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Ottonian architecture

Ottonian architecture is part of the stylistic block of solid architecture formed from Carolingian prototypes with new Byzantine influences. It is a kind of first Northern Romanesque art distinct and symmetrical opposed to the first southern Romanesque art. It may be thought that Ottonian architecture is only the eastern wing of a larger ensemble that encompasses northern Europe and presumably pre-Norman England. It has undoubtedly formed the second Romanesque art (1050-1150) and the first Gothic architecture born in the western part of the first Romanesque art of the north still retains the amplitude.

Ottonian architecture is part of a renaissance and the will of the emperors of the new Ottonian dynasty to restore the Holy Roman Empire . It extends from the North Sea and the Baltic to the Alpine regions and the Saone beyond the Elbe and Magdeburg . In the second half of the 10th century important monuments are built. The border between the Ottonian architecture and the primitive Romanesque art is imprecise, located between 1020 and the middle of the xi E century following the authors.

Historical context
In 843, the treaty of Verdun divides the Carolingian empire into three kingdoms led by the grandsons of Charlemagne . Louis the German receives East Francia which corresponds to the territory of Germany . The imperial title escapes it and is transmitted by emptying of its meaning until 924. Otto I , King of Saxony since 936, is the winner of Hungarians and Slavs, two of the many peoples who came to invade the West in the second half of the ninth century. He reconquered Italy and restored the power that Charlemagne had once established over Rome. In 962 he is crowned emperor in Rome and founds the Holy Roman Empire , which he places in the inheritance of Charlemagne, who himself had placed himself in that of the lost Roman Empire. Otton I thus resurrects an empire that he inherits from his son Otton II in 973. He married a Greek princess, Theophano, in order to ally himself with the Eastern Empire. At his death, his son, Otto III, succeeds him. Still young, his mother assures the Regency, and thereby reaffirms the Byzantine influence on Ottonian art. Influenced by Gerbert d’Aurillac the king dreams of a universal empire whose capital would be Rome .

At the same time, the Church has a strong hierarchical organization: reformist ideas mark the episcopacy and monasticism, and the fulgurating expansion of the abbeys is a perfect example. The Church holds a large place in the council of princes, and the material and spiritual role of monasticism is undeniable. Architectural feats, monuments are placed in the heritage of the Carolingian dynasty while permeating Byzantine influences. The monastic workshops become the origin of all Ottonian art : sculptures, paintings, goldsmiths, illuminations . The cult of the relics rises, and the crypts are placed on one level with the nave. The composition of the buildings is modified, as is the development of the liturgy. Great pilgrimages are organized.

Common features
In the tenth century, the Germanic empire is the main artistic center in the West. The emperor and the great ecclesiastics give a decisive impetus to architecture. Ottonian architecture draws its inspiration from both Carolingian architecture and Byzantine architecture . Indeed, these two architectural styles are called the Roman Empire and are the closest examples of art dedicated to the sovereign. If Otto II ‘s wife, Theophano Skleraina , was the daughter of the Byzantine emperor, Carolingian art has the most influence on Ottonian architecture.

The Ottonian religious architecture seems to abandon the centered plan , in spite of some examples: in Ottmarsheim ( 11th century, Alsace), the ambulatory is octagonal like that of the palatine chapel of Aix-la-Chapelle . We can find an evocation of the central octagon of Aix in the cathedral of Essen In Nijmegen (Netherlands), the evocation is clearer in the chapel of St. Nicholas Valkhof (around 1050).

The basilical plan of Roman inspiration is the most common. Towers and steeples are placed outside the buildings to accentuate the size of the building and the power of the two bedside tables. Thus the typical Ottonian cathedral has a basilical plan, a chevet flanked by towers, a porch-tower (aspect long preserved in the Germanic churches) and sometimes chapels collateral to the transept.
The Ottonian architecture, however, retains the figure of the two Carolingian symmetrical chevets in some cases and even gives it a great expansion by a regularity and a new symmetry, where often the presence of a square apse, characteristic rhenish thereafter. The Romanesque Rhenish plan corresponds to a synthesis of Ottonian and Carolingian plans, accompanying the birth and development of Romanesque art.

