With origins stretching back to the Middle Ages, Romanesque architecture is one of the oldest forms of architecture in the world. Although it has certainly endured for a long time, Romanesque architecture is not particularly prominent in the U.S. In fact, it has been estimated that less than 1 percent of all homes and buildings in Massachusetts are designed in the Romanesque style. However, if you are interested in purchasing a Romanesque house, or if you just want to learn more about this type of architecture, Boston City Properties is happy to help. Read on to learn more about what this enduring architectural style is all about.
The most prominent features of Romanesque architecture arose out of pure necessity. In particular, these homes and buildings tend to have very thick walls, as builders of the day lacked the technical know-how to construct buildings with thinner walls. As a result, these buildings tend to be quite dark inside, as windows are usually small and, of course, deep. Not surprisingly, modern people tend to prefer homes that allow in a lot of natural light, so this type of architecture isn't very practical for many folks.
This isn't to say that Romanesque architecture is plain or bland. In fact, many Romanesque buildings are downright beautiful, and there are a few prominent examples in New England and Massachusetts. Here's a quick rundown of the most common features of the Romanesque style, which enjoyed a revival of sort s during the 19th century:
• Thick walls - As mentioned previously, walls in these homes and buildings are very thick, as that was basically the only way that builders could construct them in the old days. These walls aren't necessarily solid all the way through, however. Most often, these buildings have double-layer walls. Between the two layers, builders usually poured broken up rocks and other debris to help insulate the building more. Compared with modern insulation techniques, however, this wasn't especially effective.
• Towers - Buildings in the Romanesque style usually have at least one prominent tower. Needless to say, this is especially true regarding churches and cathedrals. However, towers are found on many other types of Romanesque structures--even on some homes.
• Pillars - You would be hard-pressed to find a true Romanesque home or building that didn't feature at least a few prominent pillars. On these structures, you will often find pillars both inside and outside.
• Arches - One of the most noticeable things about Romanesque architecture is the fixation on arches. Doors are often shaped like arches, and entryways are almost always semi-circular in shape. Many times, there are even arches just for the sake of decoration. Arches often coordinate with other arches, creating a beautiful effect from afar.
• Flat buttresses - You won't find protruding buttresses in the typical Romanesque building.
• Outdoor staircases - Romanesque buildings that were constructed in ancient times almost always had outdoor staircases leading to upper floors. This is no longer a strict necessity, but newer homes that are designed in this style still usually have at least one outdoor staircase.
• Symmetry - Romanesque buildings are usually nicely balanced and follow the rules of symmetry. As a result, if one end of the building has a tower or other feature, the other end is likely to mirror it.
• Decorative arcading - Arches are so prominently used in Romanesque architecture that they are often put together to create arcades within buildings. This has the effect of really opening up a space and making it look larger than it really is.
• Simplicity - Generally speaking, the Romanesque style is one of simplicity. Arches and towers aside, these buildings tend to be quite austere.
The Romanesque style is mostly a combination of ancient Byzantine and Roman styles. The design fell out of favor for many centuries, but interest in it was renewed during the 19th century. This is when the Romanesque revival occurred. Most buildings that you find in this style in New England were constructed during the 19th century.
Although it isn't easy to find examples of Romanesque architecture in greater Boston, there are a few gems. Most notable among them is Trinity Church in Copley Square, which is located in Back Bay. In fact, this building is credited with prompting the development of what is known as Richardsonian Romanesque architecture, as the primary architect of the church, Henry Hobson Richardson, went on to employ the style elsewhere. He also inspired many others to follow his lead. If you are lucky enough to visit Trinity Church, you will find a building that is resplendent with huge towers, heavy arches and other standard Romanesque features.
There are a few other notable examples of Romanesque architecture in Massachusetts. Warren Public Library and High Rock Tower Reservation are just a few. As you can see, however, there aren't really any prominent private homes that feature this style. Buildings like these need to be fairly large to incorporate the necessary features, like arcades, and most homes simply aren't that big. Some mansions feature Romanesque styling, but you won't find any in greater Boston.
The Romanesque revival didn't last for very long, which is another reason why it is so difficult to find good examples of it around New England. Most of Boston and other heavily populated areas in New England were largely developed long before the revival began, so there weren't many opportunities to incorporate it into the landscape. You are more likely to find great examples of this architectural style in newer communities in the country, like those that are found out west.
While there is a lot to love about Romanesque architecture, the truth is that it doesn't have much of a place in modern residential home design. Most people don't want the walls of their homes to be exceedingly thick. Most folks prefer homes with large, airy windows. Further, features like arches, towers and arcades are nice, but they aren't very practical additions to a home.
These days, the best way to end up with a great Romanesque home is by designing and building it yourself. If you want to own a home like this, you are probably out of luck in greater Boston. However, if you are merely looking for a home that incorporates certain Romanesque elements, you will probably have more options at your disposal. For example, it is much easier to find newer homes with thinner walls and arches, towers and other elements.
So, would you like to buy a home somewhere in Massachusetts that is at least inspired by the Romanesque style? Boston City Properties is here to lend a hand. Our powerful database of constantly updated MA real estate listings is up and running. Access it right away--and for free--by completing and submitting a simple form. You can then search for homes in neighborhoods, towns and cities across Massachusetts. Use filters to limit your search to homes that meet your criteria. Later, we'll put you in touch with a local real estate expert who may even be able to help you find Romanesque-inspired homes in the area of your choosing.