|Victorian Romanesque C.
1840—c. 1890 (see also
The American architect Henry Hobson Richardson drew inspiration from
the Romanesque architecture of eleventh-century France and Spain,
and the influence of his buildings of the 1870s and 1880s was
evident in many parts of the world. But Richardsonian Romanesque did
not make itself felt in Australia until the Federation period, so we
must look for other, less clear-cut sources for the relatively small
amount of Romanesque-influenced architecture in this country during
the Victorian period.
In the first decade of the nineteenth century, Napoleon Bonaparte
established a new Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. The publications of
J.-N. L Durand, its professor of architecture, introduced architects
in many European countries to the author’s ideas about the need for
a rational expression of masonry construction. Durand based his
essentially utilitarian brand of architecture on those historical
styles which used semicircular arched openings of moderate size set
in substantial, plain stone walling: Florentine Renaissance,
Byzantine, Early Christian, and Romanesque. Durand’s doctrines were
especially influential in Germany, where the round-arched idiom,
known as the Rundbogenstil, was used in Munich in the 182os by such
eminent architects as Leo von Klenze and Friedrich von Gartner. In
Britain there were a few minor forays into the Romanesque style for
churches in the 184os, even as the Gothic Revival grew from a
trickle to a torrent, and Cuthbert Brodrick’s impressive Corn
Exchange of 1860—63 in Leeds has
Rundbogenstil façades of rugged stonework. The United
States also provides us with occasional examples of a freely
interpreted Romanesque style, such as the Union Station at
Providence, Rhode Island, begun in 1848 to the design of Thomas A.
In the absence of any strong and continuing commitment to a
specifically Romanesque style by leading architects overseas, James
Blackburn’s St Mark’s Church (1839—41) at Pontville, Tasmania, is a
surprisingly original work. Unlike later architects who used the
style to express rugged power, Blackburn chose Romanesque to convey
a feeling of sober simplicity and restraint. Decades later we see a
far less reticent use of the idiom in Joseph Reed’s striking
Independent Church (1868) in Collins Street, Melbourne. Recently
returned from a trip to Europe, Reed was no doubt influenced by
Ruskin’s advocacy of early medieval Italian architecture, and he
enthusiastically introduced polychromy and vigorous Romanesque
detailing into his design for the church.
A free but restrained use of Romanesque motifs may also be seen
occasionally in utilitarian buildings of various kinds erected
during the Victorian period.
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and
Terms from 1788 to the Present"
RICHARD APPERLY, ROBERT IRVING, PETER REYNOLDS. PHOTOGRAPHS BY
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter
|Queen Victoria Building, Sydney,
completed 1898. "American Romanesque" glory
|St Michael's Uniting Church. Melbourne,
Melbourne. Completed 1866.
|Old Museum Building. Brisbane,
Queensland. Completed 1891
|Perth Mint. Perth. Completed in 1899.
The Romanesque Revival
Between 1840 and 1900, the
round-arched medieval style that preceded the Gothic appealed to
religious fervor and picturesque sensibilities, becoming a popular
prototype for Christian churches in America.
Beginning in the mid-1840s, the
Romanesque Revival was widely adopted for churches in New York State
and the nation by both architects and local builders. With
round-arched openings instead of pointed Gothic arches and spires,
the style was associated with the great European monasteries,
churches, and fortified castles of the Middle Ages. Known to
architects through books, prints, photographs, and travels, the
Romanesque was also appreciated for its picturesque qualities. In
the 1850s and 60s, it surpassed the Gothic Revival as the favored
architectural style for Christian worship.
The mature Romanesque style developed
across western Europe from 1000 to 1200 as the principles of
imperial Roman vaulted architecture were revived and fused with
local traditions. The groundwork was laid in the Carolingian
architecture that flourished during the reign of Charlemagne
(768-814). Amidst a disorganized Europe, Charlemagne created a
pan-Germanic state in which he promoted Christianity, learning, and
administrative order through his court and the monasteries. German
culture was synthesized with traditional late Roman forms, including
EarlyChristian basilicas and influences from Byzantine and Oriental
The monasteries were wellsprings of
architectural innovation for vast complexes and monumental churches,
such as Cluny and Le Citeaux in France. Strong regional variants of
the Romanesque developed in areas of western Europe and were carried
forth by colonists, missionaries, and craftsmen into Spain,
Palestine, middle Europe, and Scandinavia. As Kenneth Conant
explains in Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture, between 800 and
1200 in Romanesque Normandy, England, and the Ile-de-France, the
ribbed groin-vaulted bay with flying buttresses developed, which was
later to become the foundation of Gothic architecture.
