Middle Ages

The fall and breakup of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity also marked the collapse of the Roman classical traditions of design.Weak central governments left Europe in a state of political confusion and social distress. Religion became a dominating focus and motivator in the life of the ordinary citizen. During this period, design was predominantly at the service of the church. The Middle Ages can be divided into four stylistic periods.

Early Christian Design (330 to 800)

Art and architecture continued to develop essentially under the aegis of religion, but with a strong Byzantine influence. The new art and architecture that developed amongst the Christian states that rose out of the ruins of the Western Roman Empire was unable to dispel the strong influence of the Eastern Roman Christian Empire. However, once Christianity gained official acceptance, a rejuvenated design vocabulary began to emerge, and churches developed into an important building type.

The early Christian church structure was an extension of those of Rome, and was modeled on two basic types of plans.The first was the Roman court building, or basilica, which was rectangular with colonnades separating a central space (the nave) from flanking aisles which were built lower to permit a clerestory to light the central space, as in St. Michael Church in Hildesheim, Germany (Figure 1.33). There was no vertical division into bays, and the axis was horizontal. A systematic analysis of the plan of the church reveals the architect's geometrical approach. The composition consists almost entirely of a combination of squares and diagonals, as was the case in the Mesopotamian temples. The second form type consisted of a circular or octagonal space surrounded by an ambulatory, and also had clerestory lighting. The style developed in central Italy and to a lesser degree in other countries bordering the eastern Mediterranean.

Byzantine Design (330 to 1453)

The Byzantine era of architecture and design was not ushered in until after Constantinople became the imperial capital of the Roman Empire in 330, and Emperor Constantine adopted

FIGURE 1.32 Examples of Roman furniture.

Roman Tripod Broniu? Sesi

FIGURE 1.32 Examples of Roman furniture.

FIGURE 1.33 Early Christian Period Architecture. St.Michael, Hildesheim (Germany). Planned in 993 and built in 1010-1033. Compare the plan analysis of this form of ecclesiastic architecture with that of early Mesopotamia temples (see Figure 1.4).

Christianity as the established state religion. It evolved largely from the Roman model, and by the 6th century, spread throughout the Empire, extending as far as North Africa. This was also primarily a church building development and Roman structural techniques remained in use, as were details, such as elaborate mosaic decorative art. Byzantine building includes major domed structures, such as the famous Santa or Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (532-537), whose dome spanned 100 feet (30m), buttressed by two half-domes, giving a total span of about 233 feet (70m.) without intermediate support (Figure 1.34).This marks the culmination of the dome formula. Decorative art reaches a level of elaboration and richness beyond the characteristic austerity of the Early Christian work.

The Byzantine style developed in Constantinople from the time it became the seat of the royal residence of the emperor Constantine and capital of the Eastern Roman Empire upon the death of Theodosius in 395, until its capture by the Turks in 1453. Sherrill Whiton describes the style as being,"characterized as a fusion between a debased Roman art and Oriental forms. Domed ceilings are typical." Interiors changed slowly as the basilica was adapted as a place of Christian worship. The vault was also developed during this period, but on a smaller scale.The square was the prevalent plan of the majority of Byzantine churches which contained three apses, preceded by a narthex and crowned with a central dome on a drum (Figure 1.35).

Romanesque Design (800 to 1150)

The Romanesque style developed from the Early Christian and Byzantine styles during the 9th to 12th centuries. However, it was only able to develop after it overcame the strong Byzantine and Classical influence. During the 10th and 11th centuries there was a sudden burst of ecclesiastical architectural activity with churches rising everywhere. Many of the Early Christian churches were destroyed by fire due to the use of wood in the construction of their roofs. Romanesque builders relied entirely on stone. The earliest styles, designed by amateurs who were primarily priests and monks, were developed in France and other Western countries. Although the Romanesque style was initially heavy, it later developed and attained certain refinements.

Romanesque stone structures were characterized by increasingly widespread use of the semicircular arch, the dome, and barrel-vault and groined vault, a remnant of Roman structural technique. The semicircular arched opening was one of the hallmarks of the Romanesque style and was used for doors, windows, and ornamental forms (Figure 1.35). Furniture during this period was minimal, partly due to undeveloped standards of comfort. Toward the end of the Romanesque era, larger churches began to apply increased elaboration to their decorative details, and continuous structural experiments in buttressed vaulting helped gradually usher in a new style of architecture, called Gothic.

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