Medieval architecture  

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This page Medieval architecture is part of the Middle Ages series. Illustration:"Hell" detail from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1504)
This page Medieval architecture is part of the Middle Ages series.
Illustration:"Hell" detail from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1504)

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Medieval architecture is a term used to represent various forms of architecture popular in Medieval Europe.


Art and architecture of the Early Middle Ages

Few large stone buildings were attempted between the Constantinian basilicas of the 4th century, and the 8th century. At this time, the establishment of churches and monasteries, and a comparative political stability, brought about the development of a form of stone architecture loosely based upon Roman forms and hence later named Romanesque. Where available, Roman brick and stone buildings were recycled for their materials. From the fairly tentative beginnings known as the First Romanesque, the style flourished and spread across Europe in a remarkably homogeneous form. The features are massive stone walls, openings topped by semi-circular arches, small windows, and, particularly in France, arched stone vaults and arrows

In the decorative arts, Celtic and Germanic barbarian forms were absorbed into Christian art, although the central impulse remained Roman and Byzantine. High quality jewellery and religious imagery were produced throughout Western Europe; Charlemagne and other monarchs provided patronage for religious artworks such as reliquaries and books. Some of the principal artworks of the age were the fabulous Illuminated manuscripts produced by monks on vellum, using gold, silver, and precious pigments to illustrate biblical narratives. Early examples include the Book of Kells and many Carolingian and Ottonian Frankish manuscripts.


Gothic architecture

The style originated at the 12th century abbey church of Saint-Denis in Saint-Denis, near Paris, where it exemplified the vision of Abbot Suger. Verticality is emphasized in Gothic architecture and features almost skeletal stone structures with great expanses of glass, pointed arches using the ogive shape, ribbed vaults, clustered columns, sharply pointed spires and flying buttresses. Windows contain beautiful stained glass, showing stories from the Bible and from lives of saints. Such advancements in design allowed cathedrals to rise taller than ever, and it became something of an inter-regional contest to build a church as high as possible.

Distinctive elements of medieval architecture

See also

Further reading

  • Braun, Hugh, An Introduction to English Mediaeval Architecture, London: Faber and Faber, 1951.

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