Visigoth art

Visigothic art: The Visigoths were present in Spain at the beginning of the 5th century , although they did not fully consolidate their status as rulers of the Spanish-Visigothic kingdom until a century later.


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  • 1 Origin and characteristics of Visigothic art
  • 2 Visigothic architecture
  • 3 Characteristics of Visigothic building art.
  • 4 Sources

Origin and characteristics of Visigothic art

Pre-Romanesque art is defined as the diverse succession and conglomerate of artistic styles in Western Europe since the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the emergence of the Romanesque as European unifying art.

Therefore the term “pre-Romanesque” encompasses arts as diverse as the Ostrogoth, the Irish, the Anglo-Saxon, the Merovingian, the Carolingian, the Ottonian, the Visigothic or Visigothic, the Asturian, etc.

The artistic manifestations of this Germanic people settled in the Iberian Peninsula , especially those of an architectural nature, did not fully occur until well into the 7th century , and it is possible to speak from this moment and with the property of Visigothic art.

For this reason, in the European context and in the Spanish one in particular, pre-Romanesque art should basically be considered as a stage or period between two great artistic and cultural moments (Roman and Romanesque) and not a specific and defined “historical style”.

Two styles within the European pre-Romanesque essentially influence the birth of the Romanesque. These are Carolingian and Ottonian .

Visigothic architecture

From the 6th century almost only the small church of San Cugat del Vallés , in Barcelona , should be mentioned . Although very deteriorated, it shows a single nave plan that ends in an apse. From the following century are those of San Pedro de la Nave, San Juan de Baños, Quintanilla de las Viñas, whose outline will be repeated later in other later temples belonging to the “repopulation style” (misnamed ” Mozarabic Art “), such as, for example, the church of San Cebrián de Mazote (Valladolid), the Monastery of San Miguel de Escalada (León), the church of Santiago de Peñalbal (León), in Asturian pre-Romanesque and the Zamorano Romanesque. Otherwise, at this time the early Christian tradition is followed in religious architecture.
There are not many Visigothic constructions that remain, and practically none of them that could be counted among the great achievements in metropolitan areas such as Toledo, Seville or Mérida (Spain. Those that have arrived until today are, generally, hermitages or rural temples of second category.

Its religious architecture was characterized by a rectangular main chapel, with two sacristies, prosthetics and diakonikón, on both sides, separated from each other. A gate or iconostasis in front of the presbytery, ornate. Sculptural decoration to the facades, horseshoe arch in the external access.

Arch-lintel combination in the interior, characteristic of Hispanic architecture from the Arab to the Gothic period. The most important basilicas are that of San Juan de Baños (Palencia), consecrated by Recesvinto in 661; Santa Comba de Banda (Orense), from the end of VII; San Pedro de la Nave (Zamora) and Quintanilla de las Viñas (Burgos). The only sculpture in pre-Romanesque Europe was the Visigoth. His sculpture and painting were ornamental decorations in reliefs and capitals, made with a rough, bevelled and highly calligraphic technique. The painting, decoration of codices, among which stands out the disputed Pentateuch of Ashburham (National Library, Paris).

The most outstanding sculptural works are San Pedro de la Nave and Quintanilla de las Viñas. Goldsmithing was one of the inclinations of the Visigothic people. The most outstanding of this art is that of King Recesvinto (National Archaeological Museum, Madrid), which was part of the treasure of Guarrazar (Toledo)

Characteristics of Visigothic building art.

  • Preferably basilica or Greek cross plan, and sometimes a conjunction of both provisions. Very compartmentalized spaces.
    • Rectangular apse to the outside. On each side there could be an enclosure for a sacristy (prosthetics and diakonikon). The chapel was separated from the rest of the temple by an iconostasis.
    • Horseshoe arch generally without key, with vertical tradós in the banked area, 1/3 elevation, and salmer and first voussoirs with horizontal planes.
    • Use of columns and pillars as supports. Very simple Corinthian capitals or inverted frusto-conical ones, with thick peaks that anchor in the walls.
    • Covering using barrel or groin vaults, as well as domes on the cruises.
    • Ashlar walls formed by large prismatic blocks rigged with rope and dry blight (more gothico), occasionally alternating with brick in the Roman way.
    • Decoration based on scrolling friezes, swastikas and plant and animal themes.
    • Small porticos on the feet or on the sides.
    The most representative buildings include the following:
    • Church of San Pedro de la Nave in San Pedro de la Nave-Almendra (Zamora);
    • Church of Santa Comba de Bande (Orense);
    • Church of San Juan de Baños de Cerrato (Palencia);
    • Crypt of San Antolín in the cathedral of Palencia (Palencia);
    • Church of San Pedro de la Mata de Sonseca (Toledo);
    • Hermitage of Santa María de Quintanilla de las Viñas (Burgos).


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