Friday, May 18, 2012

During Middle Ages.... - Norman Architecture

Named so due to its roots in Normandy, arose in the Middle Ages, Norman Architecture began in the early 11th century and ended by the 12th century, following the Saxon architectural movement. Norman architecture is a form of the prevailing Romanesque Architecture that was propagated by the Normans or the Vikings, who conquered England. Its development gave rise to large and impenetrable cathedrals, fortresses, castles, and fortifications. A hallmark of Norman constructions is their cross-like shape, deriving from the Roman basilica pattern. The quintessential medieval castles were of a distinct Norman innovation. They arose in England, Scotland, Ireland, Normandy, and Italy. In Italy, Norman features were combined with Byzantine and Arabic styles, which made for less gloominess.

The building materials used in Norman Architecture mainly included stones to give the buildings greater stability. These stones were uncut because there were no real architectural or mason jobs in the Norman era. Therefore, buildings were made up of large, irregularly shaped stones that contributed to their bulky look. Norman roofs were vaulted and these vaults allowed for more balanced weight distribution across the roof. Norman buildings' adornment was minimal, though some architects used their chisels to carve a series of arches into walls. These were not actual arches, but carvings giving a trompe de l'oeil effect. Moreover, some architects carved moldings onto stone surfaces. A minority of architects even became so apt with their chisel that they sculpted animals onto reliefs over doorways, or tympanums. Arches and columns were also minimally decorated elements. As the Norman movement reached its peak in the 12th century, however, it gave rise to more ornamentation. This ornamentation gradually culminated in the first stained glass windows in the 12th century.

Norman Architecture was additionally distinguished by very small windows. Architects avoided installing large windows to avoid chances of building collapse. Therefore, people who resided in Norman buildings were in extremely dim surroundings, using candles as their only source of light. The "Dark Ages," by which the Middle Ages was alternately known, may have been due in part to the dimness of Norman buildings, as a result of their extremely small windows. It wasn't until the Gothic period that architects safely installed huge windows to let in an enormous quantity of light, giving the constructions their celestial quality. Gradually, Romanesque and Norman Architecture blazed new trails by installing much taller and square buildings. These taller buildings had much denser walls to give the needed support to these majestic heights. Inside these buildings, there were also large columns that bolstered structural support. These walls would become much thinner with the advent of flying buttresses, which arose in the Gothic movement.

One of England's first pieces of Norman Architecture was London's Westminster Abbey. Though this structure is now largely Gothic, it began as a Norman construction. Many Gothic structures, in fact, began as Norman buildings that were later elaborated on by Gothic architects. The Tower of London, which served as the royal dungeon, is another example of Norman Architecture. It contained extremely thick walls, spanning about 15 feet wide, to support that height. It is, like many Romanesque buildings, a fortress-like building. Presently, architects are not rebuilding Norman Architecture, except for historical reproduction purposes. Norman Architecture realized unsurpassed heights and first renewed the magnificence of classical styles. Though taking place in a dark period, it manifested the collective desire to reawaken human greatness, as people perceived it in classical architecture. Part of Norman Architecture's legacy was to have passed on this desire in large measure to the succeeding Renaissance era.


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