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Romanesque and Rome

When most of Europe turned to the Gothic style, almost all of the churches in Rome were been built according to variations of the Romanesque style.
The first ones where still based on the basilicas structure but later some new solutions emerged, for instance the presence of the transept that makes the western cross shape.
This, of course, is just the main opinion expressed by art experts, while some object that for one difference or another, the style of the later churches in Rome cannot be considered Romanesque.
Notice though, that most -if not almost all- of Rome's original medieval architecture has disappeared, so we cannot actually see much of the real, original style.
The strictly Romanesque period is usually placed from 1000 to 1150, when Gothic style began to take over, though in some regions Romanesque lived till 1200.

Anyway, the main and easily recognizeable characteristics of the older are:

  • thick walls and pillars

  • small windows

  • "modest" relative proportions

  • round arches as support for the roof

  • more than one tower (usually)

  • nave with (not always) side aisles

  • an apse

  • sculptured decoration, especially on portals

Even though some of these were acquired by Gothic, the most "visible ones" (thick walls, modest relative proportions) were overthrown by the new style that made the churches grow in height with slender walls, that is why it is so easy to distinguish a "pure" Romanesque building from a Gothic one.

The idiom "Romanesque" was born in the writings of Charles-Alexis-Adrien de Gerville (in 1818) to define the form of art that came before Gothic and has been adopted in other languages; it is evident that it refers to an origin in the Roman architecture, and it actually features stone as a fundamental material, round arches, plans derived from those of the basilicas.
There were external infuences too, that were more or less evident according to the area. The presence of Byzantine elements, for instance, provides enrichment to the interiors and the exteriors of some interesting buildings in Rome. The Byzantine is often related to the presence of spectacular mosaics such as those in "Santa Maria in Cosmedin" (between the Tiber and the Circus Maximus) and "Santa Maria in Trastevere".

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