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Church of the Intercession on the Nerl (1165), an archetypal example of early Russian architecture.

Medieval architecture is a term used to represent various forms of architecture popular in Medieval Europe.

Contents

Secular and religious architecture

The Latin cross plan, common in medieval ecclesiastical architecture, takes the Roman basilica as its primary model with subsequent developments. It consists of a nave, transepts, and the altar stands at the east end (see Cathedral diagram). Also, cathedrals influenced or commissioned by Justinian employed the Byzantine style of domes and a Greek cross (resembling a plus sign), centering attention on the altar at the center of the church.

Surviving examples of medieval secular architecture mainly served for defense. Castles and fortified walls provide the most notable remaining non-religious examples of medieval architecture. Windows gained a cross-shape for more than decorative purposes: they provided a perfect fit for a crossbowman to safely shoot at invaders from inside. Crenellated walls (battlements) provided shelters for archers on the roofs to hide behind when not shooting invaders.

Domestic architecture

Donington le Heath Manor House Museum, Leicestershire is a surviving example of a Medieval Manor House dating back to 1280. It is now open to the public as a museum.

Phases

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Pre-Romanesque

Early medieval secular architecture in pre-romanesque Spain: the palace of Santa María del Naranco, c.850.

Western European architecture in the Early Middle Ages may be divided into Early Christian and Pre-Romanesque, including Merovingian, Carolingian, Ottonian, and Asturian. While these terms are problematic, they nonetheless serve adequately as entries into the era. Considerations that enter into histories of each period include Trachtenberg's "historicising" and "modernising" elements, Italian versus northern, Spanish, and Byzantine elements, and especially the religious and political maneuverings between kings, popes, and various ecclesiastic officials.

Romanesque

Romanesque, prevalent in medieval Europe during the 11th and 12th centuries, was the first pan-European style since Roman Imperial Architecture and examples are found in every part of the continent. The term was not contemporary with the art it describes, but rather, is an invention of modern scholarship based on its similarity to Roman Architecture in forms and materials. Romanesque is characterized by a use of round or slightly pointed arches, barrel vaults, and cruciform piers supporting vaults.

Gothic

The style originated at the 12th century abbey church of Saint-Denis in Saint-Denis, near Paris, where it exemplified the vision of Abbot Suger. Verticality is emphasized in Gothic architecture and features almost skeletal stone structures with great expanses of glass, pointed arches using the ogive shape, ribbed vaults, clustered columns, sharply pointed spires and flying buttresses. Windows contain beautiful stained glass, showing stories from the Bible and from lives of saints. Such advancements in design allowed cathedrals to rise taller than ever, and it became something of an inter-regional contest to build a church as high as possible.

Distinctive elements of medieval architecture

Bodiam Castle, England, fourteenth century.

Further reading

External links


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