A History of Romanesque Architecture

Pre-Romanesque Architecture
600-1000 AD

Google Map 2

In trying to piece together this architecturally rich period I will deviate from my historical sequence and group stylistically similar buildings together.

The East I

Armenia and Georgia, 7th–10th century

Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion in the early 4th century – before Constantin I. Armenians, being excellent architects, developed their own style and built a great number of churches in today’s Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey. They are generally mentioned only as marginal notes in western architectural treatises. The surviving buildings are too many to do them justice here. The apogee of Armenian architecture falls into the 7th to 9th century.

Armenia, Echmiadzin, Church of S. Hripsimeh

S. Hripsimeh, photo Karen_T, Panoramio

The church was erected by the Katholikos Komitas (615-628). The present church was erected over a 4th century mausoleum built by Katolikos Sahak. During the renovations of 1959-1962, the remains of a pagan structure were found beneath the floor of the church.

Armenia, Zvartnots Cathedral
648 - 652

Ruins of Zvartnots Cathedral, photo Ardani, Panoramio

Between 643 and 652 Catholikos Nerses III, the Builder built a majestic cathedral dedicated to St. George at the place where a meeting between King Trdat III and Gregory the Illuminator was supposed to have taken place. In 930 the church was ruined by an earthquake, and remained buried until its rediscovery in the early 20th century. 

Turkey, Tao-Klarjeti, 7th-10th cent

Tao-Klarjeti (Georgian: ტაო–კლარჯეთი; t'ao-k'larjeti) is the term conventionally used in modern history writing to describe the historic south-western Georgian kingdoms and principalities (7th-11th cent), now forming part of north-eastern Turkey divided among the provinces of Erzurum, Artvin, Ardahan and Kars. A number of churches, many in deplorable condition, have survived in the area, which, following the Otoman conquest in 1551, became Moslem. Best known are the monasteries of Bana (Turk. Penek), Khandzta, Khakhuli, Ancha, (Turk. Haho/Bağbaşi), the churches of Oshki (Turk. Öşk Vank/Çamlıyamaç), Ishkhani (Turk. Işhan), Parkhali (Turk. Barhal/Altıparmak), Doliskana (Turk. Dolişhane/ Hamamlıköy), Otkhta Eklesia (Turk. Dörtkilise), Opiza (Turk. Bağcılar), Parekhi and Tbeti (Turk. Cevizli).
For a definitive, scholarly review of the chuches of Tao-Klarjeti get Wachtang Djobadze's book from the library.

Turkey, Tao-Klarjeti, Bana Cathedral 630

The ruins of Bana Cathedral in Tao-Klarjeti, photo Paata Vardanashvili Wikipedia

The Cathedral of Bana (630) is one of the earliest. The unique circular monument, reminiscent of Svartnots (Armenia) and St. Gregory-Ani (Turkey), has been subjected to extensive quarring of stones and spolia. It is today one of the most endangered archeological sites in northeastern Turkey.

Turkey, Cappadocia, 6 th-13 th cent

Cappadocia (from Greek: Καππαδοκία / Kappadokía) is a historical region in Central Anatolia, Turkey.

Herodotus reported that the Cappadocians occupied the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine (Black) Sea. The name was traditionally used in Christian sources throughout history and is still widely applied to the peculiar geology and the unique historical and cultural heritage of the area.

In the Middle Ages Cappadocia was inhabited by Greek-speaking, Christian Orthodox people who carved entire underground cities and Byzantine cave churches out of the volcanic formations and decorated them with painted icons, Greek writing, and decorations. Over 700 of these Churches have been discovered dating from the period between the 6th century to the 13th century. Many of these monasteries and churches continued to be used until the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s.

Turkey, Cappadocia, Ihlara Valley, Frescoes in the Greek Cave Churches of Peristrema
8th cent.

Sümbüllü Kilise - the Church of the Hyacinth
Elevation of Christ, ~early 8 th cent

Typical iconoclast ceiling
(725-843 AD)

There are supposedly twenty-five chapels and churches hidden in caves in the rock walls. After a snowstorm on the first of May, we could find only three, but they were special. The paintings in the Sümbüllü Kilise - the Church of the Hyacinth are in particularly good condition.

