Alpine Road of Romanesque Art
Follow in the footsteps of the Alpine Road of Romanesque Art
Marienberg monastery
St. Stephen castle chapel
St. Benedict Church
St. Sisinius Church
St. Margareth Church
St. Benedict Church
St. Stephen castle chapel
St. Stephen castle chapel
Schloss Tirol castle
St. Jakob Church
St. Kathrein Church
Marienberg monastery
St. Kathrein Church

Following in the footsteps of the Romanesque

A journey through time into the world of column-eating demons and mermaids

In Romanesque churches, there are mythical creatures, mermaids, centaurs and column-eating demons. But what are these figures doing in churches? Follow in the footsteps of the "Alpine Road of Romanesque Art - Stairway to Heaven" in South Tyrol and the Canton of Grisons (CH) and learn more about this fabulous epoch. A journey in the footsteps of the Romanesque inevitably leads its visitors to unknown and hidden corners of South Tyrol. If you are interested in visiting places that have not yet been explored on TripAdvisor, a tour of discovery to South Tyrol’s Romanesque cultural sites is highly recommended.
The Romanesque

Between good and evil

Behold, a throne was set in heaven,
[…] and there was a rainbow round about the throne
[…] and in the midst of the throne,
were four beasts […] And the
four beasts had each of them six wings about him;
and they were full of eyes within:
and they rest not day and night, saying,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,
which was, and is,
and is to come. (Revelation 4:1-8)


What may sound like the script of a new Hollywood blockbuster by Steven Spielberg is in fact an excerpt from the New Testament describing the Romanesque era. This epoch can be roughly dated between the year 950 and the middle of the 13th century.

The Romanesque style is austere, often monumental and hierarchical. Architecture and the cosmos of images are designed like a shrine, painting underscores the architecture and develops from the base to the vault, depending on the importance of what is depicted. The sanctum with the apsidal zone, the triumphal arch and the rare choir vaults is the most important of all the holy furnishings. Characteristic forms and paintings in architecture are therefore not necessarily that which distinguish the Romanesque style. The decisive factor is their basic theological idea, which runs as a central theme through Romanesque art, irrespective of the dates. This world view that is more than just a style: it is a spiritual idea that becomes a building, a painting or a sculpture.

In the churches, there are mythical creatures, mermaids, centaurs and column-eating demons, that, according to the world view of the time, populated the fringe zones of the flat earth disk. These fabulous beings illustrated the contradiction between divine order and chaos. During this time period, the painters of such scenes were not perceived to be artists. They were instead unknown craftsman in the service of a higher purpose, who created and illustrated the theological cosmos for their audience.
The project

Alpine Road of Romanesque Art

“Alpine Road of Romanesque Art - Stairway to Heaven" is a transnational project (South Tyrol and the Canton of Grisons) that focuses on cultural-historical Romanesque sites such as forts, castles, churches, chapels, picturesque villages and medieval towns in different cultural and natural landscapes. The Alpine Road of Romanesque Art focuses on both small and unknown, as well as large well-known cultural sites such as Schloss Tirol castle, St. Johann in Müstair monastery and the Benedictine Abbey of Monte Maria/Marienberg. Currently, the network, consisting of 25 partner sites, unites Romanesque culture and art with their symbols and characteristic building elements.

The arch is generally symbolic of Romanesque art. Ancient Roman architecture already used and perfected this form: the wedge-shaped stones are placed radially against each other, the keystone at the apex of the arch stabilises the form, the weight of the stones and the loads above them are directed downwards over the semicircle, so that the arch can withstand high loads.

The Romanesque style is based on an antique model. The semicircle and square resulting from the pillars or columns supporting the arch become the ideal measure for the Romanesque period. These two geometric forms determine the layout and elevation of buildings: the crossing square, the width and height of naves, the division of storeys, the height of columns, pilasters or pillars and last but not least the shape of the vault.

It is no coincidence that the arch symbolises the “Alpine Road of Romanesque Art - Stairway to Heaven." It is a symbol of the Romanesque, forms a connection between the province’s Romanesque cultural sites, stands for the building of bridges, and acts as a unifying common denominator. Where Romanesque sites (towns, forts, churches, chapels and monasteries) were built along important trade and pilgrimage routes that led across the Alps, cultural centres developed. Their architecture and paintings still hold an almost uniquely preserved treasure of Romanesque art.