Romanesque Revival architecture

Last updated

The Smithsonian Institution Building, an early example of American Romanesque Revival designed by James Renwick Jr. in 1855 SmithsonianCastel 07120014.jpg
The Smithsonian Institution Building, an early example of American Romanesque Revival designed by James Renwick Jr. in 1855

Romanesque Revival (or Neo-Romanesque) is a style of building employed beginning in the mid-19th century [1] inspired by the 11th- and 12th-century Romanesque architecture. Unlike the historic Romanesque style, Romanesque Revival buildings tended to feature more simplified arches and windows than their historic counterparts.


An early variety of Romanesque Revival style known as Rundbogenstil ("Round-arched style") was popular in German lands and in the German diaspora beginning in the 1830s. [2] By far the most prominent and influential American architect working in a free "Romanesque" manner was Henry Hobson Richardson. In the United States, the style derived from examples set by him are termed Richardsonian Romanesque, of which not all are Romanesque Revival. [3]

Romanesque Revival is also sometimes referred to as the "Norman style" or "Lombard style", particularly in works published during the 19th century after variations of historic Romanesque that were developed by the Normans in England and by the Italians in Lombardy, respectively. Like its influencing Romanesque style, the Romanesque Revival style was widely used for churches, and occasionally for synagogues such as the New Synagogue of Strasbourg built in 1898, and the Congregation Emanu-El of New York built in 1929. [4] The style was quite popular for university campuses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in the United States and Canada; well-known examples can be found at the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Tulane University, University of Denver, University of Toronto, and Wayne State University.

The Romanesque Revival or Norman Revival in Great Britain

Culzean Castle by Robert Adam, 1771 Culzean Castle 2013-09-03 17-15-37.jpg
Culzean Castle by Robert Adam, 1771

The development of the Norman revival style took place over a long time in the British Isles, starting with Inigo Jones's refenestration of the White Tower of the Tower of London in 1637–38 and work at Windsor Castle by Hugh May for King Charles II, but this was little more than restoration work. In the 18th century, the use of round arched windows was thought of as being Saxon rather than Norman, and examples of buildings with round arched windows include Shirburn Castle in Oxfordshire, Wentworth in Yorkshire, and Enmore Castle in Somerset. In Scotland the style started to emerge with the Duke of Argyl's castle at Inverary, started in 1744, and castles by Robert Adam at Culzean (1771), Oxenfoord (1780–82), Dalquharran, (1782–85) and Seton Palace, 1792. In England James Wyatt used round arched windows at Sandleford Priory, Berkshire, in 1780–89 and the Duke of Norfolk started to rebuild Arundel Castle, while Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire was built by Robert Smirke between 1812 and 1820. [5]

At this point, the Norman Revival became a recognisable architectural style. In 1817, Thomas Rickman published his An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest To the Reformation. It was now realised that 'round-arch architecture' was largely Romanesque in the British Isles and came to be described as Norman rather than Saxon. [6] The start of an "archaeologically correct" Norman Revival can be recognised in the architecture of Thomas Hopper. His first attempt at this style was at Gosford Castle in Armagh in Ireland, but far more successful was his Penrhyn Castle near Bangor in North Wales. This was built for the Pennant family, between 1820 and 1837. The style did not catch on for domestic buildings, though many country houses and mock castles were built in the Castle Gothic or Castellated style during the Victorian period, which was a mixed Gothic style. [7]

However, the Norman Revival did catch on for church architecture. Thomas Penson, a Welsh architect, would have been familiar with Hopper's work at Penrhyn, who developed Romanesque Revival church architecture. Penson was influenced by French and Belgian Romanesque Revival architecture, and particularly the earlier Romanesque phase of German Brick Gothic. At St David's Newtown, 1843–47, and St Agatha's Llanymynech, 1845, he copied the tower of St. Salvator's Cathedral, Bruges. Other examples of Romanesque revival by Penson are Christ Church, Welshpool, 1839–1844, and the porch to Langedwyn Church. He was an innovator in his use of Terracotta to produce decorative Romanesque mouldings, saving on the expense of stonework. [8] Penson's last church in the Romanesque Revival style was Rhosllannerchrugog, Wrexham, 1852. [9]