This "Elevation of Christ" predates the Iconoclast Period — i.e., it goes back to the beginning of the 8th century. It differs from the Elevation (a relief not a fresco) at Djvari-Mtskheta in Georgia (6th cent) where Christ is represented only by a cross carried by angels. Christ now appears, floating on a Greek cross, and carried (according to the Peudo-Dionysos Arapagitos' neoplatonic visions, ~ 532) by tweny-four wonderfully naïve angels.

The frescoes in the vault of the Church Beneath a Tree (Ağaçaltı Kilise), are a century later! Fully abstract - an influence of the nascent Islamic movement with its prohibition of images - they date to the Iconoclast Period (725-843 AD).
Photos RWFG

Georgia, 7th-13th century

Georgia was Christianized in the 6th century and, excepting Georgian Tao-Klarjeti was not overrun by Islam until the 14th century. Its Christian architecture reached its highest development under Queen Tamara Bragationi in the 12th-13th century.

Georgia, Church of Ateni Sioni, 7th-8th cent

The church in its mountain setting, photo RWFG

Ateni Sioni Church (Georgian: ატენის სიონი) is an 8th-century Georgian Orthodox church in the village of Ateni, some 10 km south of the city of Gori, Georgia. It stands in a setting of the Tana River valley known not only for its historical monuments but also for its picturesque landscapes. The name "Sioni" derives from Mount Zion at Jerusalem.

Joseph's dream, photo RWFG

Last Supper, photo RWFG

Ateni's 12th-century frescoes are one of the treasures of Georgia. The Djvari-type church probably dates from the 8th cent, as the recent discovery of iconoclast (725-843 AD) frescoes has shown. Ateni's frescoes differ from contemporary murals in the Greek-Byzantine churches by their liveliness. Joseph's dream may be the most celebrated of them:

England and Ireland
7th-10th century

Anglo-Saxon architecture was a period in the history of architecture in England, and parts of Wales, from the mid-5th century until the Norman Conquest of 1066. Anglo-Saxon secular buildings in Britain were generally simple, constructed mainly using timber with thatch for roofing. No universally accepted example survives above ground.

There are, however, many remains of Anglo-Saxon church architecture. At least fifty churches are of Anglo-Saxon origin with major Anglo-Saxon architectural features, with many more claiming to be, although in some cases the Anglo-Saxon part is small and much-altered. All surviving churches, except one timber church, are built of stone or brick, and in some cases show evidence of re-used Roman spolia.

The architectural character of Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical buildings range from Celtic influenced architecture in the early period; Early Christian basilica influenced architecture; and in the later Anglo-Saxon period, an architecture characterised by pilaster-strips, blank arcading, baluster shafts and triangular headed openings. In the last decades of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom a more general Romanesque style was introduced from the Continent,

England, Winchester Anglo-Saxon Minster

The foundations of the Old Winchester Cathedral next to its succesor are visible from outer space
photo freepages

The Old Minster was the Anglo-Saxon cathedral for the diocese of Wessex and then Winchester from 660 to 1093. It stood on a site immediately north of and partially beneath its successor, Winchester Cathedral.
The old legend that the Old Minster was built in the 2nd century for the non-ducumented King Lucius of Britain is erroneous. The stone minster was constructed in 648 for King Cenwalh of Wessex and Saint Birinus. It became the diocesan cathedral in 660. It was enlarged and redecorated over the years and Saint Swithun was buried outside it in 862. In 901, the New Minster was built next to it, so close in fact that it is said the singing of the monks inside each became hopelessly intermingled. Saint Æthelwold of Winchester followed by his successor, Saint Alphege, almost completely rebuilt the minster on a vast scale during their monastic reforms of the 970s. Saint Swithun's body was taken into an indoor shrine in what had become the largest church in Europe. However, after the Norman conquest of England, Bishop Walkelin built a replacement cathedral alongside and the Old Minster was demolished in 1093. Many of the Kings of Wessex and England, as well as holy saints, had been buried there, so their bodies were dug up and re-interred in the new building. The Old Minster was excavated in the 1960s.

Ireland, Gallarus Oratory, Dingle Peninsula
7th- 8th cent

The Oratory, photo Wikipedia 

Gallarus Oratory was built between the seventh and eight century and is the best preserved early Christian church in Ireland. It represents the apogee of dry-stone corbelling, using techniques first developed by Neolithic tomb-makers.

Ireland, Monastery of Kells

Round Tower and Celtic High Cross

Book of Kells

The Abbey of Kells was first founded by St. Columba ca. 554. What some historians term a refounding happened in the early ninth century by Columban monks fleeing from Iona which was repeatedly raided by Vikings. The site was a former Irish hill fort. In 814, Cellach, Abbot of Iona, retired to Kells. The monastery is famous for it's Round Tower and Celtic High Crosses.

The Book of Kells was written here in the 9th century. The title page of St. Mathew's Gospel in the Book of Kells shown above, is presumed to be from around 800. The elaborate ornamental "carpet" design was influenced by early Islamic examples, brought from Syria by a monk, who became shipwrecked near Kells.
Photos Wikipedia

Visigoth and Mozarab Spain
7th-9th century

For a general discussion see Wikipedia

Spain, San Martín de Montalbán, Santa María de Melque
7th cent

Interior with Visigoth/Mozarab arches. Photo by Shenkaros, Panoramio

The church stands out as exemplary Mozarabic-Visigoth architecture, the most important religious monument of the Early Middle Ages in Spain.

Santa María de Melque came into being as a monastic complex in the 7th and 8th centuries inside of what was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom, Toledo. Construction commenced in the 7th century, coinciding with the end of the Visigothic kingdom, and probably came to a halt with the arrival of the Arabs, only to be continued later. Melque could have been at first a mausoleum, destined as a burial place of a distinguished personage from Toledo's Visigothic Kingdom. The church was later redesigned on at least two occasions.
More: Wikipedia

Spain, Campillo, San Pedro de la Nave

Photo by vacceos, Panoramio

The church foundation goes back to the reign of Ergica, having been built between 680 and the Muslim conquest of Spain in 711; San Pedro de la Nave is thus another example of the last Visigothic church buildings.

Originally the church was sited on the banks of the river Esla, but, when the Ricobayo dam was built, it was moved to avoid submersion in the higher waters of the Esla. Thanks to the efforts of Manuel Gómez-Moreno, it was decided that the church would be moved stone by stone to its current location. This operation was carried out in 1930-32, under the direction of the architect Alejandro Ferrant Vázquez. - The church's first design corresponded to a Greek cross in plan, although later two lateral naves were added, which gave it a hybrid shape between basilical and cruciform.

Italy, Lombard Architecture
Northern Italy: 568-774, Southern Italy: 10th-11th centuries

The term Lombard architecture refers to the architecture of the Kingdom of the Lombards in Italy, which lasted from 568 to 774 (with residual permanence in southern Italy) and which was commissioned by Lombard kings and dukes.

When they arrived in Italy (Suebi) in the late 6th century, the Lombards had no architectural tradition of their own. They thus relied on local workforce, taking advantage of the presence of organizations and guilds capable of high level works, which had been kept alive thanks to the relative survival of the urban civilization in Italy after the fall of the Western Roman Empire (differently from most of contemporary Christian western Europe).

The architectural works of the Lombards in northern Italy (Langobardia Maior) have been mostly lost due to later renovations or reconstructions, the few exceptions including the Lombard Temple at Cividale del Friuli or the church of Santa Maria fuori Portas at Castelseprio. More examples have survived in southern Italy (Langobardia minor), especially in what was the Duchy of Benevento: they include the city's walls, the church of Santa Sofia and the Rocca dei Rettori, one of the few surviving Lombard military structures, as well as other minor sites near Benevento and in the former duchy of Spoleto.

Italy, Benevento, Lombard Church of Santa Sophia

In southern Italy (Langobardia minor), still partly under effective Lombard domination, architecture followed original lines until the conquest by the Normans in the 11th century. This unity is shown in particular by the most important Lombard edifice in what was Langobardia Minor, the church of Santa Sofia at Benevento: built in the 8th century, it follows the same pattern of Santa Maria in Pertica with an elevated central body, although mitigated by Byzantine elements such as the articulations of the volumes and the basic structure itself, perhaps inspired by Hagia Sofia at Constantinople

Interior of the chiesa di Santa Sofia in Benevento, Lombardia. Photo thais.it 

The church was founded by the Lombard Arechis II of Benevento around 760, as testified by numerous privileges signed by him, some of which are in the Museum of Samnium near the church. The edifice was modeled on the Palatine Chapel of the Lombard king Liutprand in Pavia and, after the defeat of Desiderius by Charlemagne and the fall of the Lombard kingdom in northern Italy (774), it became the national church of the Lombards who had taken shelter in the Duchy of Benevento. The church was part of a large program of construction which would legitimate Arechis' claim as the principal Lombard authority, after his failed attempt to acquire the title of king and the renaming of the duchy as a principality.

Arechis dedicated it to St. Sophia, after the Haghia Sophia basilica in Constantinople; he also annexed a Benedictine female convent, a dependance of the Abbey of Montecassino and led by his sister Gariperga. The sanctuary also housed the relics of Saint Mercurius abandoned in 633 near Quintodecimo by the eastern Roman emperor Constans II.

Carolingian Architecture

Carolingian architecture is a northern European Pre-Romanesque style belonging to the period of the Carolingian Renaissance of the late 8th and 9th centuries, when Charlemagne dominated western Europe politically. It was a conscious attempt to emulate Roman architecture and to that end it borrowed heavily from Early Christian and Byzantine architecture, though there are nonetheless innovations of its own, resulting in a unique character.

Most notable examples some of which will appear in chronological order further on:
St. Gallen Abbey, monastic complex (613, 8th-9th cent.)
Benedictine Convent of Saint John, Val Müstair, Graubünden (780-9th cent)
Lorsch Abbey, gateway, (c.800)
Palatine Chapel in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) (792-805)
St. Ursmar's Collegiate church in Lobbes, Belgium (819-823)
St. Michael, Fulda, rotunda and crypt (822)
Einhard's Basilica, Steinbach (827)
Saint Justinus' church, Frankfurt-Höchst (830)
Abbey of Corvey (885)
St. George, Oberzell on Reichenau Island (888)

Switzerland, Monastery St. Gallen
613, 8th-9th cent, Baroque interior 17th cent

St Gallen, the 17th-century Baroque interior, Photos Wikipedia

The monastery was founded in 613 and named after Gallus, an Irishman. St.Gallen became one of the most important Carolingian study centeres. In 740 St. Gall's famous library was estanlished. Numerous Anglo-Saxon and Irish monks came to copy manuscripts. At Charlemagne's request Pope Adrian I sent distinguished chanters from Rome, who propagated the use of the Gregorian chant. Today the library at the Abbey is considered one of the richest medieval libraries in the world.

Plan of the early Carolingian abbey 816-830

A floor plan of the original Carolingian Benedictine abbey is preserved. During the late 17th cent the 9th cent church was replaced by an early Baroque wonder.

Germany, Lorsch, Carolingian Benedictine Abbey

The Königshalle, 9th cent, p
hoto thaïs.it

The Abbey of Lorsch is a former Imperial Abbey in Lorsch, Germany, about 10 km east of Worms, one of the most renowned monasteries of the Carolingian Empire. Even in its ruined state, its remains are among the most important pre-Romanesque–Carolingian style buildings in Germany.

The abbey was founded in 764 by the Frankish Count Cancor and his widowed mother Williswinda as a proprietary church (Eigenkirche) and monastery on their estate, Laurissa.

The “Königshalle”,the entrance hall, (illustrated above), built in the ninth century by Emperor Louis III (880-928) is one of the most beautiful monuments of Carolingian architecture.

Germany, Aachen, Aix-en-Chapelle, Imperial Capella Palatina
792-805, 1414

The Carolingian Octagon with the later Gothic choir in the background
photo Wikipedia

Charles the Great (Charlemagne) began the construction of the Palatine Chapel around 792, along with the construction of the imperial palace structures. It was consecrated in 805 by Pope Leo III in honour of the Virgin Mary. Extensively renovated in the 10th century it was restored in 1881. The core, the octagonal center of the cathedral was the Carolingian Palatine Chapel. It is reminicent of San Vitale in Ravenna.

Floorplan of the Chapel with later additions

In order to sustain the enormous flow of pilgrims in the Gothic period a choir was added: a two-part Capella vitrea (glass chapel) which was consecrated 1414 on the 600th anniversary of Charlemagne's death.

