Comparison of Classical and Middle Ages Architecture

Humans have always needed basic shelter for survival, but the architecture that inspired the structure can be considered art. This paper will discuss the architecture art style from human history that compares both the Classical and Middle Ages architecture art style. The discussion will involve any social implications that might have influenced the building style and they type of style's that where used during these periods.

The first discussion leads down the road to the classical architecture time period, which dates from 850BC to around 476AD. Classical architecture style is mainly derived from the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Classical architecture style used by the Romans included using arches, improvements in the use of concrete and bricks. Classical Roman architecture employed the dome so they could build large public spaces with vaulted ceilings. One example of the classical use of arches and dome construction is the Pantheon. Large buildings where needed for public use due the high population of Rome. Romans wealth allowed gave them resources to build large buildings including bathhouses and aqueducts for their population. The use of architecture to build the aqueducts and sewage systems during this time period allowed Romans access to clean water for bathing, drinking, and waste removal. Romans used supporting arches in areas to support the aqueducts for water transport. Some residences at the time even had water delivered from those aqueducts. Romans who had more money could build bigger and more elaborate homes. Romans also used vaults in their building construction. One such type was the groin vault that was used in building the Baths of Caracalla. A groin vault is combining two semicircular barrel vaults of the same diameter that intersect at right angles.

The Pantheon was built in 126 AD as a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome (Moore, 1995). To this date, the dome of the Pantheon is one of the world's largest concrete dome that offers no reinforcement (Moore, 1995). Intersecting arches that run horizontally support Pantheon's dome (Moore, 1995). The Pantheon was used as a church and also holds several tombs of past kings of Italy. The use of these arches let the Romans support the large weight requirement for Pantheons dome and other large Classical icon like the Flavian Amphitheatre, better knows as The Colosseum (Fletcher, 2012).

The Roman Colosseum was built around 70 to 80 AD (Fletcher, 2012). The large structure made use of the arches to support the massive building, which is estimated to have held over 50,000 people (10 Top Tourist Attractions in Rome,' n.d.). The Colosseum was used for public gladiator battles, executions, and training. During the Middle ages it was later reused for housing and as a Christian shrine (10 Top Tourist Attractions in Rome,' n.d.). The Colosseum uses large arches to support multiple levels and the weight of the construction (Fletcher, 2012). It has four main levels with eighty arches in each level (Fletcher, 2012). The levels vary in height from thirty four to forty five feet tall. The arches can be seen all around the Colosseum (Fletcher, 2012). The arch is a crucial construction item. Each arch has two supports, called the piers. Each pier is topped by a platform called an impost. The arch is then constructed to connect the two imposts. A row of these arches is called an arcade. The Colosseum is one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions and is a great example in the use of arches and arcade design ('Roman Colosseum History,' n.d.).

In the ancient Roman era, housing played a large role in social status of the communities. The homeowners would use architecture style, material and construction methods to display their wealth by showcasing their homes. The wealthy Roman individuals would spend vast amounts of money and resources on major building projects. The Roman Empire was vast and the architecture style was widely used throughout Europe.

The second discussion leads to the Middle Ages architecture time period which dates range approximately from the 5h to 15th centuries. One of the Middle Ages era used a Romanesque style that included either round or slightly pointed arches, cruciform piers, and barrel or supporting vaults (Pevsner, 2009). The Gothic style of architecture emerged during the later part of the 12th century. The Gothic style implemented large use of glass, flying buttresses, clustered columns; sharply pointed spires, ribbed stoned walls, and pointed arches (Pevsner, 2009). Gothic designs let cathedrals of that time grow to taller building heights than ever before. The use of Gothic design during this time period lead to churches being taller and local regions began to build bigger churches. Churches during this time would compete to see who could build the bigger church.

Norman Romanesque architecture is a style of Romanesque architecture. One of the biggest visual aspects of the Norman Romanesque architecture is in its sheer bulk (Pevsner, 2009). Norman Romanesque architecture was larger, bigger, and demonstrated permanence versus the standard Romanesque style (Pevsner, 2009). The style used thick wall that measured up to 24 feet wide at the base. This gave the castles at the time the visual fortress presence. Piers where used to carry the weight of the buildings and barrel vaulted were the main choice of the builders. The windows where normally built small for two reasons. The first reason was for defensive in protecting the building and the second was to maintain wall strength. One famous example of Middle Ages architecture that employed a Norman Romanesque style was the construction of the Tower of London.

The Tower of London was an important building during the Middle Ages. William the Conqueror started the Tower of London after the Norman Conquest (Loftie, 2004). The Tower of London served as a castle fortress and arsenal, which allowed the Tower to protect the community of London (Loftie, 2004). The Tower also served as a symbol of royal authority and royal residence. The Tower of London was built around the White Tower and served as a gateway to the capital (Loftie, 2004). Other uses of the Tower of London included being used a prison. The Tower of London also served as the home of the Crown Jewels (Loftie, 2004). Kings such as William the Conqueror would wear the crown jewels to display their power and authority over their subjects.

The Tower of London and the Colosseum both make use of arches in their construction. The Colosseum employs eighty arch supports per level and the Tower of London uses arches in window construction and foundation support via arched columns. Both the Tower of London and the Colosseum are grand structures that displayed the wealth of the ruling authority at the time of their construction. The fall of the Roman Empire saw the unity of ancient Roman architecture erode.

The Romanesque style of the Middle Ages brought some of the Classical architecture into building construction of many churches and castles. The Romanesque style brought with it massive thick walls, small openings, flying buttresses, arches and large openings, piers, columns, and arcades (Fletcher, 2012). The Romans and Middle ages styles made use of the arch support in construction along with columns, and piers. Romanesque architecture also brought back the use of the groin vault as used in construction of the Basilica Palladiana in the 15th century. The Romans built the Baths of Caracalla in 126 AD also used this same type of vault.

The Colosseum and the Tower of London might have been built in different centuries, but they both hold historical significance today. They are both leading tourist attractions for people around the world. The Tower of London has been used for many purposes including holding official documents and since the 17th century, the Tower holds the Crown Jewels of the royal family in its fortress structure. The survival of the Tower of London is a showcase the legacy of the Romanesque architecture and the history of the royalty that lived within its walls. One of the Romanesque ideals was to compete with others to see who could build the biggest building. This competitive mentality still survives today in architecture.

Source: Essay UK -

Not what you're looking for?


About this resource

This Architecture essay was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.


No ratings yet!

  • Order a custom essay
  • Download this page
  • Print this page
  • Search again

Word count:

This page has approximately words.



If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

Essay UK, Comparison of Classical and Middle Ages Architecture. Available from: <> [22-03-18].

More information:

If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal:

Essay and dissertation help