Sacred Sunday: 11th-13th Century Romanesque Christian Stone Carvings

Raising of Lazarus c. 1080 Marble Cathedral, Chichester. The influence of illumination on Romanesque sculpture in England is considerable, which is explained by the importance of royal and episcopal patronage. Among the most compelling works for their dramatic intensity are the fragments of a choir screen at Chichester Cathedral, with scenes from the life of Lazarus.

Raising of Lazarus
c. 1080
Marble
Cathedral, Chichester.
The influence of illumination on Romanesque sculpture in England is considerable, which is explained by the importance of royal and episcopal patronage. Among the most compelling works for their dramatic intensity are the fragments of a choir screen at Chichester Cathedral, with scenes from the life of Lazarus.

Romanesque art and architecture flourished throughout western Europe from about 1050 to about 1200, although its first manifestations occurred before the year 1000, and its influence remained strong in some areas of Europe well into the 13th century. Unlike Carolingian art and architecture and Ottonian art and architecture, from which it drew many forms and elements, Romanesque was a truly pan-European movement.

By the beginning of the 11th century, European civilization had become stable and prosperous under the aegis of the Christian church, through whose network of abbeys the new artistic order was established and spread. An unprecedented building activity stimulated the development of innovative architectural techniques and styles, which in turn demanded new forms of pictorial and sculptural decoration.

Most Romanesque churches retained the basic plan of the Early Christian basilica: a long, three-aisled nave intercepted by a transept and terminating in a semicircular apse crowned by a conch, or half-dome.  Whereas Early Christian structures employed thin, flat walls to support thin roofs and wooden ceilings, however, the masonry structure of Romanesque churches assumed far more complicated configurations, in which heavy piers and arched openings divide the interior into well-defined spatial areas, while large masses of clearly separated geometric forms impart to the exterior an aura of grandeur and power.

The greatest breakthrough of Romanesque architecture, however, occurred in interior vaulting.  Groin vaults had long been used in the lower side-aisles of the nave, but the thin walls of pre-Romanesque churches could support only wooden ceilings and roofs.  By redesigning and reinforcing the walls, Romanesque builders were able to span the wide and often lofty nave with a solid barrel vault and thus create completely vaulted structures.

After the fall (AD 476) of the Roman Empire the practice of decorating buildings with large reliefs ceased for almost 600 years. The revival of monumental relief sculpture as a major form of art is one of the outstanding achievements of the Romanesque period. Often highly stylized and at times verging on the abstract, Romanesque reliefs were used chiefly to embellish the church portals.

Raising of Lazarus (detail) c. 1080 Stone Cathedral, Chichester

Raising of Lazarus (detail)
c. 1080
Stone
Cathedral, Chichester

The dating of the two reliefs at Chichester representing the Raising of Lazarus (above) and Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (below) depends on whether they considered post-Norman-conquest works, or typically Saxon. The approximate date of 1080, suggested by some English historians, has the merit of taking into account the Saxon as well as the French elements in this Norman work. On the other hand, several authorities believe the panels to have been executed as late as the 12th century, while yet others place them as early as the middle Saxon period. The decidedly expressionistic style of the emaciated, angular face suggests an attribution to a Saxon sculptor.

Meeting of Christ, Mary and Martha 1120-25 Stone Cathedral, Chichester. There are two reliefs in Chichester Cathedral in Sussex which originally were part of the rood screen. One of them shows the meeting of Christ, Mary and Martha in front of the gates of Bethany, and the other shows the raising of Lazarus. The choir of Chichester Cathedral was consecrated in 1108. The rood screen and the reliefs were created somewhat later.

Meeting of Christ, Mary and Martha
1120-25
Stone
Cathedral, Chichester.
There are two reliefs in Chichester Cathedral in Sussex which originally were part of the rood screen. One of them shows the meeting of Christ, Mary and Martha in front of the gates of Bethany, and the other shows the raising of Lazarus. The choir of Chichester Cathedral was consecrated in 1108. The rood screen and the reliefs were created somewhat later.

Raising of Lazarus 1120-25 Stone Cathedral, Chichester.

Raising of Lazarus
1120-25
Stone
Cathedral, Chichester.

Console figure c. 1150 Stone Church of St Mary and St David, Kilpeck.

Console figure
c. 1150
Stone
Church of St Mary and St David, Kilpeck.

In Romanesque sculpture, the demonization of sexuality in the depiction of the sexual organs is visually crude to the point of grotesque distortion. One of the most exceptional depictions of a vulva woman is in Kilpeck, England.

The figure is steeply foreshortened and its head is not female as much as demonic; her arms are folded underneath her legs, and she is using her hands to open and display her vulva. This depiction, called a “Sheela-na-gig,” meaning “ugly as sin,” had some counterparts in Romanesque sculpture. These graphic depictions of female genitalia do in fact date back to the Stone Age and can be found in many Asian countries.

Lion Taking a Lamb c. 1140 Stone Monastery Church, Mariental.

Lion Taking a Lamb
c. 1140
Stone
Monastery Church, Mariental.

The picture shows a Romanesque sculpture in the twelth-century monastery church in Mariental near Helmstedt. It depicts a lion as a persecutor of the Good, taking a lamb.

Devil Noting down Man's Sins c. 1210 Limestone Minster of St Martin, Bonn

Devil Noting down Man’s Sins
c. 1210
Limestone
Minster of St Martin, Bonn

Devil appears noting down man’s sins on the stone side wall of a choir stall in the Minster of St Martin, the former collegiate church of St Cassius and St Florentinus in Bonn (North Rhein-Wesphalia). The same choir stall contains an angel noting down man’s good deeds (below).

Angel Noting down Man's Good Deeds c. 1210 Limestone Minster of St Martin, Bonn

Angel Noting down Man’s Good Deeds
c. 1210
Limestone
Minster of St Martin, Bonn

Two Apostles 1210-20 Stone Cathedral, Bamberg

Two Apostles
1210-20
Stone
Cathedral, Bamberg

The choir screen of Bamberg Cathedral is decorated with a series of prophets and apostles in a late Romanesque style, executed before the dedication in 1237. The apostles dispute, two by two, in a succession of niches, the earlier pairs standing under arches that are still semicircular, the later under trefoil arches.

Although Germany has little feeling for monumentality, these apostles carry on the Ottonian traditions inspired by antiquity. The thick-set sturdy bodies are revealed by the curving folds which emphasize the bodily forms. In the broad modelling and the expressive pathos given the faces, the apostles are close to Roman models.

Head of the Prophet Jonah 1210s Stone Cathedral, Bamberg

Head of the Prophet Jonah
1210s
Stone
Cathedral, Bamberg

This image of the prophet Jonah on the choir screen in the Bamberg Cathedral is one of the finest examples of German statuary in the first quarter of the 13th century. The square head with shaven skull, the gathered brows, the intense, haunted glance, and the half-open mouth, forcefully convey the prophet’s tension and dramatic vision.

Compared with Bamberg sculptures from the Gothic workshops that began to operate around 1230, the statues on the choir screen display their Romanesque inspiration in their drapery, and it is clear that when the Gothic style was imported into Bamberg it found there a still-flourishing Romanesque art.

The Apostle Peter 1100 Stone Saint-Pierre, Moissac

The Apostle Peter
1100
Stone
Saint-Pierre, Moissac

In technique and in general iconography the apostles in the Moissac cloister are closely akin to those in the ambulatory of Saint Sernin, but they are stronger and more vigorous in style. The pier is conceived as a stele, and the standing figure, completely incorporated into its support, is confined within the spatial framework of the arched niche. The face seen in profile is more realistic in effect than the frontal visage of the apostle from Saint Sernin; and here the apostle’s attributes are clearly shown.

