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ROMANESQUE ARCHITECTURE IN SPAIN

"Romanesque" was first applied by the archaeologist Charles de Gerville or his associate Arcisse de Caumont, in the early 19th century, to describe Western European architecture from the 5th to the 13th centuries, at a time when the actual dates of many of the buildings so described had not been ascertained. The term is now used for the more restricted period from the late 10th to the 12th century. The word was used to describe the style which was identifiably Medieval and prefigured the Gothic, yet maintained the rounded Roman arch and thus appeared to be a continuation of the Roman tradition of building, albeit a much simplified and less technically competent version.

The term "Pre-romanesque" is sometimes applied to architecture in Germany of the Carolingian and Ottonian periods while "First Romanesque" is applied to buildings in Italy, Spain and parts of France that have Romanesque features but pre-date the influence of the monastery of Cluny.

Romanesque first developed in Spain in the 10th and 11th centuries, before Cluny`s influence, in Lérida, Barcelona, Tarragona and Huesca and in the Pyrenees, simultaneously with the north of Italy, as what is called "First Romanesque" or "Lombard Romanesque". It is a very primitive style, whose characteristics are thick walls, lack of sculpture and the presence of rhythmic ornamental arches, typified by the churches in the Valle de Bohí.

The full Romanesque architecture arrived with the influence of Cluny through the Way of Saint James, that ends in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The model of the Spanish Romanesque in the 12th century was the Cathedral of Jaca, with its characteristic plan and apse, and its "chessboard" decoration in stripes, called taqueado jaqués. As the Christian Kingdoms advanced southwards, this model spread throughout the reconquered areas with some variations. Spanish Romanesque also shows the influence of Spanish pre-Romanesque styles, mainly Asturian and Mozarabic. But there is also a strong Moorish influence, especially the vaults of Córdoba's Mosque, and the multifoil arches. In the 13th century, some churches alternated in style between Romanesque and Gothic. Aragón, Navarra and Castile-Leon are some of the best areas for Spanish Romanesque architecture.

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