In so progressive an art as architecture it is always very difficult, sometimes impossible, to fix the exact date when one style ends and another begins. In an art so preeminently ecclesiastical as architecture was in the middle ages, it will probably be safer to look to the annals of the church rather than to those of the state for the lime when the Romanesque expired, giving birth, Phoenix-like, to the Gothic. Viewed from this point there can be little doubt that the reign of Gregory the Great—from 590 to 603—must be regarded as that in which the Latin language and the Roman style of architecture both ceased to be generally or even commonly employed. After this date we wander on through five centuries of tentative efforts to form a new style, and in the age of another Gregory—the VII—we find at last the Gothic style emancipated from former traditions and marching steadily forward with well defined aim.—Ferfusson’s History of Architecture
In the nomenclature of art, the terms Romanesque and Gothic, in common with many others, been variously interpreted, and even at the present day there is almost as much difference of opinion in the definitions as in the criticisms on various schools and styles. While by the Romanesque, as by the Hellenistic, are usually understood the forms and methods which followed the classic era, not only in Italy and Greece but throughout the Roman and Graeco-Roman world, there were almost as many subdivisions as there were provinces subject to the later empire. Though all were more or less founded on Roman models, in civilized countries may be noted a certain if that were individuality, tending sometimes to improvement and sometimes to deformity even worse, possible, than in the later art of the imperial city. In constructive skill, however, progress was unmistakable; for in this respect classic architecture was deficient and notwithstanding all that has been said about the stability of Roman edifices there are cathedral and other medieval buildings now in existence which far excel them in the builders craft.
The year 1000, as we have seen, was a critical one in the history of the world. It was the last, as was believed, of its existence, and men took little interest in its affairs. Few wills were made, since earthly goods would soon be a thing of the past, and what signified a few pieces of gold to those who were soon to dwell in a city whose streets were paved with gold? When the mystic year had passed, an impulse was given to the builder's art such as had never before been felt, designs and details being developed into the new style founded on Roman precedents but with many variations due to geographical and political environment. It was mainly in ecclesiastical structures that architecture found expression, everything centered in the church, all arts and sciences, all culture in whatever form. Under its protection settlements were established, producing in time new commonwealths where industry and ability were passports to success; but these belonged chiefly to a later period than that which we will now consider, ending as it does with the thirteenth century and thus contemporary with the later Byzantine era. While the opening of the eleventh century is usually accepted as the termination of that era, in the provinces of the Byzantine empire architectural designs were but little changed until its overthrow by the Turks, who themselves borrowed largely from Christian models, even Russia being indebted to Byzantine influences for some of the finest of her existing monuments.
Among the principal features of the Romanesque is the substitution of massive piers and vaulted ceilings of brick or stone for the columns and flat timber roofs of the basilica, thus permitting the increase of dimensions demanded by the growth of Christian congregations and communities.
As cities grew in wealth and population, no expense was spared on their churches which served not only as places of worship, but for political and other gatherings, as homes of the drama for the presentation of passion and miracle plays, as fortresses and storehouses for treasure. While the nave and aisles of the basilica were retained, the conjunction of walls and roofs in continuous curves, and with unity and symmetry of design, was far superior to the rows of pillars flanked in stiff rigidity of outline the halls of more ancient temples. Moreover, the supply of columns furnished by the ruined monuments of the Roman world was becoming exhausted, and as a substitute came the vaulted arch with its supporting piers, at first used only for the side aisles, then for the naves, and finally adopted in the larger cathedrals reared toward the close of the medieval ages.
A further reason for the use of vaulted ceilings was their stability and non-inflammable materials, the frequent conflagrations which destroyed the wooden-roofed basilicas hastening an innovation which was also in harmony with public taste. The transept, which divided the nave from the choir and gave to the building the shape of a cross, was often built in strongly projecting lines, this form being used not only with symbolic intent but for the enlargement of dimensions and for architectural effect. At the point of intersection a dome was erected, usually with pointed roof, the vaultings being also protected by gabled roofs, while double apses were not infrequent. Above the main facade were massive towers sometimes in several stories, ornamented with friezes and mock-arcades, gradually developed from a square substructure to an octagonal shape, and with conical, or pointed apex. Though an adaptation of the Byzantine campanile and used for similar purposes, the tower also served as a place of refuge or resistance and for the storage of valuables, but chiefly as an expression of civic pride. Borrowed also from Byzantine models was the arcaded cornice decoration beneath the roof lines or at the stages of the towers, pilasters of masonry strengthening and protruding from the walls, and arched columnar galleries extending around the upper portions of the exterior. Such, likewise, are the main characteristic features of the modern Romanesque with which, however, we are not at present concerned.
In Italy, where the supply of columns was longer available than in other lands, the colonnades and timber roofs of the basilica appear in what may be termed the Italian Romanesque, piers, vaultings, and towers being later adopted and with greater elaboration of decorative scheme. In other forms, as in Norman and Lombard, which are largely modifications of the Romanesque, there was also much variety of treatment, often in combinations that can be better described in a general outline of medieval architecture. Beginning with the eleventh century, came a period in which there was no such uniformity of design as existed in the classic age, or in the early Christian and Byzantine eras. To the builder and artisan was allowed a certain freedom of choice, even in the different parts of a single edifice, thus presenting a ceaseless variety of outline in various orders and often in no order of architecture. Regularity of plan was not only neglected as unnecessary but avoided as undesirable, with the result that, especially in ornamental details, the grotesque is strangely blended with the picturesque.
