When Constantine establishes Christian churches as publi buildings, in the 4th century AD, the basilica is the natural form for any such place of gathering; and the apse is ready made for the altar. The three great churches founded by Constantine in Rome are all basilicas. Carolingian society was Church-ridden clerial. Its constructive cleverness showed best in religious architecture. The new church form, mobilized by Frankish patrons and architects was to preempt the built environment of the later Middle Ages in the Westland stand for the chief rallying point of the social life in Europe. In reality, the passage form Carolingian to Romanesque was neither smooth nor uninterrupted. The story of architecture in the eleventh century, then, is much more than the rise and triumph of the Romanesque church. Inns, hospices, rural enclaves, roads, bridges, castles- all these should have their place in the story.
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of medieval Europe characterized by semi-circular arches. In the Romanesque term(9th – 12th century), it has become applied by extension to other arts, in particular sculpture. But the term remains most appropriate to architecture, where the round arches of Romanesque can easily be seen as what the name implies – a continuation of the Roman tradition. As a body of knowledge was eventually re-developed, buildings became larger and more imposing. Examples of Romanesque cathedrals from the early Middle Ages are solid, massive, impressive churches that are often still the largest structure in many towns. The arches that define the naves of these churches are well modulated and geometrically logical—with one look you can see the repeating shapes, and proportions that make sense for an immense and weighty structure. There is a large arcade on the ground level made up of bulky piers or columns. The decoration is often quite simple, using geometric shapes rather than floral or curvilinear patterns. Common shapes used include diapers—squares or lozenges—and chevrons, which were zigzag patterns and shapes.
Romanesque churches were dark. This was in large part because of the use of stone barrel-vault construction. This system provided excellent acoustics and reduced fire danger. However, a barrel vault exerts continuous lateral (outward pressure) all along the walls that support the vault. This meant the outer walls of the church had to be extra thick. It also meant that windows had to be small and few. When builders dared to pierce walls with additional or larger windows they risked structural failure. Churches did collapse.
Later, with the architectural developments, Gothic architecture evolved from Romanesque architecture. several significant cathedrals and churches were built, particularly in Britain and France, offering architects and masons a chance to work out ever more complex and daring designs. The most fundamental element of the Gothic style of architecture is the pointed arch, which was seen from Islamic architecture. The pointed arch relieved some of the thrust, and therefore, the stress on other structural elements. It then became possible to reduce the size of the columns or piers that supported the arch. The slender columns and lighter systems of thrust allowed for larger windows and more light.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is probably the finest example of French Gothic architecture. It employs all the structural elements of the new Gothic architecture: the pointed arch; the rib-and-panel vault; and, most significantly, the flying buttress. Its spiritual intensity is heightened by the fact that no direct light enters the building. All the light is filtered through stained glass.