Prevalent from the 9th through 12th centuries CE, Romanesque
architecture combined the influences of Roman and Byzantine styles. The
style was named, in the 1800s, because one of its key features, the
barrel vault, resembled the classical Roman arch. The use of barrel
vaults allowed for huge interior spaces built entirely of stone. But
that also meant the roofs were extremely heavy, so the walls had to be
tremendously thick to prevent buckling. Strong walls also meant fewer
windows, so the insides of Romanesque churches often look dim and feel
Gothic architecture began in the mid-12th century with the
intention of making churches look like heaven: soaring, colorful, and
bright. The biggest difference from the preceeding Romanesque style was
the use of flying buttresses. These support structures or towers, set
off from the main walls and attached by arches, and displaced the
pressure from the roof outward. Essentially, this meant the buildings
could get taller, walls could get thinner, and there could be a lot of
windows, which were often stained glass. Gothic churches have huge,
ornate, petaled round windows called rose windows. They also are much
pointier than their Romanesque predecessors, with pointed arches and
tall spires (instead of blunt towers) characterizing the style.
Comparing the Sculptures and Different Structures of Cathedrals The Cathedral was a symbol of authority and religious achievement to people of the Middle Ages. Both Romanesque and Gothic style cathedrals are monuments to the skill and creativity of medieval people. Upon entering a Romanesque or Gothic style cathedral, one would have noticed that the function of these houses of worship is very similar. They are each an urban religious center in which priests conducted masses. Upon further examination of the sculptures and the different structures that embody them, one would have found that they differ quite dramatically
Introduction: The Gothic Cathedral
Leaving aside the issue of whether architecture is best described as "fine art" rather than "applied art", there is no better testimony to the quality and longevity of Medieval Christian art than the Gothic cathedral. The Gothic style first appeared at Saint-Denis, near Paris, around 1140, and within a century had revolutionized cathedral design throughout Western Europe. The old Romanesque architecture, with its rounded ceilings, huge thick walls, small windows and dim interiors had been replaced by soaring Gothic arches, thin walls, and huge stained glass windows, which flooded the interiors with light. By modifying the system of ceiling vaulting and employing flying buttresses to change how weight was transferred from the top down, Gothic architects managed to radically transform the interior and make it a far greater visual experience. Everything was taller and more fragile-looking, and colonnettes often reached from the floor to the roof, pulling the eye up with dramatic force. The outside was also transformed with religious column-statues on the walls and complex sculptural reliefs around the portals and doors. Add mosaics, huge carved or painted altarpieces, fonts and pulpits, vivid stained glass art, illuminated gospel manuscripts and exquisite ecclesiastical metalwork, and you can understand why Gothic cathedrals are seen as some of the greatest works of art ever made.
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