The Prophet Isaiah 1120-35 Stone relief. height 176 cm Abbey Church of Sainte-Marie, Souillac

The Prophet Isaiah
1120-35
Stone relief. height 176 cm
Abbey Church of Sainte-Marie, Souillac

This relief is on the interior west wall of the former abbey church of Sainte-Marie in Souillac. The figure of the prophet, pulsating with powerful plastic life, embodies a maximum of what Romanesque art was capable of producing in high relief. The direct model of the figure is that of Jeremiah on the south portal of Saint-Pierre at Moissac.

Tribune for the choir 1150s Marble Church of Notre-Dame, Serrabone

Tribune for the choir
1150s
Marble
Church of Notre-Dame, Serrabone

In the tribune of Serrabone we find Corinthian heritage with varied monsters and animals whose bodies are bent around the corners of the capital. The gallery, roofed with groined vaults resting on columns with capitals, displays a façade on which the evangelist symbols are represented.

Interior 1066-90 Stone San Martín, Frómista

Interior
1066-90
Stone
San Martín, Frómista

The church of San Martín in Frómista (Province of Palencia), started in 1066, is one of the important churches with architectural sculpture built by the royal families of Léon, Castile and Aragón in the second half of the eleventh century. These churches display a wide spectrum of self-contained Spanish sculpture.

The picture shows a detail of the interior with half-columns between the nave and the side aisle.

Console figure 1085-90 Stone San Martín, Frómista

Console figure
1085-90
Stone
San Martín, Frómista

In Romanesque sculpture, the demonization of sexuality in the depiction of the sexual organs is visually crude to the point of grotesque distortion. In one site in San Martín in Frómista (Province of Palencia) is a phallus man, whose penis has been drastically extended to the thickness of his arm.

Statues at the springing of the vaults 1150-75 Stone Old Cathedral, Salamanca

Statues at the springing of the vaults
1150-75
Stone
Old Cathedral, Salamanca

The capitals of Old Salamanca cathedral and the statues under the dome are elegant creations, whose Romanesque maturity reflects the considered assimilation of the production of Burgundy, Aquitaine, and Italy, and the whole tradition of regional sculpture.

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Sacred Sunday: 12th Century Mosaics in San Clemente, Rome

Interior view 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Interior view
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

The present church of San Clemente was constructed to replace the Early Christian basilica from the 4th century. It was built by the cardinal and priest of San Clemente, Anastasius, who is documented between 1102 and 1125, and it rises above its predecessors’s centre and left side aisles.

The structure was completed and consecrated around 1118-19. The mosaic decoration of the apse is generally dated to this time. However, recent studies suggest a a considerably later date in the 1130s.

The mosaic in San Clemente was the first great apse mosaic to have been produced in Rome in roughly two hundred years. It incorporated any number of familiar motifs from Early Christian mosaics, but combined them with distinctly medieval pictorial elements to create a new synthesis.

Overall view of the apse 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Overall view of the apse
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

The central motif in the apse mosaic is a Crucifixion, with Mary and John the Evangelist flanking the cross and turned toward it in mourning. The cross is rooted in a large acanthus bush, and in a dark blue clearly stands out against the gold ground. Twelve white doves, pictured in profile, adorn the cross as symbols of the apostles.

The vines leading out from the acanthus bush uncurl into a total of fifty round volutes across the entire surface of the calotte. Four rivers of paradise appear beneath the acanthus bush, two stags drink from them; and various kinds of birds, including peacocks are depicted. All these motifs are derived from Early Christian iconography.

At the outer ends of the base strip stand the familiar depictions of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Twelve lambs emerged from them to flank the Lamb of Christ in friezelike rows.

The mosaic in San Clemente was the first great apse mosaic to have been produced in Rome in roughly two hundred years. It incorporated any number of familiar motifs from Early Christian mosaics, but combined them with distinctly medieval pictorial elements to create a new synthesis.

Apse mosaic (detail) 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Apse mosaic (detail)
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

The church of San Clemente was rebuilt over the buried remnants of the destroyed old basilica on the order of pope Pascal II in 1110. The rich furnishings of the church reflected the formal repertoire of early Christian churches. Many of the erstwhile were integrated in the new project. The mosaic representing the Cross of Life is one of the new works. Its gleaming blue recalls the art of “email”, or baked enamel. Mary and John flank the upright of the cross, at whose foot emerge the four rivers of paradise. Twelve white doves embodying the Apostles perch on the joist and crossbeam.

Apse mosaic (detail) 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Apse mosaic (detail)
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

Apse mosaic (detail) 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Apse mosaic (detail)
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

The cross is rooted in a large acanthus bush, and in a dark blue clearly stands out against the gold ground. Four rivers of paradise appear beneath the acanthus bush, two stags drink from them; and various kinds of birds, including peacocks are depicted.

Apse mosaic (detail) 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Apse mosaic (detail)
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

The vines leading out from the acanthus bush uncurl into a total of fifty round volutes across the entire surface of the calotte. Some of the spandrels between the volutes are filled with small figures. In the lower section these include the Latin church fathers Gregory, Jerome, Augustine and Ambrose, who are identified by name. They are dressed as monks and hold open books. Also strewn among the vine’s branches are numerous birds and other ornamental elements like decorative flowers, oil lamps, baskets of fruit, and vases.

Rural scenes – a woman feeding hens and their chicks, shepherds with their herds of sheep and goat – appear on the strip of ground beyond the peacocks on either side.

Apse mosaic (detail) 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Apse mosaic (detail)
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

Apsidal arch (detail) 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Apsidal arch (detail)
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

In the upper section of the apsidal arch Christ appears as World Ruler in a round aureole. At the bottom of the spandrels the two prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, holding bands of inscription, gaze directly upward at the image of Christ. The picture shows the prophet Isaiah.

Apsidal arch (detail) 1130s Mosaic San Clemente, Rome

Apsidal arch (detail)
1130s
Mosaic
San Clemente, Rome

In the upper section of the apsidal arch Christ appears as World Ruler in a round aureole. Below Christ, Sts Peter and Clement sit enthroned.

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Sacred Sunday: 16th Century Architecture

Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, 1502, by Bramante. This small temple marks the place where St Peter was put to death.

Tempietto di San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, 1502, by Bramante. This small temple marks the place where St Peter was put to death.

By the 15th century, Gothic architecture in Christian building began to give way to a newer design – Renaissance architecture. This new wave of creativity in building design is considered to be the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe. It demonstrated a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, and if you remember your high school art appreciation class, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture.

Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschias one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities. The style was carried to France, Germany, England, Russia and other parts of Europe at different dates and with varying degrees of impact.

Italy of the 15th century, and the city of Florence in particular, was home to the Renaissance. It is in Florence that the new architectural style had its beginning, not slowly evolving in the way that Gothic grew out of Romanesque, but consciously brought to being by particular architects who sought to revive the order of a past “Golden Age”. The scholarly approach to the architecture of the ancient coincided with the general revival of learning. A number of factors were influential in bringing this about.

Chiesa dell'Incoronata: Interior of the dome 1586-88 Photo Piazza Garibaldi, Sabbioneta

Chiesa dell’Incoronata: Interior of the dome
1586-88
Photo
Piazza Garibaldi, Sabbioneta

This church has an octagonal plan and is topped with a dome and contains the bronze mausoleum of Vespasian Gonzaga whom Leone Leoni (1509-1590) made a statue of in bronze, dressed as a Roman emperor.

Galleria degli Antichi: Exterior 1583-84 Photo Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Exterior
1583-84
Photo
Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Interior 1583-84 Photo Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Galleria degli Antichi: Interior
1583-84
Photo
Galleria degli Antichi, Sabbioneta

Sabbioneta is about 30 kms north of Parma. Built in the 1580s, this Italian town is the work of Vespasiano Gonzaga. His plan was to create the ideal city and base it on the ideas of ancient Athens and Rome. When Vespasiano died this dream died with him. The Galleria degli Antichi was built between 1584 and 1586 by Duke Vespasiano for his collection which contained mostly ancient marbles purchased from collectors and dealers of Rome and Venice.

