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The Medieval City in Europe, Roman Roots


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Title: The Medieval City in Europe, Roman Roots

The Medieval City in Europe, Roman Roots
Medieval European Cities
  • Relative size is medium. No European town grew
    to be the size of Cordoba, Constantinople or
    Baghdad, though they came in all forms, shapes
    and sizes adapted freely to geographical and
    economic circumstance.
  • All have a few universal characteristics
  • Street systems only slightly less irregular than
    Arab counterparts, but people could always tell
    where they were
  • Most streets used as places t shop, conduct
    business or hold meetings
  • Houses faced out to the public area and
    multi-storey. Facades determined the character
    of the street or square they overlooked.
  • Public and private areas were balanced because
    ther was a compromise between public and private
  • Public areas were complex because of the number
    of authorities accommodated there (local bishop,
    municipal government, religious orders or trade
    guilds)resulting in multiple city centers
  • All had religious center (if large had cathedral
    with episcopal palace)
  • All had civic center with town hall
  • Commercial centers of arcades and guild halls
  • Sometimes these areas overlapped but there was
    always a well-defined center. Every city was
    divided into quarters with their own character,
    emblem and political organization, like teams.

  • Medieval cites were hierarchical with well-to-do
    bourgeoisie living in city center in the tallest
    structures. Cathedral spire, campanile, municipal
  • Poorer folks lived near perimeter walls, which
    defended the city and had to be enlarged as it
    grew (an inconvenience) always postponed until it
    was an absolute necessity.
  • All that survive demonstrate continuity of
    inhabitation, complexity, concentration of
    populations and capacity for self-renewal.
  • They grew because of the economic renaissance in
    Europe at the end of the 10th century, the
    settling down of the raiders (Arabs, Vikings and
    Hungarians), new technologies in agriculture (5
    year crop rotation, improved methods of yoking
    horses and oxen, the spread of water mills, etc.)
    and the influence of maritime cities in
    stimulation of trade and development of
    commercial cities.

  • Features Medieval cities have in common with
    Roman cities
  • The primary function id the production and
    exchange of goods and services, but this can
    happen only within the framework of law and order
    and justice based on the conception of a divinely
    ordered universe. Therefore religion and secular
    life are inseparable.
  • The city is efficient because labor is plentiful
    and highly ordered. Almost all needs are met by
    crafts men farmers and merchants. Public
    building and engineering had high standards.
  • Tolerance of other cultures, religions and
    languages, flexibility of social and political
    structures similar to Roman cities.
  • St. Thomas of Aquinas wrote that building cities
    is the duty of Kings. This was the royal
    equivalent of the creation of the world and kings
    had the responsibility to lead his people to God.

