Artists - ArtWorks
Romanesque art and Architecture in Italy
The Cathedral was built in an area of ancient and continuing population, as attested by the findings of a Roman road and a Palaeo-Christian mosaic. Construction began in 1131, the apse mosaics begun in 1145 and the sarcophagi that Roger II provided for his tomb and that of his wife were put in place the same year.
After 1172, the church suffered a period of decline and in 1215, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen moved the two sarcophagi to the Cathedral of Palermo. Construction of the cathedral was resumed soon after, the façade being completed in 1240. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1267 by Rudolph, Bishop of Albano.
In 1472 a portico, by Ambrogio da Como, was added between the two towers of the facade.
Romanesque architecture was the first distinctive style to spread across Europe since the Roman Empire. Despite the impression of 19th century Art Historians that Romanesque architecture was a continuation of the Roman, in fact, Roman building techniques in brick and stone were largely lost in most parts of Europe, and in the more northern countries had never been adopted except for official buildings, while in Scandinavia they were unknown. There was little continuity, even in Rome where several great Constantinan basilicas continued to stand as an inspiration to later builders. It was not the buildings of ancient Rome, but the 6th century octagonal Byzantine Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna which was to inspire the greatest building of the Dark Ages in Western Europe, the Emperor Charlemagne’s Palatine Chapel in Aachen, built around the year AD 800. Dating shortly after Aachen Cathedral is a remarkable 9th century manuscript which shows the plan for the building of the Abbey of St. Gall in Switzerland. It is a very detailed plan, with all the various monastic buildings and their functions labelled. The largest building is the church, the plan of which is distinctly Germanic, having an apse at both ends, an arrangement which is not generally seen elsewhere. Another feature of the church is its regular proportion, the square plan of the crossing tower providing a module for the rest of the plan. These features can both be seen at the Proto-Romanesque St. Michael's Church, Hildesheim, 1001–1030. Architecture of a Romanesque style also developed simultaneously in the north of Italy, parts of France and in the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century and prior to the later influence of the Abbey of Cluny. The style, sometimes called "First Romanesque" or "Lombard Romanesque", is characterised by thick walls, lack of sculpture and the presence of rhythmic ornamental arches known as a Lombard band.
Across Europe, the late 11th and 12th centuries saw an unprecedented growth in the number of churches. A great number of these buildings, both large and small, remain. They include many very well-known churches such as Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, the Baptistery in Florence and San Zeno Maggiore in Verona.In France, the famous abbeys of Aux Dames and Les Hommes at Caen and Mont Saint-Michel date from this period, as well as the abbeys of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. In England, of the 27 cathedrals of ancient foundation, all were begun in this period with the exception of Salisbury, where the monks relocated from Old Sarum, and several, such as Canterbury which were rebuilt on the site of Saxon churches.In Spain, the most famous church of the period is Santiago de Compostela.
In Spain, the most famous church of the period is Santiago de CompIn Germany, the Rhine and its tributaries were the location of many Romanesque abbeys, notably Mainz, Worms, Speyer and Bamberg. In Cologne, then the largest city north of the Alps, a very important group of large city churches survives largely intact. As monasticism spread across Europe, Romanesque churches sprang up in Scotland, Scandinavia, Poland, Hungary, Sicily, Serbia and Tunisia. Several important Romanesque churches were built in the Crusader kingdoms.
Charlemagne was crowned by the Pope in St Peter's Basilica on Christmas Day in the year AD 800, with an aim to re-establishing the old Western Roman Empire. Charlemagne’s political successors continued to rule much of Europe, with a gradual emergence of the separate political states which were eventually to become welded into nations, either by allegiance or defeat, the Kingdom of Germany giving rise to the Holy Roman Empire. The invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy, in 1066, saw the unification of that country and the building of both castles and churches which reinforced the Norman presence. At a time when the remaining structures of the Western Roman Empire were falling into decay and its learning and technology lost, the building of masonry domes and the carving of decorative architectural details continued unabated, though greatly evolved in style since the fall of Rome, in the enduring Byzantine Empire. The domed churches of Constantinople and Eastern Europe were to greatly affect the architecture of certain towns, particularly through trade and through the Crusades. The most notable single building which demonstrates this is St Mark's Basilica, Venice but there are many lesser known examples, particularly in France, such as the church of Saint-Front, Périgueux and Angouleme Cathedral. Much of Europe was affected by feudalism in which peasants held tenure from local rulers over the land that they farmed in exchange for military service. The result of this was that they could be called upon, not only for local and regional spats, but to follow their lord to travel across Europe to the Crusades, if they were required to do so. The Crusades, 1095–1270, brought about a very large movement of people and, with them, ideas and trade skills, particularly those involved in the building of fortifications and the metal working needed for the provision of arms, which was also applied to the fitting and decoration of buildings. The continual movement of people, rulers, nobles, bishops, abbots, craftsmen and peasants, was an important factor in creating a homogeneity in building methods and a recognizable Romanesque style, despite regional differences.
