A History of Romanesque Architecture

Early Romanesque 1000-1100 AD

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France, Saone-et-Loire,Tournus, Abbey St Philibert

The 12th-cent nave seen from the empore over the 10th-cent west entrance, photo RWFG

The building is an example of the First Romanesque style of Burgundy, which expands the Carolingian idiom with early Gothic forms in beginning of the 11th century.

Following a fire, Abbot Bernier (1008-28) undertook the reconstruction of the abbey church, this work continuing during the 11th century and the early years of the 12th century. The nave was vaulted under the abbacy of Pierre I (1066-1107) and the dome was erected between 1107 and 1120. The west entrance, for which Bernier was responsible, underwent substantial changes while being built.

The interior of St Philibert is argueably one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in France. Exemplarily restored.

France, Charente, Saint-Savin sur Gartempe
11th-12th century

The barrel-vaulted main nave painted with frescoes.
Photo Wikipedia

The Romanesque church was begun in the mid-11th century. The otherwise architecturally unremarkable cruciform church houses an extraordinary fresco cycle. The transept was built first, then the choir with an ambulatory and five radial chapels in the polygonal apse. In the next building campaign, three bays of the nave were added, the bell tower and its porch, and finally the last six bays of the nave. The bell tower is finished by a fine stone spire more than 80 meters high, added in the 14th century (and restored in the 19th century).

.....The Ceiling Frescoes

The vast number subjects displaid are often difficult to decipher but their presentations are unique. A complete painted Bible!
For an expanded, annotated (in French) collection see: art-roman.net

The Apocalyptic Madonna

Abel and Cain (right) present God their offerings

God announces the deluge to Abraham
photo francetrip.web

France, Angouleme, St. Pierre Cathedral
1017, 1128

The sculptural decorations of the west façade of St. Pierre
photo structurae.de

A first cathedral was built on the site of a primitive, pre-Christian sanctuary, in the 4th century. It and a second building were destroyed by warfare.

A third cathedral was then constructed under bishop Grimoard, abbot of Saint-Pierre de Brantôme. The new church was consecrated in 1017. However, at the beginning of the 12th century the citizens started to consider it too small for to the wealth of the county. The designer was bishop Gerard II, one of the most important French figures of the time, who was a professor, Papal legate for four popes and also a notable artist. Works began about 1110 and finished in 1128.

The façade is decorated by more than 70 sculptures, organized into two decorative themes, the Ascension and the Last Judgement, which are cleverly intermingled. Christ is portrayed within mandorlas, while two tall angels address the apostles to show them the celestial vision. All their faces, as well as those of the other faithful under the arches, look toward the Redeemer; vice versa, the damned, pushed back in the side arches and turned into Satan's victims.

France, Normandy, Mont Saint-Michel

The island with its famous church at high tide

Before the construction of the first monastic establishment in the 8th century, the island was called "monte tombe". According to legend, the Archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. Aubert repeatedly ignored the angel's instruction, until Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger....

The mount gained strategic significance in 933 when William "Long Sword", William, Duke of Normandy, annexed the Cotentin Peninsula, definitively placing the mount in Normandy. Norman Ducal patronage financed the spectacular Norman architecture of the abbey in subsequent centuries.
In 1067, the monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel gave its support to duke William of Normandy in his claim to the throne of England. Norman Ducal patronage financed the spectacular Norman architecture of the abbey in subsequent centuries. It was rewarded with properties and grounds on the English side of the Channel.

William de Volpiano, the Italian architect, who had built the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy, was chosen as building contractor by Richard II of Normandy in the 11th century. He designed the Romanesque church of the abbey, daringly placing the transept crossing at the top of the mount. Many underground crypts and chapels had to be built to compensate for this weight; these formed the basis for the supportive upward structure that can be seen today. Today Mont-Saint-Michel is seen as a Romanesque style church.

France, Charente, Poitiers, Notre-Dame-la-Grande

Notre Dame la Grande after the restoration of 1995

The church is mentioned in the 10th century, under the name of "Sancta Maria Maior", referring to the Romanesque church of the same name. The whole of the building was rebuilt in the second half of the 11th century and consecrated in 1086 by the future Pope Urban II.

The west front adorned with statuary is a masterpiece of Romanesque art. It depicts passages from the Bible. The selected scenes, taken from both Testaments, tell the Annunciation and the Incarnation of God on earth in the person of Jesus Christ.The Romanesque frescoes in the interor do not survive apart from those in the apse vault above the choir and in the crypt.

An extensive restoration began in 1992: the stones were cleaned in the laboratory and were reinstalled. The inauguration of the restored frontage took place in 1995.
Photo and text Wikipedia

Conques, Aveyron, Cathedral Ste. Foy

The original monastery building at Conques was an eighth-century oratory built by monks fleeing the Saracens in Spain. It became an important stop-over along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The original chapel was torn down in the eleventh century in order to facilitate the creation of a much larger church as the arrival of the relics of St. Foy shifted the pilgrimage route from Agen to Conques.

