Art is one of the most fascinating elements of society. From architecture to paintings to sculpture, it reveals the aesthetics of the culture of the times in which it is created. Art provides a learning opportunity to peer into the perspective of the artist and bridges an understanding of the inner world of that artist with the external reality of the person viewing the piece. One such period that provides an extensive cultural appreciation for the field of art is the Romanesque period, characterized as a heavily religious-oriented time with medieval art elements.
The romanesque architecture reflects the political times in Europe in that the diversity of the many regions of the continent are depicted and illustrated. Romanesque architecture is very innovative in its application. For example, many of the buildings not solely churches are heavily religious-oriented, have stone vaulting’s, and time woodwork in massive quantities. Figures such as Christ and other religious symbols are portrayed in much of the architecture. Other religious-oriented aspects including crosses and ornamentation can be seen in many of the sculptures and walls of buildings. One figure, in particular, that was very influential during the Romanesque time period was Bernard of Clairvaux, a monk. He was known as a celebrity in Europe and as a result of this, some of the tombs and doorways associated with the architecture are also exceptionally religious and pious in their depictions. Due to the expansive and different aspects that are shown in the architecture of the era, each piece is considered elegant and exquisite by art historians and the like.
Women in Romanesque architecture are observed as soft, "strictly frontal, emotionless figures." Additionally, women such as Hildegard of Bingen are shown as enlightening figures and visionaries in the architecture. This was done in order to ensure that a wider audience understood how sacred she was being a Romanesque nun and the importance of women's religious figures at the time. By most accounts, this would seem contradictory given women have often been regarded as being less powerful than men in certain corners of the world, however, Romanesque expressions reveal women to be powerful and extraordinary and emergent throughout Europe and in the architecture of the time.
Both Romanesque art and architecture have incorporated in them medieval superstitions. Many buildings have wooden roofs that are barrel-vaulted, which is characteristic of medieval times. One-piece, in particular, is the Saint-Etienne, Caen, which is known for being a "masterpiece of Romanesque architecture" as well as Durham Cathedral, which "signaled the importation of Norman Romanesque building and design methods. " The specifics of the cathedral are noted as having vaults from the very beginning in terms of structure, hence, the medieval dynamics of Romanesque architecture. Another example of the medieval superstitions appearing in architecture is at Saint-Savin-Sur-Gartempe, "a hall church [which has] aisles [that] are approximately the same height as the nave." The place offers a significant amount of medieval murals. Practically every piece of art and architecture that comes from the Romanesque era has an element of medieval monasticism established within it given Europe was very religious in their life operations. Moreover, the Europeans believed that if they captured the passions and desires of the monastic spirit that this would bring them closer to God. This was the rationale behind the many distinctive characteristics of religion in both the art and architecture of the period.
Romanesque art and architecture are memorable and noteworthy in both the world of art and to societal comprehension of how religion undeniably played a role in the everyday existence of European civilization. It is a glimpse into the imaginative side of those artists that described their feelings and emotions in artistic illustration, entertaining the viewer with visible education and informative expressions.
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Concise Global History. Stamford: Cengage Learning, 2008.