Palazzo Albrizzi 1590s Photo Rio di San Cassiano, Venice

Palazzo Albrizzi
1590s
Photo
Rio di San Cassiano, Venice

This palace, built in the 16th century in Venetian Gothic style (at that time becoming an outated and misplaced style), overlooks the canal San Cassiano at the Ponte delle Tette. On the façade there is a three-mullioned central arched window, flanked by pairs of single lancet windows with projecting stone cornices which act as a small roof.

Between 1690 and 1710 the interior space was totally redefined with an excessive use of decoration and stucco-work, which makes the palace one of the most ostentatious in Venice.

San Giovanni a Carbonara: Cappella Caracciolo di Vico 1516 Photo Via San Giovanni, Naples

San Giovanni a Carbonara: Cappella Caracciolo di Vico
1516
Photo
Via San Giovanni, Naples

The Cappella Caracciolo di Vico has a central plan and is covered by a dome. This is one of the most notable products of the architecture of the sixteenth century in southern Italy. Begun in 1499 and completed in 1516, this is a remarkable structure, with great equilibrium among its various elements, revealing, at a very early date, the presence in Naples of the earliest forms of the Roman Renaissance. The design should be ascribed to an architect who was well informed concerning the work then being done by Bramante and Sangallo. The tombs of Nicolantonio and Galeazzo Caracciolo is the work of Annibale Caccavello (1515-1595) and Giovanni Domenico d’Auria (d. 1573).

Italian architects had always preferred forms that were clearly defined and structural members that expressed their purpose. Many Tuscan Romanesque buildings demonstrate these characteristics, as seen in the Florence Baptistery and Pisa Cathedral.

Italy had never fully adopted the Gothic style of architecture. Apart from the Cathedral of Milan, (influenced by French Rayonnant Gothic), few Italian churches show the emphasis on vertically, the clustered shafts, ornate tracery and complex ribbed vaulting that characterize Gothic in other parts of Europe.

The presence, particularly in Rome, of ancient architectural remains showing the ordered Classical style provided an inspiration to artists at a time when philosophy was also turning towards the Classical.

Renaissance style places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity and in particular ancient Roman architecture, of which many examples remained. Orderly arrangements of columns, pilasters and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, niches and aedicules replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings.

Next week, we head to Rome for 12th century mosaics of the church San Clemente on Sacred Sunday.

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Sacred Sunday: 14th Century Cathedral Architecture

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Interior begun c. 1330 Photo Campo dei Frari, Venice

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Interior
begun c. 1330
Photo
Campo dei Frari, Venice

The great Franciscan church of the Frari was begun in about 1330, replacing the earlier church which stood on the site of the nave of the present one. Its construction took more than a century. The tall campanile, second only to that of San Marco, was completed in 1396. The presbytery, choir, and transepts must have been erected by the 1410s, and the nave was built last after the demolition of the previous church.

The high altar was dedicated in 1469, just after the installation of the ornate wooden choir stalls with their Gothic canopies embellished with perspective intarsia scenery the time that the stone pulpitum was completed by Pietro Lombardo in 1475, the Gothic style had already been superseded by an elegant early Renaissance classicism. Titian’s famous Assumption, executed in 1516-18 for the high altar, provides the final unifying element in this dramatic artistic ensemble. The completed church was consecrated in 1492.

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Choir of the friars begun c. 1330 Photo Campo dei Frari, Venice

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari: Choir of the friars
begun c. 1330
Photo
Campo dei Frari, Venice

The picture shows a view of the choir toward the entrance wall.

Palazzo Ariani: Façade 1350-1400 Photo Rio dell'Angelo Raffaele, Venice

Palazzo Ariani: Façade
1350-1400
Photo
Rio dell’Angelo Raffaele, Venice

The palace of the Ariani family was reconstructed during the second half of the 14th century in a unique style. The six-mullioned window, perfectly framed by the indented frieze, is not linked to any architectural sequence, while the section made up of three columns and two pillars and the parapets are part of the Venetian tradition, the innovation lies in the filling of the upper band above the windows. An uncommon feature is the wooden architrave at the corner, creating a low portico held up by columns which look out over the courtyard from which the external two-flight staircase departs.

The design is attributed to a stone-worker architect coming from the outside environment.

The picture shows the Gothic façade on Rio dell’Angelo Raffaele.

Palazzo Priuli all'Osmarin: Façade 1300-10 Photo Fondamenta de l'Osmarin, Venice

Palazzo Priuli all’Osmarin: Façade
1300-10
Photo
Fondamenta de l’Osmarin, Venice

The palace is a typical product of Venetian Gothic art, built at the beginning of the 14th century for the Priuli family which gave three doges and numerous cardinals, magistrates and generals to the city. It faces onto the Osmarin canal, but in the 15th century it was extended along the San Severo canal. The beautiful two-lancet corner windows were constructed during this time.

The façade facing onto the canal was completely covered with frescoes by Palma Vecchio, but unfortunately they have completely disappeared.

The picture shows the palace on Rio dell’Osmarin.

Palazzo Ariani: Façade (detail) 1350-1400 Photo Rio dell'Angelo Raffaele, Venice

Palazzo Ariani: Façade (detail)
1350-1400
Photo
Rio dell’Angelo Raffaele, Venice

Palazzo Dandolo: Façade 14th century Photo Riva dei Schiavoni, Venice

Palazzo Dandolo: Façade
14th century
Photo
Riva dei Schiavoni, Venice

The Palazzo Dandolo was built in the 14th century in Gothic style. In 1822 the palace was purchased by Giuseppe dal Niel, known as Danieli, who transformed it into what is today considered one of the most prestigious hotels in the city, the Hotel Danieli. The interior of the hotel was decorated in neo-medieval style by Tranquillo Orsi.

Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici 1375-1434 Photo Piazza Grande, Arezzo

Palazzo della Fraternità dei Laici
1375-1434
Photo
Piazza Grande, Arezzo

The Fraternità was endowed in 1262 for the purposes of Christian charity. Its building was planned in 1363, the centenary year of the confraternity. Building work started in 1375 by two Florentine stone-workers, Niccolò di Francesco and Baldino di Cino.

In 1384 the construction came to a stop because of lack of funds. The building of the walls started again in 1434. Bernardo Rossellino continued the façade in a Renaissance style that fits admirably with the Gothic first floor. The gallery was added in 1460 by Giuliano and Algozzo from Settignano. The vaulted campanile, designed by Vasari, was built hundred years later.

The picture shows the façade of the Fraternità (right) and the Palazzo del Tribunale (left).

Interior view c. 1310 Photo Cathedral, Exeter

Interior view
c. 1310
Photo
Cathedral, Exeter

The present building was complete by about 1400, and has several notable features, including an early set of misericords, an astronomical clock and the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England.

During the 14th and 15th centuries Gothic architecture ceased to be international and split into definable regional styles. In England, the first Gothic style (Early English) was succeeded by Decorated and Perpendicular styles. The nave of Exeter Cathedral, shown here, exemplifies the English Decorated style, the piers formed of thick clusters of shafts, the vaulting-ribs multiplied so that eleven spring from one point.

Exterior view 14th century Photo Cathedral, Canterbury

Exterior view
14th century
Photo
Cathedral, Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Founded in 597, the cathedral was completely rebuilt from 1070 to 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the twelfth century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170.

