chancel square and apse (on one level)
In the church of San Michele of Pavia (twelfth century) steps lead up from the crossing to the elevated chancel square (1) and on to the apse (2). The apse is constructed on one level.

The crypt

The crypt

The crypt was originally the place where a martyr was laid to rest (confessio). Later on, the crypt served as last resting place for both secular and spiritual dignitaries. Above the crypt would be constructed the east choir and later the whole of the church. The tunnel crypt, consisting of individual chambers, has its origins in the early Christian catacombs.
The dominant type in ninth-century Italy was the hall crypt which was designed to include aisles and was vaulted. The heightened ceiling made it necessary to raise the choir above.

Choir and crypt

Ambulatory crypt
In the crypt of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, Saint- Pierre, the confessio (2) is surrounded by a rectangular ambulatory (1) which leads into the chantry chapels or oratories (3). An adjoining aisled arm (4) leads on into a hexagonal Lady Chapel (5). This complex ground plan was conceived in the ninth century.

Single- and multi-pillared crypts
Depending on the scale and the design, crypts are distinguished according to aisles and supports. The single and four- pillared types have frequently been constructed with a groin vault. The short shafts of the columns absorb the vertical thrust of the vaulting, while the outward thrust is diverted into the outer walls. These crypt interiors are characterized by massive cushion or acanthus capitals (Corinthian capitals). Additional transverse arches are often found in hall crypts with two, three, or four aisles.

Hall crypt
The hall crypt of Speyer is often called “the most beautiful crypt in the world.” Indeed, it creates a magnificent impression, with its 8 mighty piers, its massive walls, and its 14 corner piers, 36 engaged columns and 20 free-standing columns (right).
The groin vault is articulated by transverse arches. Extending from the heavy cushion capitals or the imposts of the piers, they divide the crypt into three almost square spaces lined up along the transverse axis, so that three naves are formed, each with three bays. Each of the side rooms is extended in its eastern part by three altar recesses. The bases and the cushion capitals suggest that building was begun around 1030.

Basic choir forms
The basic type of the early Frankish aisle- less church consists of a simple hall or basilica-type space with an adjoining rectangular sanctuary (2).
Aisle-less churches are also found in northern Italy, for example in Pavia and in Sirmione. The Italian type also comprises a simple, undivided hall with apses and flanking apses or apsidioles attached on the eastern end.
These church forms are referred to as t-shaped “basic type”, with the English portico church constituting a special form. Also conceived along the t-shaped ground plan are the closed or open halls (porticos) arranged around the central hall and serving as last resting places for the donors. One example is Reculver in the Canterbury area (seventh century).

Chancel square and apse (on two levels)
In Great St. Martin, Cologne, twelfth century, the apse adjoining the chancel square is divided into two levels. The lower level consists of blind arcading with columns and recesses opening up behind them. The level above has a peristyle with large semi-circular headed windows.

Rectangular choir

Rectangular choir

Rectangular choirs are often found in early churches of the t-shaped type, ie there is no chancel square in front of the apse. There are two different types: those with a flat ceiling (for example in Goldbach on Lake Constance, around 1000), and those with a vault (Soest, St. Maria zur Hohe/Hohnekirche, thirteenth century).

The interior vault and dome

Domed churched

The pilasters attached to the front of the aisle columns are continued in the vault by transverse arches. These groins were reinforced by means of ribs which often sprang from the column capitals. In the course of time and in different regions, this so-called groin vault was adapted and developed in a variety of ways.

Domed churches
A special feature of the Perigord region is the domed churches, their domes usually rising up above pendentives (Perigeux, St- £tienne-de-la-Cit6/St-Front). Particularly impressive is the domed church of Cherval (see photo and ground plan) dating from the twelfth century: here, four domes have been arranged one behind the other (3 bays in the nave and the choir).
The construction type of the pilgrimage church reached its climax in the church of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse (1080-1150). Its barrel vault spans a nave that consists of eleven bays and has galleries divided into two parts. The transverse arches spring from the capitals of the engaged columns which span a succession of bays.
A typical feature of the Romanesque cathedral of Salamanca (twelfth century) is its pointed vault. The vault tapers to a point at its vertex, thus forming groins (see groin vault).

Construction of dome and vault

Dome resting on a tambour or drum
San Tomaso in Lemine in Almenno San Bartolomeo (twelfth century) is a round church and is used as a baptistery or a memorial chapel (right). The interior of this rotunda features an inner circle of columns which forms arcades and supports a ring which is transformed into the dome. This tambour (Fr.=drum) or tambour circle has windows which allow light into the dome. The dome itself opens out into a lantern, a small round turret, which also has windows. Visible from the outside, the tambour is often articulated by pilasters, lesenes and blind arcading. Tambour circles are used in centrally planned buildings with circular ground plans.
The intersection of two barrel vaults at right angles above a square results in the formation of arched diagonals or groins within the vault. This is how the vault above the crossing of a barrel-vaulted church nave with a barrel-vaulted transept was created. The piers of the crossing mark the outer corner of the groins and of the vault.
In many cases there was a desire to “raise” the crossing by means of a vault without the construction of a dome. The groin vault was then extended across the level of the arcades, thus emphasizing the direction of both the nave and the transept by means of ribs.

Dome resting on squinches and pendentives
If a dome is erected over a crossing, a solution must be found for the transition from the square into a circle. Squinches are used to bridge, by means of small vaults (which have the appearance of ears or horns), the corners of the square, thus creating an octagonal space which can then carry the circle of the dome. Pendentives are spherical concave triangles which bulge out between the arcades (ie. they “hang” out into the space) and carry the circle of the dome.