Especially in the towers is noticed this diversity of shape, the upper portion being sometimes slender and sometimes squat, now richly adorned and again without trace of ornamentation. As a rule, however, cathedrals and churches were freely decorated, usually in forms representing vegetable life, capitals and cornices being overspread with leaves and flowers, at first in imitation of Corinthian designs and then in the greater profusion demanded by northern tastes. On friezes and on the framework of doors were knotted, undulating, and checker-work patterns, with which were combined, in vigorous profile, human, animal, and monstrous figures, some of symbolic import but for the most part the mere creations of fancy, masterly compositions appearing side by side with the rudest of workmanship. Yet in plastic art the Romanesque was far superior to the Arabic, showing greater freedom of treatment and a juster adaptation to its legitimate use than appears on the monuments of Islam.
Though with many defects, there was also much to commend in the ecclesiastical architecture of this period, and especially in that of the Germanic races, whose art was inspired with the breath of their national life. The solemnity of church and cathedral edifices, with their air of repose and seclusion from the world, was further increased by the dim light of stained-glass windows falling on mural and ceiling paintings of the Redeemer and his elect. Christ, enthroned on a rainbow, and holding forth the open book of life, was the usual subject portrayed in the apse, while apostles and saints, with scenes from old testament history, were also freely represented in figures executed in strong, rich colors on a ground of blue. In connection with many of the churches were monastic institutions, abbeys, encircled with turreted walls, presenting the appearance of fortified medieval towns, and resembling castles in strength and massiveness of outline.
In what is known as the Transition style, between the Romanesque and Gothic, beginning about the middle of the twelfth century and ending toward the close of the thirteenth, are some of the finest specimens of medieval architecture. This was a period when men were yearning for that which was beautiful and elegant in whatever shape, since the age of self-abnegation, more gloomy even than that of the puritans, had given way to the age of chivalry, putting an end to the rigid domination of the monastic system, in art, as in every phase of external life.
Cities were increasing in wealth; commerce was bringing to the West not only the riches but the culture of the East, while crusaders made Europe acquainted with the delicate workmanship and striking combinations of oriental artificers. Hence we find in the later stages of the Romanesque its richest and also its most fantastic expression, with a marvelous productive power and an infinite variety of forms and tendencies peculiar to itself. But the development of this favorite and still existing style of architecture will be better understood from a description of some of its leading examples.
In the Rhine country are the finest and most numerous specimens of the earlier Romanesque; for here it was that the flat-roofed basilica was first superseded by the new order of architecture. While earlier examples might be given, the cathedral of Maintz, or Mayence, completed in 1009, is one of the most remarkable, though most of the original structure has been destroyed by fire, the present edifice, in which are many Gothic details dating chiefly from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, but with recent restorations. Still remaining are the apse, the two round towers, and the portals in the eastern section of the ancient edifice, 400 feet in length, and in grandeur surpassing all other monuments of its class. Of the Transition style, whether as to design or decoration, there are few more striking instances than in its beautifully finished western choir and transept, above which are the loftiest of its six towers, more than 300 feet in height.
Of special interest for its eventful history, and as one of the noblest expressions of the earlier Romanesque is the cathedral of Spires, founded in 1030 by Conrad II and finished by his successors. It is remarkable also as the first basilica built originally with vaulted roof, and as now it stands, of such solid workmanship that the supporting masonry occupies one-fifth of its 60,000 square feet of area. After the conflagration of 1689, when the armies of Louis XIV laid waste the Palatinate, only the walls and towers were left standing, his soldiers even scattering the ashes of German emperors interred beneath the choir. Restored in the eighteenth century, and again desecrated by the French, its final renovation was completed in 1853 by King Louis of Bavaria, the fresco paintings ranking among the most gorgeous specimens of decorative art.
The nave, more than 100 feet high and 45 between the piers, is perhaps the most striking feature, though in the lofty domes and towers and in the effective grouping of masses is a simple grandeur which gives value to dimensions rarely attempted in the present age. Says an authority on Rhenish architecture: "Externally, the body of the church has no ornament but its small window openings and the galleries that extend around all the principal divisions. But the bold square towers and central dome group pleasingly together, and rising far above the low roofs of the half-depopulated town at its feet, impress the spectator with admiration at the boldness of the design and the skill with which it has been executed. Taken altogether this noble building proves that the German architects at that time had actually produced a great and original style, and that had they persevered, they must have succeeded in perfecting it; but they abandoned their task before it was half completed.“
The third of the three typical buildings of this era and country, and not the least imposing in dignified simplicity of outline is the cathedral of Worms, in which the original design has been mainly preserved, though only a small portion of the present structure belongs to the date of its consecration in 1110. Nothing could be simpler or more appropriate to the external design than the four circular towers and the domes that further break the skyline; nor is there anything objectionable in the columnar treatment of the flanked buttresses and the moldings suggestive of Gothic art. If the decorations of the older section are somewhat crude in workmanship, this is more than compensated by the thirteenth century choir and the elaborate fourteenth century portal. The dimensions are also remarkable, the total length being nearly 500 feet and the choir 160 feet in height.
