Romanesque art

Romanesque art is the art of Europe from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style in the 12th century, or later, depending on region. The preceding period is known as the Pre-Romanesque period. The term was invented by 19th-century art historians, especially for Romanesque architecture, which retained many basic features of Roman architectural style – most notably round-headed arches, but also barrel vaults, apses, and acanthus-leaf decoration – but had also developed many very different characteristics. In Southern France, Spain and Italy there was an architectural continuity with the Late Antique, but the Romanesque style was the first style to spread across the whole of Catholic Europe, from Sicily to Scandinavia. Romanesque art was also greatly influenced by Byzantine art, especially in painting, and by the anti-classical energy of the decoration of the Insular art of the British Isles. From these elements was forged a highly innovative and coherent style.

Leon (San Isidoro, panteón)
The painted crypt of San Isidoro at León, Spain
The "Morgan Leaf", detached from the Winchester Bible of 1160−75. Scenes from the life of David.


Outside Romanesque architecture, the art of the period was characterised by a vigorous style in both sculpture and painting. The latter continued to follow essentially Byzantine iconographic models for the most common subjects in churches, which remained Christ in Majesty, the Last Judgement and scenes from the Life of Christ. In illuminated manuscripts more originality is seen, as new scenes needed to be depicted. The most lavishly decorated manuscripts of this period were bibles and psalters. The same originality applied to the capitals of columns: often carved with complete scenes with several figures. The large wooden crucifix was a German innovation at the very start of the period, as were free-standing statues of the enthroned Madonna. High relief was the dominant sculptural mode of the period.

'The Virgin and Child in Majesty and the Adoration of the Maji', Romanesque fresco by the Master of Pedret from the apse of the Church of Saint Joan at Tredos, Lleida, Spain, c. 1100
Master of Pedret, The Virgin and Child in Majesty and the Adoration of the Magi, apse fresco from Tredòs, Val d'Aran, Catalonia, Spain, c. 1100, now at The Cloisters in New York City.

Colours were very striking, and mostly primary. In the 21st century: these colours can only be seen in their original brightness in stained glass, and a few well-preserved manuscripts. Stained glass became widely used, although survivals are sadly few. In an invention of the period, the tympanums of important church portals were carved with monumental schemes, often Christ in Majesty or the Last Judgement, but treated with more freedom than painted versions, as there were no equivalent Byzantine models.

Compositions usually had little depth, and needed to be flexible to be squeezed into the shapes of historiated initials, column capitals, and church tympanums; the tension between a tightly enclosing frame, from which the composition sometimes escapes, is a recurrent theme in Romanesque art. Figures often varied in size in relation to their importance. Landscape backgrounds, if attempted at all, were closer to abstract decorations than realism – as in the trees in the "Morgan Leaf". Portraiture hardly existed.


During this period Europe grew steadily more prosperous, and art of the highest quality was no longer confined, as it largely was in the Carolingian and Ottonian periods, to the royal court and a small circle of monasteries. Monasteries continued to be extremely important, especially those of the expansionist new orders of the period, the Cistercian, Cluniac, and Carthusian, which spread across Europe. But city churches, those on pilgrimage routes, and many churches in small towns and villages were elaborately decorated to a very high standard – these are often the structures to have survived, when cathedrals and city churches have been rebuilt. No Romanesque royal palace has really survived.

The lay artist was becoming a valued figure – Nicholas of Verdun seems to have been known across the continent. Most masons and goldsmiths were now lay, and lay painters such as Master Hugo seem to have been in the majority, at least of those doing the best work, by the end of the period. The iconography of their church work was no doubt arrived at in consultation with clerical advisors.


Metalwork, enamels, and ivories

Stavelot Triptych, Mosan, Belgium, c. 1156–1158. 48 × 66 cm with wings open, Morgan Library, New York

Precious objects in these media had a very high status in the period, probably much more so than paintings – the names of more makers of these objects are known than those of contemporary painters, illuminators or architect-masons. Metalwork, including decoration in enamel, became very sophisticated. Many spectacular shrines made to hold relics have survived, of which the best known is the Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral by Nicholas of Verdun and others (c. 1180–1225). The Stavelot Triptych and Reliquary of St. Maurus are other examples of Mosan enamelwork. Large reliquaries and altar frontals were built around a wooden frame, but smaller caskets were all metal and enamel. A few secular pieces, such as mirror cases, jewellery and clasps have survived, but these no doubt under-represent the amount of fine metalwork owned by the nobility.

