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Romanesque Art

The term Romanesque is given to the period between the 6th century to 12th century belonging to Europe (west and north of Italy). The name is given by Narcisse-de- Caumont.This term refers to the art predominantly religious that developed out of the art of the Romans. Europe of the period was in ruins, there was no law, people fell upon each other not merely for profit but also to satisfy their wild pleasure, till a strong man became a big boss to assume the dignity and to play the role of a king but for a short time and then to make an end by way of the poison cup or the murderer’s dagger. Perhaps one man out of every ten thousand could only spell his own name. The artist had no function in the society. Craftsmen under different masters became negligent, the scientist became a luxury and the merchants frightened to go from one place to another. This condition was prevailing throughout of the whole of Western Europe.

People of the 6th and 7th century looked out for arrangements that might give them a sense of security. Bright young men tried to organize to safe guard the talent of the people and they found the church as only institution to satisfy their needs. People did not fear the sword but were ready to follow the cross because the church gave them a practical system of everyday life.

This was the background of all Romanesque art a word conquered by Romans not by the sword or by cross. The head of the church was the bishop who lived in big cities. The bishop’s chair in the church was called Cathedra and the church Cathedral. By and by with the increase in power and wealth evils crept into the church so in protest there arose the monasteries. It was introduced into Italy by St Benedict in 526 and spread rapidly over Western Europe. The head of the minstrel was Abbot and church was called Abbey Church. It was a complete community in itself that provided all the needs of the people. It was surrounded by 45 walls and contained the church, the school, the library and the hospital. Village communities also sprang up and they attached themselves either to a Bishop or Feudal Lord or the Abbot. These in their own position were jealous of each other.

Only for a short time during the period of Charles Magne i.e. from 742 to 814 education as art was revived. But after his death Europe again descended to its lowest level and event the church sank into the deepest degradation. Then monasteries saved it and for 200 years it remained as spiritual guide to Europe. About 1000 AD a new spirit began to prevail in Europe. There was uprising against the feudal lords. Communication was opened and trade unions were formed. Universities and other centers of learning were established during the 11th and 12th century.

Frescoes decorated the church but they have almost disappeared some of them have been recovered in Italy and Spain. This art resembles very much with the miniatures of that period. The manuscripts are mostly religious based on biblical stories etc. Ireland and Britain preferred to decorate the initial letters and sometimes the whole cover or page was decorated as we see in the pages of Quran. One of the most famous books was that of Celtic monks. This was from Ireland. There were geometrical designs and also naturalistic with foliage, birds and sometimes with a human figure. Celtic manuscript contains some of the most beautiful calligraphy of the Middle Ages but there appears no gold like the decoration of Quran. Pen work with light washes of color was remarkable to furnish the house of God the Church with worthy equipment lead to the making of books with finest calligraphy, illustrations and cover designs. Precious stones were also set in to the cover of the book and the more they were the better was thought. The colors used were very bright and sometimes to the extents of unpleasant.