One area of historical research which I'm finding especially
interesting is the Romanesque period of art & sculpture, along with its
This design in marble relief measuring about
14" high is from the 12th century upper church of San Clemente. Looking like a letter
"I" set in a Celtic pattern, it is probably a stylized ionic column.
The above inscription, with details, is from
the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, a 7th century church rebuilt in the
12th century. The lettering, which is often difficult to date for lack of a date or
contemporary clues, would fall somewhere within this time period. Following the
nomenclature of lettering historian Nicolete Gray, I'm choosing to call this style of
blocky, closely-packed lettering Romanesque. It may seem to be at odds with the
more refined Romanesque sculpture shown on this page, but its late-medieval spirit is
Shown above is the base of a huge 12th century
candelabra from the church of San Paolo fuori le Mura. The elaborate marble sculpture,
signed by the Romanesque master Vassalletto, depicts a range of paleo-Christian and
mythical themes evoking both faith and mystery.
This fine inscription, letters approx. 1" high, is
also from the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, on the architectural
frieze of an altar. My efforts to rub this have consistently met with failure, so I've had
to settle for video documentation. Can you visualize a display typeface in this vein?
Again from the church of San Clemente, this
wonderful monogram (~14" diameter,) is a synthesis of sculpture, design and
lettering. Its meaning is still a mystery to me. Any guesses?
I was privileged to tour the ancient 6th
century church of San Crisogono, underneath the current 12th century basilica where I
found this inscription. As with other medieval lettering, this is difficult to date, but
the proportions, the variant forms and close spacing place it in the
A relief from a 12th century marble
sarcophagus in the portico of the church of San Lorenzo fouri le Mura -- this detail
measures about 16" in height. The integration of pattern and figural motifs is a
hallmark of Romanesque design.