Gloucester candlestick
The Gloucester candlestick, early 12th century

The bronze Gloucester candlestick and the brass font of 1108–1117 now in Liège are superb examples, very different in style, of metal casting. The former is highly intricate and energetic, drawing on manuscript painting, while the font shows the Mosan style at its most classical and majestic. The bronze doors, a triumphal column and other fittings at Hildesheim Cathedral, the Gniezno Doors, and the doors of the Basilica di San Zeno in Verona are other substantial survivals. The aquamanile, a container for water to wash with, appears to have been introduced to Europe in the 11th century. Artisans often gave the pieces fantastic zoomorphic forms; surviving examples are mostly in brass. Many wax impressions from impressive seals survive on charters and documents, although Romanesque coins are generally not of great aesthetic interest.

The Cloisters Cross is an unusually large ivory crucifix, with complex carving including many figures of prophets and others, which has been attributed to one of the relatively few artists whose name is known, Master Hugo, who also illuminated manuscripts. Like many pieces it was originally partly coloured. The Lewis chessmen are well-preserved examples of small ivories, of which many pieces or fragments remain from croziers, plaques, pectoral crosses and similar objects.

Architectural sculpture

02 Basilique Ste-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay - Tympan
The tympanum of Vézelay Abbey, Burgundy, France, 1130s, has much decorative spiral detail in the draperies.

With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the tradition of carving large works in stone and sculpting figures in bronze died out, as it effectively did (for religious reasons) in the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) world. Some life-size sculpture was evidently done in stucco or plaster, but surviving examples are understandably rare.[1] The best-known surviving large sculptural work of Proto-Romanesque Europe is the life-size wooden Crucifix commissioned by Archbishop Gero of Cologne in about 960–965, apparently the prototype of what became a popular form. These were later set up on a beam below the chancel arch, known in English as a rood, from the twelfth century accompanied by figures of the Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist to the sides.[2] During the 11th and 12th centuries, figurative sculpture strongly revived, and architectural reliefs are a hallmark of the later Romanesque period.

Sources and style

Figurative sculpture was based on two other sources in particular, manuscript illumination and small-scale sculpture in ivory and metal. The extensive friezes sculpted on Armenian and Syriac churches have been proposed as another likely influence.[3] These sources together produced a distinct style which can be recognised across Europe, although the most spectacular sculptural projects are concentrated in South-Western France, Northern Spain and Italy.

Cathédrale de Cahors 159714
Man and confronted animals, Cahors Cathedral

Images that occurred in metalwork were frequently embossed. The resultant surface had two main planes and details that were usually incised. This treatment was adapted to stone carving and is seen particularly in the tympanum above the portal, where the imagery of Christ in Majesty with the symbols of the Four Evangelists is drawn directly from the gilt covers of medieval Gospel Books. This style of doorway occurs in many places and continued into the Gothic period. A rare survival in England is that of the "Prior's Door" at Ely Cathedral. In South-Western France, many have survived, with impressive examples at Saint-Pierre, Moissac, Souillac,[4] and La Madeleine, Vézelay – all daughter houses of Cluny, with extensive other sculpture remaining in cloisters and other buildings. Nearby, Autun Cathedral has a Last Judgement of great rarity in that it has uniquely been signed by its creator, Giselbertus.[5][6]

A feature of the figures in manuscript illumination is that they often occupy confined spaces and are contorted to fit. The custom of artists to make the figure fit the available space lent itself to a facility in designing figures to ornament door posts and lintels and other such architectural surfaces. The robes of painted figures were commonly treated in a flat and decorative style that bore little resemblance to the weight and fall of actual cloth. This feature was also adapted for sculpture. Among the many examples that exist, one of the finest is the figure of the Prophet Jeremiah from the pillar of the portal of the Abbey of Saint-Pierre, Moissac, France, from about 1130.[6]

One of the most significant motifs of Romanesque design, occurring in both figurative and non-figurative sculpture is the spiral. One of the sources may be Ionic capitals. Scrolling vines were a common motif of both Byzantine and Roman design, and may be seen in mosaic on the vaults of the 4th century Church of Santa Costanza, Rome. Manuscripts and architectural carvings of the 12th century have very similar scrolling vine motifs.

ND-en-Vaux Chapiteau 4
This capital of Christ washing the feet of his Apostles has strong narrative qualities in the interaction of the figures.