By Helena, mother of Constantine, was reared, as legend relates, the basilica which in the eleventh and twelfth centuries was converted by Archbishop Poppo and his successors into the cathedral of Treves. Finding the original structure almost in ruins, the worthy prelate covered its Roman columns with masonry, thus turning them into piers; then placing a roof over the atrium and building an apse at the western extremity, he made of it a German church almost as now it stands, except for the addition of a second apse. Though not remarkable for beauty of design, it is nevertheless of artistic value, if only as indicating the transition of style which gave to ecclesiastical architecture its calm and serious aspect.
Cologne is rich in monuments of the Romanesque and transitional eras, the oldest among them and one of the best preserved being the church of Santa Maria in Capitolio, consecrated by Leo IX in 1049. Originally built, as is claimed, in 700, by the wife of one Pepin Heristall, the nave was reconstructed about the middle of the eleventh century, to which period belongs the present edifice, except for the upper portions of the choir and transepts. A noticeable feature, and yet by no means uncommon, is the triapsal disposition, seen also in the churches of the Apostles and of Saint Martin. In all the effect is imposing, and especially in the church of the Apostles, the three apses forming a graceful substructure for towers and dome, and adding much to the beauty of the interior, as it opens up gradually from the nave.
The church at Hildesheim is also one of the oldest and purest specimens of its order. Especially beautiful are the arches and the capitals of the pillars, a handsome pier being substituted for every third column, while lack of length in proportion to breadth is compensated by the use of screens. In the minster at Bonn the eastern apse and its flanked towers are noble specimens of eleventh century workmanship, as also is the abbey church at Laach, one of the few whose plan has not been altered to suit the changing tastes of the age. A remarkable feature is the grouping of its towers of different forms and sizes in combinations strikingly picturesque.
In Saxony the vaulted roof in combination with the basilica was first used in the cathedral which Henry the Lion founded at Brunswick in 1171. In the cathedral at Naumburg, consecrated in 1242, is one of the most perfect specimens of the Transition style, with rich and graceful details and one of the most handsome of Romanesque lectoria. “But," says the critic already quoted, "the highest perfection of this style is seen in the magnificent cathedral at Bamberg, in which the excellencies of the Rhenish and Saxon schools are blended together in exquisite beauty. The design is grand; the proportions are vast and powerful, and at the same time there evidenced in the freedom and slenderness of the forms. The rich organization, the is an inspiring character purity of outline, and the elaborate ornamentation place this work in the foremost rank among the architectural creations of the middle ages.
In Italy the Romanesque is found in conjunction or side by side with many other styles of architecture, from the simple Christian basilica to the must elaborate forms of the Arabic. In Rome the basilica was preserved in various forms until near the close of the thirteenth century, for here were utilized the ruins of antique monuments so Iong as any fragments remained. Hence progress was rather in decorative than in structural art, in the embellishment of columns and entablatures, in interior details, and in mosaic work in richly colored marbles, of which there was an inexhaustible supply. Foremost among the artificers of this age were the members of the Cosmati family, of whose richly sculptured altars and choir screens many specimens have been preserved.
In Tuscany was developed a more independent style of architecture, of which the grandest and one of the oldest specimens is the cathedral of Pisa, founded in 1063, though its baptistery and campanile—the leaning tower—belong to the following century. While of the basilica type, five-aisled and with transept in three divisions, there are traces of Byzantine and Arabic influence, especially in the domical treatment. Remarkably rich is the columniation of the exterior, rows of arcaded columns rising in stories and extending like galleries around the walls. The pillars of the nave are of granite with antique marble capitals, while those of the aisles, it is said, were brought in Pisan galleys from the ruins of classic temples. But much of the interior decoration is of later date, the altars being designed by Michael Angelo and the mosaics of the dome and apse by Cimabue. The inclination of the campanile, 183 feet in height, was originally caused by a giving way of the soil, this form being afterward maintained through caprice, or for the effect it would produce. Its walls are of marble, 13 feet thick at the base, whence, from a range of arches supported by columns, rise seven arcaded stories. The ascent is so easily made by flights of stairs that the slope is hardly noticed until reaching the top, where the visitor looks down in an oblique line beneath a cornice nearly 14 feet out of the perpendicular.
The Pisan style became popular in other Italian cities, the plan of its cathedral being reproduced, for example, in the church of San Michele in Lucca, but in details more quaint and fantastic. Of graceful outline are the facade and apse of the cathedral church at Troja, the lower story adorned in imitation of the rich foliage characteristic of southern Italy, and crowned with a cornice elegant in profile and sculptural decoration. In the upper story a large rose window takes the place of arcades, this being the principal feature of the original design.
In Florence one of the most striking developments of the basilica form is the church of San Miniato, erected in the eleventh or twelfth century on an eminence overlooking the city. It is small but perfect in outline, the facade, faced with marble and resting on a row of arcaded columns, presenting an almost classic elegance of outline. Especially beautiful is the baptistery, a domed and galleried octagonal structure whose Corinthian pillars probably belonged to some ancient Roman temple.
