1.2.6 Romanesque (1000-1200) and Norman Sicilian (1100-1200)

Forward to 1.2.7 Gothic Art
Back to 1.2.5 Six and Wei Dynasties – Back to 1.2 Medieval



Cloisters’ reliefs, Santo Domingo…
Bayeux Tapestry
Fresco, Saint-Savin
Three Magi, St Albans Psalter
Stained Glass of Daniel
Apse Painting, San Clemente...
Bury Bible
Last Judgement Tympanum
Stavelot Triptych
Calling of St Peter and St Andrew
Winchester Bible

Romanesque (cont’d):
Santiago de Compastelo Portico
Casket with Troubadours

Cappella Palatina
Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator
Mosaic in the Palatine Chapel
Roger II of Sicily
Roger’s Divine Coronation
Roger II royal mantle


Romanesque art was the first general art movement on the Medieval era, it commenced around the year 1000 CE and continued for two centruries or so, to be gradually replaced by the Gothic. Though it spread widely the prime examples of its fine art and sculpture was created in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Historians awarded it this name because its architecture had a resemblance to Classical Roman style, with its round-headed arches, barrel vaults, apses, and acanthus-leaf decorations. It was the first style that spread right across Catholic Europe. It also borrowed from Byzantine and Early Christian art, especially from the icons in its paintings, with popular subjects being scenes from the life of Christ, Christ in Majesty and the Last Judgement. There was little portraiture in this period. Romanesque illuminated manuscripts, psalters and bibles were popular. Stained glass became popular, though few are extant.

Europe was growing prosperous, so where fine art in earlier periods, the Carolingian and Ottonian, was largely about royal courts and monasteries but it became popular in towns and villages, particularly along pilgrimage routes, and in city churches.



Image source: Wikimedia.commons


Santo Domingo de Silosa, a village in northern Spain, has a Benedictine monastery dating back to the Visigoths.
It has some remarkable reliefs dating to c1050.
The top relief is from a pier and depictsThe Ascension and Pentecost.
The lower relief is from the cloisters and shows Doubting Thomas.
The Bayeux Tapestry commemorates the events of 1066, when William, the Duke of Normandy, conquered and seized the English throne from Harold, the Earl of Wessex.

It is considered by many as a chronicle. It is not a true tapestry as the images are not woven into the cloth it is embroidered using wool yarn onto linen cloth. It was not produced in Bayeux, but Canterbury around 1070. and commissioned by William’s half-bother the Bishop of Odo, who appears in several scenes; it is therefore a Norman account.

The extant tapestry is 70m x 51cm, however its end is missing, this is presumed to be the coronation of William. It is on show at the Bayeux Museum, France.

The three scenes shown are: top – Norman boats carrying the army and their horses to England; middle – Harod is killed at Hastings; bottom – a banquet for the victorious Norman leaders.

Image source: khanacademy.org


Image source:
wga.hu / cheeseweb-eu


The Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe is determined by UNESCO to be of Outstanding Universal Value. They call it the ‘Romanesque Sistine Chapel’, its presents an immense biblical narrative in all parts of the church. The Passion of Christ is painted in the upper tribune of the porch, with scenes of the martyrs. Large figures of the saints are found in the choir and on the piers of the transept. Finally, the story of the Saints Savin and Cyprian covers the walls of the crypt that bears their names.

It contains many beautiful 11th- and 12th-century murals which are still in a remarkable state of preservation.

Romanesque Fresco (11th Century)
Abbey Church of Saint-Savin,
Poitou Charentes, France.
Painter Unknown.
Saint-Savin is one of the finest
sites of Medieval Christian art
of the Romanesque era in France.

The images show: top – Noah’s Ark; middle – general view; bottom; Tower of Babel
The St Albans Psalter is an English illuminated manuscript, one of several psalters known to have been created at or for St Albans Abbey in the 12th century.

It is widely considered to be one of the most important examples of English Romanesque book production, It has over forty full-page miniatures, and contains a number of innovations that would endure throughout the Middle Ages.

The images here are: top – an illuminated ‘S’ for Psalm 137; middle – Christ in Gethsemane: bottom – the Three Magi.

Image source: Wikimedia commons


Image source: wga.hu

Image source: visual-arts-cork.com


The nave of Augsburg Cathedral in Bavaria contains the oldest stained glass cycle of large format still located at its original site. These depict the prophets Daniel, Hosea, and Jonas, the prophetic King David, and a late-medieval copy of Moses. All are clad in the costume of the Frankish nobility but with Jewish pointed hats. They hold unfurled banderoles (scrolls) with quotations from their scriptures.

The images show the stained-glass panel of Daniel and King David (top), and a detail of Daniel, showing his hat (bottom).
San Clemente in Taüll is one of several Romanesque churches in the Vall de Boí Valley, Catalonia Spain, which received a UNESCO World Heritage designation in 2000. Dating from 1123, wall paintings in the sanctuary include a Pantocrator, Saints and Apostles and scenes from the Old and New Testaments and the Apocalypse. The paintings in the church are copies; the originals are in the Catalonia National Art Museum.

The image is from one of three arched apses featuring the Pantocrator.

