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WHEN Constantine rebuilt the city which we still call Constantinople as a new Rome in the East, doubtless mixed methods in architecture were resorted to. The more important buildings of his official architects must have been in the current Roman manner. Secondary buildings and ordinary dwellings would, however, have been constructed according to local customs, and a modified style must soon have resulted here, as earlier had been the case in Alexandria, and in other Greek and Roman cities of the East. The later Roman architecture became more and more changed through these contacts with the East, not only in structure but in the decorations and the underlying ideals which governed both. It is this mixed product which formed the Byzantine architecture, and has been so named by modern students from the old name of the new capital of the Empire.

As through recent explorations we come to know more of the building modes practised in Egypt, North Africa, Syria, Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, that is, throughout eastern Christendom, it becomes increasingly difficult to cover them all with the one narrow word Byzantine. In Syria, for instance, the builders had much fine stone at command, but little or no brick or timber, and here, in consequence, everything architectural tended to be turned to stone. In Constantinople the common stone was a good, easily cutting, white marble, and this was liberally used in association with excellent burnt bricks of thin flat shape. In Egypt there was a little fine limestone and much mud for bricks, which were frequently, for secondary purposes, used in an unburnt condition.

The term Byzantine properly applies to the style of building developed in the new imperial capital, but some such word as Byzantesque seems to be required to describe inclusively those many varieties of building practised in the Christian East, which were yet more or less the members of a common tradition.

In the fourth century, when the new capital was built, the style was still Roman and the point of view was mainly pagan. Byzantine architecture developed step by step as the Empire became Christianized; and two hundred years later, during the reign of Justinian, the Byzantine style was fully established. We may put the emergence of the style about the middle of the fifth century, that is half-way between the reigns of Constantine and Justinian.

In the East from a very early time ordinary building works were for the most part done with sun-dried mud bricks. In hot, dry countries this forms a fairly good material. Besides this use of crude bricks there had come down a still simpler way of building by aggregations of clay. The mud, even when subdivided into crude bricks, adhered so thoroughly when put together in a mass with liquid mud in the joints, that a type of structure was developed which was homogeneous; the roofs and floors being of the same materials as the walls, and continuous with them. The chambers, large or small, were cells in a mass-material. Such a method of building was common to the valleys of the Nile and the great rivers of Western Asia. Burnt bricks were in turn developed from mud bricks by an extension of the method found so successful in making pottery. Such bricks were often used for special purposes in combination with the crude bricks from an early time. The building forms made use of in typical Byzantine architecture largely depended on the use of brick, which may be regarded as the bringing together of small units well cemented so as to form continuous walls and vaults. Burnt bricks were usually set in so much mortar, the bricks being thin and the joints thick, that the whole became a sort of built concrete. The mortar in a wall, in fact, must frequently have been much more in quantity than the bricks.

Arising doubtless out of primitive ways of forming mud roofs, it became customary later to construct vaults of mud bricks, and then of burnt bricks, by leaning the courses against an end wall so that the vault was gradually drawn forward from the end of a given chamber in inclined layers. Each layer was thus supported by the part already done and no centring was required. Domes came to be erected in a somewhat similar way. A rod or a cord being attached to the centre so as to be readily turned in any direction, a dome was reared on its circular base, a course at a time, the curvature being determined by the length of the rod or cord. About 1670 Dr Covel described this method of procedure, and it is still practised in the East, although skilled dome builders are now but few.


If a dome is not set over a circle, but over an octagon or a square, a troublesome question arises in regard to the angles. Where the chamber is small, and especially in the case of the octagonal form, the work can easily be jutted out in the angles so as roughly to conform to the circular base required for the dome. When, however, a square area is large, some regular solution becomes necessary. The angles of the square may be cut off by diagonal arches so as to form an octagon. If such arches are so built as to continue back into the angles forming little vaults, on a triangular base, they are called squinches. In such cases as these the base of the dome is governed by the width across the chamber, but it is possible to plan a dome on the diagonal dimensions of the area to be covered so as to spring out of the angles. In this case it is clear that the dome as seen from within gradually expands from the four lowest points and spreads on the walls as it grows upward, forming concave triangles having curved lines against the four walls. These pieces of the domical surface running down into the angles are called pendentives. When the circular basis required for the dome is formed by these pendentives it is possible to set a complete semi spherical dome on them, and there will be a break in the curvature where such a dome springs from the pendentives; or it is possible to carry on the curvature of the pendentives, forming in this case a flatter dome with the surface continuous to the angles. The first would be a dome on pendentives, and the other we might call a pendentive dome. Again a third variety is obtained by building a circular ring of wall, a ‘drum’, above the pendentives, and on that the dome at a higher level. This was a later fashion. It is rather difficult to see the geometry of all this without a model; but if an apple be cut into halves, and then one half is laid on its cut surface and four vertical cuts are made in pairs opposite to one another so as to reduce the circular base to a square, we shall obtain a model of a dome with continuous pendentives.

The methods of building ordinary vaults with inclined courses as described above were practised in Egypt in the early dynasties, and also in Mesopotamia. Evidence is accumulating which suggests that domes, even domes with pendentives, were used in these countries long before the Christian era. A dome with pendentives has been found over an Egyptian tomb which seems to have been built about 1500 years BC. When Alexander built his new Greek capital in Egypt it must have been a city of brick buildings covered with vaults, save for a few chief structures which were built in the usual manner of Greek temples. A Latin author, writing about the year BC 50, says that the houses of Alexandria were put together without timber, being constructed with vaults covered over with concrete or stone slabs. The scarcity of timber in Egypt, the cause behind the development of vaulted structures, is again brought before us in a letter written by St Gregory to Eulogius, the Patriarch of Alexandria, in regard to timber which was sent to him all the way from Italy. It was doubtless from the new Hellenistic capital, and possibly from Western Asia as well, that the art of building vaulted structures spread to Pompeii and Rome. Later, it was almost certainly from Alexandria that Constantinople obtained the more developed traditions of brick building by which it was possible to erect the great church of St Sophia. It seems to be equally true that decorative ideas and processes were largely derived from Alexandria. In addition to the facts mentioned in the first volume, reference may be made to a painted catacomb chamber at Palmyra illustrated by Strzygowski, who assigned it to the third century. Amongst the subjects are Victories carrying medallions like those on consular ivories of the fifth century. There are also panels representing geometrical arrangements of marble, and a cornice imitating modillions in a formal perspective on the flat. This is practically identical with a ‘cornice’ band made up of flat morsels of marble of different colors at Salonica. At Ravenna again there are angels in mosaic which are certainly derived, as Strzygowski himself pointed out, from such medallion -bearing Victories as those of Palmyra. Alexandria would be the best common centre for places so far apart as Salonica, Ravenna and Palmyra, and the painted catacomb at the latter place may be taken to represent Alexandrian art of the fifth century. Catacomb burial itself most probably originated in Alexander’s city. Recent explorations in Asia reveal how wide was the saturation of late Hellenistic and early Christian art in the East. Alexandria was the great emporium for distributing works of art over the civilized world.

Early churches

Two early churches, both perhaps of the fifth century, may be taken as types, one of the circular plan and the other of the basilican. The former, the church of St George at Salonica, is a domed rotunda having a very thick wall in which a series of recesses are, as it were, excavated, while a bema with an apse projects to the eastward. The circular ‘nave’ thus follows the tradition of many Roman tomb buildings as, for instance, that of St Helena at Rome; this constitutes indeed the martyrion type of church. The rotunda of Salonica may be earlier than the bema attached to it and may have been erected in the fourth century; the masonry of the wall is of small stones with bonding courses of brick, a late Roman fashion. The dome, which is about eighty feet in diameter, was encrusted within with mosaics of which large portions still remain. Eight great panels contained martyrs standing in front of architectural façades. These are, it may be supposed, the courts of paradise. The saints are in the attitude of prayer; and some ivories show St Menas of Alexandria in a similar way. One of these ivories has the background filled by an architectural composition which is remarkably like those of the Salonica mosaics. Here are round pediments filled with shells, lamps hanging between pairs of columns, curtains drawn back, and birds. Mr Dalton has spoken of the architectural façades which derive from the scenes of the theatre as “in a Pompeian style”, and has remarked that the free use of jeweled ornament on columns and arches is an oriental feature. It is not to be doubted that these mosaics derive from the art of Alexandria. The recesses of the interior are also covered with mosaic; this church must have been a wonderfully beautiful work. The dome is covered externally by a low- pitched roof.