Another source of the spiral is clearly the illuminated manuscripts of the 7th to 9th centuries, particularly Irish manuscripts such as the St. Gall Gospel Book, spread into Europe by the Hiberno-Scottish mission. In these illuminations the use of the spiral has nothing to do with vines or other plant forms. The motif is abstract and mathematical. The style was then picked up in Carolingian art and given a more botanical character. It is in an adaptation of this form that the spiral occurs in the draperies of both sculpture and stained glass windows. Of all the many examples that occur on Romanesque portals, one of the most outstanding is that of the central figure of Christ at La Madeleine, Vezelay.[6]

Another influence from Insular art are engaged and entwined animals, often used to superb effect in capitals (as at Silos) and sometimes on a column itself (as at Moissac). Much of the treatment of paired, confronted and entwined animals in Romanesque decoration has similar Insular origins, as do animals whose bodies tail into purely decorative shapes. (Despite the adoption of Hiberno-Saxon traditions into Romanesque styles in England and on the continent, the influence was primarily one-way. Irish art during this period remained isolated, developing a unique amalgam of native Irish and Viking styles which would be slowly extinguished and replaced by mainstream Romanesque style in the early 13th century following the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.[7])

Autun Cathedrale Chapiteau pendaison de Judas
Judas Iscariot hangs himself, assisted by devils, always a favourite subject of carvers. Autun Cathedral

Subject matter

Most Romanesque sculpture is pictorial and biblical in subject. A great variety of themes are found on capitals and include scenes of Creation and the Fall of Man, episodes from the life of Christ and those Old Testament scenes which prefigure his Death and Resurrection, such as Jonah and the Whale and Daniel in the lions' den. Many Nativity scenes occur, the theme of the Three Kings being particularly popular. The cloisters of Santo Domingo de Silos Abbey in Northern Spain, and Moissac are fine examples surviving complete, as are the relief sculptures on the many Tournai fonts found in churches in southern England, France and Belgium.

A feature of some Romanesque churches is the extensive sculptural scheme which covers the area surrounding the portal or, in some case, much of the facade. Angouleme Cathedral in France has a highly elaborate scheme of sculpture set within the broad niches created by the arcading of the facade. In the Spanish region of Catalonia, an elaborate pictorial scheme in low relief surrounds the door of the church of Santa Maria at Ripoll.[6]

Around the upper wall of the chancel at the Abbaye d'Arthous, Landes, France, are small figures depicting lust, intemperance and a Barbary ape, symbol of human depravity.

The purpose of the sculptural schemes was to convey a message that the Christian believer should recognize wrongdoing, repent and be redeemed. The Last Judgement reminds the believer to repent. The carved or painted Crucifix, displayed prominently within the church, reminds the sinner of redemption.

Kilpeck Details of Door Arch
Ouroboros, single and in pairs at Kilpeck, England

Often the sculpture is alarming in form and in subject matter. These works are found on capitals, corbels and bosses, or entwined in the foliage on door mouldings. They represent forms that are not easily recognizable today. Common motifs include Sheela na Gig, fearsome demons, ouroboros or dragons swallowing their tails, and many other mythical creatures with obscure meaning. Spirals and paired motifs originally had special significance in oral tradition that has been lost or rejected by modern scholars.

The Seven Deadly Sins including lust, gluttony and avarice are also frequently represented. The appearance of many figures with oversized genitals can be equated with carnal sin, and so can the numerous figures shown with protruding tongues, which are a feature of the doorway of Lincoln Cathedral. Pulling one's beard was a symbol of masturbation, and pulling one's mouth wide open was also a sign of lewdness. A common theme found on capitals of this period is a tongue poker or beard stroker being beaten by his wife or seized by demons. Demons fighting over the soul of a wrongdoer such as a miser is another popular subject.[8]

Santiago Catedral Pórtico da gloria GDFL6
Pórtico da Gloria, Santiago Cathedral. The colouring once common to much Romanesque sculpture has been preserved.

Late Romanesque sculpture

Gothic architecture is usually considered to begin with the design of the choir at the Abbey of Saint-Denis, north of Paris, by the Abbot Suger, consecrated 1144. The beginning of Gothic sculpture is usually dated a little later, with the carving of the figures around the Royal Portal at Chartres Cathedral, France, 1150–1155. The style of sculpture spread rapidly from Chartres, overtaking the new Gothic architecture. In fact, many churches of the late Romanesque period post-date the building at Saint-Denis. The sculptural style based more upon observation and naturalism than on formalised design developed rapidly. It is thought that one reason for the rapid development of naturalistic form was a growing awareness of Classical remains in places where they were most numerous and a deliberate imitation of their style. The consequence is that there are doorways which are Romanesque in form, and yet show a naturalism associated with Early Gothic sculpture.[6]

One of these is the Pórtico da Gloria dating from 1180, at Santiago de Compostela. This portal is internal and is particularly well preserved, even retaining colour on the figures and indicating the gaudy appearance of much architectural decoration which is now perceived as monochrome. Around the doorway are figures who are integrated with the colonnettes that make the mouldings of the doors. They are three-dimensional, but slightly flattened. They are highly individualised, not only in appearance but also expression and bear quite strong resemblance to those around the north porch of the Abbey of St. Denis, dating from 1170. Beneath the tympanum there is a realistically carved row of figures playing a range of different and easily identifiable musical instruments.