The church of Saint Mark at Venice has been mentioned in connection with Byzantine architecture, to which order belonged the original edifice consecrated in 1085, but with nothing suggestive of the splendid ecclesiastical monument of the present day. In the reign of every doge some addition was made to its plan or its decorative scheme, so that the walls, extended far beyond their original limits were covered on both faces with the choicest of colored marbles or with mosaics laid on a ground of gold, even the white marble used for sculpture being entrusted with gold.
In lower Italy and Sicily there is a strange and fantastic blending of forms, as might be expected from countries that passed successively under Byzantine, Saracenic, and Norman domination. Here are found in conjunction the early Christian basilica, the Byzantine dome and cross, the pointed arch of the Arabic order, and the massive Norman tower, yet often combined with a richness of fancy that more than atones for heterogeneity of plan. Of this there is an example in the monastery church at Monreale, one of the finest monuments of the Norman kings who, after expelling the Mohammedans , established their capital in the adjacent city of Palermo. The nave is distinctly basilican, wide and with narrow aisles, slender monolithic columns with antique capitals, doubtless the spoils of older buildings, supporting lofty and pointed arches. In place of a triforium is a clear-story; the roofs, low in pitch, are of plain open woodwork, richly colored; at the western end are projecting towers, and in the carved and inlaid doorways is a singular admixture of the Norman, Arabic, and Byzantine. The inner surface of the walls, more than 80,000 square feet in area, is entirely covered with miniature paintings in mosaic, brilliantly colored on a ground of gold, while in the apses and elsewhere are scriptural scenes and figures. In front of the high altar is the marble throne of the founder, William II, and behind it that of the archbishop, the porphyry sarcophagi of the former and his father. William I, being restorations after the fire of 1811, as are the clumsy choir-fittings, and other portions of the interior.
In the twelfth century Palermo was known as "the city of the threefold tongue;" that is to say, the Greek, Latin, and Arabic, in all of which languages inscriptions are to be found in Christian-Saracen buildings. The palace chapel built by King Roger, soon after his coronation in 1130, is one of the finest examples of this style of architecture, especially in its wall mosaics and brightly painted ceiling, gleaming with stalactites. In the cathedral of Palermo the mosaic decorations convert what would be otherwise a plain exterior into a handsome but somewhat over-fanciful composition. In lower Italy are also strong traces of Arabic influence, as in the cathedrals of Salerno and Amalfi, whose original plan has not been entirely obliterated by modern transformation.
Lombard architecture inclines somewhat to Germanic types, as might be expected of a people whose original home was on the southern shore of the Baltic. Brick, occasionally coated with marble, is the material commonly used, thus requiring a strong surface decoration, while a tendency toward the fantastic. The tower is seldom used in the development of the facade, which usually rises from the nave in a single composition, sometimes altogether too lofty for the main body of the edifice. Of this there is an example in the twelfth century cathedral at Modena, whose marble-lined campanile, its summit 315 feet above the pavement, dwarfs the low three-aisled and triapsidal structure beneath.
In France many forms have been developed from the Romanesque, and nowhere perhaps is stronger evidence of the adaptability of this Style of architecture.
Especially in southern France the flat-roof of the basilica was early replaced by vaultings extended over nave and aisles, galleries being often placed over the side aisles, and the choir finished in rich and elegant details. More even than in Italy may be observed an adherence to classic models, some doubtless introduced by Roman conquerors and later adapted to the tastes and needs of a people whose art had already begun to show the versatility of genius characteristic of this gifted nation.
A noble edifice, and the largest in southern France, is the church named after Saint Sernin, who, as tradition relates, first preached the gospel at Toulouse, and there, about the middle of the third century, suffered a martyrs death. As now it stands, after many additions and restorations since the oldest portion was consecrated in 1096, it is 375 feet in length by 215 in breadth, the nave having double and galleried aisles, and the choir radiating apses, with others at the arms of the cross, above which rises a slender and graceful tower supported by masonry altogether too heavy for its superstructure. Over the southern entrance the Ascension is represented in the most finished style of Byzantine art, and of the same workmanship is an eleventh century figure of Christ in one of the chapels, another chapel containing the tombs of the earlier counts of Toulouse.
Among other examples of the French-Romanesque are the cathedral of Avignon and the church of Saint Gilles at Abbeville, both with later Gothic treatment and with portals after the fashion of the antique. At Clermont the church of Notre Dame du Port is rich in mosaic and columnar decoration. Before the building of St. Peter’s, the abbey church at Cluny, completed in 1131, was the largest ecclesiastical structure in Europe, about 650 feet in length, with ten apses, five aisles, and as many chapels radiating from the choir, the loftiest of its seven towers surmounting the principal transept. Of this parent monastery of the Cluniac order, once the most powerful in Christendom, the abbots residence, as restored after the revolution of 1789, was later converted into a museum, the cloisters into a school, and the remains of the church into a government stud.
In part of Romanesque architecture are the Norman churches of La Trinite and St. Etienne, both founded in 1066, the former by Queen Matilda and the latter by her husband, William the Conqueror, whose memory is still perpetuated by the plain marble slab which marks his desecrated tomb. Both are vaulted and pillared basilicas, regular in design and severe in style, with none of the ornamentation characteristic of southern temples, though the towers above the facade of St. Etienne are of elaborate workmanship.