Feudal System Continuous invasions form the
Scandinavian region (Vikings) and northeastern
Europe (Germanic tribes) This led to system of
alliances between war lords, each controlling
agricultural territory attached to a defense
town, seat of a king or land owner. Church
Adopted much of the structure of Roman civil
authority. e.g. Pallium (symbol of Senatorial
Authority) becomes the symbol of a bishop, as
does a cathedra which was analogous to the
Curule chair occupied by the Roman Consuls
Diocese, originally a division of civil authority
becomes the territory controlled by a Bishop.
1. Towns of Roman Origin (examples) Rome Turin
(Torino) Wroxeter Jerusalem (not of Roman origin
but re-inaugurated by Hadrian c. 135
AD Aosta York Winchester Paris London Greenwich F
lorence Pisa Siena 2. Burgs (Bourg)
(examples) Edinburgh Strasbourg Freiburg Could
develop out of Roman towns (Strasbourg,
Frieburg), or developed around the seat of a war
lord, King, etc. Also, could grow from an
ecclesiastical foundation. (Durham) Developed
alliances over enough territory that Faubourgs
began to develop, often requiring defensive walls
of their own. These contained market functions
and sometimes the seat of as bishop or other
religious institution. Not all of these use the
term Burg. e.g. Chinon Loches
3. Organic Growth towns Misnomer. These were
usually planned agricultural settlements intended
to house agricultural workers. Land was owned by
wealthy overlord who provided protection. The
term organic refers to the free-form
circumstantial nature of their development. Some
of these evolved into Bourgs. 4. Planted Towns
By the 13th century, the Feudal alliances
created enough political stability so that kings
began the practice of establishing colonies.
These were planned communities, often with
rectangular blocks. In Southern France, Spain,
Switzerland, Austria. New Brandenburg Aigues
Mortes 5. Bastides A type of planted town with
associated military or defense functions.
Confined mostly to England and Southern France
after 1300 AD Monpazier Montreuibellay
Medieval European Cities Roman Origin
Roman Calleva now Silchester
Medieval European Cities of Roman Origin
Roman Calleva now Silchester
Roman Origin
Augusta Praetoria Aosta
Roman Origin Augusta Praetoria Aosta
Medieval European Cities Roman Origin
Wroxeter 400 to 600 AD Top Picture shows the
reconstruction of the Roman Basilica from
pavement and foundation walls. Bottom After
approximately 100 years of Anglo-Saxon
Settlement. The outlines of the building remain,
but the use has now changed to a residence hall
for a land-lord.
Roman Origin Example Southern England c. 600 AD
From Michael Wood, The Dark Ages, Facts on File,
New York, 1987.
Towns of Roman Origin Winchester Chester
Roman Administrative Capital Wich From Vicus,
Roman Market town
Roman Origin York
Roman Origin York
Roman Origin York
Roman Origin York
Roman Origin York
Shambles York, England
Decumanus Inferiore Herculaneum
Organic Growth
Organic Growth
Burgs (Bourgs)
Burgs Sarum An Iron Age Hill fort that was
taken over by the Romans, abandoned, then
reoccupied by the Romano-Brits between 400 and
600 AD. It emerged as a Burg (fortified
stronghold) with a major ecclesiastical
component, and was the seat of a Bishop by 1100
AD. In the 13th century, under the leadership of
the Norman Bishop Roger, a new Ecclesiastical
foundation was constructed at New Sarum, now
Salisbury approximately five miles to the south.
Planted Towns
Positioned at the confluence of two rivers and on
the castrum plan.
Planted Towns Aigues Mortes, southern coast of
France. Constructed as a defense for a salt
extraction operation in the mid 14th century.
Planted Towns Aigues Mortes
Bastides Monpazier
Bastides Monpazier
  • Components Regardless of the origin or function
    of the town, all contained a set of major
    elements identified by AEJ Morris. These are
  • Wall and Gate examples
  • York
  • Winchester
  • Loches
  • Church and Parvis often occupied the site of
    the Basilica in the Forum, or could develop
    independently. The Parvis was the space in front
    of the Church, used for a variety of public
    events, including religious celebrations and
    market functions (pre-1000 AD). The Parvis is
    most typically associated with a Cathedral. (Seat
    of a Bishop) In France, Spain, Italy, and Germany
    they were paved spaces. In England they were
    grassed, and usually enclosed by a wall creating
    an ecclesiastical compound called a See. The
    church was a very powerful medieval institution
    that was manifested in a variety of
    ecclesiastical foundations
  • Abbeys and monastic foundations often
    operated as independent feudal landlords with
    substantial territory under their direct control
  • Other monastic foundations (see Fontevraud
  • Cathedrals Seat of a Bishop (Cathedra)
    controlling a territory (Diocese)
  • Parishes subsets of a Diocese

Montreuibellay, France
Santa Sopra Minerva with Parvis, Rome, Italy
  • 3. Castle (Chateau) and Keep (Donjon)
  • Loches (Donjon)
  • Chinon
  • Blois
  • Amboise
  • 4. Streets also functioned as market spaces
    (See Fustel de Coulanges). In England the main
    street (often of Roman origin) was referred to
    as t he High Street, and was paved. Outside the
    town the High Street (from the Latin stratum)
    became the High way (from Via).
  • Edinburgh
  • Loches
  • Chinon
  • 5. Market place
  • Alnwick
  • Wells
  • Winchester
  • 6. Agricultural territory As with the Roman
    City surrounding an administrative capital,
    medieval cities had a surrounding agricultural
    territory tied directly to the city.
  • Siena
  • Sarum