The Romanesque Revival first started
in Munich, Germany around 1830, where it was called the
Rundbogenstil (round-arched style). The earliest known example in
New York of the Romanesque Revival is the Church of the Pilgrims
(now Our Lady of Lebanon Roman Catholic Church), 113 Remsen Street,
Brooklyn Heights (Richard Upjohn, 1844-46). The German Rundbogenstil
influenced St. George's Church (Episcopal), (Blesch & Eidlitz,
1846-56), located in an appropriately Picturesque setting on
Stuyvesant Square, Manhattan. Renwick's 1846 Church of the Pilgrims
on Union Square in Manhattan, was a fully-developed example of the
Norman (French Romanesque) style. At the same time, Renwick was
designing the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. (1846-55),
considered "the first great secular monument of the Romanesque
Revival," in a highly Picturesque mode.
The Romanesque Revival style became
ubiquitous throughout the second half of the 19th century for a wide
variety of building types, such as railroad stations, civic
buildings, schools, armories,commercial buildings, factories, and
masonry dwellings. In reaction to the elegantly designed Gothic
Revival churches that set the standard of taste in the 1840s for the
Episcopal Church, Congregationalist, Methodist, Baptist, and other
low-church groups found the Romanesque "less ostentatious,...more
republican," according to Robert Dale Owen in his 1849 publication,
Hints on Public Architecture. Evangelical congregations that
emphasized preaching developed church plans to focus on the pulpit
and could draw on virtually any style for the exterior.
St. Georges Church (Episcopal),
Rutherford Place & East 16th Street, New York, NY (1846-56) is one
of the first and most significant examples of early Romanesque
Revival in America. The exterior is thought to have been designed by
the Bavarian born architect Otto Blesch. The interiors were designed
by Leopold Eiditz. The original gothic style stone spires were
removed in 1889. Acknowledgment: Andrew Dolkart, Guide to New York
City Landmarks, 1991.
Roman Catholic parishes also found
the Romanesque style a suitable model. The Church of St. Stephen
(now the Parish of Our Lady of the Scapular and St. Stephen), 149
East 28th Street, Manhattan (cover) is a high-style example, while
more modest examples include St. Patrick's Church on Staten Island
(1860-62), and Church of the Annunciation, 255 North 5th Street,
Brooklyn (F.J. Berlenbach, Jr., 1870), a brick Lombardian Romanesque
basilica. Buffalo has several stately Roman Catholic churches that
are late but pronounced examples of the Romanesque Revival,
including Holy Family (Lansing and Beierl, 1906), Corpus Christi
(Schmill and Gould, 1907-1907), and St. Francis Xavier (Max G.
By the 1850s and 60s, the Romanesque
Revival was more popular for new churches than the Gothic. Although
called in its day "Round style" by Congregationalists, and "Norman"
or "Lombard" if the style was influenced by French or Italian
Romanesque architecture, its prevailing character was more often
Germanic, severe, and symmetrical. Architects did not use details
academically, but more as Picturesque novelties. Pointed-arch
openings and spires were sometimes employed because Romanesque
churches often had Gothic additions. Provincial examples sometimes
had Greek Revival forms with round-arched features, notes Carole
Rifkind in A Field Guide to American Architecture.
Closely related to the Romanesque
Revival was the Moorish Style, adopted in the post-Civil War years
for synagogues by first-generation German Jews (see American
Common Bond Volume 11/Number 1).
Horseshoe-shaped arches and intricate geometric patterns found in
Islamic architecture were used instead of round-arched motifs
associated with Christianity.
A later phase of the Romanesque,
originated in the 1870s by Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson,
was inspired by Spain and the south of France. The Richardsonian
Romanesque style reached its zenith in the late 1880s in massive,
weighty buildings with round-arched motifs featuring rough-hewn
Round-arched Romanesque motifs
appeared in eclectic High Victorian buildings. Although interest in
the Romanesque waned with the shift to academic Classicism and
Gothicism at the turn ofthe century, another revival occurred in the
late 1920s and 1930s.
The First United Methodist Church,
Baldwinsville (Horatio Nelson White, 1869-70) illustrates emblamatic
Romaneque Revival features.
The defining feature of the
Romanesque Revival is the semi-circular arch used for all window and
door openings and for wall enrichment. Other distinguishing motifs
are beltcourses and the arcaded corbel table which is a series of
miniature arches below the eaves. Belt- or stringcourses mark
horizontal divisions. Column capitals and compound arches are
enriched with geometric medieval ornament. Facades have gabled roofs
flanked by square or polygonal towers of differing heights, with
parapets or various roof shapes, and occasionally spires of Gothic
origin. Pyramidal roofs often have concave slopes. The typical plan
is basilican, with a long, narrow nave, vestibule, central tower or
paired side towers, and self-containedmassing. Broad, smooth wall
surfaces of monochromatic brick or ashlar masonry laid with thin
mortar joints were favored.
