Art from 400-1300: Romanesque Art

Western Europe was not a peaceful place during the 600 years after the fall of the Roman Empire. Western Europe (what is now Italy, France, Spain, England, etc.) had been repeatedly invaded. The result was a fractured feudal society with little stability and little economic growth. Charlemagne and the Ottonians had partially and briefly unified the West, and of course the Church was a stabilizing institution, but it was only in the 11th Century that everything changed. Now there was finally enough peace and prosperity to allow for travel and for the widespread construction of large buildings. These were, with rare exceptions, the first large structures to be built in the West since the fall of the Romans so many centuries before. We call the period Romanesque (Roman-like) because the masons of this period looked back to the architecture of ancient Rome. The relative calm of the Romanesque period also meant it was possible to travel, and the faithful set out on pilgrimages in great numbers to visit holy relics in churches across Europe. This meant that ideas and styles also traveled, towns grew and churches were built and enlarged.