Aachen Cathedral, the "Imperial Cathedral" (Kaiserdom), is the prime monument of the Carolingian period. It was known as the "Royal Church of St. Mary at Aachen" during the Middle Ages. For 600 years, from 936 to 1531, the Aachen chapel was the church of coronation for 30 German kings and 12 queens.
Text and plan Wikipedia

France, St. Germiny-des-Pres, l'Oratoire

The small, plain church incorporates at its east end one of the few surviving buildings from the Carolingian Renaissance, a tiny, perfectly formed church in the shape of a Greek cross. It was built in 806 as a private oratory for Theodulf, who was one of Charlemagne's counselors as well as bishop of Orléans and abbot of St-Benoît. Theodulf was a Visigoth, while the chapel itself is a typically Carolingian design, its unique mosaic in the dome of the eastern chapel points to Byzantine influences – at the height of the Iconoclast controversy!.

The mosaic in Theodulf's private Oratory,
JMZ-2007, Panoramio

JMZ, who lives near St. Germiny-de-Pres, wites in a private communication: "The writing in silver letters under the mosaïc says in Latin: 'Behold the Holy Oracle and Cherubims and contemplate the shining Arc of the Covenant with God. Then, seeing this, I beg you to join the name of Theodulf to your prayers to the Master of Thunder.' - The origin of this motive is not clear and we lack written evidence. Archeological findings of fragments of other mosaics nearby suggest that the decorative program of this chapel was related to the Temple of king Solomon. Theodulf was of Wisigothic descent. He may have had more likely links with Mozarabic artists or Sefardic Jews of the Ummayad 'Al-Andalus' emirate of Cordoba in Spain than with the remote Byzantine East, but that's simply a supposition of mine."

The uniqueness of this mosaic lies in its subject: the Old Testament Ark of the Jewish Covenant (Josh. 3:6; Hebrews 9:4) ! - even the two angels were included in the composition. - does not seem to exist anywhere else - obviously not in Jewish synagogues neither in Christian churches. Yet JMZ's suggestion of a connection to Al-Andalus is not without reason:
Theodulf was born into an aristocratic family around 750 in Visigothic Spain, but fled north as a young man during the Moorish invasions. He became one of Charlemagne's most trusted counselors and a major figure in the Carolingian royal court.
Sacred Destinations

Germany, Fulda, St. Michael

The octagonal center of the church, photo flickr

Octagonal St. Michael Church in Fulda was built in the Carolingian style (Pre-Romanesque) on behalf of abbot Eigil in the years 820 - 822. It served as a burial chapel to Fulda monastery founded in 744, which was one of the prominent cultural centres of the early Middle Ages. The architect was probably the monk Racholf (d. 824). The rotunda and crypt remain preserved from this time.

Germany, Corvey Benedictine Monastery

Crypt of the Corvey Benedictine Abbey Church 822 – 844
Photo thais.it/architettura/romanica/

Corvey Abbey was first founded in 815 among the recently converted Saxons on a site called Hethis by Charlemagne's cousins Wala and Adelard, with monks from Corbie Abbey in Picardy. Under the joint patronage of Emperor Louis the Pious and the abbot of the older foundation, whence the new one derived its name (Latin: Corbeia nova, the "new Corbie").

In 822 the monastery was reconstructed on the present site near the banks of the river Weser. It became "one of the most privileged Carolingian monastic establishments in the ninth-century Duchy of Saxony". A mint was authorized as early as 833 though surviving coins date from the early eleventh century. The site of the abbey, where the east-west route called the Hellweg crossed the Weser, accounted for some strategic importance and assured its economic and cultural importance. The abbey's historian H. H. Kaminsky estimates that the royal entourage visited Corvey at least 110 times before 1073, occasions for the issuance of charters.