The disintegration of
Roman culture and economy, led in turn to a collapse of the
framework in which skilled architects and trained artisans could
flourish. Without their skills, attempts at large-scale building,
which were usually restricted to churches, resulted in structures
that were often crude and of relatively modest proportions. The
exception to this type of architecture, which from the end of the
5th to the 8th century was generally simple, was that in the city of
Ravenna, Italy, then under Byzantine rule. Buildings there are often
composed of, or decorated with, elements removed from Roman
In many regions the pre-Romanesque style was a continuation of Early
Christian art and architecture; such, for example, were the churches
of Rome, built on the plan of the basilica.
Circular or polygonal domed churches inspired by Byzantine
architecture were also built during the pre-Romanesque period; later
they were built in the region of Aquitaine in south-western France
and in Scandinavia. The best-known and most elaborate examples of
this type are San Vitale (526-548) in Ravenna, built for the
Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and the octagonal palace chapel built
between 792 and 805 by Charlemagne at Aix-la-Chapelle (now Aachen,
Germany) and directly inspired by San Vitale. One of the creations
of Carolingian architects was the westwork, a multi-storey entrance
façade flanked by bell towers, attached to Christian basilicas.
Westworks were prototypes of the great Romanesque and Gothic
Important buildings were also constructed by the monastic orders.
Monasticism, a religious and social manifestation characteristic of
the period, required vast building complexes comprising chapels,
cloisters, libraries, workshops, kitchens, refectories, and
dormitories for the monks. New building skills were developed,
particularly by the monks of the Benedictine and Cistercian orders.
Elaborate pre-Romanesque monastic establishments were built at St
Gall, Switzerland, on the island of Reichenau on the German side of
Lake Constance (Bodensee), and at Monte Cassino, Italy, by
An outstanding achievement of Romanesque architecture was the
development of stone-vaulted buildings. A major reason for the
development of stone vaulting was the need to find an alternative to
the highly flammable wooden roofs of pre-Romanesque structures.
Attempts to solve new structural problems resulting from the use of
vaults, especially barrel vaults, were endlessly varied. The dome,
round and pointed vaults, and plain and ribbed groined vaulting were
used. However, a masonry structure in which the thrusts, or
pressures, of the vaults are perfectly contained by isolated piers
and buttresses was not achieved until the Gothic period.
Stone vaulting, being much heavier than wooden roofing, needed to be
supported by heavy walls and sturdy columns. In the mature
Romanesque style, especially that which developed in France, the use
of massive walls and piers as supports for the heavy stone vaults
resulted in a typical building plan in which the entire structure
was treated as a complex composed of smaller interlinked units.
These units, called bays, are the square or rectangular spaces
enclosed by groin vaults; in late Romanesque architecture, these
bays tended to be treated as basic building units, and separate
rectangular bays became a characteristic and distinguishing feature
of the Romanesque style.
The massiveness of stone structures is another major characteristic
of Romanesque architecture. The nave in Romanesque churches was
usually made higher and narrower than in earlier structures in order
to accommodate windows, called clerestory windows, in the sidewalls
below the vault. Doors and windows were usually framed by round
arches, or, sometimes, by slightly pointed arches. These openings
were generally small and were decorated with mouldings, carvings,
and sculptures that became increasingly rich and varied as the
Romanesque period drew to a close.
The Picturesque: Romanesque Revival/Stick and/or Shingle Style/Queen
Anne. The late nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival is a vigorous
style more common in Chicago than in New York and is based on the
bold arch-and-vault construction of the early medieval Romanesque.
Architect H.H.Richardson was its greatest American exponent, but
Brooklyn's Frank Freeman was not far behind. The wooden architecture
that exploited the balloon frame's formal possibilities, and/or
celebrated exposed timber as a structural-decorative exterior
armature (The Stick and/or Shingle Styles), was often designed at
the same time by the same architects in the 1870s through 1890s.
Both are picturesque.
Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-86)
Studied at Harvard and the Ecole des
Beaux Arts in Paris (1859-62) .While in Europe he worked under
henri Labrouste and Jakob Ignaz Hittorf. Trinity Church, Boston
defined his unique style which became known as "Richardsonian
Romanesque" because of the parallels with Romanesque principles.