The Transept

The second phase of construction, which was completed by the end of the eleventh-century, included the building of the five radiating chapels, the ambulatory with a lower roof, the choir and the nave without the galleries. The third phase of construction, which was completed early in the twelfth-century, was inspired by the churches of Toulouse and Santiago Compostela.

The grotesque golden reliquary enshrining the head of the Virgin Saint
photos RWFG, 1993

The relic, St. Foy's head was stolen from Agen by a monk of Conques. It was considered the head of a virgin girl martyred by her father. The jewel-studded, golden reliquary is now housed in a small museum. Don't miss it! Catching a glimpse of this reliquary was the main goal of the pilgrims who came to Conques. The reliquary contains a piece of a skull, which has been authenticated to be a fifth-century Roman head, possibly the head of an emperor, mounted on a wooden core and covered with gold sheet.

Jumieges, Abbey de Notre-Dame
Norman, 1037 - 1067

The romantic ruins of Jumieges Monastery
photo Michel Cheron Panoramio

Once one of the great Benedictine abbeys of France, Jumièges was founded in 654 by Saint Philibert and within 50 years housed 700 monks and 1,500 lay brothers.The Abbey was extraordinarily wealthy. Inevitably, such a rich institution was a target and Jumièges was attacked regularly by Viking raiders between 841 and 940.

Rebuilt in the 11th century and consecrated in the presence of William the Conqueror in 1067, it once again became rich and powerful, as well as a major intellectual centre known for its Scriptorium where monks worked at their stunning illuminated manuscripts.

Destruction came with the Wars of Religion (1562–98) between catholics and protestants, and then the French Revolution which effectively meant the end of the Abbey. In 1793 the ruins of the abbey were sold at auction to a timber merchant who wanted it as a stone quarry.
About.com, Wikipedia.fr

France, Haute-Marne, Saint-Etienne de Vignory

Interior of the church, p
hoto thais.it 

The church of Saint-Etienne Vignory, dedicated to Saint-Etienne is a rare and remarkable transformation of Carolingian Romanesque architecture. The first stone was laid in 1032 by Guy de Vignory, first lord of the dutchy. The church of Saint-Etienne is one of the few buildings in the north of France at the very beginning of the Romanesque era that has passed into history without having undergone profound changes (except adding in the 15 th-16 th centuries five chapels opening onto the south aisle of the building).

France, Caen, Normandy
....St. Etienne, Abbaye aux Hommes, 1057
....Ste Trinite, Abbaye aux Dames, 1062

Abbey of Saint-Etienne,
 by Rafel Sabater, Panoramio

Abbaye of Ste. Trinité,
by Aurélien Knockaert, Panoramio

The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ("Men's Abbey"), is a former abbey church in the French city of Caen, Normandy. Dedicated to Saint Stephen ("Saint Étienne"), It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ("Ladies' Abbey"), to be the most notable Romanesque building in Normandy.

Both churches built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed buildings stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both in about 1120 was a ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.

The two monasteries were finally donated to the church by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope's ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William's original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda's in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century. His bones were scattered during the French Revolution.

The original spires of Ste. Trinité were destroyed in the Hundred Years' War and replaced by less striking balustrades in the early 18th century. The vault was demolished and rebuilt in 1865. The nuns were chased from the premises during the French Revolution but returned in 1820. The church was last restored between 1990 and 1993.

France, Burgundy, Anzy-le-Duc Monastery church

Anzy-le-Duc the church, Photo RWFG

The former Cluniacensian monastery church in this tiny hamlet is built from a deeply honey colored stone that glowed in the afternoon light. Exceptionally well preserved sculptures. Its floorplan followed almost exactly that of Charlieu and became the origin of the floorplan of Vezelay all in the spirit of Cluny.

France, Loiret, Saint Benoit sur Loire

Once one of the influential Benedictine monasteries in France. Begun in the 7th cent, plundered and burned by the Normans, later invaders, and the French Revolution, the 11th century Cathedral of Our Lady is all that remains. St Benedict is buried here.

Main side entrance

Temptation of Adam and Eve

Men and Beasts

Three of the fantastic capitals in the church

Mary and Child, flight to Egypt

France, Bouches-du-Rhone, Abbaye de Montmajour
10-13th cen

Cloisters and courtyard, photo
johnrock Panoramioio

Montmajour Abbey (French: Abbaye Notre Dame de Montmajour) is a fortified Benedictine monastery built between the 10th and 13th century on what was then an island five kilometers north of Arles, in the Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence, in the south of France.

The Abbey is noted for its 11th-14th century graves, carved in the rock, its subterranean crypt, and its massive never finished church, now in ruins. It was an important pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages, and in the 18th century it was the site of a large Maurist community The abbey is cared for as a historic monument by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux.

France, Berry, Nohant-Vic, St. Martin de Vic
12th cent

The church, photo Panoramio

The small village church houses an unusual Romanesque fresco cycle rediscovered under whitewash in the 19th cent. - George Sand lived in Nohant-Vic.

Entry into Jerusalem

Christ in Majesty

Christ being kissed by Judas

Photos Lucien Martinot/art-roman.net


Germany, Trier Dom St. Peter
326, 1017-1035

West side of the present cathedral, photo
Christian Millen, PanoramioPhoto  

The history of the Dom of St. Peter goes back to Roman times, when Roman Emperor Constantine I built a huge basilica over the palace of his revered mother Helena. Construction began in 326 AD.

The Constantinian church was four times as large as the present-day cathedral, covering the area of the cathedral, the Leibfrauenkirche, the Cathedral Square, the adjoining garden, and the houses almost up to the Markt.

After extensive damage in the 5th and 9th centuries, the surviving part of Constantine's church was enlarged with major additions in the Romanesque style in 1017-1035. Gothic and Baroque touches were later added, and the various styles blend nicely together, bringing a timeless unity to the interior.
Sacred Destinations

Germany, Hildesheim, St Michael

InteTThe Transept, photo Thaïs.it 

Abbey Church of St. Michael was constructed between 1001 and 1031 under the direction of Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim (993-1022) as the chapel of his Benedictine monastery.

St. Michael's Church is one of the most important churches in Ottonic (Early-Romanesque) style. It is a double-choir basilica with two transepts and a square tower at each crossing. The west choir is emphasized by an ambulatory and a crypt. The ground plan of the building follows a geometrical conception, in which the square of the transept crossing in the ground plan constitutes the key measuring unit for the entire church. The square units are defined by the "double" alteration of columns and piers. There are 2 entrances on the each apse, and 4 entrances on the north and south side of the church.

Westend of the Ceiling, photo igougo

Beside the choir and the cloister, the painted wooden ceiling (around 1230) is the most famous of the Church's interior. It shows the genealogical tree of Jesus Christ. Bishop Bernward wanted to construct the pillars of the nave in the Niedersächsischer Stützenwechsel style, which means square pillars alternating with round ones. Above them, the wall closes with the clerestory, whose round arch windows attract the light from outside. Furthermore, light shines through the Gothic windows of the lower aisles beyond the arcade. Their ceilings are stone vaults.

When the Reformation was adopted in Hildesheim in 1542, St. Michael's Church became Lutheran, but the Benedictine monastery remained, existing until it was secularized in 1803. The monks would still use the church and its crypt, which remain Catholic to this day. St. Michael's Church was heavily damaged by a allied air raid two months before the end of World War II (22 March 1945), but reconstruction was begun in 1950 and completed in 1957.

Germany, Hildesheim Dom
Ottonian, 815, 1020-1300

The West Façade

Interior the Nave,

The cathedral was built between 1010 and 1020 in Romanesque style. It follows a symmetrical plan with two apses, that is characteristic of Ottonian Romanesque architecture in Old Saxony. After renovations and extensions in the 11th, 12th and 14th centuries, the cathedral was completely destroyed during an Allied air raid on 22 March 1945, and rebuilt from 1950 to 1960.

In 2010, a second modern renovation was started, which will be finished in 2014. In May 2011, the foundation of the first cathedral building dating from 815 was found under the floor of the crypt. The first cathedral building was a small church measuring 6 x 6 m with an apse in the east. The remains of the first altar were found in the apse. A grave was discovered under the foundation, possibly the first bishop of Hildesheim was buried here.
Text and photos Wikipedia

Germany, Mainz, Cathedral St. Martin (Mainzer Dom)
Ottonian, 976-1037

The Cathedral towering above the roofs of town, photo mycardscollection.com

Mainz Cathedral is predominantly Ottonian Romanesque in style, but later exterior additions over many centuries have resulted in the appearance of various architectural influences seen today. It comprises three naves and stands under the patronage of Saint Martin of Tours. The eastern squire is dedicated to Saint Stephen.

St. John's Church, then St. Salvator, consecrated in 911 by Archbishop Hatto I, served as the cathedral for the Bishop of Mainz until the appointment of Willigis as Archbishop of Mainz in 975.

During Willigis' time, the city of Mainz flourished economically. Willigis became one of the most influential politicians of that time, he even was regent of the empire between 991 and 994. He ordered the construction of a new cathedral in the pre-Romanesque Ottonian architectural syle, finished in 1037.

The new cathedral consisted of a double chancel with two transepts and two altars, the western one for the mass, the other for emperor Henry IV. The main hall was built in the typical triple-nave "cross" pattern. As was usual at that time no vault was included because of structural difficulties relating to the size of the building. Six towers rose from the church. A cloister was enclosed in the structure and a small freestanding church, St. Mary's Church, connected by a colonnade. This small church developed later into the collegiate church of St. Maria ad Grada.

