A lighthearted look at the Romanesque

The 11th and 12th centuries were a busy time in the Pyrenees, people were building churches in every little valley and painting them from roof to doors with frescoes. That was a lot of work and a long time ago.

Time passed. At the beginning of the 20th century when museums were building their collections in the US, European art was considered essential because it showed a relationship with the Old World, an appreciation of high culture. In 1919, the rector of a small rural church in the Pyrenees with a very elaborate Romanesque fresco behind the altar sold it. After passing through a few hands it arrived at the MFA Boston in 1921 (MFA paid $92,500–how much of that do you figure the rector got?….). For more:


frescoGreat publicity ensued and the Spanish in Catalonia got wind of the fact that the artwork in these remote and sometimes abandoned churches was prized elsewhere. As a result, the regional government purchased the interiors of 19 rural churches, removed the frescoes and brought them to Barcelona, to the Museu Nacional del Arte de Catalunya. The galleries have dimensions, apses and niches that allow the frescoes to be shown in positions similar to their original location. The video showing how the frescoes were removed is cringe-worthy today because conservation standards have changed. There were no cotton gloves, no careful peeling of the fresco. There’s some chiseling, and some flapping of frescoes, but they made it and are still around. Here are some of my favorites. WITH APOLOGIES TO THE HISTORY OF ART.

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It was tough to be alive in the 11th century. People had been embarrassed since the days of Adam and Eve.







It was difficult to make it to adulthood. If you were a bad child, punishment was severe.

Into the pot with you, bad children!



Sometimes the stress of life gave a person tremendous aches and pains:

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Medical care was very haphazard. Take surgery, for example. Sometimes, the doctors weren’t even sure where to start.

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Don’t get me started about old age! The treatment for macular degeneration, well, the odds were against a cure:

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Religion was a real force in the world, and people were watching you all the time.

10.23.15 MNAC visit 2 Romanesque-003smFortunately, there was help:


Don’t worry apostles, the Power Puff girls are coming! (Same eyes)



To see all 19 galleries of Romanesque frescoes in Barcelona, visit the MNAC.



Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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