The Romanesque and Gothic architecture period both occurred during the Middle Ages with the Gothic period taking place during the later half. Gothic and Romanesque architecture were related in many ways, but they also contrasted in style too. Over time, masons began to test the waters and push the limits. They thought of new ways to add lighting and ways to allow more height to the building without it being to heavy and weak. Many of the reasons for the change in styles had a lot to do with society and the changes it faced. There was a greater intensity occurring in piety and literature. The Gothic style embodied this new urban society. Romanesque and Gothic shared similar characteristics, but Gothic architecture was a greater departure from its previous predecessor.
The Romanesque architecture style, which occurred during the late 11th century to the middle 12th century, literally means “roman-like” architecture. The Romans, who were inspired by the Etruscans, used barreled and groined vaulting. Romanesque architects later adapted the use of rounded arches, giving the style its name. The Romanesque style, being inspired by the Roman architecture, used the plan of the basilica style. Romanesque cathedrals were not originally designed for aesthetic purposes. Romanesque style replaced flat wood ceilings with stone vaulting. It was one of the first styles to use mainly all stone, but the walls of the Romanesque cathedrals were built very thickly. They were almost like a fortress. Romanesque cathedrals had few windows as a result of their thick walls so the churches were very dark. In a sense, this echoed the life that was outside of these sanctuaries’ walls during the Middle Ages.
Some Romanesque characteristics in architecture were stone barrel vaulting or groin vaulting, thick and heavy pillars, small windows so less natural light, round arches, multiple towers, wooden roofs, and painted decorations, like frescoes, throughout the interior.
These characteristics contrasted with the style of Gothic architecture. With the new Gothic style, the walls were thinner. Masons worked towards a more artistic look. Unlike the Romanesque style, which had few windows, Gothic architecture had many.
The Gothic style, dating between the 12th century and 16th century, began in France and eventually spread throughout the rest of Europe. An example of the first true Gothic church was St. Denis of Paris. Now, it is considered one of our finest artistic periods, but at the time, the term “gothic” did not exactly hold the same meaning it does today. The name came from the Goths and was used rather negatively when describing this style of architecture as they considered it to be similar to the works of the barbarians from which the name was derived.
Defining characteristics which began to create the line between Romanesque and Gothic architecture was the use of flying buttresses, this allowed for more light, bigger windows, and of course the use of a pointed arch...