With the conquest of England by William of Normandy old Saxon architecture came to an end, and well perhaps that it was so; for there was little of beauty in its wooden buildings, while all that was best worth preserving was combined with Norman and Gothic styles in forms that later became national. If there was nothing distinctly Romanesque, there were at least many traces of it in these gloomy, massive, Anglo-Norman cathedrals, more fitted, as it would seem, for medieval strongholds than for temples of worship. Of those that remain, the most striking examples are the cathedrals of Norwich and Peterborough; but as with others presently to be described, both are more or less transformed from their original design.
In northern Spain were freely adopted, during tin eleventh and twelfth centuries, the architectural forms of southern France; but during the long struggle that closed with the surrender of Boabdil, Moorish influences were at work modifying and at times even supplanting the structural designs of the Spaniards; for in the monuments of Islam there was much to commend. Later was gradually developed a style which in its constructive features was distinctly Romanesque, but in decorative scheme was borrowed from the rich fancies of Arabic art.
Of the French Romanesque the cathedral of Salamanca founded in the twelfth century by Bishop Geronimo, the confessor of the Cid, is one of the finest examples. The choir is formed of parallel apses, a peculiarity in Spanish churches of this period, and in the treatment of the double dome there is much of originality, the inner one springing from a double arcade and the outer one pointed and covered with tiles. In the chapels and southern transept are many valuable monuments; in the reredos are several of Florentino's panel paintings, and on the vault of one of the apses is his fresco of 'Our Lord in Judgment.’ To the same epoch or very nearly so, belong the church of San Isidoro at Leon and the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella, both resembling the church of St. Sernin at Toulouse, though richer in plastic ornaments. In the portal of the cathedral is one of the finest specimens extant of twelfth century sculpture, French in style, but by a Spanish artist. On the tympanum is a relief of Christ enthroned in majesty, and around the central arch are the four and twenty elders, even the shafts being decorated with statues of saints. While in all the figures there is a certain the rigidity, as in the stiff apparel, pointed beard, and the meaningless smile, this in part the result of conformity to architectural lines.
Of the combination of the Romanesque and Moorish the cathedral of Tarragona may be cited as an example, though in its strongly developed columniation are traces of Norman influence. The eastern and older portion is of eleventh century workmanship, and while the body of the edifice belongs to the transitional era, and other portions to a later period, the fanciful ornamentation of the sculptured capitals does not detract from the severe simplicity of the masses. In the cloister, communicating with the church by a handsome doorway, and especially in the tracery of its windows, are the most interesting tokens of Saracenic art. In the cathedral of Zamora and the collegiate church of Toro is also an abundance of Moorish details in conjunction with the solid architecture of the later Romanesque.
Through the same agencies that fostered the revival of architecture was retarded the development of the sister arts. While in architectural monuments was expressed the universal sentiment of the Christian world, as molded by priestly influences, it was not so with sculpture and painting, which depend rather on the individual and on the estimation in which his profession is held. Until the thirteenth century, as we have seen, and in some countries until a much later date both were cramped by the lifeless methods of the Byzantine school, with here and there a feeble imitation of classic models . To promote the cause of the church was the sole aim of Christian art, and in nature the church saw only that which was sinful; so that with no independent conception of natural beauties, it is hardly too much to say that the art of the world was confined to the cloister cell.
While secular artists were not entirely unknown, the church secured the best artistic talent, affording the widest range of subjects and the most varied opportunities for employment. With sacred scenes and figures were intermingled all that the learning of the time could afford, all the rich legendary of Greece and Rome, together with that which it personified—the sun and moon, the stars in their courses, the cycles and the seasons, natural phenomena of whatever kind, and especially virtue and vice, sirens and satyrs being freely used as symbolic of temptation and crime. Moreover, in church decorations there was a manifold variety of work. Besides the sculptural ornaments of facades, the painting of walls and ceilings, of windows and vaulted domes, there were the portals, choirs, and pulpits, the sacred vessels and implements, and the preparation of manuscripts often requiring the execution of miniatures in the most finished style of pictorial art.
As with architecture, so with sculpture, the Germanic races excelled in vigor and variety; for not only were they susceptible to new ideas, skilful in imparting freshness to the antique, but there were other causes at work. The exaltation of the empire had kindled the aspirations of a people prone to ambition, while intimate relations with Italy had developed a taste for art, stronger perhaps than in the Italian himself. Thus the ancient modes of treatment at first adopted, in forms too often rude and misconceived, had given place to originality, albeit still hampered with Byzantine influences.
Gradually a further development is noticed until, in the thirteenth century, the antique was merely used as a basis for the higher conceptions engendered by the age of chivalry, by the age of freedom, by the growth and prosperity of the nation, and by contact with the East. If art was not yet released from the fetters of tradition, there are instances of real artistic genius revealing itself in noble forms, instinct with a pure and beautiful life.
It is in decorative sculpture, and especially in ivory carvings, that the German-Romanesque first assumes individuality. Of this material were fashioned goblets, drinking-horns, book-covers, tablets, and other articles, many of them adorned with figures in relief, awkward and stiff it may be, except where modeled after the courtly style of the Byzantines, but with a certain rude vigor and freshness of treatment. Of such works there are numerous specimens in churches, libraries, and art galleries, a hunting-horn in the cathedral at Prague, adorned with representations of gladiators and with the figures of griffins and centaurs affording an excellent idea of the fanciful style of this early period. In a diptych in the Cluny museum at Paris, the emperor Otto II and his spouse, of doll-like stature and garb, are being blessed by a majestic figure of Christ, attired in the semi-classic drapery characteristic of the early Christian period.
