1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Pointed Architecture (Gothic Architecture): Transitional Styles: Romanesque; Byzantine

(Part 82)

Pointed Architecture (also known as: Gothic Architecture)

Transitional Styles: Romanesque; Byzantine

In those countries which received the Christian religion from Rome, but which did not contain such mines of architectural material in temples, amphitheatres, and palaces, as Italy did and indeed, in the remoter parts of Italy itself, which did not contain them as Rome did, churches were constructed in imitation of those of the metropolis of the Christian world. These being the work of a semi-barbarous and unpolished people, were of necessity comparatively rude, and from them arose the Gothic architecture of the Middle Ages, -- not from any previously existing style of architecture among the northern nations who overran Italy and subverted the Roman power, the rude Celtic monuments being the only specimens of architecture they possessed.

The transitional style of architecture referred to will be found in what are called the Saxon and Norman buildings of England, and to a greater or less extent in all parts of Europe in which the Romans had been masters, and particularly in those which adhered to the Roman communion in the great division of the churches. The general forms and modes of arrangement peculiar to Roman architecture may be traced throughout; in some specimens they are more and in others less obvious, but the leading features are the same.

This is more evident in Italy than elsewhere. In the early Roman basilicas and churches, some of which are of the age of Constantine, and which were constructed in the Roman style, the first divergencies occur; in those which are later they are still greater, and distance of time and place appears still to have increased them, till what may be called a new style was formed, having peculiarities of its own, but even more clearly deducible from its origin than Roman is from Greek or Greek from Egyptian. The variation in the development from the parent stock is great, but in all cases there is more or less evidence of the descent.

It must be noted, however, that there was one important modification of Roman art, and this was the Roman art modified by contact with the East, and known commonly as Byzantine. Its influence was felt first and most strongly in St Mark’s, Venice, a building which is entirely Byzantine in style as opposed to Romanesque. From Venice it was copied in Perigueux in the church of St Front, and this copy influenced the style of a vast number of buildings in the south-west of France.

St Mark’s, again, had a great influence on the Lombard works of Northern Italy, and these were the originals from which Germany, by way of the valley of the Rhine, derived all its mediaeval buildings.

To the greater part of France and to England the stream of art was much more purely Romanesque, being the result of knowledge of genuine Roman art, with little, if any, influence from the East.

In Spain we see the direct influence of the Romans, the direct influence of the Arab, and the indirect Byzantine influence of the south-west of France, all materially affecting the development of the national architecture.

As might be expected, this style was not the same in all the countries which practiced it; it was derived, in them all, from the same source, as we have shown, but was materially influenced by the habits, manners, and state of civilization of the various nations, and much, too, by their means of communication with Rome. This, in strictness, may be called Gothic architecture, as it was partly induced by the Gothic invasions of Italy, and was invariably practiced by the nations to whom that term may with propriety be applied. It arose in the 4th century, and was subverted in the 12th by the invention or introduction of the pointed arch, which marks a new era, and was destined to give birth to a news style in architecture.

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