The Norman nave and transepts survived until the late fourteenth century, when they were demolished to make way for the present structures. From the late fourteenth century the nave and transepts were rebuilt, on the Norman foundations in the Perpendicular style under the direction of the noted master mason Henry Yevele.

Exterior view 14th century Photo Cathedral, Canterbury

Exterior view
14th century
Photo
Cathedral, Canterbury

Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent, is one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. Founded in 597, the cathedral was completely rebuilt from 1070 to 1077. The east end was greatly enlarged at the beginning of the twelfth century, and largely rebuilt in the Gothic style following a fire in 1174, with significant eastward extensions to accommodate the flow of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Thomas Becket, the archbishop who was murdered in the cathedral in 1170.

The Norman nave and transepts survived until the late fourteenth century, when they were demolished to make way for the present structures. From the late fourteenth century the nave and transepts were rebuilt, on the Norman foundations in the Perpendicular style under the direction of the noted master mason Henry Yevele.

Next week, a two-part series begins – 15th Century Architecture.

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Sacred Sunday: 13th Century Italian Cathedral Architecture

Exterior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Exterior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

The present cathedral replaced two earlier ones, one dating from the 9th or 10th century and a second that was consecrated in 1179. It was built during the first half of the 13th century and completed, with the exception of the façade, in the early 1270s in the early 1270s.

The cathedral is built with two colors of marble, white from Carrara and very dark green from Prato. The elaborate striping of much of the exterior and interior reveals the communal content of this monument in its reference to the black-and-white coat of arms of the Sienese commune.

The lower half of the façade was designed by Giovanni Pisano. The bell tower dates from before 1215 and is the only surviving part of the earlier Cathedral dedicated in 1179.

Interior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Interior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

The interior shown in the picture was built during the first half of the 13th century and completed in the early 1270s.

Palazzo Pubblico Begun 1298 Photo Piazza del Campo, Siena

Palazzo Pubblico
Begun 1298
Photo
Piazza del Campo, Siena

Unlike the brute stony strength of Florence’s Palazzo della Signoria, in Siena brick walls gently bend to embrace the amphitheatre-shaped Piazza del Campo which it faces. Thin marble columns supporting Gothic arches decorate the windows.

An astonishingly tall bell tower – clearly surpassing the height of the civic tower of their rival city Florence – extends from the left wing of the building. A later chapel beneath the tower extends out into the public square and indicates the fusion of Church and state in this city dedicated to the Virgin.

Exterior view of the Cathedral 1270s (completed) Photo Duomo, Siena

Exterior view of the Cathedral
1270s (completed)
Photo
Duomo, Siena

View of the nave and choir began c. 1246 Photo Santa Maria Novella, Florence

View of the nave and choir
began c. 1246
Photo
Santa Maria Novella, Florence

The very large church of the Santa Maria Novella was the first important and independent church in truly Italian style. Its construction began in about 1246 for the Dominican Order. The exact dates of the various parts of the church are still controversial but it certainly took a very long time to build it. The nave was not begun until 1279, and the façade, began in 1310, was not finished until 1470. Nevertheless, the interior and the plan make it the most important church of its date.

This church is perhaps the best example of the simplicity of plan, organization, and detail that characterizes Italian Gothic architecture. The relatively high side aisles are typically Italian.

The Renaissance façade was designed by Leon Battista Alberti in the 1460s.

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade 13th century Photo Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade
13th century
Photo
Campo dei Mori, Venice

This palace in the Cannaregio district of Venice owes its name to a relief carving set into the wall of the façade representing a man in oriental dress riding a camel. It is the symbol of the owners, the Mastelli family, who came from the Orient in the 12th century.

The most important features on the façade of the Gothic building are the ogival central gallery on the second floor, enriched with quatrefoils and a dentate frame, the corner two-lancet windows on the second floor, and a squat column, standing in the corner window on the first floor.

The palace was rebuilt in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade 13th century Photo Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Mastelli del Cammello: Façade
13th century
Photo
Campo dei Mori, Venice

Palazzo Corner Loredan Piscopia: Façade 13th century Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Corner Loredan Piscopia: Façade
13th century
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace located on the Canal Grande just after Rialto bridge is now the site of the Municipio di Venezia. While representing a modification of the sixteenth-century building, it still followed the pattern of the Venetian-Byzantine house-storehouse.

Architectural and decorative elements, such as the five-arch loggia directly over the water, and, on the main floor, the façade completely covered by the many-lancet window with round arches on pilasters mean that the architecture is undoubtedly inspired by the thirteenth-century model.

Palazzo Morosini Sagredo: Façade 13th century Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Morosini Sagredo: Façade
13th century
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace was constructed between the 12th and 14th centuries. The four-lancet window on the upper floor is remarkable, framed by an elaborate frieze and adorned with polychrome patera made in precious marbles. The façade was decorated with frescoes. The interior was modernized in the 18th century and richly decorated.

Entrance to the castle 1240 Photo Castel del Monte, Andria

Entrance to the castle
1240
Photo
Castel del Monte, Andria

Castel del Monte (Italian for “Castle of the Mountain”) is a 13th-century citadel and castle situated in Andria in the Apulia region of southeast Italy. It stands on a promontory, where it was constructed during the 1240s by the Emperor Frederick II, who had inherited the lands from his mother Constance of Sicily.

The picture shows the classical entrance in the otherwise purely Gothic castle of Frederick II.

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Sacred Sunday: 11th and 12th Century European Cathedral Architecture

Interior view c. 1050 Photo San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Interior view
c. 1050
Photo
San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Italy remained closest to the classical language of architecture. San Miniato al Monte in Florence uses Corinthian columns and marble veneer.

Exterior view c. 1080 Photo Saint-Nectaire, Puy-de-Dôme

Exterior view
c. 1080
Photo
Saint-Nectaire, Puy-de-Dôme

This Romanesque church was built in the middle of the twelfth century in honor of St. Nectaire by the monks of La Chaise-Dieu. It was built on the site of the shrine erected by Nectaire Auvergne on Mount Cornadore. It features 103 magnificent capitals. In the mid-nineteenth century, the church was still surrounded by walls, a cemetery, a castle and a small chapel. These parts were destroyed shortly after, at a church restoration. Now surrounded by forests, the church was in the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century, at the heart of a densely populated region, where wood was scarce.

The building is a typical church of the Auvergne, with an octagonal crossing tower and a round apse with radiating chapels.

Pantheon of the Kings of León 1063-1100 Photo Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, León

Pantheon of the Kings of León
1063-1100
Photo
Royal Basilica of San Isidoro, León

The Royal Pantheon in the basilica is a funeral chapel of the kings of León. It is one of the examples of surviving Romanesque art in León. The columns are crowned with rare Visigothic capitals (re-used Roman capitals), with floral or historic designs. The 12th century painted murals are in an exceptional state of preservation and consist of an ensemble of New Testament subjects along with scenes of contemporary rural life.

Chapter house c. 1100 Photo Monastery, Osek

Chapter house
c. 1100
Photo
Monastery, Osek

The Cistercian monastery in Osek was the spiritual centre of the region of Northern Bohemia between Decin and Karlovy Vary. It has a history of more than 800-year.

The picture shows the chapter house where the abbot presided. The administrative matters were settled here.

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view 12th century Photo Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

The 12th-century Romanesque church at Conques, in central France, was a stopping-place on the road to Compostela. The church contains the relics of Sainte-Foy, which arrived in Conques through theft in 866.

The original chapel was destroyed in the eleventh century in order to facilitate the creation of a much larger church as the arrival of the relics of St. Foy caused the pilgrimage route to shift from Agen to Conques. 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 without the gallery 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. Like most pilgrimage churches Conques is a basilica plan that has been modified into a cruciform plan. Galleries were added over the aisle and the roof was raised over the transept and choir to allow people to circulate at the gallery level.