Albanipsalter DreiKoenige
The Three Magi from the St. Albans Psalter, English, 12th century.

Manuscript illumination

A number of regional schools converged in the early Romanesque illuminated manuscript: the "Channel school" of England and Northern France was heavily influenced by late Anglo-Saxon art, whereas in Southern France the style depended more on Iberian influence, and in Germany and the Low Countries, Ottonian styles continued to develop, and also, along with Byzantine styles, influenced Italy. By the 12th century there had been reciprocal influences between all these, although naturally regional distinctiveness remained.

The typical focii of Romanesque illumination were the Bible, where each book could be prefaced by a large historiated initial, and the Psalter, where major initials were similarly illuminated. In both cases more lavish examples might have cycles of scenes in fully illuminated pages, sometimes with several scenes per page, in compartments. The Bibles in particular often had a, and might be bound into more than one volume. Examples include the St. Albans Psalter, Hunterian Psalter, Winchester Bible (the "Morgan Leaf" shown above), Fécamp Bible, Stavelot Bible, and Parc Abbey Bible. By the end of the period lay commercial workshops of artists and scribes were becoming significant, and illumination, and books generally, became more widely available to both laity and clergy.

Wall painting

Novalesa Sant Eldrado-2
Life of St. Eldrado, abbot. 11th century fresco in Novalesa Abbey

The large wall surfaces and plain, curving vaults of the Romanesque period lent themselves to mural decoration. Unfortunately, many of these early wall paintings have been destroyed by damp or the walls have been replastered and painted over. In England, France and the Netherlands such pictures were systematically destroyed or whitewashed in bouts of Reformation iconoclasm. In Denmark and elsewhere many have since been restored. In Catalonia (Spain), there was a campaign to save such murals in the early 20th century (as of 1907) by removing them and transferring them to safekeeping in Barcelona, resulting in the spectacular collection at the National Art Museum of Catalonia. In other countries they have suffered from war, neglect and changing fashion.

A classic scheme for the full painted decoration of a church, derived from earlier examples often in mosaic, had, as its focal point in the semi-dome of the apse, Christ in Majesty or Christ the Redeemer enthroned within a mandorla and framed by the four winged beasts, symbols of the Four Evangelists, comparing directly with examples from the gilt covers or the illuminations of Gospel Books of the period. If the Virgin Mary was the dedicatee of the church, she might replace Christ here. On the apse walls below would be saints and apostles, perhaps including narrative scenes, for example of the saint to whom the church was dedicated. On the sanctuary arch were figures of apostles, prophets or the twenty-four "elders of the Apocalypse", looking in towards a bust of Christ, or his symbol the Lamb, at the top of the arch. The north wall of the nave would contain narrative scenes from the Old Testament, and the south wall from the New Testament. On the rear west wall would be a Last Judgement, with an enthroned and judging Christ at the top.[9]

Maria laach teufel schriftrolle
Carving from Maria Laach Abbey, in the Eifel, Rhineland.

One of the most intact schemes to exist is that at Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe in France. The long barrel vault of the nave provides an excellent surface for fresco, and is decorated with scenes of the Old Testament, showing the Creation, the Fall of Man and other stories including a lively depiction of Noah's Ark complete with a fearsome figurehead and numerous windows through which can be seen Noah and his family on the upper deck, birds on the middle deck, while on the lower are the pairs of animals. Another scene shows with great vigour the swamping of Pharaoh's army by the Red Sea. The scheme extends to other parts of the church, with the martyrdom of the local saints shown in the crypt, and Apocalypse in the narthex and Christ in Majesty. The range of colours employed is limited to light blue-green, yellow ochre, reddish brown and black. Similar paintings exist in Serbia, Spain, Germany, Italy and elsewhere in France.[10]

The now-dispersed paintings from Arlanza in the Province of Burgos, Spain, though from a monastery, are secular in subject-matter, showing huge and vigorous mythical beasts above a frieze in black and white with other creatures. They give a rare idea of what decorated Romanesque palaces would have contained.

Süddeutscher Glasmaler 001
Stained glass, the Prophet Daniel from Augsburg Cathedral, late 11th century.

Other visual arts


Romanesque embroidery is best known from the Bayeux Tapestry, but many more closely worked pieces of Opus Anglicanum ("English work" – considered the finest in the West) and other styles have survived, mostly as church vestments.

