Cain, Cashion Alexander (2016-11). Defining Romanesque Architecture as Exemplified by Durham Cathedral, England. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • Architects are often concerned with elements of structure and their relationship to the spaces they create. In this study I use case-control and observational study of two preexisting styles of architecture: Romanesque and Gothic. Combining analysis of the buildings with numerical coding of five particular architectural elements allowed the researcher to make conclusions about the identification of Durham Cathedral in Durham, England as a Romanesque church. Using S. Ambrogio in Milan, Italy, Speyer Cathedral in Speyer, Germany, St. Etienne in Caen, France, and St. Denis in Paris, France, I provide a set of case studies to compare and contrast the qualities of Romanesque and Early-Gothic architecture. When compared to an analysis of Durham Cathedral, these case studies provide evidence for the classification of Durham Cathedral as Romanesque but fail to completely support this classification. With an analysis of the buildings in question, architects have come to the general conclusion that these case studies, with the exception of St. Denis, exhibit mostly Romanesque traits. St. Denis, considered the first of the Gothic churches, is seen as a turning point for architectural development. This church represents the first examples in which High Romanesque became the Early Gothic through the development of new construction techniques and evolving ideals in architectural design. When comparing the system of vertical load-bearing members supporting the case studies it becomes evident that the Romanesque churches rely on heavy piers and large columns to support the weight of high vaults and ceilings. In contrast, St. Denis relies on thin walls and columns combined with large buttressing to achieve similar support. Comparing the vaults of these case studies, evidence supports the conclusion that earlier vaults lacked proper construction to use ribs as structural load-bearing members. In applying quantitative values to five particular architectural elements, this study provides evidence to support the conclusion that Durham exhibits both the traits of Romanesque and Proto-Gothic architectural developments.

publication date

  • November 2016