Introduction to Romanesque
THE SECRET OF THE MASTER BUILDERS
Can we really talk of a secret, when thousands of churches grew up throughout Europe during that time? Examples of such «secrets» being clearly visible to all. However it remains true that at the basis of this architectural style was a concentration of knowledge, carefully transmitted and enhanced thanks to constant research. Reference is often made to the Masters coming from Italy, who played an important part in diffusing the new architectural standards, especially in the area which we are considering, between Northern Italy and Catalonia. These skilled craftsmen being known as the Masters of Lombardy or the Masters of Como.
According to Alick McLean “they probably came from all parts of Northern Italy and formed a well prepared and highly organized elite, in communities which were already organized into corporations. The rules governing their craft were based on ancient know-how, already used in Rome in stone work and wall construction. The Lombard sovereigns of Italy having already used and organized these craftsmen: in 642 the King Rotari published an edit in which the norms governing the Constitution of the Lombard Masters was recorded and approved. While in 714 King Liutprando also established the prices of different work in a document”.
With the advent of greater stability in around the year One thousand, in Europe, these corporations were also able to expand their range of activities. Traces of their craft being found firstly in Lombardy and then in Catalonia (at Ripoll or at Saint Martin du Canigou for example). They worked principally for the clergy, and it was in fact the clergy that was responsible for spreading their construction techniques throughout Europe.
The Romanesque vocabulary contains traces of the influence of the Lombard masters: the Lombard arches and strips bearing testimony to this.
The collaboration between these skilled craftsmen and the religious scholars gave rise to buildings which we still admire today for their harmonious blend of symmetrical and asymmetrical design styles. Everything being carefully planned and conceived, even that which at first sight appears accidental: if a church has a slightly deviated axis; this is not by chance but the careful choice of an irregularity of form which makes the building «come to life», as if involved in a vortex movement, reminiscent of the initial vortex from which the Creation emerged.