The Romanesque adopted by Penson contrasts with the Italianate Romanesque of other architects such as Thomas Henry Wyatt, who designed Saint Mary and Saint Nicholas Church, in this style at Wilton, which was built between 1841 and 1844 for the Dowager Countess of Pembroke and her son, Lord Herbert of Lea. [10] During the 19th century, the architecture selected for Anglican churches depended on the churchmanship of particular congregations. Whereas high churches and Anglo-Catholic, which were influenced by the Oxford Movement, were built in Gothic Revival architecture, low churches and broad churches of the period were often built in the Romanesque Revival style. Some of the later examples of this Romanesque Revival architecture is seen in Non-conformist or Dissenting churches and chapels. A good example of this is by the Lincoln architects Drury and Mortimer, who designed the Mint Lane Baptist Chapel in Lincoln in a debased Italianate Romanesque revival style in 1870. [11] After about 1870, this style of Church architecture in Britain disappears, but in the early 20th century, the style is succeeded by Byzantine Revival architecture.


Two of Canada's provincial legislatures, the Ontario Legislative Building in Toronto and the British Columbia Parliament Buildings in Victoria, are Romanesque Revival in style.

University College, one of seven colleges at the University of Toronto, is an example of the Romanesque Revival style. [12] Construction of the final design began on 4 October 1856. [13]


The Vasa Church in Gothenburg, Sweden, is another prime example of the Neo-Romanesque style of architecture.

United States

The Church of the Pilgrims—now the Maronite Cathedral of Our Lady of Lebanon—in Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, designed by Richard Upjohn and built 1844–46, is generally considered the first work of Romanesque Revival architecture in the United States. [14] It was soon followed by a more prominent design for the Smithsonian Institution Building in Washington, DC, designed by James Renwick Jr. and built 1847–51. Renwick allegedly submitted two proposals to the design competition, one Gothic and the other Romanesque in the style. The Smithsonian chose the latter, which was based on designs from German architecture books. [15] Several concurrent forces contributed to the popularizing of the Romanesque Revival in the United States. The first was an influx of German immigrants in the 1840s, who brought the style of the Rundbogenstil with them. [15] Second, a series of works on the style was published concurrently with the earliest built examples. The first of these, Hints on Public Architecture, written by social reformer Robert Dale Owen in 1847–48, was prepared for the Building Committee of the Smithsonian Institution and prominently featured illustrations of Renwick's Smithsonian Institution Building. Owen argued that Greek Revival architecture—then the prevailing style in the United States for everything from churches to banks to private residences—was unsuitable as a national American style. He maintained that the Greek temples upon which the style was based had neither the windows, chimneys, nor stairs required by modern buildings, and that the low-pitched temple roofs and tall colonnades were ill-adapted to cold northern climates. To Owen, most Greek Revival buildings thus lacked architectural truth, because they attempted to hide 19th-century necessities behind classical temple facades. [16] In its place, he offered that the Romanesque style was ideal for a more flexible and economic American architecture. [17]

Soon after, the Congregational Church published A Book of Plans for Churches and Parsonages in 1853, containing 18 designs by 10 architects, including Upjohn, Renwick, Henry Austin, and Gervase Wheeler, most in the Romanesque Revival style. Richard Salter Storrs and other clergy on the book's committee were members or frequent preachers of Upjohn's Church of the Pilgrims. [18] St. Joseph Church in Hammond, Indiana, is Romanesque Revival. [19]

The most celebrated "Romanesque Revival" architect of the late 19th century was H. H. Richardson, whose mature style was so individual that it is known as "Richardsonian Romanesque". Among his most prominent buildings are Trinity Church (Boston) and Sever Hall and Austin Hall at Harvard University.