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view 12th century Photo Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Sainte-Foy Abbey Church: Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Sainte-Foy Abbey Church, Conques

Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Façade c. 1150 Photo Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, Provence

Abbey of Saint-Gilles: Façade
c. 1150
Photo
Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, Provence

The façade of the church bears witness to the presence of Roman temples in the vicinity.

Interior view 1140s Photo Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

Interior view
1140s
Photo
Abbey Church, Saint-Denis

The picture shows the east end of the abbey church of Saint-Denis. The technique of Gothic architecture allows spaces to flow freely into one another instead of being compartmentalized.

Exterior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Durham

Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral was built between the late 11th and early 12th century to house the bodies of St. Cuthbert (634-687 AD) (the evangelizer of Northumbria) and the Venerable Bede (672/3-735 AD).

It attests to the importance of the early Benedictine monastic community and is the largest and finest example of Norman architecture in England. The innovative audacity of its vaulting foreshadowed Gothic architecture. The Cathedral lies within the precinct of Durham Castle, first constructed in the late eleventh century under the orders of William the Conqueror.

Interior view 1100-20 Photo Cathedral, Durham

Interior view
1100-20
Photo
Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral has thick circular piers with incised (and originally painted) patterns and one of the earliest rib-vaults in Europe.

Exterior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Ely

Exterior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Ely

Ely Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon. It has a cruciform plan with central crossing tower, and it was likewise one of the largest buildings under construction north of the Alps at the time.

The construction was started in 1081 and was completed in the 1180s. The 66 m high west tower of the cathedral represents the last, profusely ornamented, stage of Romanesque. The porch and upper parts are already Gothic.

Interior view 12th century Photo Cathedral, Ely

Interior view
12th century
Photo
Cathedral, Ely

Exterior view c. 1150 Photo Abbey Church, Maria Laach

Exterior view
c. 1150
Photo
Abbey Church, Maria Laach

Maria Laach Abbey is a Benedictine abbey situated on the southwestern shore of the Laacher See (Lake Laach), in the region of the Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. The church exemplifies a particular German form of Romanesque with apses and round towers at both east and west ends.

Exterior view c. 1160 Photo Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, Toro

Exterior view
c. 1160
Photo
Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, Toro

The Collegiate church of Santa María la Mayor (Church of Saint Mary the Great) is a church in Toro, Spain. It was begun around 1100, and was finished in the mid-13th century. It is one of the most characteristic examples of transitional Romanesque architecture in Spain. The crossing tower is a Spanish specialty – an octagon of repeated arches with four tourelles at the corners.

Refectory 1180-1200 Photo Monastery, Alcobaça

Refectory
1180-1200
Photo
Monastery, Alcobaça

Monasteries were places of peace and order in the disturbed medieval society, organized round a routine of liturgy, work, study, and regular meetings, in which a man could spend his whole life. In the refectory, during meals a monk read from the raised pulpit.

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Sacred Sunday: 11th Century Italian Romanesque Murals

In Italy, the period of Romanesque art lasted somewhat longer than in other countries. The rapid development of Romanesque painting, due to direct contact with the East, was intensified by the fact that Byzantine exponents of mosaic art, centered in Rome and elsewhere in the peninsula, were still carrying on their impressive work, which undoubtedly influenced fresco painters.

Its continuance is due, moreover, to the late appearance of the Gothic art style, for in fact Italian Romanesque art may be said to reach its conclusion in the hands of Old Masters from the duecento and trecento such as Duccio di Buoninsegna (c.1255-1319) – leader of the conservative Sienese School of painting – the older Florentine painter Cimabue (Cenni di Peppi) (1240-1302) and even perhaps Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337) – all of whom paved the way for the quattrocento Early Renaissance, which emerged in Florence.

There are few paintings in Italy which do not show traces of Byzantine art from one source or another. Even in the north, you can clearly recognize Byzantine characteristics surviving in Ottonian art in the Christus Pantocratorof the apsidal vault of the church of Monte Maria at Burgusio, near Bolzano.

Of course, as in other countries, each artist reconciles the Byzantine influence he has undergone with local traditions and customs, adding moreover the weight of his own creative power. The importance of his personality will be determined by the total result, according to the share assumed by the various elements.

The Martyrdom of St Vincent c. 1007 Fresco with secco applications San Vicenzo Basilica, Galliano

The Martyrdom of St Vincent
c. 1007
Fresco with secco applications
San Vicenzo Basilica, Galliano

The earliest and most important record of the revival of monumental painting on Italian soil has survived in the northern area of the Apennine peninsula, in the vicinity of Como: the apse decoration in the former parish church San Vicenzo, in Galliano near Cantu. The mural workshop which created the paintings was originated from Milan.

Last Judgment c. 1080 Fresco Sant'Angelo, Formis

Last Judgment
c. 1080
Fresco
Sant’Angelo, Formis

The Last Judgment on the western wall of the church Sant’Angelo in Formis is painted in the Byzantine tradition and refer back to the formal ideal of Classical antiquity. Group compositions as defined by isocephaly, that is the arrangement heads all at the same level, is a specific characteristic of Ancient and Byzantine art.

Angel of the Last Judgment c. 1080 Fresco Sant'Angelo, Formis

Angel of the Last Judgment
c. 1080
Fresco
Sant’Angelo, Formis

The Sant’Angelo in Formis, near Capua, is a nearly completely intact church building from the early Middle Ages whose entire interior is decorated with frescoes. The interior entrance wall is occupied by a colossal depiction of the Last Judgment. The angel shown in the picture is a detail of this fresco.

Last Judgment (detail) c. 1080 Fresco Sant'Angelo, Formis

Last Judgment (detail)
c. 1080
Fresco
Sant’Angelo, Formis

Christ in Majesty c. 1080 Fresco Sant'Angelo, Formis

Christ in Majesty
c. 1080
Fresco
Sant’Angelo, Formis

Byzantine art served as a source of inspiration for a long time for many artists in the most diverse manner, in terms of both formal style and subject manner. The main subject of Romanesque painting, the depiction of Christ in Majesty has Byzantine origin. The fresco in Formis, probably painted by a master from Constantinople, follows Byzantine traditions.

Betrayal of Christ c. 1080 Fresco Sant'Angelo, Formis

Betrayal of Christ
c. 1080
Fresco
Sant’Angelo, Formis

Last Supper c. 1080 Fresco Sant'Angelo, Formis

Last Supper
c. 1080
Fresco
Sant’Angelo, Formis

The Fight with the Dragon c. 1090 Fresco San Pietro al Monte, Civate

The Fight with the Dragon
c. 1090
Fresco
San Pietro al Monte, Civate

The fresco on the eastern wall of the entrance porch of San Pietro al Monte near Civate is one of the most important Italian contribution to Romanesque painting. It illustrates chapter 12 of the Apocalypse: beneath the mandorla containing Christ in Majesty we see the writhing body of a dragon of gigantic proportions. Fighting the monster is the heavenly host, led by the Archangel Michael.

The Fight with the Dragon (detail) c. 1090 Fresco San Pietro al Monte, Civate

The Fight with the Dragon (detail)
c. 1090
Fresco
San Pietro al Monte, Civate

The wall and vault frescoes in the former Benedictine monastery church in Lombardy, on the slopes of Monte Pedale overlooking Lake Como, were executed by five different artists or workshops at the end of the eleventh century. The frescoes, among the most superb decorations in early Romanesque painting, combines Ottoman elements with remnants of an ancient Roman illusionism, Byzantine formulae, and clearly Romanesque compositional principles.

