Style History- Carolingian architecture

28 May

Carolingian architecture is the style of north European architecture belonging to the period of the Carolingian Renaissance of the late 8th and 9th centuries when the Carolingian family dominated west European politics. It was a conscious attempt to emulate Roman architecture and to that end it borrowed heavily from Early Christian and Byzantine architecture, though there are nonetheless innovations of its own, resulting in a unique character.

The gatehouse of the monastery at Lorsch, built around 800, exemplifies classical inspiration for Carolingian architecture, built as a triple arched hall, with the arched facade interspersed with attached classical columns and pilasters above.

Palatine Chapel in AachenThe Palatine Chapel in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) constructed between 792 – 805 was inspired by the octagonal Justinian church of San Vitale in Ravenna, built in the 6th century, but at Aachen there is a tall monumental western entrance complex, as a whole called westwork – something initiated in Carolingian times.


Carolingian churches generally are basilican, like the Early Christian churches of Rome, and commonly incorporated westwork, which is arguably the precedent for the western facades of later medieval cathedrals. Original westwork survives today at the Abbey of Corvey, built in 885.

Conant, K. J. (1978) Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture 800-1200
Pevsner, N. (1963) An Outline of European Architecture.

Lorsch Abbey, gateway, (c.800) Palatine Chapel in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) (792-805)  
Einhard’s Basilica, Steinbach (827) Saint Justinus’ church, Frankfurt-Höchst (830)  
Abbey of Corvey (885) St. George, Oberzell in Reichenau Island (888)

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