Thursday, September 29, 2016

Romanesque and Gothic Architecture in Spain


Hey-. An entry in English!! As we sit this lovely afternoon after arriving in Calzadilla de la Cueza (pop. 20) from Carrión de los Condes, a cute town, with a bit more to offer, I am tasked with addressing architecture with images that I've taken. This was asked of me by Mrs. Dion in the Art department and Mr. Voltaire in CTE.

I am not an expert in the least, but during my junior year abroad in Valencia I studied 2 semesters of Art and Architecture class, could describe many aspects of Roman, Muslim, Mudejar, Romanesque, Gothic, Plateresque, Barroque and Rococco styles, but only in Spanish!! It took me quite a long time to master the terms in English, but for this entry, I will address just two: Romanesque and Gothic (interestingly, the Mudejar and Plateresque styles are native principally to Spain and not found in other European countries!)

Romanesque styles begin early in the Middle Ages, around the 6th or 7th centuries. It's signature characteristic is the Roman arch, which is a half-circle (180º). It is very stable and can be used as an entry, window, archway, etc.. Romanesque structures, in this case, churches, served several purposes: a central point for worshipping God and also for a safe haven to protect the people of the parish if under attack.

Initially they were not very tall as the walls had to be thick enough to support the roof, but if they went too tall, would collapse. Windows were typically tall slits in the wall, mainly to protect the inhabitants if under attack and a great place for archers to launch counter-attacks against enemies. For this reason the Romanesque structure was dark inside and void of natural light, but offered the protection of the thick stone walls and heavy wooden doors.

In the 12th century the French Abbot Suger was considered the architect of the revolutionary new structure, the Abbey of Saint Denis. In what would later be called the "Gothic" style, churches following this new model solved a couple of issues that befuddled the builders of the Romanesque churches. First, the lack of light and, second, the height and width of the building. Most important, they also discovered that the more pointed gothic arch was able to better redistribute the downward forces of the roof weight onto the pillars that supported the arches. Rather than pushing downward and collapsing, as would happen with the Roman arch, it pushed more outward and was additionally supported by columns/buttresses in adjacent naves or in the exterior wall.

The buttress system (flying buttress for Gothic) was re-designed so that the walls would be less responsible for supporting the weight of the roof so the wallls themselves could be opened in order to put more windows to bring in natural light and also to create the sense of beauty and biblical story-telling that the immense stained-glass windows provided, especially since most people were illiterate and bible biblical stories could be told through the windows and the statuary and other relief carvings in stone and wood.

If you go back to my Burgos blog entry, you will see photos of the interior and exterior of the Burgos Cathedral. This is a purely Gothic (mid-late Renaissance) architecture. Especially look for the models photographed that show the buttress supports. In this entry I will add some interior and exterior shots of several Spanish Romanesque/Gothic churches. The Gothic elements were slowly starting to be incorporated into these 12th-13th century structures.

Try to compare the purely gothic Burgos cathedral with Santa María la Blanca in Villalcázar de Sirga (built by the Knights Templar) and Santa María del Manzano, located in Castrojeriz. Again, the Burgos photos are in a recent blog entry.

To me it was amazing thinking about the increasing light within the churches and cathedral leading to the Renassaince and the increasing light coming into humankind.

Isn't learning great!
Señor Hastings

Santa María del Manzano: Castrojeriz

Santa María la Blanca: Villalcázar


  1. Cuál fue la parte más bonita?

  2. ¿Por qué tú no professor de arte?

  3. Hola Senor, soy Will.¿ Cómo dificil fue tú clase de arte?¿te gusta la arquictura en España?