Regional characters

In the choir of the Ottonian homeland the Saxon school is the most coherent and probably defined in the 10th century with Magdeburg and Gernrode, which around 960 has typical Saxon features. At the beginning of the eleventh century, we find the Church of St. Michael Hildesheim and Merseburg or develops a type of church reproduced for two centuries.

This style is characterized by a basilica plan with transept and regular span, an elongated choir with oriented apsidioles, a nave with three bays, alternating supports columns and massive rectangular. The proportions are massive, square and the type of facade is found only in Saxony. Paderborn stands out for its originality linked to the wishes of Bishop Meinwerk.

The Mosane school, which some characters unite with the region of Cologne, asserts itself in the first quarter of the 11th century in northern France and up the Meuse sometimes as far as Lorraine. Examples close to the year 1000, almost definitive are taken again in the Romanesque period.

It is characterized by low buildings with triple choirs, apsidioles adjoining the main apse, the nave is massive, with rectangular pillars. The West facade is highlighted by a unique bell tower and wall decor of large blind arcades. Nivelle is the most beautiful expression.

Lorraine and the Middle Rhine
This school, to which the Upper Rhine Valley between Bale and Lake Constance and the Lower Mein Valley can be joined, is the most active and perhaps the most important with Trier, Metz and Mainz in the 10th century. Before the year 1000, Reicheneau is already the most considerable center of the Empire with the imperial scriptorium . Towards 1015 rise great constructions like Strasbourg , Limbourg and Spire where the characters of the Ottonian architecture are revealed the best and that elaborate the frontage and the harmonic bedside.

Lower Rhine
Later conservative, the Lower Rhine school is one of the most active and inventive in the second quarter of the eleventh century. Cologne, which reaches its peak around the middle of the 11th century, will retain the Ottonian forms for two centuries of a grandiose and constructive arctivity.

This geographical area with Cologne , Aachen , the abbey of Essen and the bishopric of Utrecht, which was late after the year 1000, becomes the boldest in the adaptation of the Carolingian types. There is a West choir with a nave in niches in Essen , a concern to put all the resources of the new architecture at the service of a refined and refined formal expression in Werden.

Relations with contemporary Romanesque architecture
The Ottonian architecture was formed alone, almost in a vacuum by changing the Carolingian models while resisting the contributions of the first Romanesque Mediterranean art. The areas of contact in Jurane Burgundy and in the Alps show that the fusion between these two worlds of forms is difficult. The progression of the architecture of the South was stopped by the zone of Ottonian influence which borrowed only elements of decoration to transform them and it is only after 1050 in a decaying Empire that elements of decorations and Southern sculptures infiltrate the Germanic buildings.

The first Mediterranean Romanesque art has not gone beyond the Massif Central and has no role on the architecture north of the Loire and the oceanic west of France. The influence of Ottonian architecture on Northern Europe can be felt in monuments in the North-West and West areas of France and it is questionable whether the different regional types can not be grouped together in a single formal set. from the ocean to the Elbe and from the North Sea to the Loire.

The lower transepts of Morienval and the churches of the Aisne probably come from the Meuse, the harmonic bedsides of Saint-Germain-des-Prés , Melun and Morienval undoubtedly derive from Lorraine. In Normandy the facade of Jumièges with its western massif and its tribune, the disappeared facade of Fécamp show a composition similar to Carolingian and Ottonian westwerks , the porch of Saint-Nicolas-de-Caen is of the Rhenish type but in Bernay , Jumièges and the Mont-Saint-Michel the principle of alternation of the pillars of the nave, the thick wall with passageway, the transept with platform and the tower-lantern on regular cross are much more revolutionary, modern and novels than in the Ottonian architecture.

In Champagne, between the royal France and the Empire developed towards the year 1000 an architecture no less grandiose than that of the Ottonian architecture, different by some characters typical French but similar in its structure and in its Carolingian origins.