Germany Steinbach, Einhard's Basilica

"Einhard's Basilica" in Steinbach 824-827

The Einhardsbasilika in Steinbach, a suburb of Michelstadt in the Hessian Odenwald, is a church from the 9th Century. The well-preserved basilica is considered an extraordinary building. Its largely preserved Carolingian masonry in the nave, chancel and the north side of the crypt, makes it one of the best examples of Carolingian architecture in Germany. Its name refers to its builder Einhard, the biographer of Charlemagne and counsellor of Louis the Pious
Restored to its original condition 2006-2010
Wikipedia.de in German

Germany, Frankfurt-Höchst, St. Justinius
~ 830

The Carolingian nave (~830) and the Baroque altar (18th cent).
Photo Michael König, Panoramio

The original church was a six-bay basilica with three apses at the east end. The entrance was originally at the west end of the central nave, but is now on the north side of the church. The aisle windows have been replaced, and late gothic chapels were added on the north side. Also the side apses were removed following the alterations.

Of the Carolingian work that has survived are the central nave with small clerestory windows, the flat ceiling, the aisles, and the two sets of five columns with Corinthian capitals, which belong to the most important works of Carolingian art

Germany Reichenau Oberzell, St. Georg

The Reichenau is an island in Lake Constance. During the 8th century a monastic center was establiched in Mittelzell, which became a powerhouse of European art and scholarship, especially in painting. In the 9 th-10 th cent. three churches were built at Oberzell, Mittelzell, and Niederzell, of which St. George in Oberzell is the oldest. All three have been restored during the last 80 years.

The church at Oberzell
Late Carolingian St. Georg is the earliest of the three churches on Reichenau Island, with rich Romansque frescoes from the 10th cen

Frescoes in the nave: Scenes from the Life of Christ, 10th cent.
Photo by ochmann

France, Abbaye de Cluny, 910

Photo by yves_grau, Panoramio

The Abbaye de Cluny was founded in 910 by William I, Count of the Auvergne, who installed Abbot Berno and placed the abbey under the immediate authority of Pope Sergius III.

The Benedictine Order was a keystone to the stability that European society achieved in the 11th century, and partly owing to the stricter adherence to a reformed Benedictine rule, Cluny became the acknowledged leader of western monasticism from the later 10th century on. A sequence of highly competent abbots of Cluny were statesmen on an international stage. The monastery of Cluny itself became the grandest, most prestigious, and best endowed monastic institution in Europe. The height of Cluniac influence was from the second half of the 10th century through the early 12th. The Abbey was sacked and mostly destroyed in 1790 by a mob of French revolutionaries. Only a small part of the original remains.

Ottonian Architecture

Germany, Cologne, St. Pantaleon
Ottonian, 970-980

West façade of St. Pantaleon (972), photo Wikipedia

The Church of St. Pantaleon dates back to the 10th century and is one the twelve Romanesque churches of Cologne. The former monastery church iwas consecrated to Saint Pantaleon and the Saints Cosmas and Damian and is the oldest church of the cult of Saint Pantaleon west of Byzantium.

A Roman villa originally occupied the hill, just outside Roman Cologne, on which the church stands. Remains of this villa are still visible in the church crypt. The villa was replaced with a church around 870, and in 955 Archbishop Bruno the Great (brother of Emperor Otto the Great) added a Benedictine abbey. Here, Bruno was buried after his death. In 966 work was begun on a new church to serve the monastery. The church was consecrated in 980.

Holy Roman Empress Theophano, a Byzantine princess who was married to Emperor Otto II in 972, ordered the construction of the current façade and was also buried in the church at her own request.
Text and photo Wikipedia

Spain, Asturias
Oviedo, 9 th cent.

The palaces and churches in the surroundings of Oviedo provide eminent testimony to the civilization of the small Christian Kingdom of Asturias during the splendour of the Emirate of Cordoba. Pre-Romanesque Asturian architecture represents a unique artistic achievement which is neither a metamorphosis of palaeo-Christian art nor a feature of Carolingian art. These churches, which are basilical in layout and entirely vaulted, and which make use of columns instead of piers, have very rich decors which contain Visigothic references, Arabic elements, and shapes that associate them with the great sanctuaries of Asia Minor. Asturian monuments have exerted a decisive influence on the development of medieval architecture on the Iberian peninsula.
UNESCO Citation

Oviedo San Julian de los Prados 812 -842

Photo vcespon, Panoramio 

The church is not the oldest but perhaps the most interesting of the 4 early Romanesque churches in Oviedo. It has a basilican plan with a nave and two aisles separated by square piers which support semi-circular arches and with a transept of impressive height. An iconostasis separates the sanctuary from the rest of the church. The size and originality of the church stands out and distinguishes it from other works of Visigothic art.