Stained glass

The oldest-known fragments of medieval pictorial stained glass appear to date from the 10th century. The earliest intact figures are five prophet windows at Augsburg, dating from the late 11th century. The figures, though stiff and formalised, demonstrate considerable proficiency in design, both pictorially and in the functional use of the glass, indicating that their maker was well accustomed to the medium. At Le Mans, Canterbury and Chartres Cathedrals, and Saint-Denis, a number of panels of the 12th century have survived. At Canterbury these include a figure of Adam digging, and another of his son Seth from a series of Ancestors of Christ. Adam represents a highly naturalistic and lively portrayal, while in the figure of Seth, the robes have been used to great decorative effect, similar to the best stone carving of the period. Glass craftsmen were slower than architects to change their style, and much glass from at least the first part of the 13th century can be considered as essentially Romanesque. Especially fine are large figures of 1200 from Strasbourg Cathedral (some now removed to the museum) and of about 1220 from Saint Kunibert's Church in Cologne.

Most of the magnificent stained glass of France, including the famous windows of Chartres, date from the 13th century. Far fewer large windows remain intact from the 12th century. One such is the Crucifixion of Poitiers, a remarkable composition which rises through three stages, the lowest with a quatrefoil depicting the Martyrdom of St Peter, the largest central stage dominated by the crucifixion and the upper stage showing the Ascension of Christ in a mandorla. The figure of the crucified Christ is already showing the Gothic curve. The window is described by George Seddon as being of "unforgettable beauty".[11] Many detached fragments are in museums, and a window at Twycross Church in England is made up of important French panels rescued from the French Revolution.[12] Glass was both expensive and fairly flexible (in that it could be added to or re-arranged) and seems to have been often re-used when churches were rebuilt in the Gothic style – the earliest datable English glass, a panel in York Minster from a Tree of Jesse probably of before 1154, has been recycled in this way.

See also


  1. ^ Some (probably) 9th century near life-size stucco figures were discovered behind a wall in Santa Maria in Valle, Cividale del Friuli in Northern Italy relatively recently. Atroshenko and Collins p. 142
  2. ^ G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, 1972 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, pp. 140–142 for early crosses, p. 145 for roods, ISBN 0-85331-324-5
  3. ^ V. I. Atroshenko and Judith Collins, The Origins of the Romanesque, p. 144–150, Lund Humphries, London, 1985, ISBN 0-85331-487-X
  4. ^ Howe, Jeffery. "Romanesque Architecture (slides)". A digital archive of architecture. Boston College. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  5. ^ Helen Gardner, Art through the Ages.
  6. ^ a b c d e Rene Hyughe, Larousse Encyclopedia of Byzantine and Medieval Art
  7. ^ Roger A. Stalley, "Irish Art in the Romanesque and Gothic Periods". In Treasures of Irish Art 1500 B.C. to 1500 A.D., New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.
  8. ^ "Satan in the Groin". beyond-the-pale. Retrieved 2007-09-28.
  9. ^ James Hall, A History of Ideas and Images in Italian Art, p154, 1983, John Murray, London, ISBN 0-7195-3971-4
  10. ^ Rolf Toman, Romanesque, Könemann, (1997), ISBN 3-89508-447-6
  11. ^ George Seddon in Lee, Seddon and Stephens, Stained Glass
  12. ^ Church website Archived 2008-07-08 at the Wayback Machine


  • Legner, Anton (ed). Ornamenta Ecclesiae, Kunst und Künstler der Romanik. Catalogue of an exhibition in the Schnütgen Museum, Köln, 1985. 3 vols.
  • Conrad Rudolph, ed., A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe, 2nd ed. (2016)

External links

Altar frontal from Avià

The Altar frontal from Avià is a rare Romanesque altar frontal exhibited at the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona. It is the front of the altar of the church of St. Mary of Avià, in the county of Berguedà, later moved to MNAC Barcelona, while the church has a replica in place. It is dated to the 13th century or earlier, and was painted by an unknown artist.The frontal is painted in tempera on a wood panel, with parchment overlaps, pastiglia stucco relief decoration and remains of additional vanished metal plates. It is divided into five areas, dominated by the central Virgin and Child. The figures are elongated, with Byzantine-style costumes and frontal poses. Four scenes surround the central figures: the Annunciation and Visitation, Nativity, the Epiphany and the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. Both the frame and the divisions between the compartments are decorated with gilded gypsum plaster, imitating precious metal.

Altar frontal from La Seu d'Urgell or of The Apostles

The Altar frontal from La Seu d'Urgell or of The Apostles is a Romanesque altar frontal currently exhibited at the National Art Museum of Catalonia. The work dates from the second quarter of the 12th century and comes from a church of the Bishop of La Seu d'Urgell and was acquired in 1905. It is one of the masterpieces of the collection of panel painting of the MNAC. The frontal, the item covering the front of the altar, stands out for the quality of its bright colours and because it illustrates some of the characteristics of composition in Romanesque art, such as bilateral symmetry, abstraction of the background, with no reference to space or context, and the unnatural geometrical treatment of form to be observed in the folds of the clothing. It also shows certain conventions of representation, such as so-called hierarchical perspective, which

consists in representing the chief character in a larger size.