The Heavenly Jerusalem c. 1090 Fresco San Pietro al Monte, Civate

The Heavenly Jerusalem
c. 1090
Fresco
San Pietro al Monte, Civate

The Heavenly Jerusalem is depicted in the eastern section of the vault in San Pietro al Monte, Civate, following the fresco of the formeret on the east wall. God the Father is shown seated on his throne, with the Book of Life in his lap and the Holy Lamb by his feet. The painter used the iconographical image of a garden to represent the Heavenly Jerusalem.

The End of King Herod before 1093 Fresco with secco applications Benedictine Church, Lambach

The End of King Herod
before 1093
Fresco with secco applications
Benedictine Church, Lambach

The Benedictine monastery church in Lambach, Austria, was built from 1056 to 1089. Its extensive fresco cycle (twenty-three scenes and remnants of scenes) is in a good state of preservation. It was executed by a workshop, likely located in Salzburg, which must have been familiar with the mosaics in the vestibule of San Marco in Venice. It is assumed that the chief master was schooled in one of the centres of Byzantine art export, in Aquileia or Venice.

Apse frescoes c. 1100 Fresco Basilica Sant'Anastasio, Castel Sant'Elia di Nepi

Apse frescoes
c. 1100
Fresco
Basilica Sant’Anastasio, Castel Sant’Elia di Nepi

The work done by the Master of the legend of St Clement (in San Clemente, Rome) and his workshop had a far-reaching effect in Rome and far beyond. This Roman school might even have influenced the paintings of the abbey of Castel Sant’Elia near Nepi).

St Clement celebrating the Mass c. 1100 Fresco with secco applications San Clemente, Rome

St Clement celebrating the Mass
c. 1100
Fresco with secco applications
San Clemente, Rome

The crypt of the church of San Clemente is regarded as a treasure house of Romanesque painting. It boasts ninth-century frescoes in the nave and in the narthex a cycle from the early twelfth century representing the legend of St Clement.

Relics of St Cyrillus c. 1100 Fresco San Clemente, Rome

Relics of St Cyrillus
c. 1100
Fresco
San Clemente, Rome

This fresco in the lower church of San Clemente, depicting figures in a slightly bent posture carrying the reliquary, shows similarities to Burgundian examples in the treatment of garment.

The Miraculous Rescue of a Child c. 1100 Fresco with secco applications San Clemente, Rome

The Miraculous Rescue of a Child
c. 1100
Fresco with secco applications
San Clemente, Rome

Apart from the evocations of early Christian models, on which almost all painting in the city of Rome was based, it was ultimately the local factor of antiquity that determined the character of Romanesque painting in Rome more strongly than anywhere else. The most significant examples of this style are the murals in the lower church of San Clemente, the church dedicated to the pope whose relics are stored there.

The scene depicting the miraculous rescue of a child from the sea of Azof by St Clemens was painted by an artist whose style is marked by unusual contours, shining highlights, and especially decorative arrangements. From the depth where the pope’s body had been submerged, the legend goes, a marble chapel had arisen. Once a year the masses of water receded, making the chapel accessible to pilgrims. One day a mother last her small child there, but found him again the next year, unhurt. Below this scene we see a medallion portrait of Clemens, flanked by donor figures.

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Sacred Sunday: 11th Century Romanesque Murals in France

Unknown Romanesque Painter, French (active around 1220) Christ in Majesty, circa 1220, fresco, Former Benedictine Abbey, Lavaudieu, France

Unknown Romanesque Painter, French (active around 1220)
Christ in Majesty, circa 1220, fresco,
Former Benedictine Abbey, Lavaudieu, France

Church walls and ceilings were decorated extensively in France during the 11th and 12th centuries. Composed mainly of scenes from the Bible, the aim of this mural painting was to inform the mostly illiterate church congregation, and serve as a form of devotion. French Romanesque murals were characterized by more abstract, dynamic and animated imagery than elsewhere in Europe. The best site for such pictorial works is the abbey church of Saint-Savin sur-Gartempe. When it comes to Romanesque painting in France, apart from Touraine and the neighboring provinces, Maine, Anjou, Poitou, Berry and Orleans, which comprise a particularly favored region, we must mention three other important zones: Burgundy, Auvergne and Roussillon.

As has been suggested by the art scholar Duprat, French Romanesque painting can be conveniently divided into four groups, which differ essentially in manner: the fresco paintings of the west, with subdued color on a light background; the bright paintings on blue background found chiefly in Bugundy and in the south-east; the paintings of Auvergne, with their dark background, and the Catalan paintings of the Eastern Pyrenees. Of course this division is valid only in its broad lines, and we can find paintings with light backgrounds in Auvergne and Burgundy. In any case, many works cannot be attached to any particular school or group.

01gartem

Interior view of the nave
c. 1100
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe is the oldest hall church of the Poitou region in France. Its choir and transept dates back to between 1060 and 1085 and the nave to between 1095 and 1115. The high colonnades of the central nave are spanned by a barrel vault. The extensive remnants of the original painting on the piers and the vault give a clear idea of the lively character of Romanesque churches.

02gartem

Interior view of the nave
c. 1100
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

03gartem

Fresco cycle
c. 1100
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

The fresco cycle in the vault of the monastery church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe narrates stories from the Old Testament in a rather confusing sequence. The artist had the task of representing the story of Moses, from the creation of the world until his death, and it had to be told by means of selected and exegetically representative scenes which were to be distributed all over the vaulted ceiling. As a result, the story of the Bible turns into a concise account of the history of civilization of the medieval world.

04gartem

The Creation of Adam and Eve
c. 1100
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

When establishing the narrative composition, priority was given to the arrangement of narrative events rather than to the continuous narrative flow.  One of the scenes depicts the creation of the first human couple. It is the only scene in the cycle which contains events that unfold in chronological succession but are represented in a unified pictorial space.

God the Father is seen bending over the reclining Adam and removing one of his ribs. Then Adam is depicted standing upright next to his creator, listening to his admonitions and winking at Eve. Eve, who has her back turned to the tree of knowledge, turns round and together with her husband leaves the Garden of Eden after the Fall of Man.

05gartem

The Building of the Tower of Babel
c. 1100
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Popular subjects, such as the building of the Tower of Babel, were made to stand out in spectacular fashion. The scene depicting the building of the Tower of Babel even turns into a kind of visual instruction in the state of the medieval building trade: the rough-hewn ashlar blocks are carried along on men’s shoulders.

Holding an angle-iron in his right hand, we see an architect standing on the tower, about to take up a stone which somebody is handing to him. A mason in the foreground is taking mortar out of a bucket. next to the bucket there is a cable which used to pull up the container. Then, suddenly, God the Father makes his appearance in order to punish the worker’s actions with the confusion of tongues.

06gartem

Noah’s Ark
c. 1100
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

This fresco belongs to a Noah cycle related in eight episodes in the context of an Old Testament series extending over the vault of the former Benedictine monastery church. A New testament sequence adorns the presbytery and galleries, and further frescoes are in the vestibule and the crypt. The superb series of paintings on the barrel vaulting were executed in one session by at least four artists. The remaining groups of works were apparently the responsibility of a single, leading artist in each case.

Noah's Ark (detail) c. 1100 Fresco Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Noah’s Ark (detail)
c. 1100
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

The fresco cycle in the vault of the monastery church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe narrates stories from the Old Testament in a rather confusing sequence. When establishing the narrative composition, priority was given to the arrangement of narrative events rather than to the continuous narrative flow.

Thus, popular subjects, such as Noah’s Ark, were made to stand out in spectacular fashion. As was common in the Middle Ages, the artist who created this picture showed the ark as a lateral elevation. Judging by its hull, the ark is a Viking ship with a stem fortified by monsters, and a three-story superstructure and small wheel-house just as described in the Bible. Animals look out through the round-arched windows, and Noah’s family crouch above.