Reoccupied medieval Castle or Chateau with Keep
on right. Poitiers, France
Medieval Street following Decumanus, Aosta, Italy
Marketplatz, Rothenburg, Germany
The Medieval City in Italy
  • San Gimignano, Italy 10th 14th centuries, tower
  • Siena, Italy, Palazzo Publico 1289 1309 and
    Piazza del Campo, site of yearly horse race.
  • Florence, Italy, Bargello or Palazzo de Podesta,
    1255 Palazzo Vecchio 1298 1314 Arnolfo di
    Cambio (architect) Loggia dei Lanzi, 1376
    1382 Piazza della Signoria Ponte Vecchio, 1345,
    Taddeo Gaddi (Architect).
  • Compare with
  • Paris, France settled c. 250 BCE, occupied by
    Romans fro 52 BCE to 253 AD Carcasonne, France,
    settled c. 72 BCE, castle constructed 1240 - 1285

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In Siena twice yearly the famous Palio delle
Contrade begins with a procession including
mace-bearers, halberdiers, flag-twirlers, and an
ox-drawn war chariot bearing the palio (banner)
that the victor of the famous horse-race will win
Palazzo Publico1289 1309Siena, Italy
Watch tower/Bell towerSiena
Gargoyles at Siena
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Piazza del Campo, Siena
The Great Drain of the Piazza del Campo, Siena
Typical Narrow Medieval Street in Siena
Typical narrow street in San Gimignano
Tuscany (Northern Italy)
  • San Miniato al Monte 1018 1062 and Pisa
    Cathedral, Baptistry and the Leaning Tower 1063
    1118, are very different in style from the
  • Facades are multi-colored, often make use of
    spolio, and the interiors are often ceiled with
    painted wooden timbers. Generally the exterior
    and interior is more colorful.
  • Centralized rule under a monarch was later in
    Northern Italy because the prevalent system of
    city-states was still in effect, unlike in the
    north, where the old Roman system represented
    rule by an invading race.
  • Italians not as concerned with height, dont use
    the chavet or flying buttress or stained glass.
    They had a long tradition of tie beams or tie
    rods, so the flat ceilings are not seen as a
    defect. While the French avoided flat wall
    surfaces on the exterior, the Northern Italians
    maintained them for fresco ornamentation.

Medieval Tower Houses of San Gimignano
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San Miniato al Monte, near Florence, Italy 1018
  • San Miniato al Monte
  • Divided along its length into three aisles
    by piers of quatrefoil section and transverse
    diaphragm arches.
  • Pairs of columns between quatrefoil piers
    are different colored marble (spolio)
  • Eastern end raised above the burial vault
  • Wooden truss open to roof, painted with
    religious symbols

Ponte Vecchio
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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy 1345 Taddao Gaddi
The Bargello, or Palazzo de PodestaFlorence,
Italy 1255
Interior courtyard, Bargello
Palazzo Vecchio 1298 1314 Florence,
ItalyArnofo di Cambio (architect)
Loggia Dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy 1376 1382
Orcagna, designer
Piazza della Signoria Florence, Italy Begun
1268 by the Guelph Party, who tore down 36
houses, resulting in the L shaped space of the
Florence Baptistery, Florence, Italy consecrated
  • Consecrated by Pope Nicholas II on the foundation
    of the Roman Temple of Mars.
  • Original oculus covered because it leaked.
  • Dante was baptized here, as as all true
    Florentines they have a mass baptism here once a
    year for anyone who has been missed.
  • Money for construction given by the Calimala
    (cloth finishers guild.)
  • Oldest set of doors on south side is by Andrea
    Pisano in 1336. Gothic in style, in flattened bas
    relief, they tell the story of the life of St.
    John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence.,
    in gilded bronze.
  • Octagonal plan corresponds to the seven days it
    took to create the world and the eighth is the
    Day of Resurrection.
  • Ghiberti won a competition for the second set of
    doors in 1401. The theme is the life of Christ
    the doors were installed in 1424. The Calimala
    liked Ghibertis doors so well they awarded him
    the project for third set of doors without a
    competition. These depict the Gates of Paradise.
    Ghiberti also made the frames for all three sets
    of doors.