Apse of Sant Climent, Taüll

The Apse of Sant Climent de Taüll (Catalan: Absis de Sant Climent de Taüll) is a Romanesque fresco in the National Art Museum of Catalonia, Barcelona. This is one of the masterpieces of the European Romanesque. from which the unknown Master of Taüll takes his name. Painted in the early 12th century, it was in the church of Sant Climent de Taüll at the Vall de Boí, Alta Ribagorça in the Catalan Pyrenees until removed in 1919-1923, along with other parts of the fresco decoration, in an attempt to preserve the paintings by placing them in a stable, secure museum setting.

The apse has been replaced in the church by a replica, and some original decoration remains there. MNAC Barcelona also has the paintings from the triumphal arches, a side apse, the consecration inscription and an earlier window.

Batlló Majesty

The Batlló Majesty (Catalan: Majestat Batlló, pronounced [məʒəsˈtad bəˈʎːo]) is a large 12th-century Romanesque wooden crucifix, now in the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. It is one of the most elaborate examples in Catalonia of an image of Christ on the Cross symbolizing his triumph over death.

Capitoline Wolf

The Capitoline Wolf (Italian: Lupa Capitolina) is a bronze sculpture depicting a scene from the legend of the founding of Rome. The sculpture shows a she-wolf suckling the mythical twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. According to the legend, when Numitor, grandfather of the twins, was overthrown by his brother Amulius, the usurper ordered them to be cast into the Tiber River. They were rescued by a she-wolf who cared for them until a herdsman, Faustulus, found and raised them.

The age and origin of the Capitoline Wolf is controversial. The statue was long thought to be an Etruscan work of the 5th century BC, with the twins added in the late 15th century AD, probably by the sculptor Antonio Pollaiolo. However, radiocarbon and thermoluminescence dating has found that the wolf portion of the statue is likely to have been cast between 1021 and 1153.The image of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus is a symbol of Rome since ancient times and one of the most recognizable icons of ancient mythology. The sculpture has been housed since 1471 in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Campidoglio (the ancient Capitoline Hill), Rome, Italy, and there are many replicas in various places around the world.

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem (Master of Taüll)

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem is an 1125 fresco by the Master of San Baudelio de Berlanga, originally located at San Baudelio de Berlanga but now on display in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which is in Indianapolis, Indiana. It depicts Christ and seven disciples entering Jerusalem to the acclaim of its inhabitants.

Erill la Vall Descent from the Cross

Erill la Vall Descent from the Cross is a set of seven 12th-century wooden sculptures from the Pyrenees village of Erill la Vall in Catalonia, originally painted, comprising a complete Romanesque Descent from the Cross sculpture group, which in Catalonia has the peculiarity that it is made up of seven figures. Two of the carvings are kept at the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) and the rest at the Vic Episcopal Museum.

First Romanesque

One of the first streams of Romanesque architecture in Europe from the 10th century and the beginning of 11th century is called First Romanesque or Lombard Romanesque. It took place in the region of Lombardy and spread into Catalonia and into the south of France. Its principal decoration for the exterior, bands of ornamental blind arches are called lombard bands. It was characterized by thick walls and lack of sculpture in facades, and with interiors profusely painted with frescoes.

During the first quarter of the 11th century, much architectural activity by groups composed of Lombard teachers and stonemasons (Comacine Guild), who worked throughout much of Europe and Catalan territories and erected fairly uniform temples, some of which still exist today. For a considerable area this process of craft diffusion started in Lombardy and Lombardus became the word for mason at an early period. One might call the First Romanesque style the style of this Italian architectural reconquest. The large promoter and sponsor of this art in Catalonia was Oliva, monk and abbot of the monastery of Ripoll who, in 1032, ordered the extension of the body of this building with a façade with two towers, plus a transept which included seven apses, all decorated on the outside with the Lombardic ornamentation of blind arches and vertical strips.

Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch suggested that what was formerly considered the late form of pre-Romanesque architecture in Catalonia bore features of Romanesque and thus classified it as First Romanesque (primer romànic). The First Romanesque churches of the Vall de Boí were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in November 2000.

The geographical proximity of this Iberian region to the rest of Europe, resulted in depictions of the emerging Romanesque art being brought to Catalonia. While the art failed to take root in the rest of the Iberian Peninsula until the second third of the 11th century, there are numerous examples of its presence in Catalan counties before this time. Though this style may not be considered fully Romanesque, the area contained many of the defining characteristics of this artistic style.

