Pre-Romanesque (6th century)

Different Germanic tribes settled in Europe, combining classical Roman, Early Christian and Barbarian traditions into the style known as one of the first steps out of the “Dark Ages”.

The Palatine Chapel in Aachen (Germany)
The Palatine Chapel in Aachen (Germany)

image source : https://brewminate.com/charlemagnes-works-in-western-europe/

West Europe

The Merovingians, the Carolingians and the Ottonians

These Frank dynasties built large buildings with precisely cut stone like monastery churches and palaces, which building plans often resembled the ones of Roman basilicas. The structure of their buildings was based on the combination of block-units, forming a complex internal space and a correspondingly rich external silhouette, anticipating the vertical emphasis and other hallmarks of the Romanesque style.


Architectural elements commonly used :

  • round arch;
  • barrel vaults;
  • piers and aisles with galleries above them;
  • semi-circular arches as windows, doors and arcades;
  • ornamented portals around the main door named tympanum.
St. Michael's Church, Hildesheim (Germany)
St. Michael’s Church, Hildesheim (Germany)

image source : https://vialucispress.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/saint-michaels-church-hildesheim-jong-soung-kimm/

In most of Europe, the Roman architectural tradition survived the collapse of the empire. The Franks continued to build large stone buildings like monastery churches and palaces.
The unification of the Frankish kingdom under Clovis I and his successors, corresponded with the need for the building of churches, and monastery churches, the former were now the power-houses of the Merovingian church and the building plans often continued the Roman basilica tradition.
The Merovingian dynasty was replaced by the Carolingian dynasty, which led to Carolingian architecture, and Ottonian architecture in the Holy Roman Empire, these successive Frankish dynasties were large contributors to Romanesque architecture.

Codex Aureus at the abbey of Echternach
Codex Aureus at the abbey of Echternach (Luxembourg)

image source : https://www.froelichundkaufmann.de/faksimile/das-goldene-evangelienbuch-von-echternach-codex-aureus-epternacensis-faksimile.html#

North Europe

The Anglo-Saxons

The Anglo-Saxon identity took shape in Northern Europe giving life to highly intricate metalwork, ivory carving, sculpting and illuminated manuscripts with less interlace in favour of plant scrolls, which combined Celtic and Viking traditions. The Religious architecture though was generally simple and modest, without any sculptural decorations.

Anglo-Saxon openwork silver disk brooch from the Pentney Hoard, British Museum - The Abbey of Kells (Irland)
– Anglo-Saxon openwork silver disk brooch from the Pentney Hoard, British Museum
– The Abbey of Kells (Irland)

image source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Saxon_art#/media/File:Brit_Mus_17sept_005-crop.jpg

image source : http://www.discoverboynevalley.ie/boyne-valley-drive/heritage-sites/kells-town-%20monastic-sites

South Europe

The Visigoths, The Normans and The Longobards

The first form of Pre-Romanesque style in Spain and Portugal was the Visigothic art, bringing the horse-shoe arches to the latter Moorish style and developed jewellery.

The best preserved Visigothic monument Saint Frutuoso Chapel, Braga (Portugal)
The best preserved Visigothic monument Saint Frutuoso Chapel, Braga (Portugal)

image source : https://www.duartebelo.com/03-portugal/0302-lugares/056-fi066661.html

Italy benefited from the presence of the Arabs and the Normans which contributed to the First Romanesque. The exterior of their buildings was decorated with bands of ornamental blind arches called Lombard bands, paired with thick walls and lack of sculptures. The interior was usually filled with iconographic mosaics and frescos instead.

The Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna (Italy)
The Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna (Italy)

image source : https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_di_San_Vitale_(Ravenna)#/media/File:Basilica_di_San_Vitale_Mosaici.jpg

 

Leave a Reply