Romanesque art in Western Europe was popular from about 800 A.D. to the 1100s. The name Romanesque indicates a style like that of the ancient Romans. That description is not entirely accurate, however, since Roman art was only one of many sources that inspired this period.

Romanesque art reflected the political and religious climate of the times. Europe was in upheaval, both from invading tribes and among the religions of the time: Catholicism, the Russian Orthodox Church, and Islam. Romanesque buildings had to be designed for defense, so cathedrals were massive in size.

Romanesque cathedrals were also built in the shape of a Latin cross. They were decorated with stone sculptures depicting Biblical scenes. The walls portrayed religious subjects and were painted in fresco, a durable style of painting done on wet plaster.

Most Romanesque painting took the form of church murals and illuminated manuscripts, or books. There are few Romanesque murals left, since they suffered from fading, damp air, dirt and bad restoration. And as people’s tastes changed, they scraped away or replaced old murals with new works. Most of the murals that have survived over the centuries are only fragments.

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