Germany, Würzburg, Dom St. Kilian
1040 - 1225

The church seen from the cloisters,
Klaus Rommel, Panoramio

The present cathedral, built from 1040 onwards by Bishop Bruno of Würzburg, reckoned to be the fourth largest Romanesque basilica in Germany, is the third church on the site: the previous two, built in about 787 and 855, were respectively destroyed and severely damaged by fire. After Bruno's accidental death in 1045, his successor Adalbero completed the building in 1075. The side aisles were remodelled in about 1500 in Late Gothic style. The stuccoist Pietro Magno decorated the cathedral in Baroque stucco work in 1701.

The greater part of the building collapsed in the winter of 1946 in consequence of the Allied bombing of Würzburg on 16 March 1945. Reconstruction was completed in 1967, in the course of which the Baroque components were removed in favour of a re-Romanisation.

The new interpretation emphasizes the contrast between the surviving historical parts of the structure, resulting in a sometimes controversial combination of predominantly Romanesque with modern and Baroque elements. The Neo-Romanesque west front with a rose window, the tripartite gallery, and the opening for the clock were revealed during the reconstruction in 2006. In 1988 the choir was redesigned by Hubert Elsässer.

Germany, Island Reichenau, Mittelzell
816, 1048

The abbey church at Mittelzell

The oldest parts of the cathedral St. Mary and Marcus – the easternly transept and the chancel – go back to the Carolingian church, which was consecrated in 816. The western transept (the so-called Markus church and site of the Markus altar) was consecrated in 1048. The nave originates in the 12th century, and the roof truss, which is today visible again, in the years 1236/37. The church was completed with a gothic choir in the 15th century, and in 1742 the Baroque choir fence was installed.
From Götterdämmerung.org

Germany, Hirsau Abbey

The cloisters and tower of the former abbey church, photo
 by Mast, Panoramio.

Ruins of the Benedictine monastery that was once among the most influential in Europe. Founded in about 830 by Count Erlafried of Calw and re-founded, after a period of decline, in 1059 by abbot William of Hirsau, who brought it to international prominence as the origin of the Hirsau Reforms. It was secularised in 1558, and the buildings were destroyed by the French in 1692.

Germany, Cologne, St Gereon
Ottonian 1067-1227

St. Gereon, photo

Begun in 1067, it features the largest dome in the Occident built in the time between the erection of the Hagia Sophia and the Florence Duomo. The oval dome, being 21.0 m long and 16.9 m wide, was completed in 1227 on the remains of Roman walls, which are still visible. The dome is also notable for its rare decagonal structure

Germany, Gandersheim Stiftskirche

Westwork Gandersheim, photo thais.it

In the collegiate church the original Romanesque church building is still visible, with Gothic extensions. It is a cruciform basilica with two towers on the westwork, consisting of a flat-roofed nave and two vaulted side-aisles. The transept has a square crossing with more or less square arms, with a square choir to the east. Beneath the crossing choir is a hall-crypt. The westwork consist of two towers and a connecting two-storey block; it originally had in addition a projecting entrance hall, also on two storeys, the "paradise". The present church building, which has been subject to restoration in the 19th and 20th centuries, was begun in about 1100 and dedicated in 1168. Remains of the previous building are incorporated into the present structure.

Germany, Speyer Dom
Ottonian, 1030-1103

Speyer Cathedral, photo Panoramio

Begun in 1030 under Emperor Conrad II, with the east end and high vault of 1090-1103, the imposing triple-aisled vaulted basilica of red sandstone is the "culmination of a design which was extremely influential in the subsequent development of Romanesque architecture during the 11th and 12th centuries". As the burial site for Salian, Staufer and Habsburg emperors and kings the cathedral is regarded as the symbol of power of the “Roman Empire of the German Nation”. With the Abbey of Cluny in ruins, it remains the largest Romanesque church. It is considered to be "a turning point in European architecture", one of the most important architectural monuments of its time and one of the finest Romanesque cathedrals.

Germany, Abbey Maria Laach
1093-1177, 1225

The Abbey Church, photo
P japoo, Panoramio

Maria Laach Abbey (in German: Abtei Maria Laach, in Latin: Abbatia Maria Lacensis or Abbatia Maria ad Lacum) is a Benedictine abbey situated on the southwestern shore of the Laacher See (Lake Laach), near Andernach, in the Eifel region of the Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. Founded in 1093 as a priory of Affligem Abbey (in modern Belgium) by the first Count Palatine of the Rhine Heinrich II von Laach and his wife Adelheid von Orlamünde-Weimar, widow of Hermann II of Lotharingia, Laach became an independent house in 1127, under its first abbot, Gilbert.

The abbey structure dates from between 1093 and 1177, with a paradisium added around 1225 and is considered a prime example of Romanesque architecture of the Staufen period. Despite its long construction time the well-preserved basilica with its six towers is considered to be one of the most beautiful Romanesque buildings in Germany.
More : Wikipedia

Germany, Worms Cathedral St. Peter

Worms Cathedral, photo Lonely Planet

With Mainz and Speyer, Worms is one of the three great imperial cathedrals on the Upper Rhine. The Cathedral of St Peter (German: Wormser Dom) was the seat of the Catholic Prince-Bishopric of Worms until its extinction in 1800.