Florence Baptistry in the Piazza(Gold-leafed
bronze doors by Ghiberti)
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Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy
Santa Maria del Fiore
  • 1296 original design by Arnolfo di Cambio, master
    mason, who laid the foundation.
  • 1347 plague kills approximately 70 of Florences
  • 1366 Neri di Floravantis model is chosen as the
    model for the main dome double shell design and
    octagonal cloister vault composed of four
    interpenetrating barrel vaults.
  • 1400 Brunelleschi loses the competition for the
    doors of the Baptistery to Ghiberti and leaves
    Florence to live in Rome, where he studies the
    work of the ancient Romans, particularly the dome
    of the Pantheon.
  • 1418 Brunelleschi enters the competition for the
    dome of Santa Marian del Fiore to be built
    according to Floravantis design.
  • 1420 Master mason Battista dAntonio is named
    capomaestri in charge of the cathedral project,
    with both Brunelleschi and Ghiberti as additional
    capomaestri in charge of the dome construction.
  • 1436 the Dome is consecrated
  • 1452 the Lantern atop the dome is consecrated.
  • Bell tower is by Giotto begun in 1334. Job
    taken over by Andrea Pisano from 1337 1348,
    then completed by Nanni di Banco 1350 1359.

Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy Exterior
was not completed until 18th c.
Church of Santa Maria dei Fiore(also known as
the Duomo)and Giottos CampanilleFlorence, Italy
Basilica di San LorenzoFlorence, Italy end of
14th c.
Siena Cathedral, front façade
Siena Cathedral 1226 1380,unfinished fragment
begun 1316
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Romanesque Architecture
  • Developed in countries in Western Europe that had
    previously been under Roman rule.
  • Mix of elements from Early Christian, Byzantine,
    and native barbarian styles, all changed
    materially by local conditions and fused with the
    fully developed Christian iconography, ceremony
    and doctrine.
  • Primarily a religious expression most monuments
    are related to the Catholic church which enjoyed
    great power and influence rivaling the civil
    governments of the day.
  • Monastic orders grew, preserving Classical
    knowledge contained in old manuscripts by
    copying them.
  • The Benedictine, Cluniac, and Cistercian Orders
    were especially influential I the development of
    the Romanesque style.
  • Stone construction, the region in which they were
    built and the elaboration of functions reflected
    in the plans are hallmarks of the Romanesque
  • Other influences from the Crusades, religious
    pilgrimages (Santiago de Compostela, St. Peters
    Tomb in Rome, and Jerusalems church of the Holy
    Sepulchre are most famous of these) lead to
    pilgrimage routes and monasteries, developed as
    hostels along the way, grew into towns and cities.

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Floor tiles with Islamic moons which symbolize
conquests in the Crusades, in Siena Cathedral
Romanesque Architecture
  • Amalgamation of elements from Early Christian,
    Byzantine, and native Babrarian styles,, all
    changed materially by local conditions and fused
    with the Christian iconography, ceremony, and
  • Most influential were the monastic and cathedral
    churches of stone construction. The elaboration
    of functions was evident in the plans.
  • Religious fervor resulted in the Crusades and
    Pilgrimages to the shrines where relics of the
    saints were preserved.
  • Three great pilgrimage centers were Santiago de
    Campostela (St. James tomb), Rome (the Tomb of
    Saint Peter) and Jerusalem (the Holy Sepulcher).
  • Along the pilgrimage routes many monasteries
    developed and with them grew the towns and feudal
    communities of the period.
  • Larger scale, more proficiency in stonework, and
    desire for acoustical effects lead to
    redevelopment of masonry vaulting, and
    development of new forms of vaulting
    (quadripartite and sexpartite vaults).
  • Major buildings San Miniato al Monte, Florence,
    Italy, 1018 1062 Abbeye-aux-Hommes, Caen,
    France, 1068 Durham Cathedral,, Durham, England,
    1093 Pisa Cathedral, Baptistery and Leaning
    Tower, Pisa, Italy, 1063 1118 Cluny Abbey III,
    Cluny, France, c. 1088 (largest abbey church in
    Europe and largest Romanesque church).

Pisa Cathedral, Baptistery, and the Leaning Tower
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Pisa BaptistryPisa, Italy
Leaning Tower of Pisa (rear view)
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Pisa Cathedral use of Spolio
Spolio on Pisa CathedralSpolio is building
materials that have been taken from one building
to use in the construction of another (newer)
one. This was a time-honored custom well before
the Middle Ages.
Carolingian Architecture
  • C. 70AD 10th century
  • Charlemagnes renovation an emulation of the
    art and culture of Christian Rome
  • Charlemagne brought the best minds and finest
    craftsmen to his court at Aachen, recovery of the
    true text of the Bible was his goal.
  • Examples Baptistery of St. Jean, Poitiers,
    France c. 6th century Palatine Chapel of
    Charlemagne, Aachen, Germany, 796 805 Torhalle
    (Gatehouse of Abbey) Lorsch, Germany, 767 774