To avoid the term Pre-Romanesque, which is often used with a much broader meaning than is generally suited to refer to early Medieval and early Christian art, and in Spain may also refer to the Visigothic, Asturias, Mozarabic and Repoblación art forms, Puig i Cadafalch preferred to use the term "First Romanesque" or "first Romanesque art" to designate those Catalan anticipations of the Romanesque itself.

Iglesia de San Román, Toledo

The Iglesia de San Román is a church in Toledo (Castile-La Mancha Spain). The church was built in the Mudéjar style in the 13th century. In this site there was an old Visigothic structure and probably an ancient Roman building. It is currently the headquarters of the Museum of the Councils and Visigothic Culture.

Lewis chessmen

The Lewis chessmen (Norwegian: Lewisbrikkene; Scottish Gaelic: Fir-Tàilisg; Scots: Lewis chesmen) or Uig chessmen, named after the bay where they were found, are a group of distinctive 12th-century chess pieces, along with other game pieces, most of which are carved from walrus ivory. Discovered in 1831 on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, they may constitute some of the few complete, surviving medieval chess sets, although it is not clear if a set as originally made can be assembled from the pieces. When found, the hoard contained 93 artifacts: 78 chess pieces, 14 tablemen and one belt buckle. Today, 82 pieces are owned and usually exhibited by the British Museum in London, and the remaining 11 are at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Mosan art

Mosan art is a regional style of art from the valley of the Meuse in present-day Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Although in a broader sense the term applies to art from this region from all periods, it generally refers to Romanesque art, with Mosan Romanesque architecture, stone carving, metalwork, enamelling and manuscript illumination reaching a high level of development during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.

Paintings from Arlanza

The paintings from Arlanza are a set of frescos belonging to the mural decoration of a Benedictine monastery of San Pedro de Arlanza, in the Province of Burgos, Castile and León, Spain, dating to around 1210, and now dispersed among a number of collections. The Spanish government began to detach and sell sections of the frescos in the 19th century, though less exciting sections remain in situ. The largest group of six major fragments has moved to the National Art Museum of Catalonia of Barcelona in 1943. Most of the Romanesque mural painting that has survived is of religious subjects, but there was also find decoration of a courtly or profane nature in large monastic centres, such as Arlanza in Castile, and these fragments represent especially rare survivals. According to C. R. Dodwell, the "imposing" Arlanza paintings are "endowed with all the power and grandeur of Romanesque at its best".

Pre-Romanesque art and architecture

Pre-Romanesque art and architecture is the period in European art from either the emergence of the Merovingian kingdom in about AD 500 or from the Carolingian Renaissance in the late 8th century, to the beginning of the 11th century Romanesque period. The term is generally used in English only for architecture and monumental sculpture, but here all the arts of the period are briefly described.

The primary theme during this period is the introduction and absorption of classical Mediterranean and Early Christian forms with Germanic ones, which fostered innovative new forms. This in turn led to the rise of Romanesque art in the 11th century. In the outline of Medieval art it was preceded by what is commonly called the Migration Period art of the "barbarian" peoples: Hiberno-Saxon in the British Isles and predominantly Merovingian on the Continent.

In most of western Europe, the Roman architectural tradition survived the collapse of the empire. The Merovingians (Franks) continued to build large stone buildings like monastery churches and palaces.

The unification of the Frankish kingdom under Clovis I (465–511) and his successors, corresponded with the need for the building of churches, and especially monastery churches, as these were now the power-houses of the Merovingian church. Two hundred monasteries existed south of the Loire when St Columbanus, an Irish missionary, arrived in Europe in 585. Only 100 years later, by the end of the 7th century, over 400 flourished in the Merovingian kingdom alone. The building plans often continued the Roman basilica tradition.

Many Merovingian plans have been reconstructed from archaeology. The description in Bishop Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks of the basilica of Saint-Martin, built at Tours by Saint Perpetuus (bishop 460–490) at the beginning of the period and at the time on the edge of Frankish territory, gives cause to regret the disappearance of this building, one of the most beautiful Merovingian churches, which he says had 120 marble columns, towers at the East end, and several mosaics: "Saint-Martin displayed the vertical emphasis, and the combination of block-units forming a complex internal space and the correspondingly rich external silhouette, which were to be the hallmarks of the Romanesque".The Merovingian dynasty were replaced by the Carolingian dynasty in AD 752, which led to Carolingian architecture from 780 to 900, and Ottonian architecture in the Holy Roman Empire from the mid-10th century until the mid-11th century. These successive Frankish dynasties were large contributors to Romanesque architecture.

Romanesque architecture

Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of medieval Europe characterized by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque style, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 11th century, this later date being the most commonly held. In the 12th century it developed into the Gothic style, marked by pointed arches. Examples of Romanesque architecture can be found across the continent, making it the first pan-European architectural style since Imperial Roman architecture. The Romanesque style in England is traditionally referred to as Norman architecture.