The origins of Worms Cathedral go back to early Christian times. The first Bishop of Worms was Berthulf, in 614 AD; his cathedral was much smaller than the present one. Under Burchard (1000-25), the most notable Bishop of Worms, a new Romanesque cathedral was built on the site. It had similar measurements to today's cathedral and some of the original parts survive. The cathedral was a burial place for the Salian royal family, who had a castle in Worms well into the 11th century. These can still be seen in the crypt.

A century later, Burchard's building was replaced by the present cathedral, an even more splendid High Romanesque structure. The east section was the first part to be built, in 1125-44. The nave was constructed 1160-70 and the chancel was mostly completed by 1181, when the cathedral was consecrated. The west end was the last to be built, at the end of the 12th century.

During the Middle Ages, numerous visits from the Emperor and many important events, some with serious political consequences, took place in the cathedral and it surroundings.

Netherlands, Maastricht, Cathedral San Servatius
7th, 11-13th cent

The Cathedral and the “Vrijthof”, photo virtualtourist

The Basilica of Saint Servatius is a Roman catholic church dedicated to Saint Servatius, in the city of Maastricht The architecturally hybrid but mainly Romanesque church is situated next to the Gothic church of Saint John, facing the town's main square, Vrijthof.

The present-day church is probably the fourth church that was built on the site of the grave of Saint Servatius, an Armenian missionary who was bishop of Tongeren and died allegedly in 384 in Maastricht. A small memorial chapel on the saint's grave was replaced by a large stone church built by bishop Monulph around 570. This church was replaced by a larger pilgrim church in the late 7th century, which was then replaced by the present-day structure, which was built in several stages over a period of more than 100 years. The nave was built in the first half of the 11th century, the transept in the second half of the century, and the choir and westwork in the 12th century. The Romanesque church was built during a period in which the chapter of Saint Servatius kept close ties to the Holy Roman Emperors, which resulted in a building that has the characteristics of a German imperial church. The dedication of the church in 1039 was attended by emperor Henry III and twelve bishops.


Italy, Milan, Sant'Ambrogio
386, 1080-1140

Entrance and Atrium photo Wikipedia

The Basilica of St. Ambrose was begun by Bishop Ambrose around 385 and consecrated in 386. The church was built on a grand scale over an existing cemetery, next to the martyrium of St. Victor. Two local martyrs provided the relics for the altar, and Ambrose was buried next to them after his death on April 4, 397.

The original basilica has been excavated beneath the existing building. Surviving foundations indicate it had two side aisles, a marble floor, a semicircular apse, and a four-columned baldacchino over the high altar. The west facade has not been located so the exact length of the nave is unknown, but it had at least 13 bays.
Sacred Destinations

Italy, Ancona, Genga, San Vittore

The fortified church, photo

The church of San Vittore alle Chiuse (1011) is an interesting example of Byzantine architecture. The plan is a Greek cross inscribed in a square a format widely spread on the Adriatic side of the peninsula, especially in the Marches and in the southern regions.

Italy, Udine, Aquileia, Cathedral
4th cent, 1031-1079

Aquileia, The floor mosaic and the apse fresco, photo Panoramio

Aquileia was founded as a colony by the Romans in 180/181 BC along the Natissa River, on land south of the Julian Alps but about 8 miles north of the lagoons.

During the 4th cent AD, Aquileia maintained its importance. Constantine I sojourned there on numerous occasions. It became a naval station and the seat of the Corrector Venetiarum et Histriae; a mint was established, of which the coins were very numerous, and the bishop obtained the rank of metropolitan archbishop. A council held in the city in 381 was only the first of a series of Councils of Aquileia that have been convened over the centuries. At the end of the 4th century, Ausonius enumerated Aquileia as the ninth among the great cities of the world, placing Rome, Mediolanum, Constantinople, Carthage, Antioch, Alexandria, Trier, and Capua before it.

The Aquileia Cathedral is a flat-roofed basilica erected by Patriarch Poppo in 1031 on the site of an earlier church, and rebuilt about 1379 in the Gothic style by Patriarch Marquard of Randeck. The façade, in Romanesque-Gothic style, is connected by a portico to the so-called Church of the Pagans, and the remains of the 5th century Baptistry. The interior has a nave and two aisles, with a noteworthy mosaic pavement from the 4th century. The wooden ceiling is from 1526, while the fresco decoration belongs to various ages: from the 4th century in the St. Peter's chapel of the apse area; from the 11th century in the apse itself; from the 12th century in the so-called "Crypt of the Frescoes", under the presbytery, with a cycle depicting the origins of Christianity in Aquileia and the history of St. Hermagoras, first bishop of the city.

