The history of any art carries as significant message about the culture and traditions of the nation as any other historic greatest events. When one art starts to evolve from another, we can observe the arousal of fascinating elements which begin to mark a new epoch in the lives of the nations.
Romanesque art was a precedent for Gothic art subtly complementing it. Both of the styles were dominant in the Middle Ages and were mostly observed in the architecture. Both of them were also developed in Western Europe.
Romanesque art evolved in the 7th century while Gothic art took over in the 12th century.
The common features of both of them are the apt depiction of Middle Ages poverty and inspiration towards God. People believed that the world was a mystery inspired by God and this mystery could only be expressed in art. The church was the endemic symbol of any settlement as all people could belong to it during the Middle Ages (Grolier Online Research, n.d.).
Nonetheless these few similarities, the differences between the two styles are more prominent. And this is how it is actually supposed to be taking into consideration the fact that Gothic art advanced Romanesque art, therefore, presenting more new elements and certain sophistication which was not observed in the Romanesque style.
Romanesque was considered to be more protective and not just aesthetic as Gothic. Therefore, the buildings were constructed quite thick and plain as opposed to the high, elegant, highly-decorated ones of the Gothic period (Study Guide, n.d).
The most important feature of each monastery or church during Romanesque was to house relics of various saints. For this purpose the churches were built with a lot of dimly-lit space inside, rounded arches on small windows and doors on the contrary to the pointed arches of the Gothic style. Pilgrimage developed greatly during these times. For the Gothic art the biggest importance lied in the divinity which, in their opinions, was located high in the sky. That is why we can still observe the skyscraper-like churches with many flying buttresses (Study Guide, n.d.). People were highly spiritual and sought to reveal this spirituality to the God. They built vertical structures as if emphasizing their faith, cooperation, and dedication. These constructions give us the impressions of luminosity and harmony even nowadays.
Romanesque and Gothic arts personify a quick change of mind from stability, eternalness, and permanence to the experimenting nature and restlessness.
One more significant difference lies in the shape of the churches. Romanesque were built in the shape of a Latin cross while the cross section of the Gothic period is more condensed and compact (Study Guide, n.d.).
The decoration also varies. In the earlier style plane and geometrical, scarce objects dominate, whereas during the later period lots of sculpture and delicate ornaments were used.
The invention of the Gothic art is the gargoyles which meant to scare away the evil and to protect the building from damage (El Rincon del Vago, n.d.).
The elegance and beauty of Gothic architecture is expressed in the grand cathedrals of the 12-14th centuries – Notre Dame, Charters, Amiens, Salisbury, St, Denis, Durham and many others. The most prominent example of the Romanesque art is the Basilica in Toulouse, St. Sernin.
After we looked closely at the main features of Romanesque and Gothic art styles, I would like to conduct comparative and contrastive analysis of two most prominent buildings of those periods – Basilica of St. Sernin and Notre Dame, both located in France.
Construction of the Basilica of St. Sernin started around 1080 and continued till about 1117. It’s located in the southwest part of France, Toulouse. Basilica was named after the first Bishop of the city, Saturninus, who was violently murdered by a mob for denying to worship pagan gods in 250 AD. His relics were buried outside the city where finally the Basilica was constructed. Despite the fact that the church is of truly Romanesque character, several Gothic features were added to it by Abbot Bernard de Gensac.
The interesting thing about the beginning of construction of Notre Dame de Paris is that it actually started in 528, Romanesque period, and during the 10th century it was already a well-visited cathedral. However, in 1160 Bishop Maurice de Sully decided that the building was not worth standing there and ordered to destroy it. Notre Dame was rebuilt in 1163. The famous two towers on the front and the distinctive rise window were finished during the 1200s. Unfortunately, the cathedral was destroyed greatly during the French Revolution and even served the role of a storehouse for food. The restoration took place after Napoleon Bonaparte came to the leading top of France in 1804. He was crowned Emperor at the cathedral. The final restoration was conducted in 1991 (Sacred Destinations, 2010).
We can observe in the both cathedrals the endemic characteristics of Romanesque and Gothic periods. What is quite interesting, despite the gradual transition from one style to another, their features differ a lot from one another. The common thing is the idea, the meaning which combines both architectural monuments – the idea of high spiritual development and the search of God (Sacred Destinations, 2010).
Despite the difference in the looks of two magnificent buildings, the exteriors of both of them are the best depiction of two art styles.
The Romanesque chevet of the Basilica is the most harmonic view in France, especially when to approach it from the east end. You can observe seven marvelous chapels which create an exceptionally pleasant view. The whole building is constructed of red brick and decorated with sculptures and white stone. Human and animal figures can be seen on the roof.
The most notable feature of the Notre Dame cathedral is its west front with two 69-meter tall towers. The famous bell, “Emmanuel”, is housed in the South Tower. The prominent gargoyles are located on the Grand Gallery which are Gothic to the very core. The sad thing is that they are actually not medieval but were built-in in the restoration during the 1900s. the cathedral holds three rose windows made with stained glass which were an important constituent part of the 13th-century Gothic art (Sacred Destinations, 2010).
The common for both but surprisingly odd feature for the Basilica is the choir which outlines the interior of the church. High alter is another tribute to the Gothic art in the Romanesque style.
To conclude I would like to state that the real beauty is not found in the similar things but more in the opposites which aptly and delicately complement each other creating a harmonious ensemble. Romanesque and Gothic styles of art perform this function with an unusual accuracy which enables us to enjoy this artistic beauty up to present times.