Most interesting are its aniconic frescoes – Spanish Iconoclast designs - painted in three layers, architectural decorations that like the iconostasis reflect Eastern Roman influences.

.Oviedo, Santa Maria del Naranco 842

Photo wikipedia

The building was ordered by Ramiro I built as a palace, being finished in the year 842 AD, as part of a building complex that also included the nearby church of San Miguel de Lillo, erected just a hundred meters away. It was consecrated as a church in the 13th cent

Oviedo,.San Miguel de Lillo 842-848

Photo margoban, Panoramio

The two religious establishments on the southern side of the Naranco, Santa María del Naranco and San Miguel, were built during the harsh reign of Ramiro I (842-50). It is not known why he chose to locate these some miles outside the capital of his predecessor. The contribution of Alfonso III, last and greatest of the Asturian kings (866-910), was the construction of a fortress to the north-east, outside the walls. Below the castle, in a quarter known from its location as Socastiello, was the Jewish quarter in late medieval times.

On the death of Alfonso, the Royal court moved to León and Oviedo lost its important royal connections. However, it continued to hold a high place in religious and ecclesiastical affairs, rivalling Santiago de Compostela as a place of pilgrimage. It also attracted a number of Frankish immigrants, to such an extent that two separate jurisdictions were set up, one for the Castilian and the other for the Frankish part of the population. This connection with south-western France continued throughout the Middle Ages (see St. Germiny-de-Pres).

Mozarab Northern Spain,
10th century

The Mozarabs were Iberian Christians who lived under Arab Islamic rule in Al-Andalus. Their descendants remained unconverted to Islam, but did adopt elements of Arabic language and culture. They were mostly Roman Catholics of the Visigothic or Mozarabic Rite.

Most of the Mozarabs were descendants of Hispano–Gothic Christians and were primarily speakers of the Mozarabic language. Many were also what the arabist Mikel de Epalza calls "Neo-Mozarabs", that is Northern Europeans who had come to the Iberian Peninsula and picked up Arabic, thereby entering the Mozarabic community.

Spain, Escalada, San Miguel

Photo thais.it/architettura/romanica/ 

Following a period of Arab sovereignty, the Asturian King, Alfonso III conquered the region of Leon. The Mozarabic church at San Miguel de Escalada was commissioned in 913 under the rule of Alfonso's son, Garcia. This brick and masonry church features a basilica plan with its central nave partitioned from the two side aisles and the apse by colonnades of horseshoe arches. The Asturian Corinthian capitals and possibly Roman or Visigothic columns may already have been in situ.

Spain, Jaca, Monastery San Juan de la Peña

The ruined cloisters. Photo by Gerhard Tinhof, Panoramio 

The monastery of San Juan de la Peña was one of the most important monasteries in Aragon in the Middle Ages. Its two-level church is partially carved in the stone of the great cliff that overhangs the foundation. San Juan de la Peña means "Saint John of the Cliff".

The lower church includes surviving mozarabic architectural elements, although most of the parts of the monastery (including the impressive cloister, under the great rock) are Romanesque. After a fire in 1675, a new monastery was built. The old monastery (920) was declared a National Monument on 13 July 1889, and the new monastery in 1923. In the 11th century the monastery became part of the Benedictine Order and was the first monastery in Spain to use the Latin Mass.

The cloister, built ca. 1190, contains a series of capitals with Biblical scenes that originally were arranged in chronological sequence, a design found elsewhere in the region.

Spain, San Cebrián de Mazote
Mozarab before 915

Interior, photo forociudad.com

The church near Valladolid, impeccably restored 1932-34, is one of the most beautiful examples of Mozarab architecture in Northern Spain. Built during the Reconquista before 915 by Christian refugees from El Andalus. It has three naves and, like in Santiago de Penalta, two opposing altar niches in the main nave. Teh naves are separted be Corinthian collumns with horsshoe arches.

Unfortunately all descriptions, e.g.Wikipedia, are in untranslatable Spanish. I attach a plan, which describes the building better than I could.