The basilican church mentioned above is St John of the Studion at Constantinople, which was built about 463 and is now in a terribly ruined condition. It is rather short and wide and had two storeys of marble columns on either hand, the lower tier supporting a molded marble beam, forming the front of a gallery floor, and the upper tier aiding to carry the roof. A really structural gallery of this kind is a beautiful feature. The most perfect part of this church is now the columnar front of the narthex. The columns and entablature are of marble elaborately carved. This carving, in accordance with a principle which afterwards became still more marked, is sharply cut into the general block-form of the moldings and capitals, the serrated edges of the leaves are in sharp triangular forms, and details are accentuated with holes formed by a drill. On the white marble and under the bright light this delicately fretted surface decoration tells like pierced work; indeed a little later it became customary to undercut much of the surface patterns so that the capitals were surrounded by a thin layer of pierced pattern work only attached here and there to the background; the result was often wonderfully vivid and delightful. Marble door frames were set between the columns of the narthex, forming a screen; this, like all such expedients in Byzantine architecture, is done in a perfectly direct and simple manner. Without pretence and without bungling the builders did what was required in a free and great way; but it was done in noble materials under the guidance of a fine tradition. Byzantine architecture at its best gives us a romantic feeling of freedom with a classical sense of order; it followed a law of liberty.

Another typical building is the church of SS. Sergius and Bacchus at Constantinople, built about 526. The plan of the central area is an octagon with semicircular recesses projecting from the alternate sides; there are eight strong piers but the interspaces are set with columns which bear a marble entablature forming a gallery beam which follows the tradition just described. The outer walls form a square, from which to the eastward projects the apse of the bema. The central area is covered by a dome which is protected by leadwork but not by any independent roof. The church of S. Vitale at Ravenna closely resembles that of SS. Sergius and Bacchus, but it has hemicycles of columns projecting from every side of the octagon except where the bema opens to the east.

St Sophia

Both these churches were built before Justinian essayed the colossal task at St Sophia, which became one of the greatest building triumphs in the whole history of architecture. The reign of Justinian was a time of astonishing architectural activity; nothing of the kind was to be experienced again, until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries marked, by the erection of countless cathedrals, another flood-time of art. The superb plan of St Sophia must have been led up to by a great number of experiments in smaller churches, many of which have been destroyed unrecorded. The church of Sergiopolis, the ruins of which still exist, has great hemicycles of columns on either side of the ‘nave’, and Wulff has recorded two fragmentary plans from ruined churches at Tralles, one of which had some affinity with the church at Sergiopolis, while the other had a great apse from which five apsidal niches projected. Then again the churches of St Irene and of the Holy Apostles, the latter of which was later than St Sophia, were both experiments in form and in the equilibrium of domes. The Church of Christ (the Holy Wisdom, St Sophia) at Constantinople, has from the moment of its erection been the most famous church in the world. It was only a century old when Arculf brought an account of it to the West, and from that day to this its reputation has been unchallenged. It was the supreme effort of the greatest emperor-builder of the Christian era. It seems to be more individual and original and less related to other buildings of its kind in scale, power and splendor than is any other great architectural work. As M. Choisy has said, “It is a conception marvelous in its audacity - the science of effect, the arts of counterpoise, and of noble decoration can be pushed no further”. This wonderful structure was begun on 15 January 532; it was completed in six years and dedicated at Christmas 537 : an astonishing effort. The dome soon fell, but it was rebuilt and the church was re-dedicated at Christmas 563.

It is a vast domed hall, surrounded by other halls forming aisles and having two storeys, while the central area rises to the dome. The more organic parts of the structure like the columns, door and window frames, are all of porphyry and of marbles, some white, some colored. All the rest is rough brickwork entirely covered over within by a precious plating of fine marbles and mosaics of pattern-work and figures on gold backgrounds. There must be whole acres of these encrustations of marble and mosaic. Procopius says, “The entire vaulting is covered with gold, but its beauty is even surpassed by the marbles which reflect back its splendor”. On the exterior the structure is bare and plain. It was probably partially sheeted with marble; the great windows are filled with marble lattices. The domes are covered with lead applied directly upon the brickwork. The central dome was much flatter as first built than it is at present. Expanse rather than height was aimed at. In front of the church was a great square court surrounded by arcades, and many other enclosures full of trees formed quiet precincts around the cathedral. From the description of the Court poet, Paul the Silentiary, recited in 563, at the opening ceremony after the fallen dome had been rebuilt, we may form some picture of the splendor of the great building when complete with all its necessary furniture. The stalls of the priests in the apse were plated with silver. The iconostasis was also of silver, while the altar was of gold set with precious stones, and sheltered by a ciborium, or canopy, of silver “a silver tower, on fourfold arches and columns, furnished with an eight-sided pyramid, a globe and cross above wrought with many a loop of twining acanthus”. On the central axis in front of the iconostasis was the ambo, having a flight of steps to the east and another to the west. It rose from the midst of a circular screen of columns which enclosed also the place for the singers. On the beam which rested on the columns stood many standards bearing lamps, “like trees”. The ambo itself had a canopy, and the whole was formed of precious marbles, silver and ivory. On the elevated floor of this ambo the Emperors were crowned. It was the prototype of the pulpitum set up at Westminster where the English kings were crowned.

“Who shall describe the fields of marble gathered on the pavement and lofty walls of the church? Fresh green from Carystus, and many-colored Phrygian stone of rose and white, or deep red and silver; porphyry powdered with bright spots, green of emerald from Sparta, and Iassian marble with waving veins of blood-red on white; streaked red stone from Lydia and crocus-colored marble from the hills of the Moors. Celtic stone like milk poured out on glittering black; the precious onyx like as if gold were shining through it, and the fresh green from the land of Atrax, a mingled harmony of shining surfaces. The mason also has fitted together thin pieces of marble figuring intertwining curves bearing fruit and flowers, with here and there a bird sitting on the twigs. Such adornment surrounds the church above the columns. The capitals are carved with the barbed points of graceful acanthus; but the vaulted roof is covered over with many a little square of gold, from which the rays streaming down strike the eyes so that men can scarcely bear to look”.

The church was dedicated and re-dedicated at Christmas, and the axis of the church points exactly to the point of sunrise on Christmas Day. It must have been at the very moment of sunrise that the doors of the completed church were thrown open.

The poet says, “At last the holy morn had come, and the great door of the new-built temple ground on its opening hinges. And when the first beam of rosy light, driving away the shadows, leapt from arch to arch, all the princes and people hymned their song of praise and prayer, and it seemed as if the mighty arches were set in heaven”.

The architects were two artists from Asia Minor, Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus. They were the most famous builders of the age, and Anthemius with a younger Isidorus, nephew of the other, is said to have built also the Church of the Holy Apostles.

The square area covered by the central dome of St Sophia is more than one hundred feet in each direction; it is prolonged, east and west, by two vast semicircles, making a length of considerably more than two hundred feet. From the eastern semicircle open three smaller apses, and to the west open two apses and a central square compartment. All this is unobstructed area, one colossal chamber. At the sides of the square central space, and around the four corner apses, stand magnificent monolithic columns of porphyry, and of marble, green spotted with white. These columns with their arches support the gallery floor above the aisles. Over them again rise other columns which bear the lateral walls supporting the dome. The dome itself is pierced around its base by forty windows through which a flood of light pours into the vast space. On the pendentives are still four colossal six-winged cherubim of mosaic, which probably formed part of the first decoration. Similar creatures are painted in the nearly contemporary MS. of Cosmas the traveler. The dome probably had a figure of Christ in a circle at the summit and the rest of its surface sprinkled with stars. Right and left on the vault of the bema are still two great angels with wings which reach to their feet. On the vault of the apse itself are also some remains, although much injured and now obscured by paint, of a large figure of the seated Virgin holding in her arms the Savior who gives the benediction. Probably these are works executed after the Iconoclastic interval.


