Romanesque and Gothic Architecture

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Romanesque architecture between 800 and 1150AD was popular in Western Europe which then rose to the gothic style. Pre-Romanesque style developed by using elements of roman design in the Christian churches in the states of Western Europe. By the end of the pre-Romanesque period Roman elements had fused with Byzantium elements from the Middle East, these influences became known as the Romanesque, meaning "in the manner of Rome".

The appearance of the Romanesque style was multi storey entrance facades of geometric appearance buildings. Stone was a very popular material used in the buildings. Huge vaults and arches was one of the main characteristics of the time. Masonry vaulting since the beginning of Christian architecture had only been used in buildings of relatively small scale. Romanesque churches, on the other hand, sustained massive barrel vaults, making it compulsory to reinforce the load-bearing walls in order to carry the lateral outward thrust. The frequent presence of galleries above the aisles, sometimes with half-barrel vaults, is in all probability rooted in structural considerations connected with the problem of abutment. The use of wall openings to a minimum, due to the same concern, contributed to the sober yet soberly impressive character of the light. Each individual building has a clearly definite form which often consists of very regular and symmetrical plans so the overall appearance is known as a form of simplicity. Romanesque architecture mainly depends on its walls which are known as piers. Piers are sections of the wall that appear mostly at the intersection of two large arches, which are those crossing under the nave and the transept which is always in a circular shape, each arch is supported on its own supporting rectangular pier which is found at each right angle. Most of the buildings are mostly made from wooden roofs, mostly of a simple truss, tie beam or king post form. When the case of trussed rafter roofs occurs they will then be lined with wooden ceilings. The most important feature of Romanesque churches was the towers. Romanesque church facades were always built to face the west end of the building and are usually symmetrical and has a large central doorway made mostly by its moldings or porch and a arrangement of arched-topped windows which can be seen above the doorway. In Italy there is a single central ocular window which is most probably known as the most common decorative feature, as well as the arcading.

One of the most important structural developments of the Romanesque era was the vault. Originally intended as an alternative to fire prone wooden roofs, vaults became a major innovation in architectural features. The cross vault was used throughout Europe even though it was heavy and difficult to construct so thus it was replaced with the rib and panel vault.

The Church I chose the Sant'Ambrogio was originally built during the 4th Century but was excavated beneath the existing building. With the west facing façade, the use of vaulting is clearly seen throughout the church, down either side of the isle and leading to the nave. Although stone is not the main material used it can be seen in certain aspects of the church. The large central portal includes carvings.

Gothic architecture, known at the time as the French style, started in the first half of the 12th century and continued well into the 16th century. Gothic architecture was made up from the previous architectural genre, Romanesque. For the most important part, there was no difference between the two, as there was later to be in Renaissance Florence with the sudden restoration of the Classical style by Brunelleschiwhich came from the early 15thcentury. Eventually Gothic architecture was brought south to Italy by the French.

The characteristics of Gothic Style features include those of the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress traceried windows. The thin walls, slender columns, and the very large areas of glass in Gothic buildings gave an impression of lightness. It consisted of a central nave flanked by aisles, with or without transept, and was finished by a choir surrounded by an ambulatory with chapels. The ribs which held up the vaults were aligned to make a pattern of a diamond on the ceilings. These elements were however no longer treated as single units but were properly integrated within a joined spatial scheme. The exterior view was mostly dominated by the twin towers. The facade was pierced by doorways often decorated with varies sculptures and at a higher level appeared a central stained glass rose window. Due to the outward pressure of the vaults there became a need for buttresses. Windows were very important in the churches. Each stained glass had a message in it which was taken from a bible piece to pass across a message. Gothic architecture is unique in many different ways but mostly by its use of materials. Regional influences played a huge role in the design variations and preferences for the different building materials. While in France the most common materials used were limestone, England witnessed a great use of red sandstone and coarse limestone with marble which was known as Purbeck architectural features. Similarly, while in Northern Germany and the Baltic nations, the tradition was that of mainly using bricks, in Italy, the most preferred material was marble. Timber was also one of the materials used, which is seen in the hammer-beam ceilings and rafters.

Some of the structural innovations included, the use of a reinforcing block or wall of masonry adding support to the great vaults & arches. Moulded or otherwise decorated band or series of bands around an opening of an arch. Supportive arch constructed within a wall, often above an architrave, serving to absorb weight upon a passageway or portal below.

Notre dame in Paris is one of the finest examples of churches in the gothic period. Its sculptures and stained glass show the heavy influence of naturalism. It was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave. After the construction began and the thinner walls grew ever higher, stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral's architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued as such. Also the front having two towers popular of gothic style as well as the popular central stained glass rose window.

Romanesque and Gothic Architecture is very similar in many forms, even though they are very similar in many aspects they also have their own characteristics. Gothic Architecture did get most of its forms from the Romanesque area, things like vaults and arches although they were evolved to be used in gothic buildings.

Similarities between gothic and Romanesque includes, the use of the arch which was first seen in the Romanesque churches throughout Europe and then later in gothic buildings but had been adjusted to a more pointed arch compared to the rounded Romanesque form. Another form found both in Romanesque and gothic architecture is the towers although very irregular in Romanesque they were a form of asymmetrical balance in Gothic architecture. Also the use of stone as a material was also started during the Romanesque period and continued into the gothic time such as timber used for the roof trusses. Another feature would be the use of columns, used in both types of architecture they were changed from the Romanesque to gothic. The multi story Facades were used in both Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Vaulting used during these periods were started with the rib and panel vault in the gothic period but then perfected during the gothic period with the split vault. The rose or wheel windows started making an appearance in during Romanesque time but the final central rose window was perfected above the main entrance door usually facing to the west (started during Romanesque) during the gothic period.

Each of these eras had their own structural innovations that changed the way architects and builders designed and built the buildings and most can even be seen in architecture today. One of the most important being the vault created during the Romanesque time but altered and perfected during the gothic period. The gothic period brought the use of Masonry in walls to create support in the vaults and arches.Romanesque was designed to be more for protective purposes than for any aesthetic quality, as gothic cathedrals. Monasteries housed the relics of saints, and during the Romanesque period the cult of relics became a major cultural factor influencing architecture. Gothic style has three main characteristics that make it its own unique style: highness, vertical lines and flying buttresses. Romanesque buildings were solid, heavy because of the thick walls, and, as a result of the comparatively small windows, dimly lighted. They had a heavy frame structure. Gothic cathedrals were built with a slender skeleton, made up with pointed arches and flying buttresses, which gives impressions of harmony and luminosity.

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