In metallic sculpture, as in architecture, the Rhine provinces present the most numerous specimens of the Romanesque, works being cast in bronze as early as the tenth century, and especially doors for churches, resembling somewhat those of Byzantine pattern fashioned in Italy about this period. Visiting Rome in 996, as a member of the suite of Otho III, Bernward, bishop of Hildesheim, a man fairly versed in art, brought back with him the designs for the brazen gate of his cathedral with its rows of figures in relief representing scriptural scenes. While the figures are sufficiently awkward, the upper portion inclining forward and separated from the panel, the drapery is in better taste, and in the entire composition there is an attempt at dramatic energy, as where Cain is slaying his brother or shrinking before the threatening hand of God. In the square in front of the cathedral, and formerly one of the pillars of its choir, is a bronze column modeled after the Trajan monument, with reliefs representing the life of Christ wound spirally around it.
Of superior workmanship are the baptismal fonts in the cathedrals of Hildesheim and Osnabruck, both covered with spirited reliefs, and the former resting on figures typical of the rivers of Paradise. But in better art than either is the font in the modernized basilica of St. Barthelemy at Liege, a twelfth century composition by Lambert Patras, and one of the finest of the age. The basin is supported by twelve oxen, in imitation probably of the brazen sea in the portico of Solomon's temple, and on its surface are figure-subjects of baptismal scenes in attitudes almost as natural as in classic art. In other articles of church equipment decoration is freely used as in the bronze candelabra still, existing in the cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle and in the collegiate church at Essen, the latter one of the few remaining specimens of the favorite Romanesque device which has for model the seven branched candlestick of the temple. Of fantastic design is the richly ornamented chandelier in the cathedral at Prague, its foot containing a strange admixture of human and animal forms intermingled with elegant branch work. Among others deserving of mention are the bronze effigies of Bishop Frederick at Magdeburg and of Rudolph of Swabia in the cathedral of Mersburg. In gold and silver the shrine of the kings at Cologne ranks first among surviving specimens.
Sculptures in stone and stucco are plentiful on the walls and portals of churches, their choir rails, screens, and lectoria, one of the earliest examples being the stone reliefs in the cathedral of Basle showing figures of martyrs and apostles. To the twelfth century belongs the choir screen of Hildesheim cathedral, one of the most finished productions of the age, with reliefs on the lower portion little inferior to Hellenic art. Of thirteenth century design are the reliefs in the choir of Bamberg cathedral and the sculptures of "the golden gate" in the cathedral of Freiburg, later transformed into a Gothic edifice. The principal theme of the latter is the adoration of the kings on the pediment of the arch, the figures of the Trinity surrounded with angels appearing on the archivolts, and detached figures between the columns on either side. The execution is original and expressive, the work, it must be, of some highly gifted artist, for nowhere else are so well combined the best features of the Romanesque with the sublimity of the antique.
Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries the sculpture of France was the most profuse and in some respects the best in the world; yet there is little of merit that belongs strictly to the Romanesque. The main facades of churches and cathedrals were not infrequently a mass of statuary with barely enough of structural outline to form a background for the figures. Of this there is an instance in the cathedral of St. Peter at Poitiers, whose western front is almost covered with rows of statues interspersed with foliated carvings. Architectural accessories were also covered with sculptures, even to the shafts of doorways, as appears in the cathedral of Chartres, where colossal effigies with rigid folds of drapery serve to relieve the upward lines. On the portals of the cathedrals of Bourges and Le Mans are excellent specimens of twelfth century workmanship, but with a stiffness of form and attire indicating a revival of hieratic influence. At the entrance of the abbey church at Conque is the most ambitious monument of this period, representing the oft-recurring scene of the last judgment in awkward figures of Christ, his angels, his elect, and those whom he has not elected.
Until the revival of plastic art in the days of the Pisani, the sculpture of Italy was far inferior to that of Germany or France. Much of it was the work of foreign artists, of men who were architects by profession and knew only enough of sculpture to decorate in some rude fashion their structural compositions. The eleventh century produced little of merit, and that which was tolerable is of the Byzantine school, or with strong traces of the Byzantine. In the following century a new tendency may be observed, but at first in such crude imitation of natural forms as to threaten with dissolution the little that remained of the true artistic spirit. The strangest of symbolism was also employed, as appears, for example, in the relief figures of Saint Luke and Saint John taken from a church at Aquileia. Toward the close of the century an improvement is perceptible, especially in bronze work, of which one of the best examples is in the sculptured portal of the cathedral of Ravello, designed, as is said, by Barisanus of Trani, to whom are also ascribed the cathedral gates at Monreale.
Thus far, in Italy, sculpture as a medium of expression had been held in subordination to architecture; for the grand and sublime can be better conveyed in masses than in details, and the time was not yet when all the arts should unite in the grand medieval cathedrals which became, not only the temples of worship, but the sculpture and picture galleries of the Christian world. Yet, says a writer on this period, "decoration, though it lagged behind construction, was so joined with it in motive that its very purpose spurred it on.
