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: Early 12th Century Romanesque Mural Paintings, Part 2

Master of Santa Maria de Taüll 1123 fresco transferred to canvas Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain)

Master of Santa Maria de Taüll
1123
fresco transferred to canvas
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya,
Barcelona (Catalonia, Spain)

This is the second and final part of early 12th Century Romanesque Mural Painting.  You can read part 1 here: http://bit.ly/1aPxqq6

Romanesque was the prevailing artistic style in Western Europe and certain countries of Eastern Europe from the tenth through 12th centuries. (In some regions the style continued into the 13th century.) The Romanesque period was one of the most important stages in the development of medieval European art. The term “Romanesque” was introduced in the early 19th century.

The Romanesque style absorbed many elements of Early Christian art, Merovingian art, and the art of the Carolingian Renaissance. It was also influenced by ancient Greek and Roman art, the art of the era of great migrations, Byzantine art, and the art of the Muslim Near East. In contrast to earlier, local currents in medieval art, the Romanesque style was the first artistic system of the Middle Ages embraced by most European countries. The style, however, was given a great variety of forms by different local schools, owing to feudal fragmentation.

The bases for stylistic unity throughout Europe were the well-developed feudal relationships and the international character of the Catholic Church, which at that time was the major ideological force in society and, owing to the absence of strong secular centralized authority, had fundamental economic and political influence. In most states the chief patrons of the arts were the monastic orders, and the builders, laborers, painters, and manuscript copiers and illustrators were monks. It was only late in the 11th century that itinerant artels of lay stonemasons and sculptors appeared.

Christ on the White Horse c. 1150 Fresco Cathedral, Auxerre

Christ on the White Horse
c. 1150
Fresco
Cathedral, Auxerre

In the crypt vault of the cathedral of Auxerre there is an extremely rare but highly remarkable variation of the subject of Christ in Majesty. Set at the point of intersection of a cross, Christ is depicted on horseback, holding a sceptre in his right hand and raising his left hand in a gesture of blessing.

Crusaders 12th century Mural Chapel of the Templars, Cressac

Crusaders
12th century
Mural
Chapel of the Templars, Cressac

The Crusades were a series of several military campaigns – usually sanctioned by the Papacy – that took place during the 11th through 13th centuries. Originally, they were Roman Catholic endeavors to re-capture the Holy Land from the Muslims. The order called Templars was founded in 1118 or 1119 by nine Christian knights, the original object of the organization being to maintain free passage for the pilgrims visiting the Holy Land. Baldwin II King of Jerusalem gave them part of his palace, and they kept their arms in the Temple, hence their name of Templars.

Christ in Majesty c. 1120 Fresco St Peter und Paul, Reichenau-Niederzell

Christ in Majesty
c. 1120
Fresco
St Peter und Paul, Reichenau-Niederzell

In this composition the figures are represented in strict isolation which is further enhanced by painted arcading.

The Virgin Enthroned c. 1120 Fresco Maria zur Höhe, Soest

The Virgin Enthroned
c. 1120
Fresco
Maria zur Höhe, Soest

In the dome of the church of Maria zur Höhe in Soest the Virgin Enthroned is depicted. Mary is not given a central position in the dome, but merely a place along the lower segment of the circle, effectively placing her above the altar. She could therefore be characterized as a kind of devotional image of the altar.

The Christ from the Vision of Ezekiel c. 1130 Mural painting Convent Frauenwörth, Frauenchiemsee

The Christ from the Vision of Ezekiel
c. 1130
Mural painting
Convent Frauenwörth, Frauenchiemsee

The convent on an island in Lake Chiemsee (Upper Bavaria) was founded in the mid-ninth century. Fragments of Romanesque murals came to light in 1954. All that survives are rudimentary paintings on both side walls of the sanctuary on north and south.

Wooden ceiling (detail) 1130s Painted wood St Martin, Zillis

Wooden ceiling (detail)
1130s
Painted wood
St Martin, Zillis

This is the only surviving example of a Romanesque painted wooden ceiling apart from that in Hildesheim. However, neither in form nor in subject-matter does this have any similarity to St Michael’s in Hildesheim.

Wooden ceiling (detail) 1130s Painted wood St Martin, Zillis

Wooden ceiling (detail)
1130s
Painted wood
St Martin, Zillis

Detail of the only surviving example of a Romanesque painted wooden ceiling at St. Martin apart from that in Hildesheim.

