Romanesque art

  • © ATOUT FRANCE/Patrice Thébault

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Patrice Thébault

Romanesque art


9th to 12th century


From the 9th century, with the spread of Christian influence, buildings were constructed in the Romanesque style, so called because of its borrowings from Roman architecture.  The historic buildings of the Loire and Rhine valleys reflect the influence of this ecclesiastical architectural style in Western Europe, magnificently represented in Burgundy by Cluny Abbey.

Sculptures and frescoes, gold and silver ware and Romanesque illuminated manuscripts are the expression of a fervour at once mystical and popular, inspired by the life of Christ and the Evangelists.  So these church porches are described as veritable "illustrated bibles".

Artists and craftsmen vied to use their gifts for the Romanesque churches in Tours, Poitiers, Clermont-Ferrand, Orléans, Jumièges, Chartres, Toulouse, Conques, Tournus and Vézelay, with characteristic cradle vaulted roofs.  The themes of the ambulatories opening into the chapels around the chancel, or of rotundas, as at Dijon, Charroux, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe and Neuvy-Saint-Sépulcre, were inspired by the design of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  In Languedoc-Roussillon, the curved walls of the apses of the churches of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa and Ripoll in Catalonia are decorated with stunning works of art.  The cloisters rival each other for beauty and the capitals of the columns portray stories from the Old Testament. What can anyone say before the magnificent carved tympanums of Autun (Saône-et-Loire), Oloron Sainte-Marie (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) or Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne) where the elongated faces of Christ and the apostles gaze eternally at you?