Anthony, a Russian pilgrim (c. 1200), says that Lazarus the image-painter first painted in the sanctuary of St Sophia the Virgin with Christ in her arms and two angels. Now a celebrated artist of this name was one of those who suffered at the Iconoclastic persecution; he was imprisoned and tortured but he survived to replace over the great gate of the palace called Chalce the image of Christ. Bayet, who quotes the story from the life of Theophilus, speaks of this with some doubt as a monastic legend (Byz. Art. p. 124). This very figure, however, is mentioned within fifty years of the time required in an edict of Leo the Wise known as the Book of the Prefect. In this it is ordained that the perfumers of the city should have their shops between the Milion and the “Venerated image of Christ which surmounts the Portico of Chalce, to the end that the incense should rise toward the image”. Further Dr Walsh, who was chaplain to our embassy at the Porte about 1820, writes in a little book entitled Essays on Ancient Coins, “There stood till very late in Constantinople an inscription over the gate of the palace, called Chalce. Under a large cross sculptured over the entrance to the palace were the following words, “The Emperor cannot endure that Christ should be represented (graphes) a mute and lifeless image graven on earthly materials, but Leo and his young son Constantine have at their gates engraved the thrice blessed representation of the Cross, the glory of believing monarchs”. A plain cross had evidently replaced the original image; later, possibly under Michael II, a crucifix was again placed over the gateway. Doubtless a similar alteration was made in St Sophia and other churches, and of one of these we still have ample evidence. The fine conch over the apse of the church of St Irene in Constantinople has only a large plain cross, erect on a stepped base set on a gold background. In St Sophia at Salonica there is a similar plain cross over the apse, and both these are almost certainly of the Iconoclastic period.

After this short description of the central classical example of Byzantine art, St Sophia, Constantinople, it is impossible to attempt any account of other individual buildings. At Salonica there is a wonderful group of churches, including the superb basilica of St Demetrius. In Asia Minor there are a great number of ruined churches, many of which must have been built during the reign of Justinian. One important group of ruins comprising a monastery and a palace, Kasr ibn Wardan, has only recently been discovered. The church in Isauria described by Dr A. C. Headlam is now famous as a step in development. Later researches by Sir William Ramsay and Miss Bell, and the German excavations at Priene, Miletus and Ephesus, have brought to light an immense body of new material. Syria is crowded with ruined churches, many of which were built in the great sixth century. A well -equipped American expedition, which lately worked over the ground, has added greatly to our knowledge of the period. Still further east in Mesopotamia and Armenia there are many interesting buildings, some of which are still used for Christian worship. In Egypt and the Sudan the Christian ruins are at last receiving attention, and an Austrian expedition has excavated the convent of St Menas near Alexandria. The excavations at Bawit and Sakkara have brought to light a wonderful series of capitals and other sculptured stones. Many of these seem to be prototypes of forms well known in Constantinople and Ravenna. One or two second-rate capitals of this kind have recently been added to the British Museum, but the best have gone to Berlin, where there is a very fine collection of Christian art, and to Boston. To the age of Justinian belong the monastery and church of St Catherine under Mount Sinai, where still as when Procopius wrote, “monks dwell whose life is only a careful study of death”. It is a compact square fort surrounded by high walls, within which is a large church half filling up the space, the rest being occupied by a few narrow lanes of small dwellings. The Egyptian monasteries are of this type, and that of Sinai was doubtless built by masters from Egypt. The plan of the church has an Egyptian characteristic in a chapel across the east end outside the apse. The church is basilican with granite columns and a wooden roof. On the old timbers were found three inscriptions, which she wed that the monastery was finished between 548 and 562. In the apse is a much injured mosaic of the Transfiguration which is probably of the age of the church. Besides the celebrated enameled door, which probably dates from the eleventh century, are some carved wooden doors, which De Beylie thinks belonged to the original work. The inscriptions spoken of above mention Justinian, “our defunct empress Theodora”, and Ailisios the architect.

During the last generation an enormous body of evidence for Christian art in North Africa has been recorded by French scholars. One of the latest discoveries is a beautiful baptistery at Timgad, which had the floor and the basin of the font with its curb-wall continuously covered with mosaic. It may be mentioned here that parts of a mosaic floor, from what must have been a baptistery at Carthage, are now in the British Museum. This shows a stag and a hind drinking from the waters of paradise, recalling the verse : “As the hart panteth after the water brooks”.

Italian Byzantesque

On the shores of the Adriatic and in Italy are many pure Byzantine works of the sixth century. One is the splendid basilica of Parenzo with its atrium and baptistery complete. It has a great number of beautiful carved capitals which were certainly imported from Constantinople. There are also some fine mosaics. The most remarkable of these is one covering the external surface of the west wall above the atrium roof. It showed the Majesty enthroned amidst the seven candlesticks. This may remind us that Justinian encrusted the west external wall of the basilica of the Holy Nativity at Bethlehem with a great mosaic of the birth of Christ. Such external mosaics were quite common on Byzantine churches. At Parenzo, as also at Ravenna, and in St Sophia itself, there is much ornamental plastering of the sixth century.

At Ravenna is a large group of buildings, some of the age of Justinian, others both earlier and later. S. Vitale has already been mentioned. The delightful small cruciform tomb-chapel of Galla Placidia has some fifth century mosaics. There are also two large baptisteries and two magnificent basilican churches with their splendid mosaics. Here also is the very curious tomb of Theodoric with its monolithic covering shaped like a low dome.

One of the chief treasures preserved in this city is a superb ivory throne, a work of the fifth century, with panels carved with subjects from the Old and New Testaments. This is almost certainly an Alexandrian work. Somewhat similar panels, preserved at Cambridge and in other museums, suggest that more than one of such thrones had been made.

In Rome there are several remnants from the age of Justinian, chief amongst which are the choir enclosures of S. Clemente. At Milan, on the north side of S. Lorenzo, is a beautiful chapel with mosaics in apsidal recesses. One is of Christ and the Apostles, which is executed in a very grey scheme of color, largely black and white, with some blue and green; the nimbus of Christ is white. Although so simple these mosaics are most beautiful. At Naples there is a baptistery with very fine but fragmentary mosaics, which date perhaps from the end of the fifth century.

Byzantine mosaic decoration was one of the noblest art-forms ever developed. Enormous areas were covered by perfectly coherent and co-ordinated schemes of pictorial teaching, and a solemn majesty was unerringly attained; while the splendor of the gold backgrounds suffused the whole with a glowing atmosphere.

The types of Christian imagery which are found in the Byzantine mosaics of the fifth and sixth centuries were probably drawn from Egyptian Christian sources. It has been suggested that these types may have originated in Palestine, and that the paintings and mosaics of the great churches built there by Constantine largely influenced the schemes of imagery in the rest of Christendom may not be doubted. It is improbable, however, that Palestine was a school of iconographical invention; whereas Egypt seems to have been a glowing hearth of pictorial activity from the Hellenistic age onwards.

Early art in books

Early Christian iconography must have been developed at an active Hellenistic centre. Jerusalem was hardly this, and Palestinian art for the most part must have been an offshoot of that of Alexandria. It is probable that painted rolls and books were the chief sources, from which the types to become familiar in paintings and mosaics were spread abroad.

The codex form of book, which seems at an early time to have become specially associated with Christian literature, was almost certainly an Egyptian innovation. According to Sir Maunde Thompson, codices of vellum, of the third century and earlier, have been found in Egypt, and this form of MS. “was gradually thrusting its way into use in the first centuries of our era.... The book form was favored by the early Christians. In the fourth century the struggle between the roll and the codex was finished”. Some fine book-bindings, which may even be as early as the sixth century, have lately been found in Egypt. The noble Codex Alexandrinus of the fifth century, now in the British Museum, is an Egyptian book. So also, almost certainly, is the once beautiful, but now almost destroyed, pictured book of Genesis called the Cotton Bible. The writing of this volume is very like that of the Codex Alexandrinus and of a great number of papyrus fragments. It also seems to date from the fifth century, and furthermore its pictures have some affinities with others in an Alexandrian chronicle of the world on papyrus, which has been published by Strzygowski, while they have a closer likeness to other painted books which have been judged to have been produced in Alexandria, such as illuminated volumes of Dioscorides and of Cosmas the traveller, and a roll of Joshua. Many points in the miniatures with which the Cotton Genesis was crowded bear out this view of its origin. Thus, two of those relating to Joseph in Egypt show a group of pyramids in the background; a third had well-drawn camels; and another the burial of a body wrapped like a mummy. It has been proved by Dr Tikkanen of Helsingfors that this MS. or a duplicate of it, was used by the mosaic workers at St Mark’s, Venice, at the end of the twelfth century, for the designs from early Bible history which fill the domes of the narthex. Twenty-six of those relating to the Creation were accurately enlarged copies of as many miniatures from the now terribly injured book, and these subjects, designs of great dignity and grace, can consequently be restored. Other pictures in the volume which relate to Lot, Abraham and Joshua, were again very similar to the series of mosaics executed in Sta Maria Maggiore in Rome about AD 440, and, indeed, the types found in the Cotton Genesis seem to have had an almost canonical importance. Their influence can be traced far down in the Middle Ages, and even the Biblical pictures of Raphael still retained some reminiscence of them . One characteristic of the Cottonian MS. is the appearance in the miniatures of impersonations of such ideas as the Seven Days of Creation, and the Four Rivers of the Garden; the former being represented as seven angels, and the latter as four reclining figures with urns. The Soul breathed into man is depicted in the form of a winged Psyche. The Creator is shown as Christ, “by Whom all things were made”. Another famous book of Genesis at Vienna, having pictures painted below the text on pages of purple vellum, is almost certainly later than the Cottonian book, and although there are obviously some links between them, the Vienna designs seem to stand outside the Alexandrian circle. Two other books on purple, which have much in common with the Vienna book, are the codices of Rossano and Sinope. All three may probably be dated about AD 500, and may have been painted at Constantinople. The magnificent Dioscorides, which is dated c. 512, is almost certainly an Alexandrian book. Its fine, clear drawings of plants may be copied from a more classical original. The Joshua Roll of the Vatican is probably sixth century and of Alexandrian origin.