Analysis of constructive parties

The basilicas with continuous transept
The basilicas with continuous transept mark a return to the paleochristian types. They are large, solid basilicas with collaterals without vaults and separated from the nave by simple supports, columns and rectangular pillars bearing massive walls pierced by a row of small windows. The choir is not very complex, rectangular, often with a straight span and an apse flanked by oriented apsidioles. The transept is vast. The western parts contain a great variety of combinations and a strong presence of unknown masses where we can see Carolingian persistence. This group of buildings may appear primitive and lagging behind meridional research, but it is the extreme example of attachment to the Carolingian and ancient past that, out of political need and spiritual ideal, the Ottonian dynasty has made its own, which has contributed to its greatness.

There have probably been about fifteen basilicas with continuous transept divided into two families, those with double choir and western transept and those with oriental transept and single choir.

These features are or have been present at the ruined abbey church of Hersfeld, the transept walls of the Augsburg Cathedral , the transept covered with a Renaissance ceiling at St. Emmeran Abbey in Regensburg , the parts essential transept of the Basilica of the Holy Apostles of Cologne , the transepts of the Church of St. Cyriac Gernrode and the abbey of Walbeck, the foundations of the transept of Strasbourg Cathedral , perhaps St. Peter’s Cathedral and St. George of Bamberg, the church of St. Martin in Worms in its near-millet state, the ruins of St. Michael’s Church in Heiligenberg

Basilicas with low transept
Low transept buildings contribute to the renewal of pre-Romanesque forms. The nave continues undivided until the entrance to the apse, the two braces are separated from her by walls with openings more or less wide. The two arms of the transept are lower and often narrower than the main nave. There is no crossing of the transept by the absence of east and west framing arches.

An example of this type of Carolingian church can be seen in the basilica of St. Peter and St. Marcellin from Steinbach to Michelstadt, whose Carolingian plan can be reconstructed and frequently found in Italy. The type of Steinbach belongs to the great southern and pre-Carolingian series, which confirms that Western art is united in these primary sources.

Under the Ottonians, the St. Pantaleon Church of Cologne with the western massif, portions of the existing East walls and the North cross brace allow a restitution. In the same spirit, we can add the collegiate Saint-Patrocle in Soest .

The evolution of the Steinbach and Saint-Pantaleon type is accomplished by the addition of diaphragm arches under the frame between the nave and the transept and between the transept and the choir. These arches make it possible to separate the liturgical part and participate in the stability of the building. The complete crossing is born but it is only around the year 1000 that we find churches with low transept connected by a cross. But this type of construction is abandoned in the zone of solid architecture because without turn on the cross, the expression of the volumes is poor.

preserved buildings of this type can be classified into several groups:

The richest region is that of Belgium and the countries of the Meuse with the abbey of Celles-les-Dinant , the priory of Hastière-par-Delà of 1033-1035, the collegiate church Saint-Denis of Liège of which it remains walls around the year one thousand, Wessem near Roermond also of the millet year and Aubechies .

The masterpiece of this architecture is the collegiate Sainte-Gertrude de Nivelles whose western 12th century massif replaces another Carolingian or Ottonian choir. We can date the beginnings of construction around the year 1000 with a consecration in 1046, the transept around 1050 and the oriental choir soon after. The abbey of Morienval in its state of the eleventh century can also be attached to the same architectural current.

Between the Meuse and the Rhine the buildings with low transept are less uniform. The most astonishing example of the union of Carolingian and Ottonian models is the cathedral of Essen . The two choirs East and West are united to the nave by a transept and we are here at the end of the evolution of Steinbach’s model.

The Alsace and Lorraine regions are close to Jurane Burgundy and Switzerland, a zone of contact with the first Mediterranean Romanesque art, which has kept the extreme reduction of the transept against the highly developed transept of northern architecture. In Alsace, a small group of churches is formed around that of Eschau with Altenstadt , Feldbach , Hohatzenheim and in Lorraine, there are the churches of Bouzemont and Olley.

