Chapter 17 The Age of Pilgrimages: Romanesque Art - Notes
The Romanesque era is the first since Archaic and Classical Greece to take its name from
an artistic style rather than from politics or geography.
Unlike Carolingian and Ottonian
art, named for emperors, or Hiberno - Saxon art, a regional term, Romanesque is a title
art historians invented to describe an artistic phenomenon.
“Romelike” and was first applied in the early 19th century to describe European
architecture of the 11th and 12th centuries.
Scholars noted that certain architectural
elements of this period, principally barrel and groin vaults based on a round arch,
resembled those of ancient Roman architecture.
Thus, the word distinguished most
Romanesque buildings from earlier medieval timber roofed structures, as well as from
later Gothic churches with vaults resting on pointed arches.
Scholars in other fields
quickly borrowed the term.
Today Romanesque broadly designates the history and
culture of Western Europe between about 1050 - 1200.
In the early Middle Ages, the focus of life was the
or estate, of a landholding
who might grant tenure of a portion of his land to
The vassals swore
allegiance to their liege and rendered him military service in return for the land and
But in the Romanesque period, a sharp increase in trade encouraged the
growth of towns and cities, gradually displacing
as the governing political,
social, and economic system of late medieval Europe.
The new towns were granted
independence from the feudal lords in the form of
which enumerated the
communities’ rights, privileges, immunities, and exceptions beyond the feudal
obligations they owed the lords.
Often located on navigable rivers, the new urban centers
naturally became the nuclei of networks of maritime and overland commerce.
Separated by design from the busy secular life of Romanesque towns were monasteries
and their churches.
During the 11th and 12th centuries, thousands of ecclesiastical
buildings were remodeled or newly constructed.
This immense building enterprise
reflected in part the rise of independent cities and the prosperity they enjoyed.
But it also
was an expression of the widely felt relief and thanksgiving that the conclusion of the
first Christian millennium in the year 1000 had not brought an end to the world, as many
In the Romanesque age, the construction of churches became almost an
Raoul Glaber (985 - 1046) a monk who witnessed the new millennium commented on the
beginning of it:
[After the] year of the millennium, which is now about three years past, there
occurred, throughout the world, especially in Italy and Gaul, a rebuilding of
Notwithstanding, the greater number were already well
established and not in the least in need, nevertheless each Christian
against the others to erect nobler ones.
It was as if the whole