Several of the mosaics at Ravenna have characteristics similar to the miniatures in these Egyptian books, and it may be regarded as certain that it was not only at St Mark’s, Venice, that the designs for mosaics were taken from such sources. Indeed, it must be more and more recognized that such compositions were very often drawn out of authorities almost as fixed as the texts which they illustrated. All religious art, and Byzantine art especially, has in a large degree been the handing on of a tradition. The outlines of these iconographical schemes must have been suggested by theologians. They were certainly not the result of a free play of artistic fancy.

A number of figured textiles which have been found in Egypt are also very interesting in regard to the treatment of their subjects. Some are merely painted or dyed and others are woven and embroidered. Three pieces of the dyed work in the Victoria and Albert Museum have designs of the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Miracles of Christ. These, again, are interesting as giving us versions of well-known types of the subjects, and suggest that these designs also had their character impressed upon them in Egypt. For instance, they closely resemble others found on the ivory throne at Ravenna, and this similarity reinforces the argument in favor of that famous work having been made in Alexandria, which was the great mart for objects in carved ivory.

A favorite scheme of ornamentation on the Christian textiles found in Egypt is the imitation of jewelling. Especially is this the case with the Cross; and the jeweled cross, which appears again and again in the mosaics of Rome, Ravenna and Constantinople, would also seem to have been an Egyptian invention. Recently many wall-paintings have been exposed by excavation in Egypt and here, also, well-known types, like the Majesty and the Ascension, have been found.

It has not been possible to speak of the quality of Byzantine art but only of certain leading facts in its history. As a whole it was a wonderful movement of return to first principles in regard to structures and to the free expression of feeling in what we call decoration. Roman art was very largely official, grandiose, and a matter of formulas. The Roman artist was as closely imprisoned in conventions as we ourselves are. Then came a time and an influence which led the people to build what they wanted only by the rules of common sense, and to draw for decorative art fresh draughts from the springs of poetry.

So art was transformed and a great cycle of a thousand years was entered on. Early Christian, Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic are all incidents in its mighty sweep, and before it was spent great cathedrals had been built all over Europe. Having followed, so far as our space will allow, the main stream of Christian art while flowing through Constantinople and the East, we must now try to trace the broader facts of its development in the West.

It is not to be doubted that, until the eastern civilization was checked by the Arab conquests in the seventh century, its art had been the true heir of the ages, and that the great upheaval put a stop to its proper progress, and then threw it back in many broken eddies over western Europe. In our first volume we saw that early Christian art was a phase of Roman art modified by eastern ideas. In western Europe, for the early Christian period, there were in the main three influences at work, in the culture of which art is one aspect: the native stock, the Romano-Christian tradition, and the steady, unceasing pressure of oriental ideas. In mentioning the latter we do not try to beg any Byzantine question. It would doubtless be true to say conversely that the West influenced the East, but here and now we are only concerned with the West and the action of external forces upon it.

In reaction against claims which have been urged for oriental influence in Christian art, Commendatore Rivoira has lately made a powerful plea for a further consideration of the part played by Rome and Italy as the main source of western Christian art, but he confessedly does this rather in regard to structural architecture than to the pictorial and plastic matters which form so great a part of any complete architecture. Further, in regard to the structures, his contention in many cases only avails to show that those eastern customs, which some earlier writers had thought came in with Byzantine art, had already been taken over by Roman builders. And it must never be forgotten that Roman art itself was only one branch of a widespread Hellenistic culture the prime centre of which was Alexandria.

Provincial Roman art

Quite recently a whole new phase of Roman art has been coming into view, that is, the form of it which was developed rather in the provinces than in the capital. An enormous body of this Roman provincial art has been revealed by French researches in North Africa, and the study of local antiquities in Italy, France, Spain, South Germany, and even Britain, shows how far this little-known art had developed or degenerated from the standards of the Augustan age. This art is rude and redundant, showing a ferment of undisciplined ideas, and in it we may find many of the germs of the Christian architecture of the West which, by a true instinct, has been called Romanesque.

Probably the best centre in which to study provincial Roman art is Treves, where a perfectly arranged museum is crowded with smaller monuments, while many large ones are still extant in the streets. Among the latter are a magnificent basilica, now a church, a great city gate, the Porta Nigra, and a ruined palace, usually called that of Augustus, although apparently it must belong to the fourth century. The monuments in the museum comprise a great number of important, richly sculptured, tombs, some of which are of the sarcophagus form, while others are like small towers crowned by a pyramid, with a sculptured finial at the apex, a form which recalls many a Romanesque tower and spire built centuries later. They themselves seem to derive from the mausoleum of Halicarnassus. The sloping surfaces of the pyramidal coverings are roughly carved into leafage arranged like scales, and the rest of these monuments is adorned with a profusion of sculptured figures and pattern-work. The large plain surfaces are frequently covered by what, in later art, we should call diaper patterns, that is, recurring arrangements of lozenges, octagons and circles, combined so as to cover the field and with the interspaces filled in with simply-carved leafage. This type of ornamentation is practically unknown in classical Roman architecture. It was doubtless taken up from the East, and it is the precursor of a kind of decoration, which thenceforth was to be common for many centuries; indeed, the covering of flat vertical surfaces with roughly cut patterns in low relief is typical of the art of the ‘Dark Ages’. It may be noted that the surface patterns, and even the figure sculptures, on the monuments of Treves were painted with bright colors, and hence it seems probable that the elaborate braided and chequered ornamentation of our own Saxon crosses was completed by coloring.

What we have found best illustrated at Treves must have been characteristic, in greater or lesser degree, of all the cities of western Europe. Even in London, at the Guildhall and British Museums, there are fragments which show that a similar type of architecture prevailed here. Amongst the stones are some which clearly belong to tombs with pyramidal coverings like those mentioned above, and other stones, some of which belong to small columns, have diaper pattern-work. These fragments probably belonged to the tombs of the rich merchants of Londinium. The coins of Roman Britain show a similar likeness to those of Treves, which in the fourth century was the capital of the western section of the Empire. In the museum at Sens are important remnants of a façade, which was largely decorated with boldly designed vine foliage of a curiously Romanesque character.

Romanized Europe was a soil well prepared for the upspringing of Romanesque art, and many centers, down to the end of the twelfth century, show us how the old monuments were turned to for inspiration and guidance. In some places there was hardly any interruption of continuity; in others the conquering peoples from the North (although they entered into that which they could not properly understand or use) could not help crude imitation when they themselves had to build. The problem of architectural history is now less one of inquiry as to sources than a question as to the vigour of building impulse. An energetically expanding school always gathers from everything it may reach, but a declining school does not know how to use even what it has. When the Romanesque movement in architecture was under way, the Roman background was searched, and at the same time the current customs of the more powerful art of the East were drawn upon.

In the fifth century, western Europe had a vast system of splendid roads linking up a great number of provincial Roman cities. Many of them were burned and ruined, but few can have been destroyed. Even in Britain these Roman cities Were sights to wonder at, as the poem on the ruins of Bath witnesses, and Bede tells us how the citizens of Carlisle guided St Cuthbert round the city showing him the walls and a fountain of marvelous workmanship constructed formerly by the Romans. In Rome itself the early Christian tradition was being continued, and there, as at Ravenna and Milan, at Lyons and Aries, Byzantine influences were all the time being absorbed and passed on to the West.

The third strain in Romanesque art was the barbaric element in the blood and traditions of the people. After the Roman and Byzantine influences, which came from the Church, had been absorbed and transformed, the art began to put on more and more of a barbaric character. This was especially the case in the West after the Danish irruptions. Some of the stone carvings wrought in England during the tenth century were extremely savage in their character.

