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Romanesque Art and Architecture
c. 1000 - c. 1250

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Romanesque Art and Architecture, a predominantly architectural style that flourished in western Europe from about AD 1000 until the rise of the Gothic style, in most regions by the latter half of the 12th century, in certain regions somewhat later. "Romanesque" is known in Great Britain as "Normannic", deriving from the Norman attack on England in 1066, known as the Battle of Hastings. 

A splendid example of this architecture is the Cathedral of Tournai, Belgium. The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Tournai was built in the first half of the 12th century. It is especially distinguished by a Romanesque nave of extraordinary dimensions, a wealth of sculpture on its capitals and a transept topped by five towers, all precursors of the Gothic style. The choir, rebuilt in the 13th century, is in pure Gothic style. The cathedral was declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2000. Tournai, also Tournay (in Dutch Doornik), is located in southwestern Belgium, in the province of Hainault, on the Schelde River, also called the Escaut River. 

  • Belgium 1971. Cathedral of Tournai. 

Belgium 1971. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Tournai Cathedral.

The cathedral is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Northern Europe. The site of the Roman Civitas Nerviorum or Turnacum, Tournai is one of the oldest settlements of Belgium. In the 5th century the Merovingian kings made the town their royal residence. Tournai was at various times in the possession of the Netherlands, Spain, and France, the last relinquishing its control in 1748. In World War II (1939-1945), during the 1940 German invasion of Belgium, Tournai was partly destroyed. 

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Tournai bears witness to a considerable exchange of influence between the architecture of the Ile de France, the Rhineland, and Normandy during the short period at the beginning of the 12th century that preceded the flowering of Gothic architecture. In its imposing dimensions, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Tournai is an outstanding example of the great edifices of the school of the north of the Seine, precursors of the vastness of the Gothic cathedrals. 

The term "Romanesque" is also applied to sculpture, painting, and the decorative arts of that period.  Pre-Romanesque art is so closely related to Byzantine art, that it is sometimes difficult to draw a borderline between the two art styles; in fact the terms Pre-Romanesque Art and Post-Byzantine Art are often used interchangeably.  

Denmark 1973. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Frescoes fromDanish village churches. Stamp #1 in a set of five.

The most well-known paintings from the period were of religious nature, the frescoes.  In southern Europe they were made in the "al fresco"-technique, i.e. painted directly on the still wet limestone, and in northern Europe in the "al secco"-technique, i.e. painted on the dried limestone.  

Art works on stamps depicting Romanian al fresco paintings are available in the section about Post-Byzantine art, and below are images of Danish stamps depicting the al secco-frescoes in Danish churches. 

Denmark 1973. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Frescoes fromDanish village churches. Stamp #2 in a set of five. Denmark 1973. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Frescoes fromDanish village churches. Stamp #3 in a set of five. Denmark 1973. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Frescoes fromDanish village churches. Stamp #4 in a set of five. Denmark 1973. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Frescoes fromDanish village churches. Stamp #5 in a set of five.

Fresco painting flourished extensively in the Carolingian period. Among the oldest of the few examples of German pre-Romanesque wall painting that survive are those in the abbey church of St George, in Oberzel, on Reichenau; in St Sylvester's Chapel in Goldbach, on the German shore of Lake Constance; and in St Andrew's, near the ancient town of Fulda, north-east of Frankfurt. The style of major Romanesque wall paintings that have not survived can, however, be inferred from contemporary illuminated manuscripts. These manuscripts follow Early Christian and Byzantine models to a great extent, but also contain highly developed ornamentation, including interlaced motifs of Irish origin and Germanic animal motifs. Existing examples of Romanesque wall painting include abstract patterns on architectural members such as columns, illustrations of scenes from the Bible, and the lives of the saints painted on broad wall surfaces. In these compositions, which were predominantly influenced by Byzantine paintings and mosaics, the figures are stylized and flat, as they were conceived of as symbols rather than as realistic representations.  

Denmark 1937. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Ribe Cathedral. Denmark 1953. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Kalundborg Cathedral. Denmark 1944. Romanesque Art and Architecture. Oesterlars Kirke (Island of Bornholm).

Denmark 1960. Romanesque Architecture. Back side of bank note of 5 kroner, showing Kalundborg Cathedral.

Mosaic, even more than painting, was predominantly a Byzantine medium and was used extensively in architectural decoration in Italian Romanesque churches, especially in the basilica of St Mark's, Venice, and in churches in Cefalý and Monreale, in Sicily. 

Decorative Arts
The most highly prized textiles in Romanesque Europe were not produced by local craftsmen, but were imported from the Byzantine Empire, Spain, and the Middle East.  

The best-known example of Romanesque textile work is the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry, actually an embroidery. 

Other surviving Romanesque textiles include vestments and hangings.

  • Great Britain 1966.
    Part of the set commemorating the millennium of the Battle of Hastings 1066.

Great Britain 1966. Romanesque Art and Architecture. The Battle of Hastings 1066. Stamp #8 in a set of eight.

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