The cathedral, dating from 1131, was commenced in the Norman style, the island of Sicily having been conquered by the Normans in 1091. According to tradition, the building was erected after a vow made to the Holy Saviour by the King of Sicily, Roger II, after he escaped from a storm to land on the city's beach. The fortress-like character of the building, which, seen from a distance, rises as a huge bulk above its medieval town, may in part reflect the vulnerability of the site to attack from the sea. It also represents the first and most important attempt of artistic – architectonic syncretism between east (Byzantine-Fatimid) and west (Norman-Cluniatic).
Numerous changes were made over succeeding centuries and the edifice was never entirely completed.
Sicilia: Duomo di Monreale
The exterior of Monreale Cathedral is nice, but provides no hint of the magnificent splendor inside. With their rich multi-colored ornamentation in tufa and marble on the exterior, the three apses of the Duomo represent the height of Norman decoration.
The bronze door panel was created (and signed) by Bonanno da Pisa in 1185. It depicts 42 scenes from the Bible set within decorative borders, and is considered among the most important of medieval artifacts. Look also for the lion and the griffin, symbols of the Norman kingdom.
Inside, the cathedral's Latin-cross plan focuses on the imposing mosaic of Christ Pantrocrater (the all-powerful Christ), which dates from the 12th or 13th century.
The Duomo's main attraction is 68,220 square feet of glittering gold mosaics decorating the cathedral interior. Completed in 1182, the rich mosaic cycle adorning the walls shows scenes from the Old Testament (nave), Teachings of Christ (aisles, choire, and transepts), and the Gospels (side apses). Together, the mosaics of Monreale Cathedral contain around 2,200 km of pure gold.
The painted wooden ceiling dates from 1816 to 1837 - bring a small pair of binoculars if you want to read its Latin inscriptions. The roof commands a great view (at a cost of 172 stairs).
The Duomo's Benedictine cloisters are a masterpiece of Norman artistic expression from the time of William II. The columns — variously plain, carved, or inlaid with richly lustered tiles — support elaborate capitals from which spring Saracen-style arches. The columns were designed by craftsmen from Campania, Puglia, Lombardy, and Sicily.
Marche: Duomo di San Ciriaco a Ancona
This building represents the emblem of Ancona, both for its geographical position as well as for its historical and religious meaning.The hilltop on which it rests was once called the Cumero promontory in antiquity, a name formed by the Greek words Kuma and Oro , which togheter mean " mountain facing the sea ". It was subsequently called Colle di San Ciriaco or Colle Guasco, as colonel Cesare Guasco ordered important fortifications to be built towards the sea.
The Church is built on the remains of an ancient templ dedicated to Venus Euplea, the Goddess of good navigation.
This temple was destroyed in 558 by an earthquake that also razed to the gorund the small town of Numana. The cross-shaped outline of the building, featuring a central plan, is dominated by a soaring twelve-sided cupola with its Gothic valults.
Covered with sheets of metal, it is considered by experts to be one of the oldest and most perfect cupolas in Italy. The interior of the church, along with the portal - an artistic masterpiece - and Diocesan Museum are all worth a visit.
