Romanesque Architecture is a primarily architectural style that developed rapidly throughout Europe from the 10th to the mid-12th cent. The Romanesque denotes to sculpture, painting, and the decorative arts of that period. Romanesque architecture comprised of Byzantine and Eastern origin. Senor Puig coined and applied the first Romanesque art to a extensively diffused type of building of which he precisely believed the instantaneous antecedent of the full Romanesque style (Clapham, 1936). Romanesque is considered to be the chief source of the style, the buildings of the Roman Empire.
In Romanesque architecture, masonry vaulting replaced the highly flammable wooden roofs of pre-Romanesque structures. In the beginning of Christian architecture, masonry vaulting had been limited to buildings of somewhat small scale and to crypts. Large basilican structures, in a continuation of a tradition installed by the early Christian basilica, were crowned by wooden roofs. ‘The vault, considered in its form, in its outline and in its economy, is always the essential feature of Romanesque architecture; apart from the general lines of the plan and the free fancy of the decoration, everything is subordinated to it” (Clapham, 1936, pg:21).
The great monastic communities supported the major share of architectural activity. The Cluniac order, when it was most powerful, played a most important role in the benefaction of creation. A number of momentous Cluniac churches connected with great 12th-century pilgrimages St. Martin in Tours, St. Sernin in Toulouse, and Santiago de Compostela in Spain demonstrate great resemblance in plan and on the whole design. This equivalence is particularly remarkable in the presence of spacious ambulatories with radiating chapels designed to ease the pilgrims’ entree to the valuable vestiges.
The main characteristic of Romanesque is the use of round arches, barrel vaults, cruciform piers supporting vaults, and groin vaults. It is named as Norman architecture in Britain. The basis of the Romanesque style is the amalgamation of masonry, arch and piers. The key notion for buildings was the adding up of pure geometrical forms. The novel concept of stone vaulting was to make stronger walls for support. The knowledge for building walls was limited at that time so it was needed to build strong, thick walls with narrow openings. Architect found Pier, improved resolution for masonry walls than the column.
Columns were consequently replaced by piers, or were altered to support the masonry arches in better way. Geometrisation and rigidity in Romanesque architecture is apparent in the transformation of column capitals from Corinthian to cubic capitals. German Romanesque architecture continued strappingly tied to the tradition of Ottonian art. In Romanesque period, manuscript illumination was characterized by an immense enlargement of the traditional fund of pictorial images, though in terms of overall implementation and calligraphic quality Romanesque illuminated books often illustrate a certain negligence and lack of modification.
The most dominant characteristic features of Romanesque structures are the massive west frontage topped by a tower or by twin towers, the intricate design of the eastern part housing the sanctuary, the rhythmic undulation of piers and columns in the nave symbolize only the sophisticated stages in extensive and multifaceted formal growth noticeable by substantial trial and error. Romanesque churches continued massive barrel vaults, making mandatory the support of load-bearing walls in order to parry the lateral outward thrust.
An important reality noted in the stylistic similarity of buildings across Europe is the comparative mobility of medieval people. Opposing to various contemporary ideas of life earlier than the Industrial Revolution, merchants, nobles, knights, artisans, and peasants crossed Europe and the Mediterranean world for business, war, and religious pilgrimages, had great understanding of buildings in different places. The important pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia also created and broaden some features of the Romanesque style.
A particular scheme of pilgrimage church became visible and developed all through the major routes in Tours, Limoges, Conques, Toulouse and Santiago de Compostela. Romanesque structures had a great importance for European culture in the epoch when these arts were developed. A distinctive attribute of Romanesque style is bays, which are square or rectangular spaces enclosed by groin vaults and used by architects as the fundamental building part. At later period, the church had become the dominant influence and supporter of art and culture.