The basilicas with regular cross
In the basilicas with regular crosses, with known characters: the opposition of the two choruses and the presence of two transepts is added the regular connection of the transept and the longitudinal vessel surmounted by towers and redoubled. The proportions of the building become clever thanks to the clarity of the divisions and its joints, the inner and outer symmetry created by the towers and the decoration of the polychrome stone archs.

The Saint Michel church in Hildesheim with a foundation stone of 1010 and the last consecration of 1033 is the most perfect example. The general part of the nave, the western transept, the choir plan erected on a crypt and surrounded by a semi-buried ambulatory remain unchanged. This form of cross of the year 1000 extends the Carolingian constructions and those of the tenth century. This is the first example of a square cross that clearly defines volumes. The accent given by the lantern towers is the capital contribution of Saint-Michel d’Hildesheim to the formation of the Romanesque basilica.

Around the year 1000, the development of regular cross churches is the result of similar and parallel research by groups in different regions.

The first of these groups is the churches of the Upper Rhine , Swabia and Switzerland . At the churches of St. Mary and St. George in Reichenau we can probably reach the Abbey of St. Gallen and the Cologne Cathedral from which the group of Einsiedeln with Muri and Schaffhausen-on-Zorn .

In Lower Saxony , Walbeck Church has nothing in common with Heidelsheim . The Cathedral of Merseburg started in 1015 and consecrated in 1021 is the usual type of Saxon church that continues throughout the 11th century without renewal and then in the 12th century as an anachronistic survival. This region is the most passive in Germany and prolongs Ottonian art during the Romanesque period.

Between the Middle Rhine and Upper Meuse, a third group of monuments appears around the years close to the year 1000 with little unity perhaps because of the spirit of research which seems to animate the builders of these regions and where appears forms that will be adopted during the Middle Ages. The cathedral of Metz and Verdun which depended on the ecclesiastical province of Trier have the same party with the stacks of the nave uniformly quadrangular, the high arcades of framing in the western transept are probably inspired by those of the abbey of Limbourg -on-the-Hardt. Limburg was founded in 1025 by Conrad II and consecrated in 1042 and abandoned in 1504 following a fire. She imagines the Romanesque era and one can see influences from the building site of Strasbourg Cathedral and Merseburg . It is linked to Speyer Cathedral, also founded by Conrad II. These churches belong to the end of the Ottonian era under the Franconian dynasty .

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Some buildings in Alsace and Lorraine can be attached to this type of architecture as Surbourg remains almost intact but it is from the late eleventh century.

In the diocese of Utrecht appears around 1030 a small group of churches related to the bishop Bernulf with that of Saint Peter of Utrecht still preserved, the abbey of Saint-Liébuin de Deventer and the church of Emmerich am Rhein whose choir survives until 1944-45. The feature that unites these buildings is the shape of the choir that opens onto the square cross-shaped transept with a long, polygon-shaped, open-domed shrine built on a nearly-level crypt. This composition resembles the western choir of Heidelsheim .

The churches of the Cologne area are all late as St. George of Cologne consecrated in 1075 and they seem to have crystallized the novelties. In this group, the abbey Saint-Sauveur Susteren is well preserved and we can see the influence of the Essen , the same provisions also found at the church of Zyfflich.

The fashion of the clashed plans of Sainte-Marie-du-Capitole church half-destroyed in 1944-1945 and its imitation of Sainte-Marie de Brauviller will continue throughout the 13th century. St. George and St. Mary of the Capitol Church set the style of Romanesque Romanesque art.

The basilicas without transept
If in Northern art, the evolution since the Carolingian era seems to order around the cruciform basilica type, there exists in Ottonian art a certain number of churches without transept.

In the alpine regions of Switzerland and in southern Germany, the constructions depend on the first southern Romanesque art and have Lombard influences. The contact of Ottonian architecture brings to some modifications but some buildings do not depend in any way on southern art.

The St. Maurice Church of Amsoldingen is the most complete and best preserved. His Lombard affiliation is manifest. The Saint-Maurice church of Aime in Savoy is dated around 1020. The small church of Spiez is a reduction of Amsoldingen and that of Saint-Martin de Wimmis has exactly the same plan as Spiez. These churches belong entirely to the first Romanesque art.