The Cathedral of Cefalu’, built to the explicit wish of Ruggero II, represents the first mausoleum of the Norman-Sicilian dynasty of the Hauteville. It also represents the first and most important attempt of artistic – architectonic syncretism between east (Byzantine-Fatimid) and west (Norman-Cluniatic). The big cross-vaults of the presbytery area resemble the first analogous structural experiments of Lessay. Also the apses, although still of Norman- Premonstratensian conception, (the big oculi (oeil-de-boeuf) and counterforts used to sustain the cone-like coverings) underwent some formal adaptations dictated by decorative needs, internal and external: the massive counterforts were shaped like paired columns, while the oculi were walled in the interior so that they did not interrupt the iconographic programme of the mosaics. The plan is of three naves in a Latin cross with projecting transept crowned by the deambulatory. The three apses, of which the first is pre-eminent, are built in a similar manner to the contemporary Norman type. The naves (without a women’s gallery) are divided by rows of columns probably derived from late-Roman buildings. The coverings are made with wooden trusses. The intrados of the covering frame of the central nave is decorated with precious and rare Islamic paintings. The mosaics are among the most precious examples of the Medieval art both for their theological inspiration and refined beauty. In the apse’s basin the powerful image of the Christ Pantokrator stands out with a suggestive stereoscopic effect on the hemispherical surface of the apse. The image of the Madonna surrounded by angels is also serene and majestic. The cycle is completed with characters from the Old and New Testament, the patriarchs and the most well-known saints of the Norman tradition. The pictures show the principal façade enclosed by the two bell towers: the portico of 1400; particulars of the decorations of the façade arches with Norman geometry; particulars of the apses and of one modillion
Inghilterra: Cattedrale of Durham
Durham Cathedral, in the city of Durham, England, was founded in AD 1093 and remains a centre for Christian worship today. It is generally regarded as one of the finest examples of a Norman cathedral.
The building is notable for the ribbed vault of the nave roof, with pointed transverse arches supported on relatively slender composite piers alternated with massive drum columns, and flying buttresses or lateral abutments concealed within the triforium over the aisles. These features appear to be precursors of the Gothic architecture of Northern France a few decades later, doubtless due to the Norman stonemasons responsible, although the building is considered Romanesque overall. It was the skilled use of the pointed arch and ribbed vault which made it possible to cover far more elaborate and complicated ground plans than hitherto. The buttressing made it possible both to build taller buildings and
Germania: Cattedrale di Spira
The building has preserved its original style making it one of the noblest examples of pure and clear Romanesque architecture, which is now extinct. A distinctive feature is the colonnaded gallery that goes around the entire building, just below the roofline. The imposing triple-aisled vaulted basilica is the culmination of a design which was extremely influential in the subsequent development of Romanesque architecture during the 11th and 12th centuries. The cathedral’s hallmarks are the balanced distribution of its east and west ends and the symmetrical arrangement of four towers at the corners of the body of the structure formed by the nave and transept.
The large cathedral bowl in front of the west facade formerly marked the boundary between the episcopal and municipal territories. Each new bishop on his election had to fill the bowl with wine, while the burghers emptied it to his health.
The Cathedral was built in an area of ancient and continuing population, as attested by the findings of a Roman road and a Palaeo-Christian mosaic. Construction began in 1131, the apse mosaics begun in 1145 and the sarcophagi that Roger II provided for his tomb and that of his wife were put in place the same year. After 1172, the church suffered a period of decline and in 1215, Frederick II of Hohenstaufen moved the two sarcophagi to the Cathedral of Palermo. Construction of the cathedral was resumed soon after, the façade being completed in 1240. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1267 by Rudolph, Bishop of Albano. In 1472 a portico, by Ambrogio da Como, was added between the two towers of the facade.
The cathedral was chosen because it combined harmoniously architecture and art of Arab, Byzantine, Latin America and the Nordic in a wonderful synthesis of cultures and styles.
AA.VV., " Documenti e testimonianze figurative della Basilica Ruggeriana di Cefalù", Cefalù 1982 .
G. Di Stefano, "Il Duomo di Cefalù, biografia di una cattedrale incompiuta.", Palermo, 1960
V. Noto, "Il Duomo del Re", Palermo, 2000.
Vincenzo Consolo, Giuseppe Leone, Cefalù, Bruno Leopardi Editore, Palermo, 1999.
Matteo Collura, Giuseppe Leone, Melo Minnella, Palermo, Bruno Leopardi Editore, Palermo, 1999.
G. Agnello di Ramata, Cefalù, Edizioni Flaccovio, Palermo, 1962.
M. Luisa Polichetti. San Ciriaco. La Cattedrale di Ancona. Genesi e sviluppo. Federico Motta Editore, 2003.
File name: 23_cefalu1.jpg
Contextualisation Of the source:
Enciclopedia multimediale: “Cricco Zanichelli”
Interpretation of the source:
underline the most characteristics of Romanesque Art.
File name: 23_cefalu2.jpg
Contextualisation Of the source:
Enciclopedia multimediale: “Cricco Zanichelli
Interpretation of the source:
underline the most characteristics of Romanesque Art.
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