13berze

Spandrel figure
c. 1100
Fresco
Château des Moines, Berzé-la-Ville

(Above and below) There are wonderful wall paintings in the Cluniac chapel of Château des Moines at Berzé-la-Ville, near Cluny. The chapel contains the tomb of Abbot Hugh of Cluny (1049-1109) who designed the programme of the mural paintings of highly peculiar iconography. These paintings represent the best surviving examples of the art of Cluny.

14berze

Martyrdom of Blasius
c. 1100
Fresco
Château des Moines, Berzé-la-Ville

15isere

Martyrdom of Blasius
c. 1100
Fresco
Château des Moines, Berzé-la-Ville

The apses and convent chapel on the upper level of the northern transept of the abbey church of Saint-Chef, east of Lyon, converted in 1056, contain remnants of what was surely once extensive fresco work. The paintings in the chapel were freed of later painting in 1967, and, though damaged, are in a quite good state of preservation. In the small apse niche one can see a depiction of Christ in his glory, surrounded by angels and the symbols of the Evangelists.

Sts Savinus and Cyprian are tortured c. 1100 Fresco Crypt, Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Sts Savinus and Cyprian are tortured
c. 1100
Fresco
Crypt, Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

The church of St Savin-sur-Gartempe, some thirty miles east of Poitiers, contains the most extensive cycle of Romanesque wall-paintings in France. Those in the crypt represent scenes from the lives of the two patron saints of the church, Sts Savinus and Cyprian. They were believed to be two fifth-century Christian converts who lived in northern Italy. Persecuted for their faith they fled to a location on the Gartempe river in France, where they were put to death. Their relics were discovered in the ninth century and are preserved in the crypt of the church.

Scene of Martyrdom (detail of Sts Savinus and Cyprian are tortured c. 1100 Fresco Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

Scene of Martyrdom
(detail of Sts Savinus and Cyprian are tortured
c. 1100
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe

The lower church of the abbey church was dedicated to Sts Savin and Cyprien. On the walls of the crypt the Last Judgment and scenes from the martyrdom of the saints are represented.

Traditio Legis 1100s Wall painting Priory, Berzé-La-Ville

Traditio Legis
1100s
Wall painting
Priory, Berzé-La-Ville

The early twelfth-century wall-painting in the apse of the chapel of the summer retreat of the abbots of Cluny at Berzé-la-Ville – probably a replica of one originally found in the apse of the now-destroyed abbey church of Cluny III – has as its unusual theme the Twelve Apostles combined with the Traditio Legis. In this Christ grants to St Peter the authority to govern the Church, symbolized by the handing over of a scroll; thus Peter is identified as the precursor of the popes.

The wall-painting is dominated by the figure of Christ in Majesty in a mandorla. He hands St Peter a scroll granting him authority to govern the church, and is surrounded by the Twelve Apostles. The style of the wall-painting is characteristic of that in Rome and southern Italy at the beginning of the twelfth century, and exhibits the strong influence of Byzantine painting.

Christ in Majesty c. 1100 Fresco, height c. 400 cm Château des Moines, Berzé-la-Ville

Christ in Majesty
c. 1100
Fresco, height c. 400 cm
Château des Moines, Berzé-la-Ville

In the apse of Cluniac chapel of Château des Moines at Berzé-la-Ville, near Cluny, Christ is enthroned as omnipotent ruler of the world. To the right, the arm of this imposing figure extends beyond the luminous sphere to pass the scroll of the law to St Peter, who is accompanied by other apostles and four further saints.

Christ in Majesty (detail) c. 1100 Fresco, height c. 400 cm Château des Moines, Berzé-la-Ville

Christ in Majesty (detail)
c. 1100
Fresco, height c. 400 cm
Château des Moines, Berzé-la-Ville

The chapel of the priory of Saint-Gilles at Montoire was entirely covered with paintings of which the only ones that remain today are those of the original apse, painted in fresco with additions in distemper and encaustic, and those of the transept apses and two apsidioles. This chapel, which is very beautiful despite the many mutilations it has undergone through the centuries, once had Ronsard for its abbot (Pierre de Ronsard, 1524 – 1585, was a French poet and “prince of poets” – as his own generation in France called him).

It is periodically endangered by the sudden rising of the River Loire. The damp has completely unstuck the ground of the paintings at the base of the walls, particularly as the river’s successive floodings have buried these more than a yard deep. The Biblical art of Saint-Gilles presents an exceptional and very striking spectacle. Christ figures in the three apses and on the vault of the triumphal arch; in the center apse we see him teaching, in the south apse handing the keys to St. Peter, in the west apse sending the Holy Spirit to his apostles.

Carolingian influence is obvious, especially in the paintings of the triumphal arch, where Christ, in a medallion, is shown crowning the Virtues which have defeated the Vices. Near Montoire, the church of Saint-Jacques-des-Guerets – at Troo is also at the mercy of the River Loire’s water levels. On the north wall of the choir, on two registers, are the Massacre of the Innocents and the Nativity. On the left of the axial window, a touching Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John at the foot of the cross, which is black and green with a yellow border. In the embrasure of the window, the Finger of God, St. George and St. Augustine. On the south wall we see Pride overthrown and Anger piercing itself with a sword. Further on, Paradise, with a great figure of St. Peter, then the martyrdom of St. James, the legend of St. Nicholas and finally the Raising of Lazarus.

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Sunday Reader: Christian Temples Unearthed in Ancient Mongolian City

Archaeologists from the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore at the Ukek dig site. (Photo: Dmitriy Kubankin)

Archaeologists from the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore at the Ukek dig site. (Photo: Dmitriy Kubankin)

In an amazing unearthing, two Christian temples believed to be remains of a 750-year-old city of Ukek, founded by descendants of Genghis Khan, have been discovered along the banks of the river Volga in Russia.

According to archaeologists from Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore, the city of Ukek was founded around 750 years ago by Batu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, who controlled the Golden Horde kingdom stretching from Eastern Europe to Central Asia and controlled many of the Silk Road routes

At the time, Ukek was a multicultural city where a variety of religions were practiced, including Islam and Christianity.

The uncovered temples were roofed with tiles and decorated with stone carvings and murals and contained the remains of goods stored by merchants, including plates and bottles imported from Rome, Egypt or Iran.

Also among the findings were high status items such as “a Chinese glass hair pin, with a head shaped as a split pomegranate, and a fragment of a bone plate with a carved dragon image” — which, according to archaeologists, proves that not all Christians were treated as slaves.

“This discovery is significant for Christian history,” said archaeologist Kimberely Smith-Wiess, “it gives us a peek into what it was like to practice the religion under the leadership of one of the most restrictive and brutal line of rulers in history.”

Archaeology reports that after the first Christian temple was destroyed in the early 14th century, a second temple was built in 1330 and remained in use until about 1350.

In 1395, Ukek was attacked and destroyed by a ruler named Tamerlane, who took over much of the territory formerly ruled by the Golden Horde.

Although archaeologists believe much more could be discovered in the area, modern-day buildings cover much of the historic site of the city. Archaeologist Dmitriy Kubankin told the LiveScience website: “This hampers any research and prevents complete unearthing of the entire [site], because it extends over several private land plots.

“Nevertheless, digging just in one site may lead to significant discoveries. Archaeological expeditions from the Saratov Regional Museum of Local Lore [have made] yearly excavations since 2005.”

Genghis Khan was one of the most successful and notorious rulers in history. Between 1206 and his death in 1227, he conquered nearly 12 million square miles of territory. He is believed to be responsible for the deaths of around 40 million people, a majority of which were Christians.

