II. CONTINENTAL ROMANESQUE: 1066–1200

We should misjudge the variety of Western architecture in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries if we allowed the foregoing sketch of cathedral structure to stand as valid for all Latin Christendom. In Venice the Byzantine influence continued; St. Mark’s added ever new decorations, pinnacles, and spoils, but always in the manner of Constantinople crossed with that of Baghdad. Probably through Venice, perhaps through Genoa or Marseille, the Byzantine style of domes placed with pendentives upon a Greco-cruciform base entered France and appeared in the churches of St. Étienne and St. Front at Périgueux, and in the cathedrals of Cahors and Angoulême. In 1172, when Venice decided to restore and enlarge the Palace of the Doges, she took a medley of styles—Roman, Lombard, Byzantine, Arabic—and united them in a masterpiece that Villehardouin in 1202 thought moult riche et bictux, and which still remains the chief glory of the Grand Canal.

No definition of an architectural style has ever escaped exceptions; the works of man, like those of nature, resent generalizations, and flaunt their individuality in the face of every rule. Let us accept the round arch, thick walls and piers, narrow windows, attached buttresses or none, and predominantly horizontal lines, as characterizing Romanesque; and let us keep an open mind for deviations.

Almost a century after the foundation of its duomo, Pisa commissioned Diotisalvi to erect a baptistery across a square from the cathedral (1152). He adopted a circular plan, faced the structure with marble, disfigured it with blank arcades, encompassed it with colonnades, and crowned it with a dome that might have been perfect but for its conical cupola. Behind the cathedral Bonanno of Pisa and William of Innsbruck raised the Leaning Tower as a campanile (1174). It repeated the style of the cathedral façade—a series of superimposed Romanesque arcades, with the eighth story housing the bells. The Tower sank on the south side after three stages had been built upon a foundation only ten feet deep, and the architects tried to offset this by inclining the later stories toward the north. In a height of 179 feet the Tower now deviates 16½ feet from the perpendicular—an increase of one foot between 1828 and 1910.

Italian monks migrating into France, Germany, and England brought Romanesque fashions in their train. Perhaps because of them most French monasteries were Romanesque, so that in France Romanesque has the second name of the monastic style. The Benedictines of Cluny built a magnificent abbey there (1089–1131), with four side aisles, seven towers, and such an array of zoological sculpture as roused St. Bernard’s ire.

In the cloisters, under the eyes of the monks who read, what do these ridiculous monsters seek to do? What do these unclean monkeys mean, these dragons, centaurs, tigers, and lions … these soldiers fighting, these hunting scenes? … What business here have these creatures who are half beast and half man? … We can see here several bodies under one head, and several heads on one body. Here we observe a quadruped with the head of a serpent, there a fish with the head of a quadruped; here an animal is a horse in front and a goat behind.4

The abbey of Cluny was destroyed in the Jacqueries of the Revolution, but its architectural influence spread to its 2000 affiliated monasteries. Southern France is still rich in Romanesque churches; the Roman tradition was strong there in art as in law, and long resisted the “barbaric” Gothic that came down from the North. Marble was rare in France, and the cathedrals atoned for lack of external brilliance by a profusion of sculpture. Startling, in the churches of southern France, is the expressionism of the statuary—the resolve to convey a feeling instead of copying a scene; so the figure of St. Peter on a portal of the abbey of Moissac (1150), with its tortured face and arachnid legs, must have aimed not so much to accentuate structural lines as to impress and terrify the imagination. That the sculptors deliberately distorted such figures appears from the minute realism of the foliage in the Moissac capitals. The best of these French Romanesque façades is the west portal of St. Trophime’s at Aries (1152), crowded with animals and saints.

Spain raised a lordly Romanesque shrine in the church of Santiago de Compostela (1078–1211), whose Portico de la Gloria contains the finest Romanesque sculpture in Europe. Coimbra, soon to be the university city of Portugal, built a handsome Romanesque cathedral in the twelfth century. But it was in its more northern migrations that Romanesque reached its apogee. The Île de France rejected it, but Normandy welcomed it; its rough power accorded well with a people recently Viking and still buccaneers. As early as 1048 the Benedictine monks of Jumièges, near Rouen, built an abbey reputedly larger than any edifice that had been raised in Western Europe since Constantine; the Middle Ages too were proud of size. It was half destroyed by the fanatics of the Revolution, but its surviving façade and towers preserve a bold and virile design. There, indeed, was formed the Norman style of Romanesque, relying for its effect on mass and structural form rather than on ornament.

In 1066 William the Conqueror, to expiate the sin of marrying Matilda of Flanders, provided funds for a church of St. Étienne at Caen, known as the Abbaye aux Hommes; and Matilda, perhaps with like motives, financed there the church of La Trinité, known as the Abbaye aux Dames. About 1135, in a restoration of the Abbaye aux Hommes, each bay of the nave was divided with an extra column on each side, bound with a transverse arch; in this way the usual “quadripartite” became a “sexpartite” vault, a form that proved popular throughout the twelfth century.

From France the Romanesque style passed into Flanders, raising a handsome cathedral at Tournai (1066); and from Flanders, France, and Italy it entered Germany. Mainz had begun its cathedral in 1009, Trier in 1016, Speyer in 1030; these were rebuilt before 1300, still in the rounded style. Cologne built in this period the church of St. Maria im Kapitol, famous for its interior, and the church of St. Maria, famous for its towers; both buildings were destroyed in the Second World War. The cathedral of Worms, dedicated in 1171 and restored in the nineteenth century, is still a monument of Rhenish Romanesque. These churches had an apse at each end, and cared little for sculptured façades; they adorned their exterior with colonnades, and buttressed the towers with slender turrets of very pleasing form. The non-German critic praises these Rhenish shrines with patriotic moderation, but they have a charming gemütlich beauty quite in harmony with the inviting loveliness of the Rhine.

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