Combining features of ancient Roman and Byzantine buildings and other local traditions, Romanesque architecture is known by its massive quality, thick walls, round arches, sturdy pillars, barrel vaults, large towers and decorative arcading. Each building has clearly defined forms, frequently of very regular, symmetrical plan; the overall appearance is one of simplicity when compared with the Gothic buildings that were to follow. The style can be identified right across Europe, despite regional characteristics and different materials.

Many castles were built during this period, but they are greatly outnumbered by churches. The most significant are the great abbey churches, many of which are still standing, more or less complete and frequently in use. The enormous quantity of churches built in the Romanesque period was succeeded by the still busier period of Gothic architecture, which partly or entirely rebuilt most Romanesque churches in prosperous areas like England and Portugal. The largest groups of Romanesque survivors are in areas that were less prosperous in subsequent periods, including parts of southern France, rural Spain and rural Italy. Survivals of unfortified Romanesque secular houses and palaces, and the domestic quarters of monasteries are far rarer, but these used and adapted the features found in church buildings, on a domestic scale.

Southern apse from Pedret

The Southern apse from Pedret is a fresco painting which was acquired during the 1919-1923 campaign of the Junta de Museus. The artwork originated from the southern apsidiole of the Church of Sant Quirze de Pedret and is currently exhibited in the Romanesque Art collection at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.

Szalonna (village)

Szalonna is a village in Hungary, in the Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county.

In the village there is an old architectural of Romanesque art: the church. It consists of two parts. The older is the rotunda on the east side of the recent building, which is younger, but of Árpád age - the village Romanesque church with murals. The rotunda has several relatives of this type in the Carpathian Basin: Herencsény, Bagod-Szentpál, Hidegség. A group of such extended rotunda old churches have a specific characteristic: the six folded inner structure of Karcsa, Gerény and Kiszombor.

Tapestry of Creation

The Tapestry of Creation or Girona Tapestry is a Romanesque panel of needlework from the 11th century, housed in the Museum of the Cathedral of Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Measuring 3.65 x 4.70 m, it originally may have served as baldachin for the Altar of the Holy Cross in the church's entrance. Some believe that it was used as a curtain or even a carpet. It depicts a series of theological scenes related with the Christian creation myths.

The "tapestry" is actually a panel of couched needlework laid down on the surface of the ground fabric, a terracotta wool intertwined with different colors (red, green, yellow, dark and light blue, gray) wool and white linen threads. The border is formed by a frame, rather deteriorated, containing small square pictures which, according to some scholars, could have been added later to the central sector, due to their different, Byzantine-like style and themes.

The tapestry, of which only the upper part remains, is divided into three cycles:

the Genesis, presided over by the Christ Pantocrator

the cosmic elements

the Stories of the Holy CrossThe Christ Pantocrator, depicted as a beardless young man, occupies a circle in the center of the tapestry. He is surrounded by a circle whose sectors, aside from the upper one with a dove, symbol of God, show the seven days of the creation, until the creation of Adam and Eve. The two circles include quotes from the Genesis.

The remaining space in the rectangle including the central disk, houses at the corner four representation of Winds, depicted by four young winged men in Roman-like dresses, driving vessels and blowing air into horns. The central upper square is an old man representing the Year, with the Wheel of Time, while at the upper corners are the personifications of the Rivers of Paradise. The other six upper squares depict the Four Seasons, as well as Samson and Abel (or Cain).

The two lower corners show the personifications of the Sun (left, symbolizing Sunday) and the Moon (right, much deteriorated, symbolizing Monday), while the side outer squares represent the months (only eight of which survive). At the bottom are incomplete scenes of the discovery of Holy Cross.


A triptych ( TRIP-tik; from the Greek adjective τρίπτυχον "triptukhon" ("three-fold"), from tri, i.e., "three" and ptysso, i.e., "to fold" or ptyx, i.e., "fold") is a work of art (usually a panel painting) that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works. The middle panel is typically the largest and it is flanked by two smaller related works, although there are triptychs of equal-sized panels. The form can also be used for pendant jewelry.

Despite its connection to an art format, the term is sometimes used more generally to connote anything with three parts, particularly if they are integrated into a single unit.


Triquetra (; from the Latin adjective triquetrus, three-cornered) denotes a particular complicated shape formed of three vesicae piscis (the leaf-like shape in between two equal diameter circles each centered on the circumference of the other), sometimes with an added circle in or around the three lobes. Also known as a "Trinity Knot" when parallel doubled-lines are in the graph, the design is used as a religious symbol adapted from ancient Pagan Celtic images by Christianity. It is similar to the valknut, a Norse symbol.

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