Stoning of St Stephen 12th century Fresco Monastery Church of St John, Müstair

Stoning of St Stephen
12th century
Fresco
Monastery Church of St John, Müstair

The Convent of Saint John is an ancient Benedictine monastery in Müstair, Switzerland, and, by reason of its exceptionally well-preserved heritage of Carolingian art, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. Its twelfth-century frescoes are closely connected to paintings in southern Tyrol.

Both individual Romanesque buildings and church, monastery, and castle complexes were often built in a rural setting. Situated on a hill or elevated riverbank, the structures dominate the surrounding area as an earthly image of the “City of God” or as a striking symbol of the might of a suzerain. Romanesque buildings are well integrated into their natural surroundings. Their compact forms and clear silhouettes echo and enrich the natural relief, and the local stone used in construction blends in with the soil and greenery. The impression created by the exteriors of Romanesque structures—one of calm and austere strength—is achieved to a great extent by the towers, which are essential elements of Romanesque architecture, and by the massive walls, whose weightiness and thickness are emphasized by narrow window slits and recessed portals.

The Romanesque building represents a system of simple solids—cubes, parallelepipeds, prisms, and cylinders—whose surface is divided by bays, blind arches, and galleries, which impart rhythm to the wall without violating its monolithic integrity. Romanesque churches developed the basilican and radial plans inherited from Early Christian architecture. A skylight or tower was usually placed at the crossing. Each of the main parts of the church represents a distinct spatial unit, clearly separated from the others both within and without. Such an approach resulted to a large extent from the demands of the church hierarchy: for example, the choir had to be inaccessible to the congregation, who occupied the nave.

Inside the church there are arcades, which separate the aisles, and buttressed arches, which are situated at considerable distances from each other. The slow, measured rhythms of the arcades and arches pierce the stone mass of the vaulted ceiling, creating a sensation of the unshakable solidity of the divine order of the world. This impression was enhanced by the vaults themselves, which replaced the flat wooden ceilings that formerly were used over the side aisles. The various types of vaulting characteristic of Romanesque churches included barrel vaults, groin vaults, rib vaults, and—less frequently—domical vaults.

During the early Romanesque the principal form of ornamentation was the mural painting. By the late 11th and early 12th centuries, when the vaults and walls became more complex in configuration, carved relief was the most popular form of church decoration. Carved reliefs were used to embellish interior columns, the portals, and—often—the entire facade. In the mature Romanesque style low relief was replaced by increasingly high relief, rich in chiaroscuro effects but never losing its organic connection with the wall. The relief always seems to thrust into or grow out of the wall’s solid mass.

The Romanesque period was marked by the flourishing of manuscript illumination, which was distinguished as a whole by monumentality of size and composition. A number of minor arts also developed, such as casting, engraving, ivory carving, enameling, weaving, carpet-making, and jewelry design.

The central themes in Romanesque painting and sculpture are associated with the concept of the unlimited and awesome power of god. In strictly symmetrical compositions dealing with such themes as Christ in majesty and the Last Judgment, the figure of Christ considerably exceeds the other figures in size and dominates absolutely. Freer and more dynamic are the narrative cycles based on Old Testament, New Testament, hagiographic, and, occasionally, historical subjects.

Romanesque painting and sculpture is characterized by numerous divergences from realism: heads are disproportionately large, clothing is treated ornamentally, and bodies are subordinated to abstract patterns. As a result, the human image often makes exaggeratedly expressive gestures or even becomes part of the decoration. At the same time the figure often retains an intense spiritual expressiveness. In all genres of Romanesque art an important role is played by patterns, which may be geometric, floral, or zoomorphic. Romanesque animal motifs derive from the animal style and directly reflect Europe’s pagan past. The overall system of imagery, which at its mature stage tended toward a universal artistic embodiment of the medieval picture of the world, paved the way for the Gothic conception of the cathedral as a “spiritual encyclopedia.”

The earliest forms of the Romanesque style appeared in French architecture in the late tenth century. Particularly common was a three-aisled basilican church with a barrel vault over the nave and groin vaults over the side aisles. Also common was the pilgrimage church, whose choir is surrounded by an ambulatory with radiating chapels (for example, the church of St. Sernin in Toulouse, c. 1080 to the 12th century).

The local schools of French Romanesque architecture showed great variety. The Burgundian school, exemplified by the Cluny III Church (1088 to the 12th century), is noted for a special monumentality of composition. The school of Poitou favored sumptuous sculptural ornament, as seen in the Church of Notre Dame la Grande in Poitiers (12th century). The Romanesque churches of Provence, such as the cathedral of St. Tro-phime in Arles (eighth to 15th centuries), are distinguished by their richly embellished main portal, which has one or three arches and probably derives from the ancient Roman triumphal arch. Norman churches, with their austere decoration and clarity of spatial articulation, prepared the way for the Gothic style. A typical Norman Romanesque church is Sainte-Trinité in Caen (1059–66).

