In the Romanesque Church the Interior Decoration Was More Important Than the Architecture
Romanesque art and architecture we can see that there are many points for and against the statement ‘in the Romanesque church the interior decoration was more important than the architecture’. There are many surviving Romanesque churches throughout Europe which we can look to when discussing topics like this particular one. However, many of these churches have been redecorated, restored, extended in later periods or even just left in disrepair, but from looking at a wide range of buildings from different regions and countries we can get a general sense of what the buildings would have looked like at the time.
In my essay I will discuss points in favour of the above statement, points against the above statement and also my own opinion on the subject. I will firstly discuss a few of the points in favour of the topic ‘interior decoration was more important than the architecture’. Looking at many Romanesque churches and buildings we can see that the interior decoration is more important than the architecture.
The first point, and example, is that the architecture was plain and basic, more about being structurally sound than aesthetically pleasing the viewers, and we can see this at Cuddesdon Church, in Oxfordshire.This church in England, even though the architecture and interior decoration are both modest compared with many other Romanesque churches, shows us that the interior decoration is more important than the architecture. The exterior stone walls are thick and undecorated. The architecture is exclusively for functional reasons, not decorative. There is a tower, west portal and south portal off this cruciform shaped church.However the interior decoration in this church was more elaborately considered and carried out than the architecture. One example to show this is the tower crossing, which has richly ornamented Norman arches.
All the outer faces of the arches have two orders with angle half-rolls, except for the arch facing the nave. This has a hood with doghead stops, an outer order of zigzag, and an inner order with roll-moulding. In many of the Romanesque churches the interior decoration is elaborate, intricate and sophisticated.The patrons, architects and designers in the Romanesque period may have had the notion that the interior decoration was more important as that was where people would have worshipped, prayers would have been said and where ceremonies were held. Examples of this elaborate interior decoration can be seen in places such as the Cappella Palatina (Palermo), the Santa Maria in Trastevere (Rome) and the Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption (Gourdon). These buildings have interior decoration features such as decorated capitals, fluting, vaulting, frescoes, arches, round blind arches and sculptural decoration.There are many other features of Romanesque interior decoration that add to the point that architecture was less important than the interior decoration.
Maybe if the architecture really had been more important than the interior decoration, the Gothic style of architecture would have emerged sooner replacing the plain and basic architecture that was associated with the Romanesque style. The second point to discuss is that the interior decoration was not, in truth, more important than the architecture.The architecture of the Romanesque style could also be seen as carefully designed, well thought out and engineered. Even the most architecturally simple buildings would reinforce this point, because if the architecture was not considered as important, the exterior would be plain, different types of stones would not have been used, there would be no vaulting, no arches or any other structurally yet decoratively relevant features. The buildings would not be able to support towers, there would not have more clerestories or upper levels.There are then the Romanesque buildings where the architecture is startlingly intricate, elaborate and detailed. An example of this is the Eglise Notre-Dame-la-Grande, Poitiers.
The west front of Notre-Dame-la-Grande is one of the finest Romanesque facades in France. It is flanked by turrets topped with conical spires, which, along with the rich sculpture, are the hallmarks of Poitou Romanesque architecture . The plan of the church consists of a central nave with aisles which is a common plan in Romanesque architecture of the province of Poitou.The sculpture of the West Front depicts many scenes; saints, prophets, creatures, foliage, the story of Jesus, the word of God spread by apostles and Christ in Glory. The inside of the church consists of a dim, barrel-vaulted nave with no clerestory, more narrow side aisles, a transept crossing capped with a tower, a diminutive choir, and a groin-vaulted ambulatory with radiating chapels. Other examples of buildings where the architecture is clearly not less important than the interior decoration are St. Martin’s Cathedral (Mainz), Abbaye aux Hommes (Caen), Winchester Cathedral (Hampshire) and LyonCathedral (Lyon).
Some of the architectural features in these buildings include Romanesque towers, vaults, intricate exterior sculpture, high rising towers and outer buildings, ample windows and strong walls capable of reaching significant heights (without the use of buttresses). From looking at several buildings and different points of view regarding the statement ‘in the Romanesque church the interior decoration is more important than the architecture’, I can discuss my ideas and opinions regarding the above statement.In my opinion neither the architecture nor the interior decoration has priority or more importance over the other. I would say there is a parallel between the two aspects. The architecture allows for the interior decoration to be created, as it structurally supports the whole building and constructs features for the interior decoration to be created on, for example sculpture on columns and arches, mosaics and frescoes on ceilings and walls, and stained glass windows which are structurally able to be placed there because of walls (and later buttresses).An example, in my opinion, of a Romanesque building where architecture and interior decoration are parallel in terms of importance is the Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire. Off the south aisle of the nave is the Prior’s Door, which has a magnificent example of 12th-century Romanesque carvings.
Dating from about 1150, its tympanum depicts Christ in Majesty held aloft by archangels and blessing the creatures of the universe. Two human heads peer down from the corners and the pilasters on the sides have medallions populated by various beasts and humans .This massive scale cathedral shows how both architecture and interior decoration were equally important, as both features were sophisticatedly designed. In conclusion, we can see that there are many different ideas about the statement ‘in the Romanesque church the interior decoration was more important than the architecture’. In my opinion both features are equal, however the whole subject is open to debate for academics and art historians. Architecture can seem plain and incomplete without interior decoration, and interior decoration cannot exist without architecture.The fact that many buildings still survive help us to understand the Romanesque period and the art and architecture from that time.
Yet as we have no firsthand experience with the buildings at that time we cannot characterize what the architects and engineers, or even just the viewers of the buildings, were thinking in regards to architecture versus interior decoration. ?Bibliography •http://www. sacred-destinations. com/reference/romanesque-architecture •http://www. wordiq. com/definition/Romanesque •http://www. sacred-destinations.