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Romanesque and Gothic Styles Comparison


Throughout the ages, architectural designs have progressed gradually in different regions. Architectural designs incorporated art to develop what we see today in the world’s cities and towns. Buildings are curved with unique and incredible styles and profiles. Most of the buildings in big cities possess ideological designs that were developed hundreds of years ago (Stubna et al. 48). Indeed, some dating back to as early as the 800 AD. Prehistoric architectural designs came from different origins. Their uniqueness can be traced to their arts and stylistic finishing (Lasic 72). The Romanesque and Gothic styles are by far the best architectural designs with unique artistic elements incorporated in each. The two styles have a clear ideological difference and similarities that have led them to develop into modern architecture. This paper will compare and contrast the two architectural designs in detail.

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Romanesque Architectural Designs

By 1500 AD, Lasic reveals that the Romanesque architecture had developed in Western Europe (73). The architectural design became so popular and it sooner developed into the gothic style. The Romanesque developed through the use of Roman elements in architectural designs. Byzantium elements were later introduced and the designs transformed into Romanesque. The use of stones was considered standard in the establishment of such structures. It mainly involved perfectly geometrically aligned multi-story buildings with clear entrances. The buildings had rounded arches and huge vaults distinguishing them from other architectural designs (Hilberry 33). The design was used in the construction of churches where they had huge barrel vaults with reinforced lateral walls.

This move was meant to maintain and keep the load-bearing wall from collapsing. The presence of galleries could be observed above the aisles alongside the barrel vaults. To create an impressive illumination of light, there was minimal use of wall openings. The structural concerns were designed to address the issue of an abutment. The buildings had definite symmetric forms and were distinct from other structures. Piers were used to supporting the walls in the Romanesque architectural designs while a king post, tie, and a truss reinforced the roof. A truss was aligned with the wooden ceiling in the building. It should be noted that the Romanesque churches had towers, which were considered as the most imperative aspect. The facades of the church were aligned to the direction the sun was setting. The church facades had a large wooden doorway, with arched windows above the door. The doorways were used as the main entrance and were the most decorated features of the Romanesque structures.

It is worth mentioning that the most vital structural figure in the Romanesque was the vault. It was introduced to replace the flammable wooden roofs. It developed into major architectural designs as the idea spread across Europe (Stubna et al. 48). An example of a building exhibiting the Romanesque architectural design is the Sant’Ambrogoio church (Rudolph 102). The church, developed in the 4th century, highlights the different unique features of a typical Romanesque building. The vaults can be seen and the facade is facing west. There were carvings in the central portals even though the stone was not largely used in the construction of the building.

Gothic Architectural Design

On the other hand, the gothic architecture had developed as the French style by the 16th century. Scholars have concluded that the Gothic architecture rose from the development of the Romanesque style. At the beginning of the two architectural designs, there were no clear differences (Lasic 72). However, through the development of the Gothic style, new features were introduced by the end of the 15th century. Building in the gothic style exhibited a classical taste with the use of Renaissance Florence. The style was then introduced to Italy by the French. The introduction to Italy saw an improvement of the Gothic style with pointed arches and ribbed vault introduced in the buildings. Additionally, traced windows were incorporated into the flying buttress style. Thin walls were used in the style alongside slender columns. Glasses were predominantly used in the gothic style to improve the lighting (Rudolph 120).

The aisles flanked the central nave with the transept. Vaults arranged in a diamond-like pattern were used to make the structure’s ceiling. The buttresses were put to sustain the outward pressure of the vaults. The features used in the gothic architecture proved the style to be unique in many ways, especially in the materials used (Hilberry 33). For instance, the French use limestone. In England, Redstone was predominantly used alongside marble. Bricks were mainly used in Germany while in Italy, marble was predominantly used. Timber was primarily used to construct the beams and ceilings. Reinforcing blocks were constructed to provide support to the arches and the huge vaults. Hilberry reveals that Notre Dame, in Paris, was constructed using the Gothic architectural design (33). Naturalism is highlighted in the sculptures on the glass. Additionally, flying buttresses are seen in the building. It should be noted that Notre Dame is among the first buildings to use the flying buttress ideology.

