Tag Archives: Romanesque architecture

Mosaics in the Cathedral of Monreale

We’ve already established that I suck at history, and while we’re on the topic of embarrassing self-disclosures, I confess I didn’t realize until recently that Normans were French.  Here’s what I do know about Normans (other than that they all seem to have been named William): they built some gorgeous Romanesque buildings.  In Sicily, once […]

The next time you’re in Vézelay tell the people with the elephant ears I said hi

We were all alone in Vézelay’s Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Abbey, the light was fading, darker, darker…and then we climbed down into the crypt.  No, not actually a horror story ending, but in fact the ending to a perfect day, a day we spent from sunup to sundown in and around one of the world’s greatest Romanesque churches. Vézelay […]

A brief but affectionate history of the arch

I have a crush on arches.  Technically an arch is any rounded architectural structure that spans an opening.  The curve of the arch disperses the vertical weight it holds horizontally to allow for greater distance between supports.  But let’s leave the technical details to the engineers–what you need to know is this: arches are practical, arches […]

The Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay: thumbs up from Bernard of Clairvaux

You know those fantastical hybrid animal monsters abounding in Romanesque church art?  They really pissed off Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux.  I love to read and re-read his attack on Romanesque art extravagances in his Apologia c. 1124: But these are small things; I will pass on to matters greater in themselves, yet seeming smaller because they […]

Rendezvous with my favorite artist, Gislebertus, at the Cathedral of Saint Lazare in Autun

The stone carvings at the Cathedral of Autun by my favorite artist, French Romanesque sculptor Gislebertus, knocked my socks off, made me laugh, and terrified me all at once.  Listen to me people: this is the real deal, some of the finest art you can ever see.  Sure, I want you to look at the pictures, […]

In which we are ripped off and stood up in Bari, but still enjoy the magnificent Basilica di San Nicola

We arrived in Bari with a long list of sights to check out, beginning with Basilica of San Nicola.  Bari has a reputation for high crime, and the unsavory scene around the train station certainly put us on edge. Since were travelling without a cell phone, I had arranged by email to arrive at a b&b during a certain […]

Abbaye Saint-Philibert in Tournus: tranverse barrel vault FOR THE WIN!

We visited stark Abbaye Saint-Philibert in Tournus on a chilly winter day.  (If you’re also visiting in winter, bundle up!)  The interior was….ingenious.  Apparently transverse barrel vaulting was invented here and it’s an engineering feet which turns the vaults that normally run the length of the church’s nave sideways, like a half barrel, and transfers the […]

Saint Sernin Basilica, Toulouse: Romanesque enchantment (just ignore the parking lot)

By now you know that I feel all warm in my ladyparts just thinking about Romanesque art and architecture, most especially French Romanesque.  The juiciest of all French Romanesque buildings are the pilgrimage churches, and Saint Sernin is a delightful representation of a French Romanesque pilgrimage church, complete with stunning well-preserved stone carvings, medieval frescos, capital carvings, an […]

Goosebumps in Speyer cathedral

Monumental but austere and a superb space to hear organ music: Speyer’s imperial cathedral is glorious.  And because we seem to be the luckiest travelers ever to wear matching Rick Steves backpacks, we happened to enter just as a first-rate organist performed on the cathedral’s organ.  It filled the church with sound, turning the entire building […]

The cloister of Monreale Cathedral

There’s a certain reaction I have, when looking though an art history book, an “Aha, there you are!” recognition that’s–let’s face it– a sense of entitlement.  I study the reproduction of a building or artwork and say to myself with certainty,  “I am going to go see that.”  Without fail, I have always felt just that […]