Roman influence in England

A school of art, which should be of extraordinary interest to us, is that which arose in Northumbria in the second half of the seventh century, but was soon to disappear. There is ample documentary record of the culture of the time when Wilfrid and Benedict Biscop built churches and formed monastic libraries, and when Bede wrote his famous history. Some remnants of Wilfrid’s churches yet remain, and Bede tells us how they were decorated by paintings forming a consistent series of Biblical types and story. These paintings were brought from Rome, and the fortunate discovery of the painted walls of Sta Maria Antiqua in that city, which were decorated by Greek artists just at the time that Benedict Biscop was making his collection, suggests very clearly what these pictures must have been like. It cannot be doubted that they were of eastern origin. Many works of art, which we still fortunately possess, have been attributed to the same age, but some of them are so remarkable as compared with other works of that time on the Continent that Commendatore Rivoira and Professor Cook of Yale have argued with great detail that they could not have been produced at that time. At Ruthwell and Bewcastle, on either side of the Scottish border, are the shafts of two tall standing crosses elaborately sculptured with figures and pattern-work, with long inscriptions in runes, and, in the case of Ruthwell, with Latin inscriptions as well. Rivoira, approaching the question from the Italian point of view, and with a wide knowledge of European art, would assign them to the twelfth century, and Professor Cook argues that they were probably erected by King David of Scotland about 1140.

These noble cross shafts, however, are only the most famous of a large class of monuments of more or less the same type, which must belong to about the same period. If they have to be dated in the twelfth century, the Irish crosses also, as is recognized by the critics just named, cannot be earlier. Such a scheme in all its implications would make a tremendous alteration in British archaeology. On the other hand, the early dates of some of the Saxon works are so firmly established that they cannot even be attacked. Such are large numbers of early Saxon coins, some of which bear devices analogous to the decorations of the crosses, while others, like the coins of Offa, have fine heads. Others, again, like a coin of Peada, have runes of similar form to those on the crosses. If a selection of such coins was published in comparison with the crosses, much that has been said as to the improbability of the early date of these would have to be ruled out. We also possess the splendid illuminated text written and decorated at Lindisfarne very early in the eighth century, with its braided ornamentation, symbols of the four evangelists, and other designs which closely resemble the ornament and symbols on the crosses. There is also the noble Codex Amiatinus, once owned by Abbot Ceolfrid, and taken with him as a present for the Pope when he left England for Rome in 716, which has some points of resemblance. It has further been shown that the Latin inscriptions, which describe the sculptures on the Ruthwell Cross, are in an alphabet of a semi-Irish character resembling the letters of the Lindisfarne book, while the runic inscription of this cross contains a version of the old English poem on the Dream of the Holy Rood, which Dr Bradley attributes to the authorship of Caedmon. Another monument, the date of which has not been attacked, is the shrine of St Cuthbert now at Durham, which is recorded to have been made in 698. Some designs incised on it, which include figures of Christ, angels, and apostles, together with symbols of the evangelists, a cross and inscriptions, are again singularly like the designs found upon the two great cross shafts. The runes on the Bewcastle cross formed a memorial inscription, which is terribly decayed, and doubt is cast on the readings, first made in 1856, by which it appeared that it was set up to Alchfrid, son of Oswy, about the year 670. On the other hand, the name Cyneburh, which was the name of Alchfrid’s wife, has often been read by many independent observers, including Kemble, in 1840. Even the presence of the name Alchfrid is admitted by Viator, the Runic scholar, but Professor Cook claims that the form is feminine and cannot apply to Alchfrid. Thus the question stands for the moment, but when, by comparative illustration, it has been shewn that the objection to the early date of the art of these wonderful monuments must fall to the ground, then we may anticipate that much of the opposition to the interpretation of the runes will also disappear. At the least the certain name of Cyneburh will be given its due weight. The present writer has no doubt at all that these crosses were set up by a powerful Northumbrian ruler in the seventh century. Professor Cook even expresses a doubt as to whether these shafts were parts of crosses at all, which to English scholars will seem like doubting whether a torn volume was ever a book. His work, however, is valuable as stating the case for the extremist reaction. In regard to the sculptures on the Ruthwell cross, it has been shown that they have affinities with the subjects on the Byzantine ivory throne at Ravenna, which was probably made in Alexandria, and with some Coptic works. Now the second half of the seventh century was exactly the time when Rome itself had become almost completely Byzantinized. The church of Sta Maria Antiqua, before mentioned, belongs to this time. It is no accident that it was just at this moment that a Greek from Tarsus, Theodore by name, became Archbishop of Canterbury. The sculptures on the Ruthwell cross include the Crucifixion, the Annunciation, Christ healing the blind man, Christ and the Magdalene, and the Visitation on one side; on the other, the flight into Egypt, SS. Paul and Anthony the hermits, breaking bread in the desert, Christ worshipped by beasts and dragons, St John Baptist, and the symbols of the evangelists. A third cross shaft, hardly less remarkable, that of Acca, now at Durham, is accepted by Rivoira as being of the eighth century. It is difficult for an English student to understand why two should be taken away arid the other left.

Saxon works of a different kind, but not less noteworthy, are the silver Ormside cup, the celebrated Alfred jewel and the vestments of Bishop Frithstan, now at Durham, which were embroidered at Winchester about the year 912. It may be remembered that William of Malmesbury says that the daughters of Edward the Elder were skilful needle-women, and it is not unlikely that these exquisite works came from this royal school of art. It may be pointed out that one of the designs on the Durham embroideries is the Right Hand of God. Now this same device also appears on the Wessex coinage of Edward the Elder, and on the sculptured Rood of Romsey Abbey, which probably filled the central space on the west front of the church with figures of the Virgin and St John on either hand of the Crucified Figure, above which the Hand appears. A similar group, much defaced, may still be seen on the west front of the little church at Hedbourne Worthy, close to Winchester.

Anglo-Celtic art has been very much neglected, but in Great Britain and Ireland we have an enormous number of sculptured monuments which certainly have high interest for the history of art in Europe during the dark ages. It may seem an extravagant claim, but if the productions of the Anglian school are recognized, it will appear to be, at its Northumbrian centre especially, the first Teutonic school of Christian art. This is allowed for literature; poems like Caedmon’s were not written in Gaul, but it has hardly even been suggested for sculpture, metalwork, and other crafts. It is agreed that the later school formed by Charlemagne became the centre for west European culture; yet, after all, Charlemagne gathered up the Northumbrian traditions, and Alcuin was but a follower of Wilfrid and Ceolfrid.

The Irish crosses are less competent in execution than the finest of the Anglian works, and the same is true of other forms of Irish art. The large number and the good preservation of the Irish crosses, however, give them considerable importance. On them we find sculptures which carry on the early Christian tradition in a very remarkable way. The designs must, for the most part, have been copied from quite early painted books of Eastern origin, and from ivories and other small works. The subjects are of the Crucifixion, and of Christ the Judge, with many scenes from the life and miracles of Christ, together with ‘types’ from the Old Testament. Favorite types of Christ are the offering of Isaac, and David protecting the sheep by slaying the lion. Over the Crucifixion of a cross at Monasterboice is Moses with his uplifted arms supported by two companions. The life of David as a type of Christ is given in several scenes on some of the crosses. Another subject which occurs very frequently is the meeting of SS. Anthony and Paul in the desert. The ideals were clearly monastic, and those who had the crosses set up looked reverently back to the hermits of the Egyptian desert.

Beginnings of Romanesque

Much in Carolingian Romanesque art was directly derived from the Roman monuments; indeed, it must have been thought by Charlemagne and his Court that Roman architecture was being continued just as the Empire was being resumed. Romanesque, we may say, is Holy Roman architecture. A letter of Einhard’s exists, which was sent together with an ivory model of a column shaped according to the rules of Vitruvius, and it is significant that the earliest existing text of Vitruvius, the Harley MS. in the British Museum, is also Carolingian. The doorway of Charles the Great’s church at Aix-la-Chapelle, recently exposed, has a large architrave of classical form. This doorway might well be a work of the fourth century AD, and so might some of the bronze doors, and the pine-cone fountain. The moldings of the interior had classical forms, and old Corinthian capitals, which were probably brought from Italy, were re-used in the arches of the gallery storey. Of course there was no thought of any archaeological distinction between what was Roman and what was Byzantine; the great fact was that barbarism took up the arts of civilization, and it must have been thought that Rome was being renewed by the efforts of Charlemagne. This Carolingian Renaissance gives us an invaluable example of a conscious building up of a school of art.