Bishops’ cathedra were elaborately covered with sacred scenes; pilasters were cut in imitative foliage through which symbolic animals leaped and peered; choir portals enshrined their statuary; carved fonts and pulpits were surmounted by lions whose colossal red stone bodies contrasted with the soft white Carrara marble in common use, and sculptured altars, fairly incrusted with scriptural reliefs, rehearsed again and again the gospel story.
But with rare exceptions, the sculptor’s skill did not keep pace with his ideals, until, near the middle of the thirteenth century, Niccola Pisano appears on the scene as the pioneer of the renaissance. Except in his works there are few records of his life, the first that is known of him, or rather said of him, referring to his services in the employ of Frederick II in 1221, at which date Niccola was fifteen, or as some have it, seventeen years of age. He was a thorough student, especially of classic models, though not neglecting what else there was of the beautiful in plastic art. Structural forms he also studied, and to such purpose that he became the greatest architect as well as the greatest sculptor of his age. But chiefly he is famed as the man who first gave new direction to hieratic sculpture, which still delighted in the unreal, the terrible, and austere, using in his art all the gifts of God, and converting those which were merely physical into symbols of purity and love. Thus in his panel reliefs in the pulpit of the Pisan baptistery, he did not hesitate to place figures of the nude side by side with the classic drapery in his 'Adoration of the Magi.’ Yet, as has been truthfully remarked, his Madonnas are as worshipful and his saints as saintly as those of any sculptor the world has ever seen.
Of the works that have come down to us the earliest is his 'Deposition from the Cross’ on a tympanum of the church of San Martino at Lucca. It is a graceful and delicate composition, though not without traces of the stiffness and monotony of the Romanesque. Nearly thirty years later, in 1260 as an inscription records, was completed his pulpit for the baptistery of the cathedral at Pisa, in some respects the finest of his compositions. It is hexagonal in shape, and of pure white marble, with handsome staircase and balustrade, the supporting pillars in the center and at each of the angles, connected by trefoil arches and resting on lions or other animal figures. The decoration is sufficiently profuse without interfering with the architectural scheme. Over the capitals are allegorical figures of the virtues and between the arches, symbolic paintings and reliefs of the prophets and evangelists. On the sides of the pulpit are portrayed, among other subjects, the nativity and the adoration of the Magi. In the former the Madonna rests on a pillow and in the latter is enthroned and diademed as though receiving the homage of her subjects. The poses and gestures are appropriate, and the drapery is arranged in natural folds; but the features, while full of grace and dignity, are too strongly suggestive of classic models, those of the virgin, for instance, having nothing of the Hebraic cast, but resembling rather Juno, while Joseph might be the Hephaestus of the Greeks and the heads of the magi Jove and Apollo. In 1266 was executed by Niccola the pulpit for the cathedral of Siena, in which, as in his Area di San Dominico, with sculptured stories of Saint Dominic's life, is a freer style, showing less of the severity of the antique. Giovanni, the son of Niccola, was also a sculptor of note, inclining rather to the Gothic, as appears in his first important work, an allegorical figure of the city of Pisa, erect in queenly attitude, and in his richly decorated altar and reredos in the cathedral of Arezzo.
In the Romanesque as in the Byzantine period, sculpture was often treated as uncolored painting, and especially in decorative work, in the ornamentation of altars and crosses, of gilded and silver plates, of gems and cameos, with filigrees and enamels, was the transition made from plastic to pictorial art. Of both kinds of workmanship, and especially in enamels, many fine specimens have been preserved in museums and churches, not a few showing such a degree of artistic and technical skill as almost to raise them to the dignity of legitimate art. Though first appearing in Byzantine models, enamel work reached a higher development in France, Limoges, famous for its emaux champs-leves, being the center of this industry until late in the middle ages. In the process a copper plate was commonly used as the groundwork, in which cavities were chased out to receive the enamel and the surface fired, polished, and gilded, the figures being either in enamel on a metallic background or in metal on a background of enamel. Later the inlaid process was superseded by painting, for which the translucent enamels in the style introduced in Italy early in the fourteenth century, with gold or silver as the basis, probably prepared the way.
Some of the best of eleventh century enamels are treasured in the churches of Hildesheim and Essen, while to the following century belong the reliquaries in the cathedrals of Osnabruck and Aix-la-Chapelle, and the shrine of the kings in the cathedral of Cologne, all richly adorned with precious stones and arabesques. At the Austrian village of Kloster-Neuberg is the Verdun altar, executed by an art-worker of that city in 1181, on which some fifty gilded plates are covered with scriptural scenes engraved in deep cavities and brilliantly colored. Many of the figures show strength of treatment, especially that of Samson in conflict with the lion, a crude but forceful composition.
Andrea Pisano, a pupil first of Giovanni, son of Niccola, Pisano, and then of Giotto, was one of the most famous of fourteenth century sculptors. His masterpiece was the bronze door on the southern side of the baptistery of the Florentine cathedral, in which all the vigor of sculptural art is combined with the delicacy of the goldsmith's—Andrea's original trade. On quatrefoil panels are small allegorical figures of the virtues and scenes from the life of John Baptist, executed with singular harmony and simplicity and without attempt at pictorial effect, as was then the fashion of the times.
