Italian Architecture In The Middle Ages Essay

, Research Paper

Italian architecture in the middle agesIn the Fifteenth century, the Italian historian Flavio Biondo regarded the sack of Rome bythe Visogoths as the end of ancient civilization. He also believed that this marked the beginningof the Middle Ages (Erickson 72). Within the thousand years of the Middle Ages, historianshave recognized subperiods. These subperiods include the Early Middle Ages (900 to 1000), theHigh Middle Ages (1000 to 1300), and the Later Middle Ages (the 14th and 15th centuries) (Grolier 1). The purpose of this paper is to explain Middle Age Italian architecturethrough its history and specific examples. Italian art history begins in Rome during the firstthrough the fourth centuries. The birth of Christian religious architecture based on Romanprototypes, was developed. The transfer of the Roman imperial capital to Byzantium in the 4thcentury meant that Italy would become a Byzantine cultural province (Hoyt 17,18, 20). Residentin Sicily were the Arabs who Paladino 2introduced styles of oriental magnificence such as Palarmo’s Palantine Chapel. According to John White in Art and Architecture In Italy 1250-1400, impressive centralplans, lavish materials, sumptuous color, mysterious lighting, and stylized representationdescribe such works as Ravenna’s San Vitale and St. Marks Basilica. The Italian Romanesquewas concentrated in Lombardy, Tuscany, and Southern Italy. The Lombard architecture wasknown for large vaulted churches made of elaborate exterior brick. In Tuscany, Pisanarchitecture superimposed tiers of marble cascades as in the Pisa Cathedral. The Cefalu andMonerale Cathedrals in Sicily are representations of southern Italy architectures. French architects employed by the Normans, who had conquered Sicily from the Arabs, areattributed to the northern Italy church facades decorated with sculptures of stone. This is evidentin such works as the Modena Cathedral and the bronze relief patterns in San Zeno, Verona (White100, 101, 114,123). Originating in the mid 12th century in France, the Gothic style was introduced to Italy inthe 13th century. This was mainly due to French Cisterian monks establishing Italian monasteries.The Gothic architecture is characterized by a classical style for width rather than medieval height.In contrast to France, Italian Paladino 3churches such as San Francesco, Assissi or Santa Croce in Florence, appear massive,somber, and chaste decorated. Rather than the vertical walls of stained glass, the Italianspreferred horizontal surfaces for the paintings they did (Murray 112,113,115,121). Florentine architects determined the design for early renaissance buildings. Churches werebuilt by a central or a rectangular plan. Residential palaces were developed around a central,arcaded courtyard. The relationship of architectural proportion and human scale was a concern

from the works of Brunelleschi. Florentine buildings such as the Pazzi Chapel achieve a serenityand clarity of design from the use of mathematical skill and simple materials (Spivey 36, 38, 42,43). The formal and intellectual works of Leon Battista Alberti, influenced the next generation ofFlorentine architects. Leons use of monumental mass, emphasis on geometric relationships, andclassical style are shown in Sant’Andrea, Mantua (Spivey 44,45). During the High Renaissance, Rome succeeded Florence as the center for architecturaland artistic talent. The patronage of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Paladino 4Bramante by popes Julius II and Leo C helped create one of the most brilliant and influentialperiods of all time (Wolff 17,18,22). Bramante and Michelangeloconceived an architecture of solemn splendor for a papacy wishing to construct a city that wouldrival and even surpass the imperial ancient Rome. The roman practice of extending columnsthrough several stories was revived through Michelangelo. Imposing central-plan spaces weredesigned for the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. An emphasis on sculptural mass,rather than on Early Renaissance wall surface, made such high renaissance structures asBramante’s Tampietto at San Pietro in Montorio, Rome appear a more solid structure (Blunt 26,28, 34). According to Michael Baxandall in Painting in the 20th Century, the Mannerist architectssuch as Giulio Romano employed classical motifs in a odd and strange way. Romano preferred touse vague relationships and strange ornamentation. Such painters as Pontormo, Parmigiannio,and Bronzino responded to the conflicts and dislocations of their age by emphasizing theunnatural and irrational . Compositions were elongated, compressed, asymmetrical, andentangled (Baxandall 89, 92, 93, 94). Paladino 5 Reflecting Venice’s relatively better economic and political stability, Venetian Mannerism was less extreme. The inaventive extension of classical usageby Palladio had a major impact on later English and American architecture (Wittkower 26,27).The dramatic use of light by Tintoretto influenced Italian architecture to come. Along with all thisit was the works of Veronese that elaborated the Venetian concern with color and lavish settings. To conclude, the middle ages created many changes for civilization in Italy. Withintelligent people, creative talents, and a complete rebirth (Hoyt 45). Many of the originalstructures from Italian architecture during the middle ages remain. Some architects that buildtoday still use the techniques of the original builders. The influencial styles of Italian architectureappear to be almost inferior to new ideas. The various cultures such as Byzantine, Arab, French,and Roman helped to produce a strong awakening for the Italian culture. Many talented peopleand magnificent works came out of this era. The spirit and compassion of the original artisansshowed through for generations ahead.


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