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Why is Romanesque art called “Romanesque”? 

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Monasterio benedictino de Santa María de Ripoll

Daniel Esparza - published on 06/20/22

Not entirely Roman nor fully Byzantine, Romanesque art is a fusion of Roman, Carolingian, Ottonian, Byzantine, and local traditions.

To many, anything built between the Fall of Rome and the Renaissance falls under “medieval architecture.” This is but a too often repeated over-simplification. Anti-medieval prejudices born in the early 15th century and simple lack of interest are responsible for perpetuating the idea that no changes whatsoever occurred, whether in art, science, architecture or any other field, for more than ten centuries.

In his classic Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art, the noted German art historian Erwin Panofsky explained the 15th-century Italian Renaissance was preceded by other revivals of Greek and Roman antiquity, as important as the famed Quattrocento. The persistence of classical forms influenced everything, from lettering and decoration to architecture. All these back-to-Rome movements competed (and oftentimes blended) with Orientalizing (Byzantine, Constantinopolitan) tendencies on the one hand, and insular (Celtic, British) tendencies on the other.

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