First Romanesque

Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan, Lombardy, brick architecture from the 6th to the 12th centuries
Saint Egidio in Fontanella, Lombardy

One of the first streams of Romanesque architecture in Europe from the 10th century and the beginning of 11th century is called First Romanesque or Lombard Romanesque. It took place in the region of Lombardy and spread into Catalonia and into the south of France. Its principal decoration for the exterior, bands of ornamental blind arches are called lombard bands. It was characterized by thick walls and lack of sculpture in facades, and with interiors profusely painted with frescoes.

During the first quarter of the 11th century, much architectural activity by groups composed of Lombard teachers and stonemasons (Comacine Guild), who worked throughout much of Europe and Catalan territories and erected fairly uniform temples, some of which still exist today.[1] For a considerable area this process of craft diffusion started in Lombardy and Lombardus became the word for mason at an early period.[2] One might call the First Romanesque style the style of this Italian architectural reconquest.[2] The large promoter and sponsor of this art in Catalonia was Oliva, monk and abbot of the monastery of Ripoll who, in 1032, ordered the extension of the body of this building with a façade with two towers, plus a transept which included seven apses, all decorated on the outside with the Lombardic ornamentation of blind arches and vertical strips.

Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch suggested that what was formerly considered the late form of pre-Romanesque architecture in Catalonia bore features of Romanesque and thus classified it as First Romanesque (primer romànic). The First Romanesque churches of the Vall de Boí were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in November 2000.

The geographical proximity of this Iberian region to the rest of Europe, resulted in depictions of the emerging Romanesque art being brought to Catalonia. While the art failed to take root in the rest of the Iberian Peninsula until the second third of the 11th century, there are numerous examples of its presence in Catalan counties before this time. Though this style may not be considered fully Romanesque, the area contained many of the defining characteristics of this artistic style.

To avoid the term Pre-Romanesque, which is often used with a much broader meaning than is generally suited to refer to early Medieval and early Christian art, and in Spain may also refer to the Visigothic, Asturias, Mozarabic and Repoblación art forms, Puig i Cadafalch preferred to use the term "First Romanesque" or "first Romanesque art" to designate those Catalan anticipations of the Romanesque itself.

List of First Romanesque buildings

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Basilica dei Santi Pietro e Paolo in Agliate, Lombardy near Monza built in 875, considered to be the first church of Lombard Romanesque






List of modern Revival First Romanesque buildings

United States

See also


  1. The Monastery of Santa Maria de Roses of 1022 is the oldest of the Lombard features in Catalonia.
  2. 1 2 Conant, Kenneth John (1959). Carolingian and Romanesque. Yale University Press.


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