Get to know the Romanesque architecture .
The architectural style that directly preceded Gothic. It gets its name from its use of ancient Roman elements like arches and vaults.
Romanesque architecture elements
Romanesque gets its name from the many elements of ancient Roman architecture that it uses.
The most important two are the arch and the vault.
The arch and the vault
There are several different types of vaults.
The most basic, an arch deep enough to cover an entire building, is called a barrel vault or a tunnel vault. A barrel vault may have reinforcing arches, called transverse arches, along its length. You can see a barrel vault with transverse arches in the picture of Saint Sernin in Toulouse, France.
Two barrel vaults crossed at right angles form a groin vault.
A groin vault reinforced along the seams is called a ribbed vault. Ribbed vaults appear occasionally in Romanesque, but they’ll become an important component of Gothic.
The romanesque buildings
Romanesque buildings were very solid structures with thick walls. There’s a good reason for that. Romanesque churches were mainly built of stone, which is heavy, particularly in a big vaulted roof.
You need thick walls and broad columns to hold up that great stone roof. Romanesque churches were rather dark inside for the same reason.
Builders couldn’t cut too much wall away, so windows tended to be few and small.
Romanesque churches still survive today, particularly in England, where the style was once very popular. Durham Cathedral, shown above, is a significant example.
You’ll notice that Romanesque buildings don’t actually look much like ancient Roman buildings even though they use many of the same elements.