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AP Art History

13th Edition - Chapter 17


1. Lecture Strategies and Key Ideas.

This chapter explains the characteristics of “Romanesque” art, a term invented in the 19th
century to describe medieval art that was “Roman-like.” Certain distinctive architectural
elements of the period’s church buildings, like barrel and groin vaults, were based on the
round arch and resembled those of ancient Rome. During the 11th and 12th centuries,
thousands of church buildings were newly constructed or remodeled in the style of the
old Roman basilicas. This chapter explains the similarities of church construction in
France, Northern Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, Normandy, England, and Italy where
the basilica design continued.

Pilgrimages to Spain’s “Santiago de Compostela” (see map on page 432) caused many
towns to construct church buildings with designs to accommodate the many pilgrims.
Such buildings and remodelings led to the introduction and enlargement of ambulatories.
The perils of wooden construction led to the destruction by fire of many Romanesque
churches and would lead to a re-design in support of metal roofs, as will be seen in the
Gothic style of the 13th century (topic discussed in the chapter’s Timber Roofs and
Stone Vaults).

The individual styles of Romanesque architecture explored in this chapter include:

French (Saint-Etienne, Saint-Sernin and “Cluny III”),

German (Speyer Cathedral),
Italian Lombardian (Saint’Ambrogio),
Norman (Saint-Etienne in Caen, France)
English (Durham Cathedral), and
Tuscan (Pisa Cathedral complex.)

The chapter also explores the charming yet sometimes frightening sculpture that adorns
Romanesque churches. Students should especially enjoy those found at Saint-Sernin
(“Christ in Majesty”) and the tympanums at Autun and Vezelay.

The chapter also introduces the manuscript illumination done by individual scribes and
discusses the famous Bayeux Tapestry in Embroidery and Tapestry.

“Heads Up.” Students should be able to recognize the parts of a Romanesque church
portal (see illustration on page 439 of The Romanesque Church Portal).
Teachers could have students memorize the terms found in the drawing.
Architecture. Students should also know Romanesque church floor plans are based on a
“sacred geometry” with the dimensions of the nave, aisles and transept all based on the
size of the “crossing square” where the nave meets the transept. Teachers might pass out
lined graph paper and have students draw their own church floorplan based on this
sacred geometry, using the plan of Saint-Sernin or Sainte-Etienne.

"AP Exam Tip." Teachers should prepare students to understand the “sacred” floorplan
of the Romanesque church and the importance and style of the sculpture found on
Romanesque churches. Remember about 35% of the AP Exam is on architecture, so drill
students on the architectural vocabulary used in this chapter.

Gender and Patronage. Students will see many depictions of the Virgin Mary in this
and following chapters that can be explained by the “Cult of the Virgin,” beginning in the
late Middle Ages. Nearly all the paintings, illuminations, and sculpture, as well as the
ecclesiastical buildings presented in this chapter, are the result of church Patronage, a
tradition that would carry on into the next centuries. Women in the Middle Ages who had
power and influence are discussed on page 448 in Romanesque Countesses,
Queens, and Nuns.

Narrative in Art. Two good discussions about narrative in art might be made from
describing the tympanum “Last Judgment” by Gislebertus, found on Autun’s Saint-
Lazare (FIG. 17-12) or the tympanum of the central portal of La Madeleine at Vezelay
(FIG. 17-13). A natural source for narrative essays is also found in the Bayeux Tapestry
discussed on page 456.

Human Body in Art. The figures found on the tympanums at Autun and Vezelay would
be good examples of how Romanesque sculpture displays the human body. Student
attention should also be drawn to the wooden “Virgin and Child” sculpture (Fig. 17-18)
to appreciate how the figures does has Classic details, (note the drapery) while at the
same time lacking human emotion or naturalism. Much more emotional is the elongated
and strangely molded carving of Jeremiah on the south portal of Saint-Pierre in Moissac,
France (FIG. 17-11).

2. Key Vocabulary.
Romanesque aisle narthex transept
Nave portal trumeau voussoirs
jambs Crusades Gislebertus Bayeux Tapestry
pilgrimage groin vaults manuscript illumination
3. Key Images from Gardner’s Art Through the Ages

Artist Gardner Subject Key Idea

FIG. Number
Saint Sernin 17-4/5 Floorplan Romanesque
Romanesque Portal 17-10 Portal Know terminology
Romanesque France 17-4 Saint-Sernin Exterior
Romanesque France 17-6 Saint-Sernin Interior nave
Romanesque France 17-11 Jeremiah Portal sculpture
Romanesque Burgundy 17-12 Tympanum Gislebertus
Romanesque France 17-13 Tympanum Mission of apostle
Romanesque France 17-16 Initial “R” Illumination

Italian Romanesque 17-20/21 Saint’Ambrogio Atrium, Nave

Italian Romanesque 17-26 Pisa Complex Like basilica

Romanesque Normandy 17-30-32 Saint-Etienne Design plan

ribbed groin vault
Romanesque England 17-33/34 Durham Design
Romanesque France 17-35 Bayeux Tapestry History document
Romanesque England 17-38 Eadwine (?) Illumination

For good photos of the tympanum at Vezelay see

and for close-up photos of the tympanum at Autun see

Essay Questions.

1. Show “Last Judgment” tympanum by Gislebertus at Saint-Lazaire. (FIG. 17-12). [See

above for a good website with photos].

Question: What culture produced this sculpture? Discuss how the artist used expressive
distortion to portray the sculpture’s religious meaning. (8 minutes.)

Students explain the didactic nature of this art and give examples of how the human body
was distorted in order to teach and terrorize the viewers.

2. Show Saint Sernin (FIG. 17-5 floorplan and FIG. 17-4 of exterior)
Question. Discuss the effect of the Medieval “Pilgrimage to Santiago de Campostela” on
the design and dissemination of Romanesque architectural design.
Students should explain how the presence of pilgrim “tourists” led to church floorplans
that could accommodate them, and that these architectural ideas were carried forth by the
pilgrimage to other parts of Europe.