The Romanesque
Between good and evil
St. Jakob Church
Behold, a throne was set in heaven,
[…] and there was a rainbow round about the throne
[…] and in the midst of the throne,
were four beasts […] And the
four beasts had each of them six wings about him;
and they were full of eyes within:
and they rest not day and night, saying,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
which was, and is,
and is to come. (Revelation 4:1-8)

What may sound like the script of a new Hollywood blockbuster by Steven Spielberg is in fact an excerpt from the New Testament describing the Romanesque era. This epoch can be roughly dated between the year 950 and the middle of the 13th century.

The Romanesque style is austere, often monumental and hierarchical. Architecture and the cosmos of images are designed like a shrine, painting underscores the architecture and develops from the base to the vault, depending on the importance of what is depicted. The sanctum with the apsidal zone, the triumphal arch and the rare choir vaults is the most important of all the holy furnishings. Characteristic forms and paintings in architecture are therefore not necessarily that which distinguish the Romanesque style. The decisive factor is their basic theological idea, which runs as a central theme through Romanesque art, irrespective of the dates. This world view that is more than just a style: it is a spiritual idea that becomes a building, a painting or a sculpture.

In the churches, there are mythical creatures, mermaids, centaurs and column-eating demons, that, according to the world view of the time, populated the fringe zones of the flat earth disk. These fabulous beings illustrated the contradiction between divine order and chaos. During this time period, the painters of such scenes were not perceived to be artists. They were instead unknown craftsman in the service of a higher purpose, who created and illustrated the theological cosmos for their audience.