Romanesque and Gothic – both artistic styles of the Middle Ages, which are completely different in their appearance and in their substantive content. Nevertheless, there is nothing straightforward in an art history course, but an engagement and lobbying by previous eras. What are the main differences between Romanesque and Gothic churches and were there any special reasons that the church has changed so much in 200 years.
The term Romanesque was not around until 1820 and it started to coin for the arts and culture between 1020 – 1250. The Gothic period is not coming out of their time designation, but was coined in the late Renaissance by Giorgio Vasari and it first meant everyone associated it as derogatory (Gothic within the meaning of barbaric). Although the Romanesque is a nearly 200-year period in which there are obviously some stylistic differences, the round arch, crystallized itself as the main feature. Whereas in the Gothic, clearly emphasized are the pointed arch that dominates within this era (even though this was not a direct invention of the Gothic, but previously appeared).
*Cathedral of St. Lorenzo. This beautiful Romanesque church is the acting seat of the Archbishop of Genoa. It’s distinct striped facade makes it instantly recognizable.
*Notre-Dame-de-Paris Cathedral – the famous gothic cathedral is in the middle of the Ile de la Cité, Paris.
The optically biggest difference probably lies in the „light“, permeable construction of the Gothic cathedrals and the fortress-like character of the Romanesque. The castle-like design of the Romanesque can be partly explained by the fact that the churches were often used as a last resort for people in times of war. In addition, Romanesque churches were also representative to see what also supports the castle and castle-like character.
The Gothic want to leave this heaviness and power of representation. The church of this era can be seen as an allegory of God’s world. As original building of Gothic is generally seen the choir of the church of St. Denis (1140). The builder Abbot Suger (1081 – 1151) combines here countless features of the Heavenly Jerusalem, described by John in the Apocalypse. The Gothic cathedral consists of a play of light, vastness and fine architecture. According to the theological view, the light is seen as a perceptible to the human mind the image of God.
Here is a short video from BBC – showcasing the beauty of the two artistic styles and the difference within architecture, please click here to watch the video.
In summary, we can say that Romanesque churches fall into the time of dynasties as Salian or Staufer, were often built in times of war and was thus considered a protective or representative character as necessary. Whereas the Gothic Cathedrals wanted to free themselves from the impenetrable fortress-like walls from the Romanesque and tried to create a heavenly Jerusalem on earth. The cathedrals strive in the air and give up through the vast space and the beautiful play of light rose window.
Thus, both churches have their own charm. While Gothic cathedrals are to be seen more as a multimedia event, Romanesque churches impress with their stately appearance and their protected character.
What do you think of Romanesque and Gothic? Which churches do you prefer and why? We look forward to your opinions!
Picture sources via: received
Cover photo received, 20.08.2015 from http://bit.ly/1E76og9
(1) Image received, 20.08.2015 from http://bit.ly/1E73OGZ
(2) Image received, 20.08.2015 from http://bit.ly/1PokytK