In Italy many buildings, like the baptistery at Florence, show a deliberate attempt to be classical. In France, also, we meet with the same intention. At Langres, once a Roman town, the fine cathedral church (twelfth century) is wonderfully Roman in many particulars. The buttresses between the chapels at the east end are in the form of fluted Corinthian pilasters. In the interior the nave arches rise from similar fluted pilasters with Corinthian capitals; the triforium has fluted pilasters rising to a horizontal string molding; beneath is a bold band of scroll carving of a classical type; and many of the columns have the classical entasis. At Bourges, another Roman town, the elaborate doorways of the north porch have finely carved lintels of scroll work and foliage, which must have been practically copied from a Roman original. At Autun the direct influence of the Roman gateway, which is still standing, can be traced in the details of the cathedral. At Arles, St Gilles, Le Puy, and in dozens of other places a similar transference from Roman prototypes is apparent in Romanesque architecture. The Romanesque type of tower, with a low, square spire, with scale ornaments cut into the sloping surfaces, must largely derive from the late Roman tombs like those of Treves above described. Even Roman methods of construction, like concreted rubble walling, small facing stones, and courses of tiles set in arches, persisted until the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

The second great strain in Romanesque art was formed by the constant inflow of eastern ideas and decorative objects, as well as of monks and artists. After Justinian reconquered Italy, fragments of the land remained dependencies of the Eastern Empire until the eighth century. In Rome itself during this time Art became almost completely Byzantinized. There are several beautiful Byzantine capitals and slabs in Rome which were imported from Constantinople, and the round church of St Theodore on the Palatine belongs to this time. Even a brick-stamp of Pope John (AD 705) is inscribed with Greek letters.

Sta Maria Antua

The monument which most clearly witnesses to the presence of the East in the West is the church of Sta Maria Antiqua, excavated about twenty years ago out of the débris at the foot of the Palatine Hill. It is in the Forum, on the right in going to the Coliseum. It was an old Roman building, which was transformed into a church early in the seventh century, being a large, high hall having lateral chambers formed into chapels. The walls were partly covered with a plating of marble, and all the rest was adorned with paintings, which, for the most part, are still in good condition. The paintings are inscribed mostly in Greek with some Latin. A stone of the ambo had a bilingual inscription : John Servant of the Theotokos. The art-types are obviously eastern, and the saints depicted are both eastern and western. There are paintings of the Crucifixion, the Majesty, the enthroned Virgin and Child, the Annunciation, Nativity, Daniel in the Lions’ Den, and many others. In the apse of the chapel is a large figure of Christ between two six-winged tetramorphs. The background of this subject is divided into an upper portion painted black, and a lower part divided vertically into four parts alternately red and green. The Crucifixion is very like another in a Syrian book now at Florence. On either hand of the Cross are the two soldiers, by one of whom is inscribed Longinus. On the Syrian Gospel, which was written in 586 by the monk Rabula, the similar figure of the soldier is named LOGINOC. The resemblances are altogether so remarkable that it cannot be doubted that this very Syrian MS. or a similar one was the direct source for the wall painting. It has been already pointed out by Mr Dalton that a curious pattern which is found at Sta Maria Antiqua, like a row of overlapping coins, occurs again also in the Codex of Rossano, another book which is possibly of Syrian origin, and it occurs again in a Syrian book at Paris. The coincidences are so striking that it becomes evident that some oriental books must have been directly used as the sources for the designs in the church. It has often been pointed out that the mosaics of Sta Maria Maggiore must have been drawn from some book of Genesis painted in the East. Several of the mosaics in Ravenna follow a similar canon, and so again do some fragmentary Genesis pictures in Sta Maria Antiqua itself. Further, it has been proved by Tikkanen, as before mentioned, that the Genesis mosaics at St Mark's, Venice, were accurately copied from the Cotton Genesis, a book which almost certainly was painted in Alexandria in the fifth century. In these instances we get examples of what was happening all the time. Books from the East, especially ancient books, were regarded as authorities; sacred designs were not made up at will, but were handed forward as traditions. Doubts have been raised by Ainalov as to whether the important Crucifixion picture of Rabula’s Gospel is not much later than the rest of the book, but the finding of it repeated at Sta Maria Antiqua proves that it is probably at least as old as the painting there. Other fragmentary paintings suggest that there was a series of subjects drawn from the New Testament with their types from the Old Testament set against them. Now Bede tells us categorically that a series of pictures representing such types was brought from Rome by Benedict Biscop to adorn his monastery. Thus paintings, embodying theological conceptions, originated in the East and were carried to Northumbria. Already in the Rossano book Christ appears as the Good Samaritan, who aids the traveler and carries him to the inn. This is a conception which is fully worked out in the superb late twelfth century stained glass window at Sens. In the painted book of Cosmas the Indian traveler, a sixth century Alexandrian work, there are several pairs of types, thus the Sacrifice of Isaac, the escape of Jonah from the Whale, and the Translation of Elijah, typify the Crucifixion, Resurrection and the Ascension of Christ. All these types reappear on the sculptures of the Irish crosses. Of course such types are found in the catacomb paintings, but in these the idea had not been systematized.

Romanesque among the Teutons

From the time of Charlemagne until the generation in which Gothic architecture was to emerge, Germany led in the arts. This is less obvious in architecture, but when the arts are considered as a whole it must be admitted. The carved ivories of the Carolingian school form a magnificent series, and the metal-work, enamels and manuscripts are as noteworthy. If we regard all the splendid works of art wrought in North Italy, Germany, North France and England, we may see that the Romanesque was an essentially Teutonic movement. The Gothic arose in France when the people had been sufficiently saturated with the new Romance spirit. The Romanesque looked back to Rome and Byzantium, the Gothic faced forward to the new world. The French kingdom was born while Gothic architecture was being formed.

Until the beginning of the twelfth century the centres of Romanesque art were in the neighborhood of the lower Rhine and in Lombardy. The most advanced piece of figure art wrought early in the twelfth century is the noble bronze font now at Liège, the work of an artist of Huy. This has completely shaken off barbarism, it is clear and sweet in expression, the sort of thing we should like to call modern if modern people could rise to it. A study of the bronze works at Hildesheim, wrought under the direction of the great Bishop Bernward, shows that the bronze workers of Huy derived their traditions from the artists of Hildesheim, as those doubtless followed the men who worked for Charlemagne at Aix two centuries earlier still. At Hildesheim the doors and the celebrated bronze column were made about the year 1075. On the square base of the latter are little figures of the four rivers of Paradise. This may remind us of the bronze pine cone at Aix which has the names of the rivers of Eden inscribed on its four sides. The four rivers occur again on a most beautiful bronze font of the thirteenth century in the cathedral. Again, on the bronze column there is a group of people listening to Christ, which is plainly the prototype of another group on the Liège font. Thus the traditions of the bronze workers were handed on to Dinant, which in turn inherited from Huy and became the chief European centre for bronze working.

It is impossible here to give a separate account of the many Romanesque schools of art, or even of architecture, which flourished between the Carolingian Renaissance and the emergence of Gothic art in the twelfth century. In Italy, Germany, and France there was constant effort and practically continuous development towards one un- foreseen end, the formation of the highly specialized type of art which we call Gothic. All three countries contributed valuable ideas to the commonwealth of art and continuously reacted on one another. The master impulse in architecture was that by which the builders set themselves to explore the possibilities of vaulting and the interaction between vaulting and planning. This may have been brought about in part by the desire to guard against fire, but it was fed by the gradual spread of Byzantine customs over the West.

In western Europe during the Carolingian age the churches were planned in various forms. The central type of plan, varieties of which are the circle, the polygon and the equal-armed cross, is represented by the Palatine chapel at Aix-la-Chapelle. St Germigny, near Orleans, is a square with apses projecting on every side. The large abbey church of St Croix, Quimperle, of the eleventh century, is circular with square projections in the four directions.

Simple churches of this fashion were built in England. At Hexham one of these was built by Wilfrid, and King Alfred built another at Athelney. Several later Saxon churches had a big tower forming the body of the structure with an apse opening from its east side and another extension towards the west; such "tower churches" must have been simplifications of the central type. The close association of the central tower, the western version of the Byzantine dome, with the idea of the church has not been fully worked out, but it led to a general insistence on the central tower, or lantern, in Romanesque churches. Beneath these towers, at the crossing of the central span and the transepts, the choirs were placed.

