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Romanesque Sculpture. K.J. Benoy. Introduction. Monumental sculpture in stone did not really revive in the Carolingian and Ottonian periods. However, Wooden works, like the Gero Crucifix did exist in Medieval times prior to the Romanesque period. Introduction.

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Romanesque sculpture

Romanesque Sculpture

K.J. Benoy


  • Monumental sculpture in stone did not really revive in the Carolingian and Ottonian periods.

  • However, Wooden works, like the Gero Crucifix did exist in Medieval times prior to the Romanesque period.


  • Stone carving in the Early Middle Ages survived in shallow relief and as architectural ornament.

9th Century Ivory from Monza in Italy

Origins of romanesque sculpture
Origins of Romanesque Sculpture

  • Romanesque sculpture, like architecture, began along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Campostela in Spain.

Pilgrims wearing the cockle shell badge walked hundreds of kilometers to Santiago

Origins of romanesque sculpture1
Origins of Romanesque Sculpture

  • Very early Romanesque sculpture was often shallow relief carved on architectural features, like this lintel at St. Genis, France (1019-1020)

Christ framed by a mandorla (halo) and supported by angels.

Origins of romanesque sculpture2
Origins of Romanesque Sculpture

  • Romanesque got its name from being “like Roman”.

  • This was true of much sculpture, as well as architecture. Note the classical reference in the Apostle from St. Sernin.

Origins of romanesque sculpture3
Origins of Romanesque Sculpture

  • Sculpture had obvious advantages over painting as decoration.

    • It is more solid and lasting – few Romanesque frescos have survived.

    • Because it is three dimensional, it seems more real, even when stylized.

Origins of romanesque sculpture4

Jesus at the Temple, Nantola Abbey

The Adoration of the Magi, Nantola Abbey

Origins of Romanesque Sculpture

Origins of romanesque sculpture5

Late Romanesque figures from Italy

Origins of Romanesque Sculpture

  • Romanesque sculpture is generally linked to its architectural settings

Romanesque capitals

Bird & Foliage Design


Romanesque Capitals

  • Carved capitals were particularly popular during the Romanesque period.

  • They featured stylized designs.

  • And figures in scenes.

Romanesque capitals1
Romanesque Capitals

  • Typically, the figures were stylized and recognizable as people, but not realistic.

Romanesque capitals3

St. Foy, Conques

Romanesque Capitals

Romanesque capitals4

St. Foy, Conques

Romanesque Capitals

Romanesque capitals5

Christ at the Last Judgment

Romanesque Capitals

  • Stories were told to a largely illiterate audience of parishioners and pilgrims.

Romanesque capitals6

The Arrest of Christ

Romanesque Capitals

Romanesque capitals8

Puy-en-Velay, France Etienne

Romanesque Capitals

Romanesque capitals9

Capital at St. Michele, Pavia Etienne

Romanesque Capitals

  • Scenes would also act as warnings against the consequences of sin.

Wall decoration

Angel, Pecs Cathedral, Hungary Etienne

Wall Decoration

  • Wall niches, both on the interior and exterior of churches might feature carved decoration.

Wall decoration4

Peter & Paul Jamb, Vezelay lion.

Wall Decoration

  • Romanesque sculpture remains firmly rooted to its architectural setting.

Entry portals
Entry lion.Portals

  • Nowhere is this clearer than in the entry portals of the great Romanesque pilgrimage churches of Southern France.

Entry portals2

Entry Portal, West Façade, St. Foy lion.

Entry Portals

  • Beneath the entry arch, but above the lintel, was the tympanum, a large area of stone that need did not bear the weight of the building above.

  • Sculptures used this as a magnificent canvas for their greatest works.

Entry portal st pierre moissac

Entry to St. Pierre, Moissac lion.

Tympanum of St. Pierre, showing Christ sitting in judgment – a favourite scene.

Entry Portal – St. Pierre, Moissac

Entry portal st pierre moissac1
Entry Portal – St. Pierre, Moissac lion.

  • Jambs on either side of the door and even the trumeau were decorated lavishly.

  • At St. Pierre the prophet Jeremiah is stretched to fit on the side of the trumeau.

Entry portal st pierre moissac2
Entry Portal – St. Pierre, Moissac lion.

Detail of the face of Jeremiah.

Entry portal st lazare autun
Entry Portal – St. Lazare, Autun lion.

  • The same scene, the Last Judgment, was given a little differently by Gislebertus at St. Lazare, Autun.

  • The basic scene remains the same.

    • A large Christ figure rules on who is saved (on his right) and damned (on his left).

    • Souls await judgment in a miniature register beneath him.

Entry portal st lazare autun1

The separation of good and evil on the lower register. lion.

Entry Portal – St. Lazare, Autun

Entry portal st lazare autun2

Christ, in his mandorla, sits in judgment lion.

Disembodied hands pluck up a soul for judgment

Entry Portal – St. Lazare, Autun

Entry portal st lazare autun3
Entry Portal – St. Lazare, Autun lion.

  • As souls are weighed, demons unfairly tip the balance.

  • Such detail and virtuosity is typical of the work of Gislebertus – one of the only medieval sculptors to sign his work.

Entry portal st madeleine vezelay
Entry Portal – St. Madeleine, Vezelay lion.

  • From the portal of the Narthex of St. Madeleine comes this scene.

  • This time Jesus sits not in judgment, but to direct the apostles to spread the Gospel.

  • St. Madeleine is directly linked with the crusades.

    • Urban II had intended to preach the first crusade here.

    • St. Bernard preached the second from here.

    • Richard the Lionheart and Phillip I departed from here.

Entry portal st madeleine vezelay1
Entry Portal – St. Madeleine, Vezelay lion.

  • The archivolts display the signs of the zodiac and work that occurs at each of these times.

  • This symbolizes the need to have faith at all times and in all circumstances.

  • It also provides the pilgrim visitor with a feast of visual detail to enjoy.

Conclusions lion.

  • Romanesque sculpture was richly detailed and expressive.

  • It was rooted firmly to the architecture that housed it.

  • Figures are symbolic and positioned and poised according to significance. Size indicates importance.

  • Reality is implied, but is not important.

  • Forms are expressive, rather than naturalistic.

Romanesque sculpture 1281245

Finis lion.