Romanesque Revival architecture

Romanesque Revival architecture
The Dekum Building, in Portland, Oregon.

Romanesque Revival (or Neo-Romanesque) is a style of building employed beginning in the mid 19th century[1] inspired by the 11th and 12th century Romanesque architecture. Unlike the historic Romanesque style, however, Romanesque Revival buildings tended to feature more simplified arches and windows than their historic counterparts.

An early variety of Romanesque revival style known as Rundbogenstil ("Round-arched style") was popular in German lands[2] and in the German diaspora beginning in the 1830s. By far the most prominent and influential American architect working in a free "Romanesque" manner was Henry Hobson Richardson. In the United States, the style derived from examples set by him are termed Richardsonian Romanesque, of which not all are Romanesque revival.[3]



Popular features of these revival buildings are round arches, semi-circular arches on windows, and belt courses.

Like its influencing Romanesque style, the Romanesque Revival Style was widely used for churches, and occasionally for synagogues such as the Congregation Emanu-El of New York on Fifth Avenue built in 1929.[4] During the 19th century the architecture selected for Anglican churches depended on the churchmanship of particular congregations. Whereas high churches and Anglo-Catholic, which were influenced by the Oxford Movement, were built in Gothic Revival architecture, low churches and broad churches of the period were often built in the Romanesque Revival style.

The style was quite popular for university campuses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially in the United States and Canada; well known examples can be found at the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Southern California, University of Denver, and the University of Toronto.

Examples in Canada

Arches at main entrance to old city hall in Toronto

University College, one of seven colleges at the University of Toronto, is a chief example of the Romanesque Revival Style. The building, designed by Frederic Cumberland and William G. Storm, was initially intended to be Gothic in style but was rejected by the governor general.[5] Construction of the final design began on 4 October 1856.[6] The facade of University College has thick masonry walls, incorporating layers of both stone and brick. The building possesses a number of round arches characteristic of the Roman Revival Style. The arches are configured in arcades, most notably on the south side of the building. There is a great deal of ornamentation on both the interior and exterior of University College. The main doors of the building are prominent examples of the heavy ornamentation used by Cumberland and Storm. The entrance is elaborate in its decoration with columns on either side of the doors and intricate patterns carved into stone. The rugged Romanesque Revival building was declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1968.[7]

A prime example of the Romanesque Revival Style is the Old City Hall built in Toronto from 1889 to 18 September 1899, designed by Edward James Lennox.[8] Its exterior walls built with intricate detail such as the caricatures of politicians are carved above the columns at the entrance and even the doorknobs have the city’s old coat of arms on them.[9] A very noticeable feature is the clock tower standing 103.6 meters high, one of the most prominent parts of this tower is how there are four gargoyles placed on the four corners of the tower.[10] The gargoyles originally were made from limestone but they were replaced by bronze sculptures after a part of the stone gargoyle broke off and fell into the attic below in 1938.[11] The simple yet elaborate arches over the entrances, the corner pavilions and the intricate designs on the walls and entrances are all examples of some of the different elements of the Romanesque Revival Style that are commonly used. Another indication of the Romanesque Revival Style is the usage of the square shape in the design and the how it almost seems caste-like especially just with the fact of how extremely large and tall everything is, giving it a grand-like feeling. The use of the different sandstones along with the change of colors between red and brown create an interesting contrast and gives the entire building a very ‘rugged’ look.

Examples in the United States


  1. ^ Whiffen, Marcus, ‘’American Architecture Since 1780: A guide to the styles’’, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1969 p. 61
  2. ^ Fleming, Honour and Pevsner, ‘’The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture,’’ Penguin Books, Middlesex, England, 1983
  3. ^ Wilson, Richard Guy (2002). Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont. Oxford University Press. pp. 524–525. 
  4. ^ Stern, Gilmartin and Mellins, ‘’New York 1930: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Two World Wars’’, Rizzoli International Publications, New York, 1987 p. 161
  5. ^ Jones, Donald. "Building University College Tested John Langton's Skill." Toronto Star, 1 October 1983: G20
  6. ^ Richards, Larry. The Campus Guide: University of Toronto. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2009 p. 45
  7. ^ "Restoration and Renovation: University College, Toronto." Canadian Architect 25 (April 1980): 16–19
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^

See also

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