Image source: khanacademy.org


Image source: khanacademy.org


The Bury Bible is a giant illustrated Bible written at Bury Saint Edmunds in Suffolk, England between 1121 and 1148, and illuminated by an artist known as Master Hugo.

The image shows the prophet Moses indicating which animals it would be illegal to eat.

Since 1575 it has been in the Parker Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Last Judgement Tympanum, Central Portal, West Façade, Cathedral of St. Lazare, Autun, France.

The North façade contains the tympanum (1130–1135), signed Gislebertus hoc fecit (Gislebertus made this) within the portico which is ranked amongst the masterpieces of Romanesque sculpture in France. Some sources suggest Gislebertus is the patron rather than the artist.

This relief integrated the modern view of heaven and hell with the Bible stories. For its period the sculpture also had the goal of visual story-telling for the majority of individuals who were illiterate.

Image source: khanacademy.org

Image source: Wikimedia commons


Image source: khanacademy.org


The Stavelot Triptych is a reliquary, many fine objects of the Romaesque period were intended to hold relics.

It is dated to 1156-1158, 48 x 66 cm it is fabricated in enameled gold, and is held at The Morgan Library and Museum, NY USA.

The distinction between fine and decorative art was established during the Renaissance and did not apply at this earlier period.
Sant Pere de Rodes was a Benedictine monastery in Catalonia Spain. Its origins are not known but a legend exists that it was founded by monks who disembarked in the area with the remains of Saint Peter and other saints, to save them from the ‘barbarians’ who were invading the Western Roman Empire.

The monastery is considered one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in Catalonia. The image shows a relief of the Calling of St. Peter and St. Andrew.
Image source: khanacademy.org


Image source: Image source: visual-arts-cork.com


The Winchester Bible is the largest and finest of all surviving 12th-century English bibles. A single scribe wrote out its text in Latin, while artists worked its exquisitely illuminated capital letters. Their glowing colours, including gold and lapis lazuli, are as intense today as 800 years ago. The Latin of St Jerome was handwritten on 468 sheets of calf-skin parchment, each measuring 58 x 40 cm. The sheets were folded down the centre, to create 936 pages in all.

It was commissioned in 1160, probably by Henry of Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror and Bishop of Winchester for over 40 years.

The images are: top – God Speaking to Jeremiah; bottom – scenes from the life of David.
Pórtico da Gloria of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which includes the date, April 1, 1188.

This Romanesque temple had been begun around 1075, but it was largely defined by Master Mateo between the years 1168 and 1211.

The Pórtico was part of an initiative to deal with a slope in the terrain.

The top image shows the Pórtico, the middle image is a detail of some of the figures.

The lower image depicts Master Mateo at the feet of the Portico of Glory, in an early Hitchcock-esque guest appearance.

Image source: catedraldesantiago.es


Image source: khanacademy.org
The Casket with troubadours is fabricated in copper, enamel and gold, it is dated to c1180. It is from the court of Aquitaine, Limoges, France.

It is one of the earliest Limoges caskets made for secular use (not church use). It is decorated with lively scenes of combat, music, dance and love – and on the front are troubadors.

It is 21 x 15.6 x 11 cm and on show at The British Museum, London UK.


The Arab-Norman Kingdom of Sicily became the most culturally advanced court between the years of 1071 and 1194. Roger II, King of Sicily from 1130-1154, managed to unify all the Norman possessions in Italy, and was appointed King of Africa in 1148, at that time this meant parts of Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.

Rather like the Arab curt of Cordoba, the court of Roger II attracted large numbers of artists and artisans, scholars and scientists, poets…



Image source: Wikimedia commons


The Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicily is the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily, situated on the ground floor at the center of the Palazzo Reale in Palermo.
The building is a mix of Byzantine, Fatimid and Norman architectural styles, reflecting the tricultural state of Sicily during the 12th century.
The Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator Cappella Palatina
Image source: Wikimedia commons


Image source: Wikimedia commons


The Mosaic of a Sicilian king in the Cappella Palatina.
The church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio (St Mary of the Admiral) overlooks the Piazza Bellini in Palermo, Sicily. Its name derives from its founder, the Syrian christian admiral and principal minister of King Roger II of Sicily, George of Antioch. Its building commenced in 1143

The nave dome is occupied by the traditional byzantine mosaic image of Christ Pantokrator surrounded by the archangels St Michael, St Gabriel, St Raphael and St Uriel. Below this are the eight Old Testament prophets and the four New Testament evangelists.

Image source: Wikimedia commons


Image source: Wikimedia commons


A painting featuring Roger II of Sicily from the Capella Palatina.
Detail of the mosaic showing the Roger II receiving the crown from Jesus Christ from Martorana, Palermo. The mosaic carries an inscription Rogerios Rex in Greek letters. It is often referenced as the divine coronation of Roger II of Sicily
Image source: Wikimedia commons


Image source: Wikimedia commons
Royal mantle of Roger II. bears the date 528 of the Islamic calendar, which relates to 1133–1134. He was crowned in 1130, so it could not have been used for his coronation. Nonetheless it was used for special events. It bears a long laudatoryinscription.

Forward to 1.2.7 Gothic Art
Back to 1.2.5 Six and Wei Dynasties – Back to 1.2 Medieval

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *