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St Sernin Church

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St Sernin Church

The Basilica of Saint Sernin in Toulouse, France was constructed between 1070 and 1120 and attracted many pilgrims on the route to Santiago de Compostela in the early 11th century. The Basilica that is remarkable for its architecture and important medieval sculptures was dedicated to the first bishop of Toulouse, Saturninus, who in 250AD was dragged through streets because he refused to worship pagan gods. St. Sernin is the largest Romanesque church in Europe and it reflects the religious traditions and spiritual symbols of its time.
Devout Christians would undertake long pilgrimages in order to visit and venerate the relics of saints and martyrs. These large numbers of people traveling created standard routes from one monastery to another also known as "Pilgrimage Roads". The pilgrims believed that taking journeys to visit these sites would act as a penitence or honor for them. The St Sernin monastery was a wonderful choice for those who could not travel to Jerusalem or Rome. The monastery also housed the relics of saints, donated by the Charlemagne. It became a major cultural factor of the Romanesque period that each chapel would have different relics funded by wealthy donors
To accommodate the large number of visitors, the churches changed their designs. The Romanesque style concentrated mainly on achieving massive proportions, rounded vaulted bays, the round arch, the wall buttress, cylindrical apse and chapels, and towers. With double aisles and with an aisled transept and an ambulatory surrounding the apse, pilgrims could make the circuit around the church and were able to stop for meditation and prayer at the apsidal chapels

off the transept. Another feature of Romanesque churches is the addition of “radiating chapels”, chapels that "radiate" or project like the spokes of a wheel from the ambulatory. There are also important pieces of Romanesque sculpture inside of the ambulatory wall. Created by Bernardus Gelduinus, there are seven marble reliefs. The figures are nearly life sized and carved in fine grained marble. This style came from the Carolingian or Ottonian metal work or ivory. These reliefs include three pairs of singles figures and a Christ in Majesty. The flanking panels depict a cherub and a seraph and the remainder contains two apostles and two angels. The signs of the Four Evangelists occupy the slab’s corners. Above are the eagle of Saint John and the angel of Saint Matthew. Below are the ox of Saint Luke and the lion of Saint Mar. Showing the apostles, prophets and Christ too in the body, they proclaimed that the Word was made flesh, that he had lived among men. The Romanesque artists also expresses themselves through carving of doors, the revival of stone carving came from the remains of ancient statues from Rome. As a result, the tendency to create relief carvings increased. Romanesque sculpture developed as decorations in these pilgrimage churches and is characterized by its highly stylized depictions of natural forms, it is not only confined to the portals, but also appears in delightful variety in church capitals and in cloister walks. St Sernin is decorated with frescoes that include a Resurrection of Christ in five scenes (on the west wall), an angel seated on clouds and a Noli Me Tangere (on the pillars next to the nave aisle), and other fragments.

The Romanesque is marked by the proliferation of distinct geometric units demarcating the main functional elements of the plan and elevation. The floor plan of the basilica is a Latin cross with clearly defined parts, a long nave, wide transept, and double side aisles. The basilica plan was modified for large crowds, thanks to its grand dimensions and soft lighting; the interior has a spacious and tranquil atmosphere. Fine views of the architecture can be enjoyed diagonally across the nave from the side aisles. This work characterized the Romanesque architecture, beneath the timber and tile of Saint-Sernin’s exterior, like that of most Romanesque churches in France, were stone vaults. Saint-Sernin nave vault is a banded barrel. The church elevation weaves vaults together, lower ones supporting the uppermost. Here groin vaults (marked by crossing groins, on the plan) on the outer side aisles buttress the inner aisleπs second-story tribune, where doubled groin vaults (over the two stories) buttress the barrel of the nave. All the vaults are coordinated with bay module and marked on the piers with moldings that diagram their interconnections. Engaged columns depict this interconnection on the bodies of the compound piers. Each bay is marked on the barrel vault by a decorative transverse arch. Early Romanesque ceilings and roofs were often made of wood, as if the architects had not quite understood how to span the two sides of the building using stone, which created outward thrust and stresses on the side walls. The Basilica of St Sernin reflects the characteristics of the Romanesque style that shows influence of Carolingian, Byzantine and Islamic architecture like the use of tile work, geometric patterns and multiple arches.

Works Cited
Kleiner, F. S. (2008). Gardner's Art throught the Ages: The Western Perspective . Boston, MA: Clark Baxter.
Site Officiel de la Basilique Saint-Sernin de Tolouse . (n.d.). Retrieved 22 November , 2013, from http://www.basilique-st-sernin-toulouse.fr/…...

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