Jonah resting under the gourds

Various parts of the 4th cent mosaic floor of the main nave.

photo goldenroute

Tree of Life

Italy, Apulia, Bari, Cathedral St. Nicola

Interior, photo Wikipedia

The basilica was built between 1087 and 1197, during the Italo-Norman domination of Apulia, the area previously occupied by the Byzantine Catapan of which Bari was the seat. Its foundation is related to the stealing of the relics of St. Nicholas from the saint’s original shrine in Myra, in what is now Turkey.

The interior has a nave and two aisles, divided by granite columns and pilasters. The presbytery is separated from the rest of the edifice by mean of three arches supported by columns of Byzantine influence. Above the aisles is the matronaeum, a tribune gallery for women, opening into the nave. The basilica was the first church of this design, setting a precedent which was later imitated in numerous other constructions in the region.

Italy, Apulia, Otranto Cathedral S Annunziata

The façade of Otranto Cathedral, Photo Julianna Lees
notice the Greek Cross!

The Cathedral, consecrated in 1088, a work of Count Roger I adorned later (about 1163), by Bishop Jonathas, with a mosaic floor; it has a rose window and side portal of 1481. The interior, a basilica with nave and two aisles, contains columns said to come from a temple of Minerva and a fine mosaic pavement of 1166, with interesting representations of the months, Old Testament subjects and others. It has a crypt supported by forty-two marble columns. The same Count Roger also founded a Basilian monastery here, which, under Abbot Nicetas, became a place of study; its library was nearly all bought by Bessarion.

Signs of the Zodiac

Alexander the Great

Diana shooting a stag

Many more photos: lessing.com

The floor mosaic is the unique feature of Otranto: A Tree of Life covering the entire floor of the central nave overflowing with fantastic biblical, historical and mythological scenes interwoven with representations of the twelve months It was commissioned in 1163 by the archbishop Gionata and was carried out by the monk Pantaleone, the headmaster of the painting school at Università di Casole (was he a converso from Islam?). Pantaleone wanted to represent the human drama through the never ending struggle between Good and Evil, virtue and vice (Manichean?). He lived at a time when in Apulia Eastern Christian and Saracene (Islamic) religions coexisted and different cultures met.

Trani, Apulia, Norman Cathedral San Nicola Pellegrino

The apsidal side of mighty Trani Cathedral, photo
 by arquitotal, Panoramio 

The main monument of Trani is the Cathedra dedicated to St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, a Greek who died in Trani in 1094 while on his way on pilgrimage to Rome and who some years later was canonized by Urban II. It lies on a raised open site near the sea and was consecrated, before its completion, in 1143. It is a basilica with three apses, built in the characteristic white local limestone. It has also a large crypt and a lofty tower, the latter erected in 1230-1239 by the architect whose name appears on the ambo in the cathedral of Bitonto, Nicolaus Sacerdos. It has an arch under it, being supported partly on the side wall of the church, and partly on a massive pillar. The arches of the Romanesque portal are beautifully ornamented, in a manner suggestive of Arab influence; the bronze doors, executed by Barisanus of Trani in 1175, rank among the best of their period in Southern Italy.


Spain, San Baudelio de Berlanga

The chapel. Photo by santiul, Panoramio 

The hermitage of San Baudelio de Berlanga was constructed around 975 at the very frontier between Islamic and Christian lands.

Frescoes in its interior. Photo by VICMAEL, Panoramio

Its interior was transformed 150 years later with the addition of two cycles of vibrant wall paintings. The upper walls of the church were decorated with a series of scenes from the life of Christ, while the lower sections include boldly painted hunt scenes and images of animals, all of which derive from earlier Islamic objects. 

The Temptation of Christ, ca. 1125, photo: The Cloisters Collection, Metropolitan Mus. New York

The fresco was transferred to canvas and sold to the Cloisters Museum, New York. It was later exchanged against the apse of St. Martin-Fuentiduena and is now in the Prado, Madrid.

The apse of the church of St. Martin,
was sold by the Spanish government, dismantled, and moved stone by stone to the Cloisters Museum in New York (1957-60) in exchange for the above fresco.

Spain, Santo Domingo de Silos Abbey
7th cent, 1000–1073

Silos Abbey

Santo Domingo de Silos Abbey (Spanish: Monasterio de Santo Domingo de Silos) is a Benedictine monastery in the southern part of Burgos Province in northern Spain. The monastery is named after the eleventh-century saint Dominic of Silos. It dates to the Visigothic period of the 7th century. In the 10th century, the abbey was called San Sebastián de Silos, but acquired its current name when Santo Domingo was entrusted to renovate the abbey by Fernando the Great, King of Castile and León. The abbot designed the church to have a central nave with two side aisles and five chapels attached to its apse and transept. When Santo Domingo died in 1073, work on the church and the cloister was handed over to Abbot Fortunius, who saw the rest of the construction to its completion

The monks of Santo Domingo are famous for their Gregorian Chant. Listen to YouTube together with a video of the Monastery (3.30 min).