French Romanesque secular architecture is represented by a type of fortress-castle having a donjon. The finest achievement of the French Romanesque in the plastic arts was the powerfully expressive sculpture of the tympana of Burgundian and Languedocian churches, for example, those in Vézelay, Autun, and Moissac. Also noteworthy are many mural cycles, miniatures, and objects of applied art (including the Limoges enamels).

The Saxon school was the principal representative of German Romanesque architecture. Saxon churches have symmetrical eastern and western choirs and, sometimes, two transepts. A front facade is absent, as seen in the church of St. Michael in Hildesheim (1001–33). The mature Romanesque is represented by the great cathedrals of the Rhineland, which were built from the 11th to 13th centuries in such cities as Spey-er, Mainz, and Worms. Wide use was made of the alternate-support system, by which two supports of the side aisles corresponded to each support of the nave.

The German Romanesque was characterized by the celebration of the grandeur of imperial power, which is expressed most vividly in the architecture of imperial palaces. During the Ottoman Romanesque period, which extended from the second half of the tenth century through the first half of the 11th century, manuscript illumination flourished, with its most important centers at the abbeys of Reichenau and Trier. There were also notable achievements in metal casting, as seen in the bronze doors of the cathedral in Hildesheim (1015). German stone sculpture and stuccowork grew in importance during the mature Romanesque.

In Italy, Romanesque elements first appeared in the work of the Lombard school, which developed an architectural style called the First Romanesque in the ninth or tenth century. The architecture is distinguished by stone roofs, the regular positioning of walls and supports, and the tectonic articulation of the exterior walls. However, there did not yet exist any obvious relationship between the elements of spatial composition. Italian Romanesque architecture is predominantly urban in character and reflects influences from Arabic architecture and the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome (mainly in southern Italy and Sicily). The Romanesque architecture of Tuscany, where the incrustation style was developed, is closely related to that of Germany and France. An outstanding example of Tuscan Romanesque architecture is the cathedral complex in Pisa (11th through 14th centuries).

In Spain, partly in connection with the Reconquest, fortress-castles and city fortifications appeared in larger numbers than anywhere else in Europe. Spanish church architecture was often based on the French pilgrimage church (for example, the cathedral in Salamanca), but as a whole it displayed relatively simple compositional solutions. Some works of Spanish Romanesque sculpture anticipated the complex imagery of the Gothic style. Many Romanesque frescoes have been preserved in Spain, mainly in Catalonia. The frescoes are distinguished by precise line and extremely intense color.

The Romanesque style spread to England after the Norman Conquest of 1066. The traditions of local wooden architecture were combined with elements of the Norman Romanesque. Particularly noteworthy were English paintings and book illuminations from this period, which were marked by lavish floral ornamentation.

In the Scandinavian countries most large urban cathedrals were based on German Romanesque models, whereas small parish and rural churches were marked by distinctive local features. The Romanesque style also developed in Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary.

In the 12th and 13th centuries the Crusaders built Romanesque castles in Palestine and Syria (for example, the Krac des Chevaliers in Syria, 12th and 13th centuries).

Certain features of the Romanesque style appeared in the art of ancient Rus’, for example, in the architecture and sculpture of the Vladimir-Suzdal’ school. These features resulted not so much from direct influences as from similarities in ideological and artistic aims.

Next week on Sacred Sunday, I’ll take you on a journey over 800 years old to the cathedral of Monreale, above Palermo, Italy.

Here’s a sample:

Sanctuary with main apse 1180s Mosaic Cathedral, Monreale

Sanctuary with main apse
1180s
Mosaic
Cathedral, Monreale

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Sacred Sunday: Early 12th Century Romanesque Mural Paintings, Part 1

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Creation Adam and the Original Sin
Unknown Romanesque Painter, Spanish (12th century)
12th century
Mural painting transferred to canvas
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, Spain

In the history of Christian art, the term “Romanesque” is a rather vague and principally architectural term that has been extended to other fine art disciplines such as painting and sculpture.

If Romanesque architecture is marked by a new massiveness of scale, and Romanesque sculpture by greater realism, Romanesque painting is characterized by a new formality of style, largely devoid of the naturalism and humanism of either its classical antecedents or its Gothic successors. (Put simply: before Gothic delicacy, comes Romanesque severity.) Linear designs predominate, producing majestic calmness or, alternatively, agitated expressiveness. The decorative character of Romanesque stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, altarpiece art and other imagery, can be seen as a sort of bridge between Eastern Byzantine art – with its symbolic, formalized icon painting – and Western Gothic art, with its late 14th century courtly variant known as International Gothic.

