Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Romanesque Architectural Style

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="202"]The Romanesque Architectural Style The Romanesque Architectural Style[/caption]

Our Luxury house plans have more than a hint of medieval castle about them; deliberately so, as our architects continue a tradition that harks back to the late 10th century. The Romanesque architectural style traces its roots to medieval France and Italy, a pre-cursor of the Gothic tradition.

Rounded Roman-style half arches, groined vaults, arched windows, alternating piers (used to support arches) and columns, square or round towers, and thick stone walls  characterize Romanesque buildings Compared with the more ornate Gothic tastes that emerged in the 12th century, Romanesque constructs are massive, symmetrical and of a simpler design; they are significantly less busy, yet enduringly pleasing to the eye. Think of the famous Chateaux of the Loire Valley, with their fairytale towers and curved lines Although many of these palaces reflect the later, more elaborate Gothic style, some have roots in the Romanesque and date back to that period. Although some castles built in the Romanesque style still exist, the lasting legacy lies with the abbeys and cathedrals; built over a thousand years ago, but still standing strong and in use today.

The "Roman" in Romanesque derives from an erroneous assumption. Many art historians believed 10th century Romanesque designs owed a debt to Ancient Roman building techniques, when in fact most of that technical knowledge was lost in the chaos of the Dark Ages. In fact, the Byzantine Empire, by virtue of surviving where the Roman Empire did not, had more of an influence on the Romanesque style than the Romans did.

When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, he imposed his penchant for Romanesque architecture on the Anglo-Saxon population. Like the Romans centuries before, the conquering army's tastes automatically took  precedence over the locals Norman architecture (as the Romanesque style is known in the UK) replaced crumbling Roman buildings. Some of those Norman constructs still stand to this day, in Durham, Hereford, and Ely Cathedrals The Crusades, which lasted from the 10th to 12th centuries, also played a part in the Romanesque style spreading across Europe, as huge numbers of nobles, tradesmen, and others shared knowledge while they traveled. The resulting religious fervor also meant an explosion in church and abbey construction.

Although structurally simple, Romanesque buildings did have decoration, most noticeably with the use of arcades or  galleries The arcading often took the form of a series of small arches, which, while appearing to support a roof or other structure, were strictly decorative. Sculpture adorned arches and mouldings, while friezes decorated interior and some external walls Murals and stained glass also added color and interest to interior spaces.

Romanesque buildings were meant to stand the test of time, and many have done just that, withstanding war, religious upheaval (the Reformation in England) and a millennium of wear and tear. Modern day architects could do worse than to incorporate Romanesque traits in their designs Who wouldn't want to live in a home that mixes medieval style with modern know-how?

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