His disciple, R.H. Robertson, designed in a similar style. Robertson is responsible for the construction of Pequot Library, Shelburne Farms, the New York Savings Bank, and Jackie Kennedy's childhood home Hammersmith Farm. [20]

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a large Catholic minor basilica and national shrine located in Washington, D.C., United States of America. The shrine is the largest Catholic church in North America, one of the largest churches in the world, [21] and the tallest habitable building in Washington, D.C. [22] [23] [24] Its construction of Byzantine Revival and Romanesque Revival architecture began on September 23, 1920, with renowned contractor John McShain and was completed on December 8, 2017, with the dedication and solemn blessing of the Trinity Dome mosaic on December 8, 2017, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, by Cardinal Donald William Wuerl. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Romanesque architecture</span> Architectural style of Medieval Europe

Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of medieval Europe that was predominant from in the 11th and 12th centuries. The style eventually developed into the Gothic style with the shape of the arches providing a simple distinction: the Romanesque is characterized by semicircular arches, while the Gothic is marked by the pointed arches. The Romanesque emerged nearly simultaneously in multiple countries ; its examples can be found across the continent, making it the first pan-European architectural style since Imperial Roman architecture. Similarly to Gothic, the name of the style was transferred onto the contemporary Romanesque art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gothic architecture</span> Architectural style of Medieval Europe

Gothic architecture is an architectural style that was prevalent in Europe from the late 12th to the 16th century, during the High and Late Middle Ages, surviving into the 17th and 18th centuries in some areas. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. It originated in the Île-de-France and Picardy regions of northern France. The style at the time was sometimes known as opus Francigenum ; the term Gothic was first applied contemptuously during the later Renaissance, by those ambitious to revive the architecture of classical antiquity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture of cathedrals and great churches</span>

Cathedrals, collegiate churches, and monastic churches like those of abbeys and priories, often have certain complex structural forms that are found less often in parish churches. They also tend to display a higher level of contemporary architectural style and the work of accomplished craftsmen, and occupy a status both ecclesiastical and social that an ordinary parish church rarely has. Such churches are generally among the finest buildings locally and a source of regional pride. Many are among the world's most renowned works of architecture. These include St Peter's Basilica, Notre-Dame de Paris, Cologne Cathedral, Salisbury Cathedral, Antwerp Cathedral, Prague Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral, the Basilica of Saint-Denis, Santa Maria Maggiore, the Basilica of San Vitale, St Mark's Basilica, Westminster Abbey, Saint Basil's Cathedral, Antoni Gaudí's incomplete Sagrada Família and the ancient cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, now a mosque.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Medieval architecture</span> Architecture during the Middle Ages

Medieval architecture was the art of designing and constructing buildings in the Middle Ages. Major styles of the period include pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, and Gothic. The Renaissance marked the end of the medieval period, when architects began to favour classical forms. While most surviving medieval constructions are churches and military fortifications, examples of civic and domestic architecture can be found throughout Europe, including in manor houses, town halls, almshouses, bridges, and residential houses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gothic Revival architecture</span> Architectural movement

Gothic Revival is an architectural movement that after a gradual build-up beginning in the second half of the 17th century became a widespread movement in the first half of the 19th century, mostly in England. Increasingly serious and learned admirers sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, intending to complement or even supersede the neoclassical styles prevalent at the time. Gothic Revival draws upon features of medieval examples, including decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, and hood moulds. By the middle of the 19th century, Gothic Revival had become the pre-eminent architectural style in the Western world, only to begin to fall out of fashion in the 1880s and early 1890s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apse</span> Semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome

In architecture, an apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome, also known as an exedra. In Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic Christian church architecture, the term is applied to a semi-circular or polygonal termination of the main building at the liturgical east end, regardless of the shape of the roof, which may be flat, sloping, domed, or hemispherical. Smaller apses are found elsewhere, especially in shrines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Victorian architecture</span> Series of architectural revival styles

