Romanesque and Gothic Architecture Essay Sample

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The Romanesque Culture (c.a.10th-12th centuries) began with the rise of France and England, after the period known as “The Dark Ages”. This rise would also be credited to the rise Romanesque church achitecture and sculpture. Romanesque churches were escalated in scale and based on the earlier Roman basilicas plans, which relied on the basic Roman elements of round arches, vaulted ceilings, columns and piers for support, and thick, heavy walls. These dynamic churches had large arched doorways and small arched windows that provided very limited light. The style was to show the wealth and power of the church.

The main purpose for this style of church was for the pilgrimages, which the people of this late medieval period, would go on and travel to the different locations to worship religious relics that were thought to have miraculous powers with connections to the saints, Jesus and Mary, or parts of their bodies. The churches would serve the pilgrimages as a place of worship and show of faith, in addition to, a place for social mingling between the people of different customs and cultures. Romanesque architecture would be the forbearer from what would become the Gothic Era and Gothic architecture for the churches.

The Gothic Era (c.a. 12th-14th centuries) gave rise to the Early Gothic and High Gothic architecture. During this period, there would be drastic change in the structural engineering of the churches throughout England, France, Germany, and Italy. The structural modernizations for this new style of building churches would be to change the rounded arches of the Romanesque style to pointed arches and vaults with ribs to exert less lateral thrust and concentrate the weight of the vault at certain points. This allowed the builders to increase the height and replace the walls with stained glass, which illuminated the inside of these new cathedral style churches. Flying buttresses were also introduced to the Gothic style architecture to reinforce walls because of the lateral thrust of a true vault. These flying buttresses were constructed on the exterior of the building with the arch pointing outward without obstructing the stained glass windows.

With the increased influence of the Roman Catholic Church, the height and size of the Gothic style churches would increase, to include an increase in sculptures and design on the outside of the buildings, whereas, the Romanesque style churches would have relatively plain square structure style and very limited sculptures over the doorways. The Gothic cathedral style buildings increasingly grew larger, higher, and brighter throughout the Gothic era and gave the impression that they were reaching to the heavens. These large and high churches were indicators of the wealth and stability of the economies where they were built and were location markers for the cities because they could be seen for miles away.

For this assignment, a comparison of three churches from the Romanesque, Early Gothic, and High Gothic/English Perpendicular periods will be discussed to show how the architecture styles differ from each other. The Pisa Cathedral Group, Pisa, Italy will represent the Romanesque period; The Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, England will represent the Early Gothic period; and the Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy will represent the High Gothic period.

The images (provided by Images) of the three different styles of architectures’ will clearly be noticeable, the Romanesque architecture of the Pisa Cathedral Group, Pisa, Italy distinctly shows the round arches used for the entrances and the smaller round arches where the limited amount of windows are located. The Romanesque style of the building has a square form to the structure with very little sculptures and designs on the outside of the building. The building was designed this way to support the massive weight of the walls and ceilings, especially the bell tower.

The Early Gothic architecture of the Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, England clearly shows the changes in the designs made to the cathedral churches during the Early Gothic era. The pointed arches can be seen in the doorways and the huge stain glass windows of the building, along with the increased use of sculptures and designs on the outside faces of the walls. The Salisbury Cathedral shows the increase in the height of the Early Gothic architecture and complexity of the building design compared to the Romanesque architecture from an earlier period. Although the ribbed vaults and flying buttresses can’t be seen in the picture, this style of architecture was revolutionary to the middle ages, which allowed the structures to be built with lighter material and allow for large stain glass windows to be installed to aluminate the inside of the church. The High Gothic architecture of the Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy is a similar to the Early Gothic Salisbury Cathedral, but on a grander scale.

It has all of the typical Gothic architecture, but with more elaborate designs and sculptures and clearly much larger and higher. The attention to detail is remarkable and intriguing, almost to the point of the feeling of entering the gates of heaven. The flying buttresses can be depicted clearly in the outside design around the many spires coming up from the top of the cathedral, which only adds to the elegance of the structure. A top the main spire of the cathedral is a baroque gilded bronze statue of the famous “Madonnina”. This High Gothic Cathedral unmistakably represents the wealth and the stability of the economics of this city and surrounding communities. In conclusion, the people of the middle ages needed some type of inspiration to rebuild their civilizations after the “Dark Ages” nearly wiped out half of the population in Europe. The Romanesque period helped re-emersion of the Roman Catholic Church within Europe and led the people back to their religion through pilgrimages. The increase of the population within the churches would ultimately influence church engineers to redesign the structures of the buildings and create a new style of building called Gothic architecture.


A. Martindale, . (1995). A history of the Gothic period of Art and Architecture. In History WorldInternational: Gothic Art And Architecture. Retrieved May 11, 2015, from Benton, J. R., & DiYanni, R. (2012). Arts and Culture, An Introduction to The Humanities(Fourth ed., Vols. 1 – 2, pp. 242-265). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. Yahoo Images of the Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy (n.d.). In Retrieved May 10,2015 from Yahoo Images of the Pisa Cathedral Group, Pisa, Italy (n.d.). In Retrieved May 10,2015 from Yahoo Images of the Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, England (n.d.). In RetrievedMay 10, 2015 from

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