Spain, Palencia, Fromista, Church of St. Martin de Tours

The Romanesque church of Fromista, once part of an Abbey
 nacho riestra, Panoramio

St. Martin is a Romanesque church, originally part of a now disappeared monastery. Its three-level façade shows the different heights of the nave and aisles of the interior. It is flanked by are two cylindrical towers, while over the crossing rises an octagonal dome. The nave and the aisle, covered with barrel vaults, end in three apses.

It is built on a basilica plan with three naves separated by piers. The apses are embellished with good medieval sculptures, including a 13th century Christ in the nave. Some of the capitals have motifs of vegetables, human figures or depictions of stories, such as that of Adam and Eve or the Fox and the Grape.

Spain, Palencia, Olmos de Ojeade, Church of Santa Eufemia de Cozuelos

Church of Santa Eufemia de Cozuelos, photo
Pby diegourdiales, Panoramio

It was the church of a monastery belonging to the Order of Saint James. Its structure is in the shape of a Latin cross, with a single nave, a transept under a tower and a sanctuary comprising three semicircular apses with the largest in the centre. There is a belfry above the gable at the foot of the church.

Highlights of the elements still surviving today are the lovely ashlar stones and the structure of the apses, particularly the central apse, featuring two buttresses and divided into three segments containing semicircular windows with archivolts.

Mozarab inspired capitals in the church, photos flickriver

Also worth mentioning are the sculpted elements to be found throughout the the church: on the archivolts and capitals, on the openings in the sanctuary, on the three pointed archivolts on the south door, and on some of the capitals inside the church. The carved motifs include the chessboard design known as ajetrezado jaqués, animal and plant motifs (birds, lions), small heads, biblical scenes, etc.
The church has recently ben converted into museum.

Spain, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
1075, 16-18th cent

The Cathedral today

Construction of the present cathedral began in 1075 under the reign of Alfonso VI of Castile (1040–1109) and the patronage of bishop Diego Peláez. It was built according to the same plan as the monastic brick church of Saint Sernin in Toulouse, one of the greatest Romanesque edifices in France. It was built mostly in granite. Construction was halted several times and, according to the Liber Sancti Iacobi, the last stone was laid in 1122. But by then, the construction of the cathedral was certainly not finished. The cathedral was consecrated in 1128 in the presence of King Alfonso IX of Leon. The early Romanesque core was over the 1000 years of its existence encrusted with Gothic and Baroque additions until it looked like in the photo.

... El Camino de Santiago - Chemins de Saint-Jacques – St. James' Way -Jakobsweg

The Pilgrim Routes leading to Santiago de Compostela
For a larger map click on the image

During the Middle Ages, the route was highly travelled. However, the Black Death, the Protestant Reformation and political unrest in 16th-century Europe led to its decline. By the 1980s, only a few pilgrims per year arrived in Santiago. Today, the route attracts a growing number of modern-day pilgrims from around the globe. The route was declared the first European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe in October 1987.


England, Ely Cathedral
630, 1083-1107, 1187

The Cathedral in the Cambridgeshire fens. Photo Wikipedia

The present cathedral was started by Abbot Simeon (1082–1094, brother of Walkelin, the then bishop of Winchester) under William I in 1083. Building continued under Simeon's successor, Abbot Richard (1100–1107). The Anglo-Saxon church was demolished, but some of its relics, such as the remains of its benefactors, were moved to the cathedral. The main transepts were built early on, crossing the nave below a central tower, and are the oldest surviving part of the cathedral. Construction work continued throughout the 12th century. The Western transepts and tower were completed under Bishop Ridel (1174–89) in an exuberant Romanesque style with a rich decoration of intersecting arches and complex mouldings.

England, Durham Cathedral
Norman, 1093-1135 and 1490

The Norman interor of Durham Cathedral

The present cathedral was designed and built under Norman William of St. Carilef (or William of Calais) who was appointed as the first prince-bishop by William the Conqueror in 1080. Since that time, there have been major additions and reconstructions of some parts of the building, but the greater part of the structure remains true to the Norman design. Construction of the cathedral began in 1093 at the eastern end. The choir was completed by 1096 and work proceeded on the nave of which the walls were finished by 1128, and the high vault completed by 1135
Text and photo Wikipedia

England, Peterborough Cathedral
Norman, 1118-1193, 1250

The nave of Peterborough Cathedral

Although damaged during the struggle between the Norman invaders and local folk-hero, Hereward the Wake, it was repaired and continued to thrive until destroyed by an accidental fire in 1116. This event necessitated the building of a new church in the Norman style, begun by Abbot John de Sais on 8 March 1118. By 1193 the building was completed to the western end of the Nave, including the central tower and the decorated wooden ceiling of the nave. The ceiling, completed between 1230 and 1250, still survives. It is unique in Britain and one of only four such ceilings in the whole of Europe. It has been restored twice, once in 1745, then in 1834, but still retains the character and style of the original.