In general, Romanesque art reflected the rise in political and economic stability across Europe. With stability came higher tax and tithe revenues for the Church, which therefore had more money to spend on new churches – complete with stained glass art, stone statues of Saints, fresco paintings, illuminated manuscripts and the like – which in turn attracted larger congregations and bigger collections.

At the same time, the new religious orders (Cistercian, Benedictine and others) opened new monasteries (like Cluny in central France, or St Denis outside Paris), all of which needed various forms of religious art, including inspirational mural painting in their cloisters and refectories, as well as more illustrated bibles and other types of devotional books. Indeed, some art historians view Romanesque art as a reflection of growing monastic piety. In any event, the new Romanesque movement was a tremendous boost for medieval artists, throughout western Europe.

Majestas Domini with Evangelists and Saints (detail) c. 1123 Fresco Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

Majestas Domini with Evangelists and Saints (detail)
c. 1123
Fresco
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

This mural was removed from the wall of the church of San Clemente at Tahull. Two artists were involved in the execution of the frescoes: the Master of San Clemente, who decorated the main apse, and the Master of the Day of Judgment, who painted part of the triumphal arch, the side apses, and probably also the walls and pillars in the nave, and whose work is also found in Santa Maria de Tahull, the sister church of San Clemente.

In the middle apse of San Clemente the Majestas Domini, a key theme of Romanesque art, found one of its most glorious expressions. The monumental figure of Christ is surrounded by the four symbols of the Evangelists. The omnipotent ruler is surrounded by a highly-charged rainbow aureole, and is seated on a second rainbow. His right hand is raised in a gesture of dominion and blessing.

Majestas Domini with Evangelists and Saints (detail) c. 1123 Fresco Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

Majestas Domini with Evangelists and Saints (detail)
c. 1123
Fresco
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

A detail photo of the wall-painting that originally came from the church of San Clemente de Tahull in the lower Catalan Pyrenées, Like many wall-paintings from this region it was transferred to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona for safekeeping in the 1930’s. Pablo Picasso was particularly struck by the highly idiosyncratic and distinctive style of the San Clemente Master, and kept a poster of this image in his house at Mougins in Southern France.

The Fight between David and Goliath c. 1123 Mural, 82 x 75 cm Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

The Fight between David and Goliath
c. 1123
Mural, 82 x 75 cm
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

This mural, removed from the wall of the church of Santa Maria at Tahull, is one of the most famous surviving examples of Catalonian Romanesque painting. The artist of this painting is referred to as the Master of Tahull.

The rigid hieratic saints or Christs enthroned seen in earlier works are here replaced by a vivid and expressive representation of the fight between young David and the champion Goliath, who is depicted in chain armour and armed with a spear and shield. When the fresco was first made it included a scene in which David and Goliath were depicted side by side, David using his sling and Goliath slain by the stone. These details have been damaged beyond restoration and there remains only this scene in which David beheads Goliath. Here too the colours have faded in the course of centuries. In the Romanesque fresco we see the decorative manner of representation characteristic of the Mozarabic miniatures, that is to say, the fight is not shown as taking place in any particular landscape setting, but is depicted against a background divided horizontally by lines similar to the fesses of a heraldic escutcheon. There is also some of the crudeness seen in miniatures, for example, the exaggerated size of the hands. But the fresco represents a conscientious effort to depict the story with great accuracy, for these murals served not only to decorate the church but also to instruct the people in Biblical history.

The artist clearly attempted to give the faces of David and Goliath certain individual features, introducing also such realistic details as the carrion bird beside the body, the lively drapery of the cloak and the Jewish cap on David’s head. The fresco dates from a period when the fight between David and Goliath was thought of as an Old Testament manifestation of the struggle between Christ and Satan.

The Fight between David and Goliath (detail) c. 1123 Mural Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

The Fight between David and Goliath (detail)
c. 1123
Mural
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

The Madonna Enthroned c. 1123 Fresco Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

The Madonna Enthroned
c. 1123
Fresco
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

This mural was removed from the wall of the apse in the church of Santa Maria at Tahull. The Santa Maria was the sister church of San Clemente in the same Catalonian town and likewise consecrated in 1123. The Madonna represents a Byzantine type of the depiction of Mary: the “nikopoia” (the bringer of victory). The nikopoia takes the form of a stringently symmetrical composition, with the child seated in the centre, as if himself enthroned in his enthroned mother’s lap. This fresco was executed by the chief master of San Clemente.

