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Medieval architecture can generally be divided into two types and two styles. The two types refer to the main purpose of the building, either religious or military, while the two styles, Romanesque and Gothic, were chronological developments.
Medieval Architecture has the following divisions:
- Religious architecture
- Romanesque religious style
- Gothic religious style
- Military architecture
- Romanesque military style
- Gothic military style
Medieval Architecture and Religion
Like much else in the Middle Ages, religion dominates the architecture of the time. Churches and cathedrals were constructed largely on a cross-like floor plan. The earlier constructed churches were modeled after the Roman basilica. These buildings had a central nave, which ended at a raised apse. The churches also had a transept intersecting the nave past the halfway point in order to complete the cross shape.
Medieval architects borrowed heavily from the construction of the Roman Empire. The use of arches and barrel vaults, copied from the Romans, is known as Romanesque architecture, and was prevalent during the 11th and 12th centuries. By the end of the 12th century, a new cathedral building style began in France, and quickly spread across Europe. This was Gothic Architecture, with lighter and higher walls that incorporated magnificent stained glass windows. Arches became pointed, and flying buttresses spread the weight load in order to allow for high vaulted roofs.
Medieval secular architecture can be seen in the many castles and fortifications that remain. These buildings were defensive in nature, with thick stone walls and narrow windows, or roof crenellations, which would allow archers to fire arrows.