9-12th Century

Romanesque architecture emerged in Europe during the early Middle Ages. It can be traced back to the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of intellectual and cultural revival in Europe during the 9th century. This period saw a renewed interest in the arts and a revival of Roman architectural forms and techniques.

Romanesque architecture profoundly influenced medieval Europe's cultural, religious, and architectural landscape. They revived Roman elements and preserved ancient architectural knowledge by drawing inspiration from the monumental buildings of ancient Rome. They were vital religious and communal centers that fostered gatherings, reflection, and knowledge dissemination. They paved the way for the transition to Gothic style, introducing innovations like ribbed vaults. Additionally, the intricate sculptural decoration of Romanesque buildings provides insights into medieval culture, depicting religious narratives and daily life.
Important Features
Rounded Arches
One of the most distinctive features of Romanesque architecture is the use of rounded arches. Unlike earlier architectural styles that used simple post-and-lintel construction, Romanesque architecture uses arches formed by a semicircle, allowing builders to distribute the weight of the building more evenly. This key innovation allows buildings with larger and more complex spaces. Additionally, these arches are often decorated with intricate carvings and moldings in doorways, windows, and arcades, which add to the overall ornate appearance of the building.
Thick Walls
The walls of Romanesque buildings were often made of stone and were much thicker than those of earlier architectural styles. These thick walls allowed builders to create structures that could withstand the harsh conditions of medieval Europe. They were also used to create small windows, often placed high up in the wall, allowing light to enter the building without compromising its strength. They also played a vital role in Romanesque buildings' ornate decoration and design. The thickness allowed for the creation of intricate carvings and decorations, often found around Romanesque buildings' portals and facades.
Barrel and Groin Vaults
Barrel and groin vaults are two common vaulting systems used in Romanesque architecture. Using these vaulting systems allowed for the creation of larger and more complex buildings and supported Romanesque architecture's thick walls and heavy roofs.

A barrel vault is a continuous semicircular arch that is extended linearly to create a tunnel-like structure. Barrel vaults are often used to create long, narrow spaces such as naves and aisles in churches. A groin vault is formed by the intersection of two barrel vaults at right angles, creating a series of arched compartments. This type of vaulting system was often used in larger structures such as cathedrals and castles to support the weight of the building and distribute it evenly across the walls.
Sculpture and Decoration
Many Romanesque buildings were adorned with intricate carvings, sculptures, and reliefs, often located on the portals and facades of the building and the capitals of columns, archivolts of arches, and other architectural features. They typically represented Christian values and beliefs, often depicting scenes from the Bible or the lives of saints. They were used to convey moral lessons and inspire piety in the viewer. They also served to reinforce the religious beliefs and values of the time.
Towers and Apses
Towers were typically built on the western façade of churches and cathedrals and were used to create a sense of verticality and grandeur. They also served as landmarks in the surrounding landscape, helping to identify the building as a place of worship. Apses are located at the eastern end of the building, opposite the entrance. They were often semicircular and were used to house the high altar. It was typically surrounded by a choir and radiating chapels used for private worship and prayer.

They were often highly decorated, with intricate carvings and sculptures adorning their facades. The towers were sometimes topped with spires, which added to their height and grandeur, while the apses were often decorated with mosaics or frescoes depicting religious scenes.