The monk Reginald, one of the Durham chroniclers, describes the White Church (the cathedral) at Durham built by Bishop Aldhun in 1099 thus : “There were in the White Church, in which St Cuthbert had first rested, two stone towers, as those who saw them have told us, standing high into the air, the one containing the choir, the other standing at the west end of the church, which was of wonderful size. They carried brazen pinnacles set up on top, which aroused both the amazement of all men and great admiration”. The still earlier abbey church at Ramsey, built about 970, was cruciform with a central tower, and at the west end a smaller tower. Again, when in the description of the Confessor’s church at Westminster we are told that the domus principalis arae was of great height, it possibly means the choir with the lantern tower, and that the actual site of the altar in the apse of the eastern limb was considered as attached to this dominating central feature. In some later Romanesque churches in France, as at Issoire, Clermont, and elsewhere, parts of the transept on either side of the lantern tower are lifted above the general body of the work, thus adding to the importance of the central structure.

A central tower seems a more or less obvious arrangement, as a matter of design, where it rises at the centre of a cruciform plan, and it has sometimes been explained as a device for simplifying the intersection of the roofs. Several Norman churches, however, like the one at Iffley, have a tower rising over the choir of a long, simple, unaisled church, a little to the east of the middle of its length. Here again the tower is as typically the church as the hall is the house.

Plans of churches

The central type of plan persisted also in palace chapels. Charlemagne’s chapel was repeated at the palace of Nimeguen near the mouth of the Rhine. The palace of Goslar has a chapel with a plan resembling that of St Germigny mentioned above. William of Malmesbury has a curious note to the effect that a cathedral church built at Hereford at the end of the eleventh century was copied from the church at Aix. In the forest of Loches is a royal chapel, built in the reign of Henry II, which is circular in form. At the palace of Woodstock was another circular chapel, and a Norman chapel at Ludlow castle, which still exists, is also of this form. The English circular and polygonal chapter-houses of cathedrals, of which that at Worcester is a Norman example, must either have been adopted from such circular chapels or from the baptisteries of some of the old Saxon cathedrals. There seems to have been such a baptistery at Canterbury, and we are told that it was used for meetings as well as for its primary purpose.

The transepts of a church were an obvious means of enlarging the interior space, and as they gave a symbolic form to the plan they became normal parts of Romanesque structure. Sometimes they were of single span, at others they had one or two aisles, and from their eastern sides projected chapels, usually apses. Another type of Carolingian plan had apses at both ends of the main span. A ninth century drawing for the plan of the monastery at St Gall is of this form. And this arrangement was for long a favorite one in Germany. It doubtless conformed to ritual requirements. In England the Saxon cathedral at Canterbury and the abbey church at Ramsbury were of this type.

A plan which persisted longer was one with three parallel apses at the east end, the larger apse terminating the central space being flanked by two others at the end of the side aisles. This form of church early became the usual one in Normandy. The abbey church at Bernay, built c. 920, had transepts, and three parallel apses to the east. This plan was again repeated in the great abbey church at Jumièges, which was itself copied by Edward the Confessor for his fine new church in the Norman manner, built at Westminster from about 1050. Some remnants of it which still exist are enough to show that the plan was a very accurate copy of its prototype, so much so, that it appears that Norman workmen must have been brought here to do it. The same tradition was followed at Durham, Lincoln, and many other important churches. Both Westminster and Jumièges had vestibules and triforium storeys; these were old customary features which tended to disappear. Charlemagne’s church at Aix has a fine vaulted gallery over the aisle which surrounds the central space : and we are told of the Confessor’s church at Westminster that there were, both above and below, chapels dedicated to the saints. In such cases the triforium evidently fulfilled a function. Later it became a mere formal survival, although the triforium of the later church at Westminster was probably used for the great congregations at coronations. Many of the German Romanesque churches have structural galleries at the sides of the choir, and many Norman churches had galleries at the ends of the transepts. At Canterbury, Lincoln and Christ Church the transepts seem to have had upper storeys over their whole extent, forming chapels. Vestibules mentioned above must represent the narthex of Eastern churches. The church of St Remi at Rheims had in the tenth century a vaulted work which occupied nearly half the nave. Immense vaulted porches still exist at Vézelay, St Benoit-sur-Loire and other places, and the tradition of a western porch has left its mark on some of the English Romanesque churches, as Ely and Lincoln. In Germany the western bay was usually carried up higher than the nave roof between two western towers, making thus an impressive west end externally.

Quite generally crypts were also constructed beneath the choirs of Romanesque churches; deriving from the early confessio beneath the altar, they frequently became of great size. Often, in the German and Lombard churches, they were but little buried in the ground, but the eastern limbs of the churches were raised high above them, and approached by many steps. This arrangement is often very dignified and impressive. A great seven-branched candlestick usually stood in the middle of the platform beyond the steps. Many of the German Romanesque churches had rounded ends to the transepts as well as to the eastern limb, the crossing being thus surrounded by three apsidal projections. This is a well-known Byzantine type, and St Mary in the Capitol at Cologne is an early and noble example in the West; Tournai cathedral is another. This form of plan was handed on to the early Gothic of North France, at Noyon and Soissons, and it persisted long in Germany. The thirteenth century church at Marburg has similar semi-octagonal apses in three directions, a short nave, no longer than the transepts, and a chapel at each of the four re-entering angles. It is practically a church of the central type, and is certainly a very beautiful plan.

Another very beautiful scheme of planning is found in a church at Angers, which has a wide vaulted nave extended and supported by a series of large apsidal recesses or chapels along each side. This type is again followed at Orvieto cathedral.

The most perfect plan for a great church would seem to be that in which the central eastern apse is surrounded by an ambulatory from which small circular-ended chapels open out one, three, four, five or seven. This is the plan which was adopted in the main line of progress into Gothic, and it continued to be used right through the Middle Ages. This fine scheme probably dates from Carolingian days, and three important churches, at Tours, Dijon and Le Mans, were built in this form at the end of the tenth century. Churches of the same type were built in England, first for the abbey of St Augustine, Canterbury, and the cathedrals of Winchester and Gloucester, during the last quarter of the eleventh century. An apse was an essential member of a great church during the Romanesque period. In its centre the bishop had his throne lifted high above the altar as ruler of the assembly; this broken remnants at Norwich still show. The planning of a great church implied the dealing with several common factors which might be variously combined. The nave might be one, or three, or five spans wide; there might be a transept of one, two, or three spans, and the eastern limb might have a simple apse, or parallel apses, or an ambulatory and a series of radiating chapels. The position of towers was another factor to be considered. Their positions were partly, doubtless, a matter of choice, but largely they were conditioned by structural requirements. A great single tower at the west end, as at Ely, will stop the thrusts of the inner arcading as well as the more usual pair of towers. In French churches towers were frequently put at the transepts also, and Winchester cathedral seems to have been intended to have transeptal towers. In Germany towers are often seen on either side of the apse. At Tournai four towers built around the crossing against the transepts support the central lantern, making a most impressive group of five spire-capped towers. At Exeter two massive towers stand over small square transepts. A third great controlling factor in the design of churches was that of vaulting. The possibilities of rearing vaults were explored in all sorts of ways. All three spans might have barrel vaults, or those over the aisles might be quadrants rising higher against the nave than where they fell on the aisle walls. The bays might be vaulted transversely, a favourite device in Burgundy, or they might be covered by a combination of longitudinal and transverse vaults interpenetrating and forming ‘groined’ vaults. This last became the standard form for the vaults of churches in north-western Europe, and the tradition was carried forward into Gothic. The use of this scheme allowed of high windows in every bay, and concentrated the thrusts at intervals above the piers of the inner arcades. One school of French Romanesque experimented with a series of domes covering square compartments, and the curious church at Loches has its nave covered by stone pyramidal erections like low pitched spires. It has hardly been realized how many of the greater Norman churches in England were vaulted, especially their eastern limbs and transepts. The eastern limb of the great abbey church of St Albans, begun about ten years after the Conquest, was vaulted. Durham and Lincoln cathedrals were vaulted throughout, by the middle of the twelfth century. The abbey churches of Gloucester, Pershore and Tewkesbury all seem to have had vaulted choirs and transepts; so probably had Canterbury cathedral, Winchester cathedral, St Paul’s cathedral, Reading abbey and Lewes priory churches and many others. Frequently the nave was covered with a wooden ceiling while the eastern half of the church was vaulted. At Peterborough such a ceiling, delightfully decorated with bold pattern-work, still exists. This church and others had such ceilings throughout. The “glorious choir” at Canterbury had a specially famous painted ceiling. It is noteworthy that even in quite small churches the chancels were frequently covered with vaults, while the rest of the structure had wooden roofs.