In the Ottonian period two buildings without transept are very important, the St. Lucius Church in Essen-Werden and the more recent Helmstedt Abbey, inspired by Werden. Werden has a leading role in defining the Ottonian decorative style.

The basilica form without transept is in Ottonian Germany a typical secondary form.

Non-Basilical Parties
In Ottonian architecture, non-basilical parties are common. On a central plane they are cruciform, round, oval or polygonal, with rotundas with niches, collateral, octagonal with ambulatory and tribunes … The simplest form is the church-box with a single room with variants, rectangular choir little deep or a simple apse and different positions of the tower. Some churches offer at the meeting of four arms a higher space, dome or tower structure which gives them a character of edifice centered.

The western tower of the cathedral of Essen is an Ottonian adaptation of the palatine chapel of Aachen , revolutionary as the action of this work was great on the fate of Germanic architecture. The imitations and development of this imperial symbol powerfully contribute to the evolution of Ottonian architecture, but the variety of non-basilical church types shows that Ottonian architecture does not only come from Charlemagne but benefits from oriental or southern contributions.

The decrease and the elimination of this type of construction is linked to the liturgical evolutions, to the meeting of episcopal and abbatial groups in the same building, the fusion of the martyrium and its installation in crypts, the increase of the number of altars in radiant or oriented chapels and the development of interior circulations for processions.

Component Analysis

The nave
In the spatial composition of the nave, Ottonian architecture ignores the span. The walls of the churches around the year 1000 are inarticulate and the large arcades cut to the punch in solid walls. They can be grouped with a certain variety thanks to alternate supports but often the stands above the arcades do not take up the rhythm.

This refusal of the bay leads to a wide variety of media. The cruciform supports appear only at the junction of the arches of the cross of the transept or the fall of the diaphragm arches which share in two the length of the nave as at the Collegiate Sainte-Gertrude de Nivelles .

In the usual forms of Ottonian elevations, the party with rows of columns is historically of unquestionable importance, but there are also queues of quadrangular stacks.

The alternation of the supports of the nave can be described by the example of the Church of St. Michael Hildesheim where a series of the time of Bishop Bernward subsists. Between two square piles are installed two columns with smooth cubic capitals. The Church Saint-Cyriaque de Gernrode offers around 965 this same succession of supports. The stands and bays often repeat this same alternation. We can see a Byzantine influence.

The tribune
The ottonian tribune is only an interior space necessary for the assistance but it does not participate in the stability of the building which is ensured by the base of its walls. It is a formal element treated in different ways with a whole series of openings towards the nave.

The nave tribune frequent in France is rare in the Ottonian Empire. The only Saxon group is subject to its influence with St. Cyriac Church of Gernrode Gernrod where all the original elements exist, St. Mary of Münzenberg , Quedlinburg and St. Cross of Hildesheim .

The extraordinary stands of Saint-Michel de Hildesheim braces have certainly benefited from recent Byzantine influences. They served the choirs but also included altars as for high chapels.

The Western Massif
The western Ottonian massif originates from the central Carolingian westwerk, which is a raised platform on a single-storey crypt with the church floor and which serves as a gateway to the west. The platform contains an altar and serves as chapel see of parish church. It is surrounded on three sides by tribunes for assistance and is served by stairs incorporated into the mass of the building.

Western Ottoman massifs were found without the crypt around the year 1000 at the St. Pantaleon Church in Cologne and Münsteresfel in the same area. The massif of Saint-Pantaléon although strongly restored remains a masterpiece of architecture of the year 1000. The floor of the stands is preserved in the entirety of its ancient stone masonry alternately white and pink.

The evolution passes by massive without side stands, occupying the whole width of the building or reduced to a simple platform. The Westwerk at Essen Cathedral is a great adaptation that combines the stands, the tower, the idea of a palatine chapel and the counter-choir.

The choir
In Ottonian architecture, the choir and the crypt that is linked to it are characterized by a simplicity of plan or the absence of new plans and by a remarkable variety of elevation and staging. The designers of the Empire play on the staggering levels and ingenious communications between the parties. Crypts off-work show the desire to give a monumental value to what could be an annex.