Similarities between Romanesque and Gothic Styles

There are clear similarities between the Romanesque and Gothic architectural designs. The similarities can be traced to many forms used in both styles. Moreover, there are unique features used in the Gothic style that evolved from Romanesque architecture. They include the use of vaults and arches. The use of arches in both styles is a clear similarity that highlights the connection between the Romanesque and Gothic styles. Furthermore, towers were used in both architectural designs (Hilberry 34).

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The Romanesque style incorporated the use of irregular towers as compared to the asymmetrically balanced towers used in Gothic art. Timber was used in the construction of roof trusses in both architectural designs. Another similar feature used in the Romanesque and Gothic styles was the use of columns. The two architectural designs also incorporated the use of multi-storeyed facades (Lasic 73). Vaulting was also used in the Romanesque design before it was later improved in the Gothic style. In both architectural designs, the size and strength of the building were an imperative option. Architects in both designs put more emphasis on the size and weight of the building to avoid collapsing.

Differences between the Romanesque and Gothic Styles

Despite the evolution of the Gothic style from the Romanesque architecture, the two models were recognized as separate designs after clear differences appeared. Scholars have concluded that the differences can be attributed to technological development and improvisation of the Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture. However, there are different designs believed to be signature Gothic designs. They include the use of flying buttresses, ceilings with vaults, and the pointed cruciform and arches. For instance, non-pointed arches were used in the Romanesque architectural design. The development of the Romanesque design resulted in a significant increase in the height of buildings under the Gothic architecture.

Additionally, the use of flying buttresses reduced the weight stress from the facades as in the Romanesque designs. The Gothic architecture consisted of large windows with stained glasses while in Romanesque, the windows were very small (Rudolph 116). The glasses in the Romanesque were less stained. The difference between the two designs can also be seen in the use of vaults where groin vaults are used in the Gothic architecture and barrels vaults were used in the Romanesque style. A groin vault involved multiple intersecting vaults while a barrel vault was made from a single curve. Gothic walls had decorations such as gargoyles compared to Romanesque walls that exhibited fewer adornments. The Romanesque architecture used thick frames in their buildings. On the other hand, the Gothic architectural designs used slender skeletons for their walls.


In both the Romanesque and Gothic architectural designs, the main objective was to change the way architects designed buildings. The two designs resulted in the introduction of new features used in the construction of buildings. The vault is among the features which have shaped the architectural designs today. Aspects of the Romanesque designs were later on improved into the Gothic style such as the vault. The Gothic style used masonry walls for supporting the vaults. The arches originally developed in the Romanesque art but later enhanced in the Gothic styles. From his paper, there are clear differences and similarities between the Gothic and Romanesque architectural designs. The Gothic architectural designs exhibited the unique use of pointed arches, flying buttresses, and vertical lines as well as slender skeleton within the walls. On the other hand, the Romanesque architectural design incorporated the use of thick heavy walls, small windows, and rounded arches. It can, therefore, be concluded that the Gothic style is an improvisation of the Romanesque architectural design based on the features used.

Works Cited

Hilberry, Harry. “Simpson’s History of Architectural Development, Early Christian, Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture Cecil Stewart.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 17, no. 3, 1958, pp. 33–34.

Lasic, Barbara. “Architectural Designs at the Victoria and Albert Museum.” Microform & Imaging Review, vol. 38, no. 2, 2009, pp. 72-75.

Rudolph, Conrad. A companion to medieval art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

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Stubna, Igor, et al. “Romanesque and Gothic Bricks from Church in Pác – Estimation of the Firing Temperature.” Epitoanyag – Journal of Silicate Based and Composite Materials, vol. 65, no. 2, 2013, pp. 48–51.

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