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Sacred Sunday: 11th Century Italian Mosaics in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Roma

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Roma

According to tradition, Pope Liberius (pope from 352 to 366) and a patrician had the same dream at the same night. The Virgin appeared and expressed her wish to raise a church at the site which she will mark by snow at the middle of the summer. Next day the Esquiline hill was covered by snow and it became the site of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

The Early Christian church was erected by Pope Sixtus III (432-440) and its mosaic decoration in the nave and the apse also date from this period. The Early Christian apse mosaic has been lost, having been replaced by the one by Jacopo Torriti during a redesign of the entire choir area under Pope Nicholas IV (1288-1292) who commissioned the replacement without entirely changing the original subject matter.

The commission for the new apse mosaic was given to Jacopo Torriti, who left the Lateran workshop around 1291 to assist the work at Santa Maria Maggiore. The main subject of the mosaic is the Coronation of the Virgin, with five scenes from the life of Mary beneath if: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Kings, the Presentation in the Temple, and the Dormition. The latter, interrupting the chronological sequence of the events, occupies the center compartment, which places it in a direct relationship to the Coronation in form and content.

The subject of the Coronation of the Virgin as linked to her physical resurrection had already been popular north of the Alps as early as the twelfth century. In Italy, however, it found its first inclusion in monumental art in Torriti’s mosaic, and it had never before been pictured with such splendor.

Apse mosaic: Coronation of the Virgin 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic: Coronation of the Virgin
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic: Coronation of the Virgin 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic: Coronation of the Virgin
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic: Coronation of the Virgin 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic: Coronation of the Virgin
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

The mosaic from the apse of Santa Maria Maggiore is beneath the dome of the apse where are scenes from the life of the Virgin. The artist, who was commissioned by the Franciscan pope, Nicholas IV, combined new iconographic elements from Gothic cathedrals with traditional Roman elements such as the acanthus vine.

The Coronation of the Virgin had never before been pictured with such opulence. Against a gold ground a round slice of heaven in dark blue, set with the sun and moon and numerous stars in gold and silver, serves as a foil for the heavenly throne on which Christ welcomes the Virgin into the topmost sphere of heaven. Both are dressed in gold, and together they share the centre of the symmetrical composition. With his right hand Christ is placing a crown on her head, while Mary has turned toward him and raised her hands in the gesture of an intercessor. Throngs of adoring angels take an active interest in the ceremony. They are flanked on either side by applauding saints – Peter, Paul, and Francis on the left, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and Anthony on the right. At the left and right edges of the mosaic two large acanthus plants send out tendrils that uncurl into round volutes framing the figural composition at the sides.

Apse mosaic: Coronation of the Virgin 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic: Coronation of the Virgin
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

The mosaic from the apse of Santa Maria Maggiore is beneath the dome of the apse where are scenes from the life of the Virgin. The artist, who was commissioned by the Franciscan pope, Nicholas IV, combined new iconographic elements from Gothic cathedrals with traditional Roman elements such as the acanthus vine.

The Coronation of the Virgin had never before been pictured with such splendour. Against a gold ground a round slice of heaven in dark blue, set with the sun and moon and numerous stars in gold and silver, serves as a foil for the heavenly throne on which Christ welcomes the Virgin into the topmost sphere of heaven. Both are dressed in gold, and together they share the center of the symmetrical composition. With his right hand Christ is placing a crown on her head, while Mary has turned toward him and raised her hands in the gesture of an intercessor. Throngs of adoring angels take an active interest in the ceremony. They are flanked on either side by applauding saints – Peter, Paul, and Francis on the left, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and Anthony on the right. At the left and right edges of the mosaic two large acanthus plants send out tendrils that uncurl into round volutes framing the figural composition at the sides.

View of the apse calotte 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

View of the apse calotte
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Pope Nicholas IV commissioned the mosaic decoration of the apse of Santa Maria Maggiore, replacing the fifth-century mosaic but without entirely changing the original subject matter and retaining the bust of the Savior, believed to have appeared miraculously at the time of the basilica’s consecration. The task was given to Jacopo Torriti, who left the Lateran workshop around 1291 to assist the work at Santa Maria Maggiore.

Coronation of the Virgin 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Coronation of the Virgin
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Against a gold ground a round slice of heaven in dark blue, set with the sun and moon and numerous stars in gold and silver, serves as a foil for the heavenly throne on which Christ welcomes the Virgin into the topmost sphere of heaven. Both are dressed in gold, and together they share the centre of the symmetrical composition. With his right hand Christ is placing a crown on her head, while Mary has turned toward him and raised her hands in the gesture of an intercessor. Throngs of adoring angels take an active interest in the ceremony.

In his left hand Christ displays a book inscribed with a verse taken from the office for the feast of the Assumption.

Coronation of the Virgin (detail) 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Coronation of the Virgin (detail)
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Mary has turned toward him and raised her hands in the gesture of an intercessor.

Apse mosaic (detail) 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic (detail)
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Throngs of adoring angels take an active interest in the ceremony. They are flanked on either side by applauding saints – Peter, Paul, and Francis on the left. Pope Nicholas IV is seen kneeling in adoration of the two figures on the throne, but he is considerably smaller than they, even smaller than the angels and the saints standing behind them.

Apse mosaic (detail) 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic (detail)
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Throngs of adoring angels take an active interest in the ceremony. They are flanked on either side by applauding saints – John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and Anthony on the right. Cardinal Jacopo, the archpriest of Santa Maria Maggiore, is seen kneeling in adoration of the two figures on the throne, but he is considerably smaller than they, even smaller than the angels and the saints standing behind them.

Apse mosaic, window level: 1. Annunciation 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic, window level: 1. Annunciation
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Five scenes from the life of Mary are beneath the Coronation of the Virgin at window level: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Kings, the Presentation in the Temple, and the Dormition.

The picture shows the Annunciation…

Apse mosaic, window level: 2. Nativity 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic, window level: 2. Nativity
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

…The picture shows the Nativity.

Apse mosaic, window level: 3. Adoration of the Kings 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic, window level: 3. Adoration of the Kings
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

…The picture shows the Adoration of the Kings.

Apse mosaic, window level: 4. Presentation in the Temple 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic, window level: 4. Presentation in the Temple
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

…The picture shows the Presentation in the Temple.

Apse mosaic, window level: 5. Dormition 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic, window level: 5. Dormition
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

…The picture shows the Dormition. This scene, interrupting the chronological sequence of the events, occupies the centre compartment, which places it in a direct relationship to the Coronation in form and content.

Apse mosaic, window level: Dormition (detail) 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic, window level: Dormition (detail)
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic, window level: Dormition (detail) 1296 (completed) Mosaic Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Apse mosaic, window level: Dormition (detail)
1296 (completed)
Mosaic
Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

The Artist: Jacopo Torriti was an Italian painter and mosaicist, active c. 1270-1300. Not much is known of his life. Two mosaics in Rome are signed by him: one, on the apse of S. Giovanni in Laterano, that once bore the date 1291 (or, according to some sources, 1290 or 1292); and another on the apse and triumphal arch of S. Maria Maggiore, now replaced by a 19th-century restoration but at one time dated 1295 or 1296. Torriti is also known to have executed a mosaic for Arnolfo di Cambio’s tomb of Pope Boniface VIII (1296; destroyed) in Old St Peter’s, Rome. Torriti was active during the same period as Cimabue and Giotto, Pietro Cavallini and Arnolfo di Cambio, but his fame has been obscured by theirs, no doubt because of his closer links with Byzantine art. He was nevertheless one of the most important artists working in Rome during the papacy of Nicholas IV (1288–92) and was entrusted with some of the most prestigious commissions of the day. He recaptures something of the vitality of late antique mosaics; he was clearly influenced in his choice of color by the pale delicate harmonies and silvery lights of the 5th-century mosaic on the triumphal arch of the S. Maria Maggiore. A small series of frescoes in the Upper Church of San Francesco, Assisi, has been attributed to him on stylistic grounds.

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