Victorian architecture is a series of architectural revival styles in the mid-to-late 19th century. Victorian refers to the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), called the Victorian era, during which period the styles known as Victorian were used in construction. However, many elements of what is typically termed "Victorian" architecture did not become popular until later in Victoria's reign, roughly from 1850 and later. The styles often included interpretations and eclectic revivals of historic styles (see Historicism). The name represents the British and French custom of naming architectural styles for a reigning monarch. Within this naming and classification scheme, it followed Georgian architecture and later Regency architecture, and was succeeded by Edwardian architecture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rose window</span> Type of circular window often found in Gothic churches and cathedrals

Rose window is often used as a generic term applied to a circular window, but is especially used for those found in Gothic cathedrals and churches. The windows are divided into segments by stone mullions and tracery. The term rose window was not used before the 17th century and comes from the English flower name rose.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Norman architecture</span> Styles of Romanesque architecture developed by the Normans

The term Norman architecture is used to categorise styles of Romanesque architecture developed by the Normans in the various lands under their dominion or influence in the 11th and 12th centuries. In particular the term is traditionally used for English Romanesque architecture. The Normans introduced large numbers of castles and fortifications including Norman keeps, and at the same time monasteries, abbeys, churches and cathedrals, in a style characterised by the usual Romanesque rounded arches and especially massive proportions compared to other regional variations of the style.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture of England</span> Architectural styles of modern England and the historic Kingdom of England

The architecture of England is the architecture of modern England and in the historic Kingdom of England. It often includes buildings created under English influence or by English architects in other parts of the world, particularly in the English and later British colonies and Empire, which developed into the Commonwealth of Nations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Neo-Byzantine architecture</span> Late-19th-century architectural revival movement

Neo-Byzantine architecture was a revival movement, most frequently seen in religious, institutional and public buildings. It incorporates elements of the Byzantine style associated with Eastern and Orthodox Christian architecture dating from the 5th through 11th centuries, notably that of Constantinople and the Exarchate of Ravenna.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brick Gothic</span> Architectural style of Northern Europe

Brick Gothic is a specific style of Gothic architecture common in Northeast and Central Europe especially in the regions in and around the Baltic Sea, which do not have resources of standing rock. The buildings are essentially built using bricks. Buildings classified as Brick Gothic are found in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kaliningrad, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture of Italy</span> Overview of the architecture in Italy

Italy has a very broad and diverse architectural style, which cannot be simply classified by period or region, due to Italy's division into various small states until 1861. This has created a highly diverse and eclectic range in architectural designs. Italy is known for its considerable architectural achievements, such as the construction of aqueducts, temples and similar structures during ancient Rome, the founding of the Renaissance architectural movement in the late-14th to 16th century, and being the homeland of Palladianism, a style of construction which inspired movements such as that of Neoclassical architecture, and influenced the designs which noblemen built their country houses all over the world, notably in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States of America during the late-17th to early 20th centuries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Penson</span> Welsh architect and engineer

Thomas Penson, or Thomas Penson the younger was the county surveyor of Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire, and an innovative architect and designer of a number of masonry arch bridges over the River Severn and elsewhere.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catholic Marian church buildings</span> Type of religious building

Catholic Marian churches are religious buildings dedicated to the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These churches were built throughout the history of the Catholic Church, and today they can be found on every continent including Antarctica. The history of Marian church architecture tells the unfolding story of the development of Catholic Mariology.