Beginnings of Gothic

Many modifications were made in the planning of great churches to accommodate the vaults, and a remarkable contrivance became common towards the end of the twelfth century for the purpose of supporting the high central vaults. This was the flying buttress, a strong arch built in the open air, rising from the lower walls of the aisles, and butting against those of the clerestory. Such buttresses were greatly developed in Gothic architecture, but their invention is due to Romanesque builders. Another great invention, which was of primary importance for the development of Gothic, seems to have been made towards the end of the eleventh century. This was the method of erecting vaults by first building a series of skeleton arches (ribs) diagonally across each bay, and then covering this subdivided space with a lighter web of work. In England the method was used at Durham, and this is the first well-authenticated instance in the west of Europe. Other examples, which are said to be earlier, are known in Italy.

The general movement, which was to pass over an invisible frontier into what we call Gothic architecture, was characterized by a search for more vigorous and clear solutions of structural problems, a gathering up of the wall masses into piers and buttresses and the vaults into ribs. The whole medieval process in architecture from, say, the time of Charlemagne to the time of the Black Death, was an organic development. One phase in the progress may be traced in the tendency to break up piers and arches into a series of recessed orders or members; that is, they widen by degrees in a step-like profile. This held the germ of the change from a square pier set in the direction of the wall into one placed diagonally. Such membering of arches and piers easily led to sub-arching, that is, the including of two or more smaller arches under a larger one; and this again was to lead up to the development of tracery. The process also early showed itself in a liking for alternation. A nave arcade, for instance, was often planned with a more or less square pier and then a column alternately. In some German churches square piers alternately wider and narrower may be seen.

The pointed arch has been known from time immemorial. It was generally adopted by Saracen builders from the seventh century, and it became well known in the West from the eleventh. It proved especially useful in adjusting the many difficulties which arose in applying vaulting to compartments of various sizes and shapes. And further, it was used as a strong structural form before it was generally admitted into the architectural code. Thus, as ever, the aesthetic delight of one century was found in the structural device of an earlier one.

The cusping of arches fell in with the general tendency toward subordination and grouping. The cusped arch had a distant origin in the shell forms carved in the arched heads of the niches, which were common in Hellenistic architecture. Byzantine and Arab builders simplified the scalloped edge of this shell into a series of small lobes set within the containing arch. Such cusped arches were passed on to the North-West by the Moors. The special centre for their distribution seems to have been the south-east of France, where the delight in cusped arches is very noticeable at Clermont, Vienne and Le Puy. The forms of trefoiled arches appear in the North as early as the tenth century in the ornaments of illuminated books, and probably they were handed on in this pictorial form long before they entered into real structures. Architecture and sculpture often followed where painting led. Circular windows had been used by the Romans and are frequently found in Romanesque work. Both circular and quatrefoil openings were probably known in the West from Carolingian days. The quatrefoil became popular as a form of cross. Ordinary windows, when grouped into pairs with a circle above, formed the point of departure for the development of the traceried window.

From the early days of Christian art glazing of various colors arranged in patterns had been used. Doubtless the beautifully patterned casements of Arab art were, like so much else, taken over from the Byzantine school. The jeweled lattices of Romance must have been suggested by the use of colored glass. At some time in the great Carolingian era, which we are only now beginning to appreciate, painting was added to the morsels of colored glass, and they were joined together by thin strips of lead rather than by some ruder means. These two steps of development brought into being the stained glass window proper. From this time windows were conceived as vast translucent enamels of which the leads formed the divisions. The agreement of style between the earliest known stained glass windows and Romanesque enamels is so close that we may not doubt the near kindred of the two arts. The earliest windows still extant, like those of St Denis (c. 1140-50), were probably designed by some enameller.

For long the style of German Byzantine enamels may be traced in the glass of Le Mans, Chartres, and Strasbourg, and for the most part the code of imagery had been worked out by enamel-workers and illuminators of books before it was adopted for stained glass.

There was a great expansion in the production of sculpture and its application to architecture during the twelfth century, and an enormous increase of power in dealing with it. Here again, however, all the great types and traditions of treatment seem to have been invented or rather developed by the Carolingian schools. For instance, there are two delightful small impersonations of Land and Sea carved amongst the early Gothic sculptures of the west front of Notre Dame at Paris. Such impersonations derive directly from Romanesque ivories and illuminated books of the German school and thence may be traced to Alexandrian art. In the Carolingian age imagery had, for the most part, been on a small scale, in metal-work and ivory, but some of it had been of great beauty in conception and of masterly execution. By the middle of the twelfth century several notable schools of architectural sculpture had been developed in Italy, France, and Spain. In England beginnings were made towards the development of what became a special English tradition; the west front treated as a background for an array of sculptured figures having reference to the Last Judgment. Some remnants found at York and others extant at Lincoln are evidence for this.

Sculpture, stained glass, and the large schemes of painting which covered the interiors of Romanesque churches, were very largely inspired by painted books. These illuminated volumes are almost the most wonderful products of the whole Romanesque period. What the book of Kells is to Irish art, and the Lindisfarne book to the Anglo-Celtic school of Northumbria, is well known. Several superb Carolingian volumes are just as remarkable, and this pre-eminence of the book was sustained until the end of our period. Some hundred splendid books and rolls written and painted in the twelfth century are marvels of thoughtful invention and skilful manipulation. At this time types and symbols were still dealt with in the great manner; many of the designers at work seem to have had the imagination of Blake with ten times his power of execution. For example, take the designs of an ‘Exultet’ roll in the British Museum; the first painting is Christ majestically enthroned ; then comes a group of rejoicing angels; then the interior of a basilica shown in section with nave and aisles and in the midst a colossal Mater Ecclesia standing between groups of clergy and people; the next is Mother Earth, a woman’s figure half emerging from the ground, nourishing an ox and a dragon ; further on is the Crucifixion with its type, the passage of the Red Sea; and near the end, after a flower garden with bees, the Virgin and Holy Child. This appears to be an Italian work of the middle of the twelfth century.

Mosaics and painting

The artists of Charlemagne made use of mosaic in large schemes of decoration. The vault, an octagonal dome in form, over the central area of the palace chapel at Aix-la-Chapelle was covered by a simple but splendid design of the sort which modern designers find it so hard to imitate. The first rapture of all these things can never be recovered. On a starry ground was set a great Figure of the throned Majesty, and beneath were the twenty-four elders forming a band around the base of the dome. The ancient church of St Germigny in France still has in its apse a mosaic of rather crude workmanship but similar in ability of design. Here two colossal cherubim with expanded wings guard the ark of the New Covenant, and above in the centre is the Right Hand of God. The floor of the chapel at Aix was also covered with coarse mosaic, and mosaic floors were common in the Romanesque churches of Germany, Lombardy and France. The mosaics of both walls and floors in Italy are too many and too well known to require mention. In France one or two floor mosaics still remain. The most perfect one is in the church of Lescar in the south. This was laid down in 1115. Two panels are preserved in the Cluny Museum of the beautiful mosaic floor of the abbey church of St Denis (c. 1150).

The internal walls and ceilings of Romanesque churches were (by custom) painted entirely with scriptural pictures and large single figures of saints, all set out according to traditional modes of arrangement and with schemes of teaching. In Germany several large churches retain, in a more or less restored condition, an almost complete series of such paintings. One of the most notable is the basilican church at Brunswick. But the most striking of all is, probably, the church at Hildesheim, where the flat boarded ceiling is entirely occupied by an enormous Jesse-tree, the ramifying branches of which spread over the whole nave.

In Italy many painted churches of Romanesque date still exist, as, for instance, the church of San Pietro a Grado near Pisa. In France the church of St Savin has preserved its paintings most completely. Here, and in the many traces of paintings in a Byzantine tradition which are to be found on the walls and vaults of the cathedral of Le Puy, may be seen sufficient evidence to suggest what the idea of interior architectural painting was during the Romanesque epoch. A Romanesque church was intended to be as fully adorned with paintings as was a Byzantine church, and, indeed, the traditions of the two schools flowed very much in a common stream from one source. It was the same in England, as is shown by fragments at Pickering, St Albans, Norwich, Ely, Romsey, Canterbury, and other places. We probably think of our Norman churches as rude and melancholy, but if we picture for ourselves all the color suggested by the fragmentary evidences which exist, and furnish again by imagination the vistas of the interior with their great coronae of lights, the gilded roods, and embossed altar-pieces, the astonishing nature of these vast and splendid works will fill our minds with some-what saddening reflections. Archaeology is no minister to pride.