Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture were some of the few symbols of civilization in the poverty Middle Ages. These two main styles of architecture, have many similarities, but also have many differences. This is because lifestyles altered in the time between these two time periods. Romanesque was designed to be more for defensive purposes than for any aesthetic quality, as gothic cathedrals. Monasteries housed the remnants of saints, and during the Romanesque period the cult of relics became a major cultural aspect influencing architecture.
Devoted Christians would take on long pilgrimages in order to visit and worship the remnants of saints and martyrs. People traveled far and wide to visit sites and see relics believing them to have healing powers. Gothic style architecture included big churches called cathedrals which had tall skyscraper-like towers. They made them that way to get people to look up in the sky and think of God; the experience of looking at one of the great gothic cathedrals is to look up towards divinity. That is why most Gothic structures emphasize the vertical.
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The primary characteristics of Romanesque architecture were Roman in origin: large interior spaces, covered by barrel vaults, rounded arches on doors and windows, and thick walls. In Gothic architecture, none of the style elements, such as the pointed arch and the pilgrimage choir plan, are really new. They can be found separately in various Romanesque structures, but never in the same building. Gothic style has three main characteristics that make it its own unique style: highness, vertical lines and flying buttresses.
Romanesque buildings were solid, heavy because of the thick walls, and, as a result of the comparatively small windows, dimly lighted. Gothic cathedrals were built with a slender skeleton, made up with pointed arches and flying buttresses, which gives impressions of harmony and luminosity. Gothic architecture involved lots of big windows of stained glass, which was impossible for Romanesque buildings, where the thick walls made it not viable to open big spaces on it. Romanesque had splayed windows, and Gothic had mullioned windows, so Gothic is more luminous than Romanesque.
A significant characteristic of gothic architecture is height. However, the higher the wall, the more force there is pushing in an outwardly direction. Buttresses allowed builders to go higher with their walls as it allowed more support. Romanesque buildings are lower, because that period is more primitive, so builders had less technological advances. Romanesque walls support all the weight of the building, and the forces of the barrel vaults, so they can’t be much high.
Romanesque churches are built in the shape of a Latin cross; they base their form in Roman church, modified by the addition of aisles to the nave, buttress, transept, and tower, whereas the cross section of Gothic cathedrals is more compact and condensed. Gothic architecture introduces a lot of advances, which is expected, because it had place almost five centuries later. Romanesque architecture has a lot of merit, however, because it is not easy to make such resistant buildings.
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