He was very influential in his short life; followers include
Charles Follen McKim, Stanford White, Louis Sullivan, and John
Wellborn Root. (WJC)
Richardsonian Romanesque (1870-1895)
Style named for Henry Hobson
Richardson (1838-1886). It is a revival style based on French
and Spanish Romanesque precedents of the 11th century.
(Romanesque preceded Gothic in European architecture.)
Richardson's style is characterized by massive stone walls and
dramatic semicircular arches, and a new dynamism of interior
space. Continuity and unity are keynotes of Richardson's style.
The Richardsonian Romanesque eclipsed both the IInd Empire
Baroque and the High Victorian Gothic styles; the style had a
powerful effect on such Chicago architects as Louis Sullivan and
Frank Lloyd Wright, and influenced architects as far away as
The late 19th and early 20th century style of Romanesque is a
revival of an early medieval style, which was in turn a revival of
Roman architecture. This was one of the most popular forms of
architecture in the United States during the 1880s, and along with
the Chicago School it was the first style applied to tall buildings.
Many courthouses and public buildings were built in Romanesque, even
in small rural towns.
Distinguishing features include
turrets, rounded arches, hipped or pointed roofs, and very heavy
rusticated stonework. Proportions in this style tend to run large,
both in the overall building form and in the size of the details.
The founder of this style was Boston
architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and to this day it is frequently
called "Richardsonian Romanesque". His successor firm Shepley,
Rutan, and Coolidge contributed to its development, while many
smaller firms throughout the United States like Long & Kees adopted
Romanesque Architecture of western
Europe from about AD 1000 to about the late 1100s. After Rome fell
in 476, Roman culture was spread by the Christian church. By the end
of the pre-Romanesque period, Roman stylistic elements had fused
with elements from Byzantium and the Middle East, and from the
Germans, the Celts, and other northern tribes in western Europe.
These various combinations created a number of local styles, called
Romanesque, meaning "in the manner of the Roman."
An outstanding achievement of Romanesque architects was the
development of stone vaulted buildings. This masonry vaulting
replaced the highly flammable wooden roofs of pre-Romanesque
structures. Vaults posed new structural problems for architects, who
created a variety of solutions, including the dome, round and
pointed vaults, and plain and ribbed groined vaulting .
To support the heavy stone vaults, architects used massive walls and
piers, creating a typical building plan that treated the entire
structure as a complex composed of smaller units, called bays. A
distinguishing feature of Romanesque style, bays are square or
rectangular spaces enclosed by groin vaults and used by architects
as the basic building unit.
The nave in Romanesque churches was usually made higher and narrower
than in earlier structures to make room for windows, called
clerestory windows, in the sidewalls below the vault. Doors and
windows were usually capped by round arches, and sometimes by
slightly pointed arches. These openings were generally small and
decorated with moldings, carvings, and sculptures.
Italian provinces developed a great diversity of Romanesque
architectural styles. In Lombardy, somberly impressive buildings had
groined vaulting of heavy proportions. Architects in central Italy
created few structural innovations and continued to use classical
decorative elements. Tuscan and Roman churches featured classical
Corinthian capitals and acanthus borders, as well as colored marble
in geometric patterns; open arcades, colonnades, and galleries; and
facades with sculptures in relief. In southern Italy, a rich style
combining Byzantine, Roman, Arabic, Lombard, and Norman elements was
created, with lavish use of mosaic decorations and interlaced
French Romanesque architecture is characterized by various vaulted
styles. Provençal churches have pointed domes and facades decorated
with tiers of wall arcades filled with sculpture. In the Auvergne
region in central France, architects built churches containing a
long choir with side aisles and, around the semicircular sanctuary,
an arcaded ambulatory (semicircular aisle) with radiating chapels.
In Burgundy the barrel-vaulted, three-aisled basilica was highly
developed. Norman architects, influenced by Lombardian methods,
created an original style with groined vaults supported by flying
buttresses, and facades with two high, flanking towers.
German Romanesque churches were often planned on a large scale. Many
of them are very high and have an apse or sanctuary at each end.
Numerous round or octagonal towers create a picturesque silhouette.
Before the 10th century, most English buildings were wood; stone
buildings were small and roughly constructed. The Norman Romanesque
style replaced the Saxon style in England after the Norman Conquest
in 1066, and from about 1120 to 1200, builders erected monumental
Norman structures, including numerous churches and cathedrals. The
long, narrow buildings were constructed with heavy walls and piers,
rectangular apses, double transepts, and deeply recessed portals.
Naves were covered with flat roofs, later replaced by vaults, and
side aisles were usually covered with groined vaults.