Plan from jdiezarnal.com

Spain, Ponferrada, Santiago de Peñalba
Mozarab 937

The Mozarab horsshoe arch separting eastern from the western nave of the church

The church of Santiago is the only remnant of a monastery founded by St. Gennadius in the tenth century (909-916), who retired there when he resigned the bishopric of Astorga. The church was built by his successor, Abbot Solomon in the year 937, to hold the remains of St. Gennadius.

The church was consecrated in 1105 and it as the tomb of St. Gennadius. He was buried in the western anti-apse of the church, but in the sixteenth century the Duchess of Alba carried his remains to Villafranca and later to Valladolid.

It is built on a Latin cross plan, consisting of a rectangular nave with opposing apses and two side chapels or vestries, which constitute a Latin cross. The nave is divided into two halves separated by a large horseshoe arch on columns with Corinthian capitals. The two naves have different elevation heights. It is buttressed outside with large slabs slanted to drain water without causing leaks. They serve the function of balancing the side chapels and the naves of the church. The building measures 18 meters by 5 meters. The floor of the church is the original slate base.
Photo and text jdiezarnal

Spain, Montbui, Santa Maria de la Tossa

The church of La Tossa, Montbui

The Pre-Romanesque church of the ninth and tenth centuries is one of the most interesting in Catalonia. It is a basilica and consists of three naves covered with barrel vaults, slightly horseshoe shaped and sustained by rectangular pillars in the western part of the church and cylindrical columns elsewhere. The sanctuary is closed by three semicircular apses, added later that contain Lombard arches outside. The condition is excellent.

Interior of the church. Photos castells, picasaweb

The East II

Turkey, Lake Van, Akhtamar, Church of the Holy Cross

The church on its island and the south shore of Lake Van

The Church of the Holy Cross on Akhtamar Island was a medieval cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church, built as a palatine church for the kings of Vaspurakan and later serving as the seat of the Armenian Catholicosate of Akhtamar.

The architecture of the church is based on a form that had been developed in Armenia several centuries earlier; the best-known example being that of the seventh century St. Hripsime church in Echmiadzin.

The story of Jonas and the King of Niniveh

David and the Goliath

The unique are the extensive array of bas-relief carvings of mostly biblical scenes that adorn its external walls.
Photos RWFG

Armenia, Sanhin and Haghpat Monasteries

Sanahin Monastery, Haghpat in the background, photo Panoramio

The monasteries are situated in the north of Armenia, in the Tumanian district. Sanahin is now within the limits of Alaverdi city, and Haghpat is to the north-east of it, in the village of the same name. Standing on a high plateau, amidst low structures, they rise sharp against the background of steep forest-grown slopes of Bazum ridge. The ensembles are complemented by small churches built near them.

The exact date of the foundation of Sanahin and Haghpat is unknown. Documentary evidence and monuments of material culture suggest that they date to the middle of the 10th century. The formation of the Tashir-Dzoraget kingdom of the Kyurikids in 979 and the great attention paid to Sanahin and Haghpat by various rulers of Armenia and their vassals favored the construction of many religious and civil structures there. In these monasteries, especially in Sanahin, humanitarian sciences and medicine were studied, scientific treatises written and paintings, most miniatures, created.

Turkey, Eastern Anatolia, Ruins of Ani
10th-13th cent

Ani is a ruined and uninhabited medieval Armenian city-site situated in the Turkish province of Kars.

Plan of Ani, Wikipedia

Ani was once a rich and important city on the Silk Road. Ani was first destroyed by the Selçuks in the 11th, a second time by Timur Tamerlane in the 13th century, finally an earthquake leveled it for good. In between it was for a while the capital of the Armenian kings, and the Armenians still consider "the City of a Hundred Churches" their holy shrine. Since the Russo-Turkish war of 1918 and especially in the 1960s it had been inaccessible to foreigners. For the first time in 1990 one could visit it on one's own without a military escort.

Gagik's Church of St. Gregory (1000)

Interior Ani Cathedral

St. Gregory of the Abughamrents (980)
photos RWFG

Largely unexcavated and badly neglected, there is not much to see. On a triangular plateau between two rivers covered with rubble three churches — easily identified by their careful masonry as Armenian — are still standing.
More: Wikipedia