5. Romanesque and Gothic

With the decline of the great classical civilizations, the first coherent artistic style to emerge was the Romanesque, which was established by the mid-eleventh century. Formed of an eclectic combination of Roman, Moorish, Byzantine and Carolingian traits, the style manifests itself primarily in the architecture of Christian churches that were then proliferating, and in the sculptures and wall paintings adorning them, and the illuminated books housed in them.

Typical of Romanesque architecture is the rounded arch supported on plain pillars, while carvings are robust, sometimes humorous, sometimes grotesque. By the middle of the twelfth century, increasingly elongated, slender forms and intricate, refined structures were developing in both architecture and in depictions of the figure. The term Gothic, to describe these tendencies, was introduced during the Renaissance, and denoted disapproval of a style supposedly resulting from the destruction of classical art by the Goths' defeat of the Romans. However the Gothic period was itself an artistic golden age, producing, among much else, cathedrals of newly spectacular height and beauty through the deployment of the pointed Gothic arch and the flying buttress. Such developments in turn stimulated the refinement of stained glass. The Romantic movement and artists and architects of the Victorian period harked back to the time, creating a Gothic revival that aspired to spiritual mystery and intensity.