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Humanities LibreTexts

7.6: Romanesque Sant Climent de Taull (1123 CE)

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  • Sant Climent de Taull (7.26), Spain is an outstanding example of Romanesque architecture and art both in the interior and exterior of the building. The Romanesque style of architecture is found in its semi-circular arches in the buildings as opposed to the point arches of the Gothic style. The architecture usually has many symmetrical elements and has simple forms, including massive, thick walls, large towers, round arches, narrow windows and doors, windows, vaults, and arcades formed into a semicircular pattern. Brick was the standard building block augmented with other available stones. The walls were large and flat or gently curving and decorated with mural paintings to illustrate parts of the bible. The original construction date is unknown; however, the building was consecrated in 1123 CE. The church was not built for pilgrims but rather for a local community place of worship. The artwork was created as an inspiration to the practitioners of the religion.

    Sant Climent de Taull
    7.26 Sant Climent de Taull

    The church layout is the standard basilica plan with three naves and an apse at the end of each nave. The walls were constructed using bricks, the towering columns made of stone separated the naves, and supporting the arcades. This type of massive wall construction (7.27) does not permit many windows rendering the interior of the basilica very dim. The walls do act as a blank canvas inside the church and provide a location to paint the many frescos, relating biblical stories to educate the people. The conventional design of the Romanesque building includes a roof made of wood, very problematic when a fire broke out. The first floor is the base for the tower, and it supports an additional six floors. The tower has larger windows on each floor ascending, giving the structure a lighter feeling while its height demonstrates the influence of the vertical Byzantine towers. The taller towers could have windows because the span was significantly smaller than the broad expanse of the church.

    7.27 Window
    Christ in Majesty
    7.28 Christ in Majesty

    The artwork in the apse of the church is considered one of the most excellent examples of iconic Romanesque art. The artists are unknown; however, the work was completed in a fresco style shortly after the church was constructed. The symmetrical mural paintings combine different biblical stories with Christ appearing from the background and a series of lambs, dogs, and saints, adding decorative details to symbolize the death and resurrection of Christ. The hierarchical design is intentional by the artists and puts Christ at the center top, announcing he is the most important person in all the paintings.

    There are paintings on the walls and ceiling in each of the naves; however, the central apse has the most famous mural painting of Christ in Majesty (7.28). The mural was painted in the early 12th century and remained intact until the original was removed and housed in a museum; currently, a replica is visible in the apse of the church. The mural was painted in the traditional fresco style, applying lime plaster to the wall and painting directly into the plaster. When the plaster dries, the paint becomes an integral part of the wall or ceiling.