In the important transept basilica of the paleochristian type, the sanctuary is equipped with a single apse with an extension compared to the Carolingian period . A large number have oriented chapels which remain separated from the axis of the building which is a characteristic of the Saxon bedside.

In the diocese of Utrecht triple choirs are surmounted by chapels or halls, which creates a complex system with the crypt whose floor level is only slightly lower than the choir. This generates a considerable elevation of the sanctuary where four levels communicate by landings and stairs.

Another form of tiered choir offers a sanctuary flanked at its junction with the transept of two towers bearing storey chapels communicating through bays with the interior of the church.

The crypt
In Ottonian art the crypts have a great interest in the conformation of the higher choirs but also by creations like the underground church of Speyer or the vast and beautiful series of horseshoe crypts built at the bedside. In the corridor crypts are annular crypts intended to serve a confession with relics and those with bent corridors. The ambulatory crypts are few in the Ottonian architecture and the most famous is that of Hildesheim which is barely buried with the ambulatory around a large crypt-hall.
The imperial crypts of Nivelles , Limburg and Speyer are grandiose works. That of Spire occupies the whole place under the immense transept of the cathedral and under its choir. Two stairs opening into the nave form the accesses.

The decor
In the Ottonian buildings, the carved decoration is little developed and this is due to the rigor and purity of architectural thought and a kind of geometric abstraction. We can see the abandonment of the Corinthian capital and the Carolingian capital and the creation of a geometric shaped capital adapted to its function. The simplified cubic form is the most common, although in Gernrode and Saint-Martin de Zyfflich there are capitals with masks and atlantes and capitals at the antique in Essen and in the crypt of Werden.

The polychrome decoration of the walls is accompanied by frescoes of which there are some examples at the Church of St. George of Oberzell in Reichenau . Despite the multiple degradations, the large panels preserved still give a precise idea of these monumental compositions with many characters. On both sides of the nave are scenes from the life of Christ found in the illuminations of Richenau with the same pictorial formulas, the same iconographic types and the remarkable artistic quality.

At the Saint-Michel Church in Hildesheim , Bishop Bernward has a bronze door made to confront Creation and original sin with the story of the Incarnation and Redemption, and a bronze column, a sort of triumphal monument to Christ.

The organization of volumes
The composition of the exterior masses in the solid Ottonian architecture is designed with a freedom of expression, a scale of dimensions only limited by the material means of the building site and the maximum range of the beams available.

It is in the composition of the external volumes that the most complete, the most varied and the richest monumental invention around the year 1000 is revealed. The axis tower of the Ottonian construction can be built on the transept crossing or on the western massif but also on the main choir at the eastern end of the church. The type of western massive at central tower is little used in the Ottonian period and one can put in this category the massif of the church Saint-Pantaléon of Cologne .

Everything happens in Ottonian architecture as if one were trying to accentuate the masses of buildings not in the middle with a tower on the cross but by the ends. The facade of Trier Cathedralis one of the most typical composition of masses. The two massive, square towers, planted on a huge basement are accompanied to the outside of the facade of two round turrets. It is the demonstration of the organization of space that is not a juxtaposition of the elements but the desire that each part be perceived independently in a complex uniting in a distinct way, the towers, the turrets, the apse and the entrance doors without sacrificing any of the liturgical functions or novelties such as the harmonic facade, the easy circulations to the church and the upper parts of the building.

This Ottonian art played a considerable role in the composition of the masses by means of towers. The two-headed compositions Speyer and Mainz persisted in Germany until the middle of xiii th century as in Naumburg or the Gothic cathedral of Magdeburg .

Ottonian inventions had a much wider impact than the Empire and especially throughout northern Europe during the Romanesque period and the founding of Gothic art . The facade of the Notre-Dame church of Jumièges Abbey in Normandy is so close to the Ottonian facades and the arrangements of the grandstand controlled by vast staircases provide further evidence of the historical importance of imperial architecture around the year millet.

Source From Wikipedia