Early Mediaeval Architecture - England
The churches of this style (sometimes called the Pisan) were less vigorous but more elegant in design than the Lombard. They were basilicas in plan, with timber ceilings and high clearstories on columnar arcades. In their external decoration they betray the influence of Byzantine traditions, especially in the use of white and colored marble in alternating bands or in panelled veneering.
Still more striking are the external wall-arcades sometimes occupying the whole height of the wall and carried on flat pilasters, sometimes in superposed stages of small arches on slender columns standing free of the wall. In general the decorative element prevailed over the constructive in the design of these picturesquely beautiful churches, some of which are of noble size. The Duomo (cathedral) of Pisa, built 1063-1118, is the finest monument of the style. It is 312 feet long and 118 wide, with long transepts and an elliptical dome of later date over the crossing (the intersection of nave and transepts). Its richly arcaded front and banded flanks strikingly exemplify the illogical and unconstructive but highly decorative methods of the Tuscan Romanesque ( twelfth century) have the most elaborately decorated façades. The same principles of design appear in the cathedral and several other churches in Pistoia and Prato; but these belong, for the most part, to the Gothic period.
The church of S. Miniato, near Florence ( 1013-60), shows a modification of the Pisan style. It is in plan a basilica with the nave divided into three parts by two transverse arches, carrying a richly painted timber roof, resembling that of Messina Cathedral. The interior is embellished with encrusted patterns in black and white marble. The exterior is adorned with wall-arches and with panelled veneering in white and dark marble, instead of the horizontal bands of the Pisan churches, a blending of Pisan and Italo-Byzantine methods. The Baptistery of Florence, originally the cathedral, an imposing polygonal domical edifice of the tenth century, presents externally one of the most admirable examples of this practice. Its marble veneering in black and white, with pilasters and arches of excellent design, attributed by Vasari to Arnolfo di Cambio, is by many considered to be much older, although restored by that architect in 1294.
Suggestions of the Pisan arcade system are found in widely scattered examples in the east and south of Italy, mingled with features of Lombard and Byzantine design. In Apulia, as at Bari, Caserta Vecchia ( 1100), Molfetta ( 1192) , and in Sicily, the Byzantine influence is conspicuous in the use of domes and in many of the decorative details. Particularly is this the case at Palermo and Monreale, where the churches erected after the Norman conquest--some of them domical, some basilican--show a strange but picturesque and beautiful mixture of Romanesque, Byzantine, and Arabic forms. The Cathedrals of Monreale and Palermo ( 1185) and the churches of the Eremiti and La Martorana at Palermo are the most important. The beautiful cloisters of the two cathedrals should be mentioned; also the shameful disfigurement of the interior of Palermo Cathedral by Fuga in the eighteenth century.
The mediæval bell-towers of Italy are among the most striking features of the architecture of their period. They were invariably isolated structures, usually square in plan and without spires. The earliest appear to be those adjoining the two churches of San Apollinare in and near Ravenna, and date presumably from the sixth century. They are plain circular towers with few and small openings, except in the uppermost story, where larger arched openings permit the issue of the sound of the bells. It was at Rome, and not till the ninth or tenth century, that the campanile became a recognized feature of church architecture. The Roman campanile was built of brick upon a square plan, rising with little or no architectural adornment to a height usually of a hundred feet or more, and furnished with but a few small openings below the belfry stage, where a pair of coupled arched windows separated by a simple column opened from each face of the tower. Above these windows a low pyramidal roof terminated the tower. The towers of Sta. Maria in Cosmedin, Sta. Maria in Trastevere, and S. Giorgio in Velabro are examples of this type. Most of the Roman examples date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
In other cities, the campanile was treated with some variety of form and decoration, as well as of material. In Lombardy and Venetia the square red-brick shaft of the tower is often adorned with long, narrow pilaster strips and an arcaded cornice, as at Piacenza and Venice. The openings at the top may be three or four in number on each face, and the plan is sometimes octagonal. The brick octagonal campanile of S. Gottardo at Milan is one of the finest Lombard church towers. At Verona the brick tower on the Piazza dell' Erbe and that of S. Zeno are conspicuous and at Pomposa, Torcello, Milan (S. Ambrogio, S. Satiro), Padua, Modena, and Como are other interesting examples; but every important town of northern Italy possesses one or more examples of these structures dating from the eleventh, twelfth, or thirteenth century.
Undoubtedly the three most noted bell-towers in Italy are those of Venice, Pisa, and Florence. The great Campanile of St. Mark at Venice, first begun in 874, carried higher in the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, and finally completed in the sixteenth century with the marble belvedere and wooden spire so familiar in pictures of Venice, was formerly the highest in Italy, measuring approximately 325 feet to the summit. This superb historic monument which fell in sudden ruin in 1902 is now being slowly rebuilt on the original design. The Leaning Tower of Pisa dates from 1174, and is unique in its plan and its exterior treatment with superposed arcades. Begun apparently as a leaning tower, it seems to have increased this lean to a dangerous point, by the settling of its foundations during construction, as its upper stages were made to deviate slightly towards the vertical from the inclination of the lower portion. It has always served rather as a watch-tower and belvedere than as a bell-tower.