Gothic Architecture
  • Cathedrals regarded as a physical manifestation
    of the City of God or heavenly Jerusalem, here
    on earth.
  • While Romanesque society was feudal, isolated and
    fraught with political and religious
    uncertainties, at or around 1100, this begins to
    change with the emergence of centralized
    governments and thriving cities, giving rise to
    the middle class, which acts as a counterbalance
    to the aristocracy.
  • Also a shift from the Augustinian dichotomy
    between the heavenly soul and the flesh of the
    body. The human soul was still recognized as
    immortal, but now believed to organize and unify
    the corporeal body instead of being a completely
    independent entity. There was also a shift from
    belief in a vindictive and condemning God to one
    who was loving and cared about all living
    creatures. This translates in to a change from
    depictions of otherworldly idealized images to a
    concentration on spiritual aspects of the real
    world and interiors are no longer isolated from
    exteriors as in the Romanesque. Instead, Gothic
    space is transcended through the penetration of
    exterior light.
  • The existence of contradictions stimulated
    thought and the search for truth, one of the
    most pious acts one could engage in.

Gothic continued
  • Three problems of Gothic architecture 1.
    the rose window in the west elevation 2. the
    organization of the wall below the
    clerestory 3. the conformation of the nave
  • Abbot Suger and the Abbey Church of St. Denis,
    1137 1144 (Choir), nave and transept 1231, by
    Pierre de Montereau. Choir superimposed upon the
    8th c. Carolingian transept and the 9th c. apse
  • Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, France, 1163 c.
    1520. May not have been the first to employ
    flying buttresses.
  • Cathedral of Notre Dame, Chartres, France, 1194
    1250. Many innovations such as the elimination of
    the Gallery space to enlarge the clerestory and
    produce a more vertical wall than any previous.
  • Cathedral of Norte Dame, Reims, France, 1211
    1290. Invention of bar tracery (as opposed to
    plate tracery) in the radiating chapels of the
    chavet and used throughout the building.
  • Use of the Gothic Arch allowed higher vaulting
    and the transverse arch remains a circular arch
    (not elliptical). On the other hand, buttresses
    were required to counter the lateral thrusts
    generated by the taller vaults and pinnacles to
    add weight to the buttresses.

Characteristics of French Gothic
  • Use of the Chavet
  • Emphasis on the vertical
  • Extensive use of stained glass
  • Use of the Flying Buttress
  • Suppression of the transept within the body of
    the church
  • Main examples Cathedral of Notre Dame, Amiens,
    France 1220 1288 Cathedral of St. Pierre,
    Beauvais, France, 1247 1568 St. Chapelle,
    Paris, France, 1234 1500.

Characteristics of English Gothic
  • Regular buttressing not flying.
  • Use of rectangular apse no chevet.
  • Elaborate vaulting patterns (fan, tracery,
    chancel vault.)
  • Hammer beam trusses to open up the view to east
    and west windows.
  • Primary churches Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury,
    England, 1220 1258 Westminster Abbey, London,
    England, 1245 1269 (planned in the French
    manner with St. Denis and Reims as conscious
    models.) Chapel of Henry VII, Westminster
    Abbey, 1503 1519 (finest example of fan
    vaulting extant)

Characteristics of Italian Gothic Architecture
  • Not as concerned with height as French
  • No chavets
  • No flying buttresses, exception Milan Cathedral.
  • Not much stained glass plenty of light in
    Italian climate
  • Wooden and iron tie beams used with wood truss
  • Used flat wall surfaces for fresco decoration and
    used colored marbles in stripped patterns and
    spolia on both interior and exterior.
  • Major buildings Siena Cathedral, Siena, Italy,
    1226 1380, sumptuous decoration, unfinished
    fragment of colossal addition begun 1316, but
    ended by plague Doges Place, Venice, Italy, c.
    1309 1424 (Venetian Gothic) Ca DOro, 1424
    1436 domestic Venetian Gothic Milan Cathedral,
    Milan, Italy, c. 1385 1485, built in the
    French manner so strange Italian Gothic

San Gimignano In Tuscany, Italy