Creation Adam and the Original Sin 12th century Mural painting transferred to canvas, width 450 cm Museo del Prado, Madrid

Creation Adam and the Original Sin
12th century
Mural painting transferred to canvas, width 450 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

This painting belonged to the murals which decorated the walls and vault of the hermitage of Santa Cruz de Maderuelo (Segovia). These paintings can be linked to the Catalan paintings of Taüll.

Hunt of the Hare 12th century Mural painting tranferred to canvas, 185 x 360 cm Museo del Prado, Madrid

Hunt of the Hare
12th century
Mural painting tranferred to canvas, 185 x 360 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

This mural painting once decorated the 11th-century Mozarab church dedicated to St Baudelio and situated near Casillas de Berlanga (Soria). Its theme of profane character makes it of extraordinary interest.

Christ in Majesty and the Heavenly Jerusalem c. 1120 Fresco Abbey Church, Saint-Chef

Christ in Majesty and the Heavenly Jerusalem
c. 1120
Fresco
Abbey Church, Saint-Chef

The picture in the vault of the Chapelle Conventuelle in the abbey church of St. Chef in Dauphiné, east of Lyons, shows the mandorla depicting Christ enthroned on a bench covered with cushions and with his arms raised in blessing. Above the crown on Christ’s head the Holy Lamb is placed rather awkwardly upside down as it belongs to another section of the vault.

Angels 1125-50 Fresco Saint-Gilles, Montoire-sur-le-Loir

Angels
1125-50
Fresco
Saint-Gilles, Montoire-sur-le-Loir

The frescoes in the church of Saint-Gilles in Montoire-sur-le-Loir (Loir-et-Cher) belong to a group of mural paintings of which the centre is Tours. The group is characterized as the “naturalistic school”.

The picture shows a detail of the fresco in the eastern apse of the church depicting angels.

Luxuria 1125-50 Fresco Saint-Nicolas, Tavant

Luxuria
1125-50
Fresco
Saint-Nicolas, Tavant

The decorations in the nave and crypt of Saiint-Nicolas in Tavant (Indre-et-Loire) count among the finest achievements of Romanesque mural painting in France. The composition in the crypt, shown in the picture, represents Luxuria, the personification of the vice of extravagance.

Fall of Man c. 1140 Fresco Saint-Jean-le-Vigne, Saint-Plancard

Fall of Man
c. 1140
Fresco
Saint-Jean-le-Vigne, Saint-Plancard

(Above and below) The frescoes in the church of Saint-Jean-le-Vigne in Saint-Plancard (Haute-Garonne) belong to a group of mural paintings located in the French Pyrenees. This group is known as the “Catalan group” since the wall paintings differ from the French type, they have more in common with those found in the Catalan region of Roussillon.

Angel c. 1140 Fresco Saint-Jean-le-Vigne, Saint-Plancard

Angel
c. 1140
Fresco
Saint-Jean-le-Vigne, Saint-Plancard

Nowhere else can we find such a wealth of Romanesque painting, from the most archaic murals to altarpieces that foreshadow Gothic work, as in Spain, and more particularly in Catalonia. This is due to a few courageous and clear-sighted men. Among the earliest, we must mention Jose Pijoan, who in 1907 published at the Institute of Catalan Studies a rich documentary study of Catalan Romanesque painting, and Mgr Gudiol, who organized the Episcopal Museum of Vich, the oldest museum of medieval Christian art in Catalonia.

It is heartbreaking to think of all the masterpieces lost through man’s stupidity: the destruction ordered by Carlos III of Bourbon and his painter Mengs – the king wished to create an elegant, refined court art which would brook no contact with Romanesque art, sprung from popular traditions and considered, at that time, primitive and vulgar; the suppression, and often destruction, of churches and monasteries during the great wave of radicalism of 1835 which spread over all Europe; and finally the civil war of 1936-9.

The earliest stage in Romanesque Biblical art is characterized by a powerful expressionism, and a dynamic freedom in composition. To this period – which lingers on unexpectedly in certain areas of the Pyrenees – belongs an altarpiece dedicated to St. Syrus and St. Juliet, which originally came from the hermitage consecrated to them at Durro.

The mural paintings in San Juan de Bohi, not far from Durro, display a more elongated conception of the human figure and an expressionistic power comparable to that of the Durro altar-front, without the latter’s brilliant color (vivid greens, yellows and reds). They are painted in paler tones of grey, ochre and garnet-red, but their art is more monumental and more refined. One of the most complete of these paintings is that of the Stoning of St. Stephen, which has a keen dramatic power.

Next week, the second and final installment of Early 12th Century Romanesque Mural Paintings.

Crash