One of the finest examples of cloisonné work is on the altar of Saint Marks at Venice, whose gold and silver panels and medallions are beautifully enameled. A valuable specimen of ancient cloisonné is the so-called Alfred jewel, preserved in an Oxford museum. The face is in rock-crystal; beneath it is a figure in transparent enamels of various colors, and around the edge an inscription in Anglo-Saxon, which translated signifies "Alfred ordered me to be made.” A rare and costly variety of cloisonné is that which is known as de plique a jour, composed of transparent enamels without background, their edges fastened to the windows in which they are framed. A small specimen, now in the South Kensington museum, was purchased for $2,000.
The development of painting, such as pertains to the Romanesque, may be traced in the numerous miniatures belonging chiefly to monastic art, for the most part a servile and clumsy imitation of the antique, but not without traces of individuality. The forms stand forth from a colored background, but without attempt at landscape or other environment, as in Byzantine depiction, from which in truth the Romanesque differs only in minor details. The colors are rich and varied, but applied with more regard to effect than to harmony or truth, the hair being often painted green or blue, while the picture is further impaired by the hollow, sunken cheeks, the lean, lank figures and the stiff folds of rigid drapery characteristic of early Christian methods. In the transition to a freer and more natural style consists whatever there may be of merit in the Romanesque.
In the libraries of Munich and Bamberg are some of the finest of medieval manuscripts and miniatures, the choicest among them, presented by Henry the saint early in the eleventh century, showing strength of conception if marred by over-coloring. After another period of degradation we find a more lively interpretation of the antique, with freer and more fanciful rendering, especially in marginal decoration. Later is seen the effect of the bards, whose poetry, together with the sentiment of chivalry, is interpreted in paintings or drawings with no uncertain touch and with a freshness of feeling before unknown. Still later is seen a material improvement in the wall painting of churches, in which there is much of dignity and over-much of formality, the figures standing boldly forth from the background and with due regard to architectural lines. In Germany some of the best examples are the twelfth century works in the church of Schwarzeheindorf, and especially those which represent the crucifixion, the transfiguration, and the expulsion of the money-changers. Others are in the church of St. Savin in Poitou, where is noticed more freedom in attitude and drapery, as also in the church of St. Michael in Hildesheim, where the pedigree of Christ is shown in a series of medallions.
During the Romanesque epoch Italy stands in a subordinate position, until the time of Giotto, Guido, and Cimabue whom some have termed the fathers of the renaissance, the lust especially panning with such truth and forcefulness that to him and his pupils is largely due whatever there is of excellence in the Florentine school. It may indeed be said that in the history of Italian painting he fills the same place that was occupied by Polygnotus in the classic era, making the best of the limited resources at his command and laying the foundation for the future glories of the renaissance. At that date, it should be remembered, there was little knowledge of perspective, of the gradations of light and shade, or of the structure of the human choice of sub-frame; yet all that could be done he did, restricted as he was in choice of subjects to ecclesiastical art, the only form that was tolerated in this superstitious era. While trammeled by the methods and traditions of the past, while unable to express, except through symbol and suggestion, the truths of nature as they were rendered in future ages, over the elements that were at his command he held a control so perfect that his works have been preferred to those of more favored and accomplished artists. In some respects they have never been excelled, as in the division of space, in grouping, in balance, in grasp of motive, and in purity of coloring. He it was who first breathed into the rigidity of Byzantine art the breath of natural emotion, and his name is one of the few that becoming great in the age when he lived, was respected by the great masters of all the ages that were to come.
Among the earliest works of Giotto were his frescoes in the church of Assisi, illustrating the life of Saint Francis, the best of them representing his espousal of Chastity and Poverty and his apotheosis enthroned in glory. In this series Giotto has done what thus far no one else had dared to do in art, combining many trifling details with the subject matter of his theme, as where a dog is barking at the feet of Poverty and where a man is stooping to drink from a rock whence Saint Francis caused water to flow. In his painting of heaven and hell for the chapel of the Podesta, the artist introduced figures typical of pacified Florence after its party wars, together with portraits of Dante, Donato, and others, a group recovered in 1841 from the coating of whitewash which had overlaid it. When somewhat over thirty years of age, after travelling almost throughout Europe in the exercise of his profession, Giotto was summoned to Rome by Benedict XI, whose messenger first demanded proof of his ability. Thereupon, as is related, dipping a pencil in red coloring matter, he drew with a single turn of his hand the letter O in the form of a perfect circle, and handing it to the messenger, said, “Here is your drawing.” The pontiff was satisfied, engaging Giotto at a handsome salary to adorn with frescoes his palace at Avignon—a commission that was never executed for Benedict died soon afterward. In Rome only a few remnants of his work have been preserved; but in Florence, Padua, Ravenna, Lucca and other Italian cities are many paintings that bear his name, the decoration of the facade and campanile of the cathedral of Santa Maria del More being perhaps the crowning monument of his strong and brilliant career.
Giotto was but ten years of age when he became the pupil of Cimabue, who, as the story reads, found him by the roadside sketching on a slate, with a piece of charcoal, the figure of a sheep. The latter was then the most famous artist of his time, though afterward far excelled by his disciple combining all that was best in the compositions of Guido, Giunta, and others.