Dome resting

Curved vault above a lunette
Church doors and windows

Church doors
The columns included in some of the recessed entrances already anticipate the columned portal. Tympana (a), capitals (b) and archivolts (c) are developed and are often used to display decorative elements. The recessed and the columned portals anticipate the design of the heavily recessed funnel-like portal of the Gothic period.
Semi-circular headed windows with mullion
With its rich ornamentation, its figurative sculptures, its consoles and its apex mask, the apsidal window of the Walterich chapel in Murrhardt (thirteenth century) takes its place amongst the most distinctly Romanesque windows in Germany.

Arles st-trophime

Recessed columned portal with shallow projecting porch
Built between 1190 and 1200, the western portal of Saint-Trophime in Arles is amongst the portals of French Romanesque architecture most richly decorated with figurative sculpture. It appears to have detached itself from the structure of the building in as far as it “veils” the basilica elevation. Figuration was thus more important than architectural organization. Portal and porch are fused into one medium for the communication of a meticulously composed iconographical program. The central theme is the expectation of salvation associated with the Last Judgment, as illustrated in the tympanum, the archivolts, the lintel, and the impost area (above the capitals). Unlike later Gothic architecture, the central column does not yet depict a theme by featuring a figure (in this case it would have been Christ as the ruler of the world) but the apostles and saints along the walls reinforce the universal message of salvation.



The Romanesque window is a simplified miniature version of the Romanesque portal. There are four different types: 1. the simple semi-circular headed window; 2. the coupled semi-circular headed lights with central colonette; 3. the stepped semicircular headed lights with dividing colonettes; 4. the trefoil-headed window. The last-named can vary as far as the Gothic rose window. The third frequently occurs with lavish ornamentation, while the second can have three or more lights. With type one, the intrados is often decorated.

Iconographical program
The tympanum shows the central theme, while the accompanying secondary themes are depicted in the archivolts (for example, Old/New Testament or allegorical scenes). The lintel often depicts a scene related to the central theme in the tympanum. The same applies to the capital area. The plinth area below the wall sculptures depicting saints often contains allegorical scenes.

Semur en-Bruonnais

Recessed or stepped entrance
One of the most distinct examples of this type of entrance is the recessed portal of the cathedral of Speyer (eleventh century). Stepped towards the central axis, and banded in contrasting stone, the segments of the arch form the shape of a funnel.
This type of portal can be regarded as the prototype of the later decorated portal, since the recesses often include columns which depict figurative scenes.

Recessed or stepped entrance

Stepped entrance with columns
The lavishly decorated porch of Semur-en- Brionnais (St. Hilaire, twelfth century) represents a transitional stage, in which the steps are “disguised” by decorated columns. The scenes depicted on the lintel (Hilarius scenes), and the Christ in Majesty in the tympanum, place it well into the Gothic era, as do the distinct archivolt ribs and the “pointed” semi-circular arch.

Fan-shaped windows, cinquefoil and stilted
Amongst the Romanesque windows most diversified in form are the fan-shaped and the trefoil windows, both belonging to the cateogory of the multi-foil window. The fan window of St. Quirin in Neuss (dating from the thirteenth century) has a rectangular stilting (stem) from which the individual segments radiate, the so-called foils or fans.

Fan shaped windows

Piers and capitals
The vertical thrust of the vault is absorbed by a system of pillars, the outward one by the outer buttresses. The pillar and wall construction in a Romanesque religious building exists in that static relationship of tension. Pillars are classified according to the five ground plans as follows: 1. the circular pillar; 2. the quatrefoil pillar; 3. the cruciform pillar; 4. the respond, or pier with engaged pillar; 5. the cruciform pier with engaged shafts, or compound pier. The respond and the compound pier share the basic shape of the cruciform pillar. The latter has attached shafts which often end in capitals. The narrower three-quarter shafts jut out above the capitals and form the transverse arches of the vault.


Circular pillars
S. Abbondio in Como (elventh century) is a typical arcaded basilica with the nave walls resting on pillars. The circular pillars are constructed from brick and are topped by monumental cushion capitals. The main function of the pillars is to support the aisle walls and the flat ceiling.

The capital

Ornamental or decorated capital

The development of the Romanesque capital can be traced from the simple cushion capital (2) to the figural capital (5). One variant of the cushion capital, the so- called pyramidal capital (1), might well be the Romanesque “prototype.” The Ionic capital with its volute or spiral scroll (3) is an early adaptation. Embellishments such as stylized leaves or shields transform the cushion capital into an ornamental capital (4). The decorative elements show great imagination and include spiral motifs and floral patterns, creating ever new variations. These were followed by masks and animal shapes and finally by figurative scenes, all of which culminated in the figural capital.

Cushion capital

Engaged or attached pillar
Talant, Notre-Came (thirteenth century). The octagonal attached nave pillars are of the fourth type. Responds projecting beyond the arcades support the transverse arches of the tunnel vault. Note the support provided by an alternation of pillars and columns.

Cushion capital
The heavy capitals counter-balance the pressure originating from the arcades which is transmitted onto the shafts of the pillars of St. Maria im Kapitol in Cologne.

The respond

The respond

The former priory church of Anzy-le-Duc in Burgundy (twelfth century) is characterized by a system of responds. Oriented towards the nave, the half-columns (responds) are attached to rectangular pilasters. They terminate in capitals from which spring the transverse arches.

Rectangular piers
The simple rectangular piers of St. Cyriakus in Sulzburg (eleventh century) cannot yet be regarded as an independent architectural element. They are part of the supporting wall structure and merely flank the round-arched arcades.

Continuous string or band courses
Cornices or string courses are continued around architectural elements such as engaged pillars or pilasters.
The figural capitals in the nave of the former priory church of Anzy-le-Duc in Burgundy (twelfth century) combine decorative mask shapes with figurative scenes.

Continuous string or band courses