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  4. Architecture Guide
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  6. Medieval

c. 1000 – 14th century
Western Europe

Influences: Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking including Norman and Romanesque heavy stone fortification architecture

The Middle Ages were marked by instability and violence in a strongly militarized Feudal society. Builders built seemingly impregnable structures of massive scale and simple geometry.

Romanesque France

In the Middle Ages between the 11th and 14th centuries, builders in Western Europe worked to recreate the engineering feats of their Roman predecessors with which they had since lost touch. The Romanesque style is characterized by simple construction, small windows, barrel-vaulted ceilings, rounded arches, and strong columns and buttresses. Late Romanesque began to apply quadripartite groin vaults, clerestory windows, and arcades.


  • Mont-St-Michel, Normandie: Benedictine monastery established in the 10th century
  • Caen, Normandie: Abbaye aux Hommes + Église St-Etienne; Abbaye aux Dames + La Trinité
  • Saverne, Grand-Est: Château du Haut-Barr; Marmoutier
  • Vézelay, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté: Ste-Madeleine
  • Cluny, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté: Ancienne Abbaye
  • Paray-le-Monial, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté: Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

Norman England

Austere and functional, sturdy Norman architecture was built to impress strength and dignity with simple geometry, groin vaults, small window openings, and massive walls.

Medieval Italy

Architecture in the Middle Ages developed during the rise in Venetian and Genovese trade routes, the development of Europe’s first university in Bologna, and later, the growth of Lombardy, Florence, and Naples—results of ongoing struggles between foreign invaders, popes, and emperors.


  • Venice: San Marco
  • Padua: Sant’Antonio
  • Pisa: Duomo
  • Puglia: Castel del Monte
  • Prato: Castello dell’Imperatore
  • Florence: Palazzo Vecchio
  • Siena: Palazzo Pubblico
  • Perugia, Umbria: Palazzo dei Priori

Medieval Fortification, Europe

Castles and cities created barriers built with thick stone walls for sheer strength and self-defense. Medieval features include crenelated curtain walls carved with battlements and arrow slits and projecting corner lookout towers.

Rumelihisarı or Boğazkesen Castle: Ottoman fortress