<i>Rundbogenstil</i> Germanic architectural style

Rundbogenstil is a nineteenth-century historic revival style of architecture popular in the German-speaking lands and the German diaspora. It combines elements of Byzantine, Romanesque, and Renaissance architecture with particular stylistic motifs. It forms a German branch of Romanesque Revival architecture sometimes used in other countries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Architecture of the United Kingdom</span> Overview of the culture in the United Kingdom

The architecture of the United Kingdom, or British architecture, consists of a combination of architectural styles, dating as far back to Roman architecture, to the present day 21st century contemporary. England has seen the most influential developments, though Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have each fostered unique styles and played leading roles in the international history of architecture. Although there are prehistoric and classical structures in the United Kingdom, British architectural history effectively begins with the first Anglo-Saxon Christian churches, built soon after Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Great Britain in 597. Norman architecture was built on a vast scale throughout Great Britain and Ireland from the 11th century onwards in the form of castles and churches to help impose Norman authority upon their dominions. English Gothic architecture, which flourished between 1180 until around 1520, was initially imported from France, but quickly developed its own unique qualities.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Romanesque Revival architecture in the United Kingdom</span> 18th to 19th century architectural style

Romanesque Revival, Norman Revival or Neo-Norman styles of building in the United Kingdom were inspired by the Romanesque architecture of the 11th and 12th centuries AD.


  1. Whiffen, Marcus. American Architecture Since 1780: A guide to the styles. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1969, 61.
  2. Fleming, John, Hugh Honour and Nikolaus Pevsner. The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1983.
  3. Wilson, Richard Guy. Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Oxford University Press, 2002, 524–525.
  4. Stern, Robert A. M.; Gilmartin, Patrick; Mellins, Thomas (1987). New York 1930: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars . New York: Rizzoli. p. 161. ISBN   978-0-8478-3096-1. OCLC   13860977.
  5. Mowl, Timothy (1981), The Norman Revival in British Architecture 1790–1870. PhD, Thesis, Oxford University.
  6. This distinction was finally recognised when Rickman's article in the Archaeologia (1837), published by the Society of Antiquaries.
  7. Mowl, Timothy (1991) Penrhryn and the Norman Revival in "National Trust Guide", Penrhryn Castle, Gwynedd. pp.89–90.
  8. Stratton T The Terracotta Revival: Building Innovation and the Industrial City in Britain and Northern America Gollancz, London 1993, p. 13.
  9. Hubbard E., The Buildings of Wales: Clwyd, Penguin/ Yale 1986, 264
  10. "Wiltshire Community History". Wiltshire Council. Retrieved 15 May 2023.
  11. Antram N (revised), Pevsner N & Harris J, (1989), The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, Yale University Press. pp. 521–22.
  12. Jones, Donald. "Building University College Tested John Langton's Skill." Toronto Star, 1 October 1983: G20.
  13. Richards, Larry. The Campus Guide: University of Toronto. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009, 45.
  14. Marrone, Francis. An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn. Layton, UT: Gibb Smith, 2011, 136–37.
  15. 1 2 Poppeliers, John C. and S. Allen Chambers, Jr. What Style Is It?: A Guide to American Architecture. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2003, 54–6.
  16. Owen, Robert Dale. Hints on Public Architecture. New York: George P. Putnam, 1849.
  17. Meeks, Carroll L.V. "Romanesque Before Richardson in the United States." The Art Bulletin 23, no. 1 (1953): 17–33.
  18. Steege, Gwen W. "The 'Book of Plans' and the Early Romanesque Revival in the United States: A Study in Architectural Patronage." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 46, no. 3 (1987): 215–27.
  19. 1990 Application for Historic District status for the Hohman Ave. commercial district, Hammond, Indiana, by Kurt West Garner
  20. "The Career of R. H. Robertson". The New York Times. 7 June 2009. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  21. "20 Largest Churches in the World". Wander. Archived from the original on 28 July 2020. Retrieved 28 July 2020.
  22. "Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception". National Shrine. Archived from the original on 3 February 2009.
  23. "The National Shrine". Archived from the original on 5 October 2008. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  24. The Washington Monument is a taller structure, (though it stands at a lower elevation) but is not a habitable building.
  25. Samber, Sharon (9 December 2017). "After a century, the largest Catholic church in North America is finally complete". USA Today. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  26. "Metz : quand Guillaume II défilait jusqu'au Temple neuf". Le Républicain Lorrain (in French). 22 January 2018.