Architecture as a framework of the arts

Museu Nacional - Itinerari virtual Romànic
 

Architecture as a framework of the arts

 

Architecture as a framework of the arts

During the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, the civil and military constructions such as palaces and fortifications took on major importance.  There are few remains that are conserved if we compare them with religious types of works, for this reason much of the knowledge that we have today about the architecture and art from the Romanesque period is related to churches, as well as cathedral and monastic ensembles. 

To understand the sense of the majority of the Romanesque works, it should be taken into account that the building is the framework for the rest of the production.  The interior space adapts to the liturgical needs of each centre, and is therefore hierarchical.  One of the most relevant points is the altar and its surroundings, the presbytery, where the essential act of the mass is held: the Eucharist.  The most usual form of the altar is the mensa or table, with a covering that can be either towels or painted panels or carvings, or can be covered with precious metals such as gold or silver.  Most of the objects or works are destined for this space (baldachins, altar frontispieces, images, etc.). All in all, the apse, which presides over the presbytery and the altar, is usually the place in the church in which the most important pictorial representation is located, with a theophany or representation of divinity in the centre.

The church of Santa Maria de Taüll is the most complete example that is conserved of the pictorial decoration of a Romanesque interior.  You can find on the vault of the apse the Epiphany or the adoration of the Kings, with the Mother of God as a throne for the child Jesus.  This ensemble is completed with scenes from the Final Trial and other biblical stories on the walls, as well as on the columns and the separating arches of the naves.  The stylistic differences highlight the hand of two masters, the one who painted the apse and the author of the Final Trial.

The inside of a Romanesque building was much more sumptuous than can be imagined from today’s remains.  It is necessary to include the objects intended for worship, from images to the sacred goblets used around the altar.  In these cases, the production was very varied in terms of materials and techniques, but it is worth highlighting the workshops of the gold- and silversmiths specialised in work in gold, silver and enamel.   

On the outside of the buildings there is sculptural and pictorial decoration in the most notable points which are around the doors and cloisters, and also in the liturgical furniture or that used for funeral purposes. A paradigmatic example of sculptural decoration can be found on the monumental portal of Santa Maria de Ripoll.