The East

Constantinople-Istanbul, Pammakaristos Church (Fetiyeh Cami)
11/12th cent

The Parekklesion of the Pammakaristos Church,
11/12th cent

Few churches in Constantinople have had an as varied history as the Pammakaristos. The Pammakaristos church was converted into Fethiye Cami or "Victory Mosque" in 1591 by Murad III to commemorate his conquest of Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchy, who had taken refuge in the Pammakaristos at the time of the Ottoman conquest, was transferred to its current location in Fener in the year of its conversion into a mosque.

The fire of Balatkapi damaged the mosque in 1640. It was repaired in 1845, and finally restored in 1936-38. Abandoned after the restoration, the main space was re-opened to Islamic prayer only in 1960. The parekklesion, restored to its pre-Ottoman state by the Byzantine Institute of America, is now open to visitors as a museum. The obove photo shows mainly the Parekklision (funeral church) with its copulas.
Text and photo  Archnet.org

Constantinople-Istanbul, Chora Ekklesia (Kariye Cami)
11th cent

Chora Ekklesia, photo Text and photo Archnet.org

The Kariye Museum, formerly the Church of the Monastery in the Chora, was outside the city prior to the building of the Theodosian walls, hence its Greek name Chora Ekklesia, Church in the Country. Restored after an earthquake in 557, the basilica was rebuilt in its current Greek-cross plan in the 11th century. Additions, the mosiacs, and other renovations (1316-1321) were sponsored by Theodore Metochites, a scholar and prime minister under Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II. One of the last churches built before the Fall of Constantinople (1453).

Its importance does not lie as much with its architecture but in the mosaics and frescoes which grace its interior and that of the attached Parekklesion.

After it was declared a museum, the Byzantine Institute of Washington D.C. and the Dumbarton Oaks Center of Byzantine Studies restored it in 1948.

......The Mosaics, photos RWFG, 1990

Christ Pantocrator in the dome (14th cent!)

Christ and St. John the Baptist

Metochites and Emperor Andronicus II presenting the church

Georgia, Mtskheta, Tsveti Skhoveli

Tsveti Skhoveli the Royal Cathedral of Georgia

Sveti Skhoveli, the royal cathedral of Mtskheta, which was the capital of Georgia from the 8th to the 14th century. Nino, a woman from Cappadocia, brought Christianity to Mtskheta in the 4th century, and the kings made it their state religion in 337, the oldest Christian kingdom in the East. On the foundations of Nino's church Sveti Skhoveli was built in the 11th century. During the following centuries it was enlarged and altered.

This beautiful cross, chased in gold sheet and mounted on a wooden frame, which is believed to have been made from Nino's first cross, graces the altar of the church. At its feet are the burial vaults of the kings of Georgia down to Wakhtang XIII its last king, who ceded Georgia to Russia in 1801.
Text and photos RWFG,1980

Georgia, Kakheti, Alaverdi Cathedral
11th cent

The Cathedral in the vinyards of Kakheti

The tall white building of the 11th-century cathedral of Alaverdi rises above the Kakhetian vinyards . Famous for is proportions: the over-high nave is reminiscent the contemporary churches of the French Gothic. - A Persian potentate who made Alaveri his abode, erected the 17th-century fortifications. During his reign Alaverdi's frescoes disappeared except for a "Mother of God" (12th cent) in the apse.
Text and photo RWFG 1977.

Turkey, Tao-Klarjeti, Ishkhani
10th-11th cent.

The comperatively well restored church of Ishkani

A large processional cross from Ishkhani (973), cast silver gilded, showing the sculptural sensibilies of the 10th century: sparse, almost rigid, nevertheless of great expressiveness. It was saved from the Ottoman conquest of Tao-Klarjeti in the 16th cent and is now In the Tbilisi National Museum.
Photo Shalva A

Turkey, Tao-Klarjeti, Oshki Cathedral and Monastery
963-973, 11th cent

Interior of Oshki Cathedral

Oshki Monastery Church in historic Tao, near Tortum lake in Eastern Turkey is one of the greatest churches of medieval Georgia, a brilliant example of Georgian architecture. Among the monuments of medieval Tao-Klarjeti there is no doubt that Oshki is the first for its historical significance and artistic level.

Oskhi was a monastery from 10th to 16th centuries. The four well-known manuscripts written in Oshki (the Oshki's Gospel, the Kings' Books, the Oshki's Heaven, and the Treasury) provide valuable evidence for the study of the political and cultural life of medieval Georgia and Byzantium. Today the Oshki Monastery consists of the remains of chapels, a refectory, a seminary, a bishop's residence and a scriptorium.

The builders of Oshki were the brothers, King David Magistros, later Kuropalates and Bagrat Eristav of Eristavs. According to inscriptions "Construction of the church was commenced on March 25 of the year 963 on the day of Annunciation" and "took ten years", that is the works lasted from 963 to 973.

The church, dedicated to the St. John the Baptist, is a domed building with three apses and an elongated western arm. The dome stands on four freestanding pillars.
Irene Giviashvili