One of the bases of Romanesque art is that its forms were inspired by classical architecture, that is, mainly Roman. Therefore, somehow the typical Romanesque should be found above all in Italy, where more remains of ancient architecture should be found for inspiration. And yet, the Italian Romanesque is different from what can be seen in other European countries. And as an example, it is enough to remember the magnificent Cathedral of Pisa, with its Baptistry annex and the famous Leaning Tower behind its apse.
Church of Saint Michael of Pavia
Furthermore, within the Italian territory, different currents within Romanesque art can be distinguished, since the aforementioned Pisan Cathedral is very different within the region of the Tuscany such as the Cathedral of Monreale on the island of Sicily. And within all these architectural currents, the one that had the greatest development and the one that was most influential beyond the transalpine country was the Romanesque that occurred in the region of Lombardy, in the north of the country.
To this region belongs the city of Pavia where this church of San Migul is located, considered together with the Basilica of San Ambrose in Milan, one of the best examples of this artistic period.
Context must be taken into accounthistory in which this construction style emerged. The year 1000 had been a time of terror and fear of the end of the world. Before that, Europe had been devastated by different barbarian invasions and also by the arrival of the Muslims. For this reason, Christian civilization decided to undertake the construction of great religious buildings in the form of cathedrals and monasteries, always promoted by the highest authorities of the Church, without a doubt, the most powerful institution of the moment.
Thus the Romanesque churches had to become the places that, with their solid structures and their evangelizing decoration, shaped enclosures to protect their faithful, at the same time that they made them aware of the immense power of the Church. To do this, in Lombardy they chose a constructive model inherited from Roman architecture. That is to say, the Latin cross basilica plan was taken as a base.
A cross dominated by a predominant space at its head, that is, the apse, under which a crypt used to be built to venerate and store the valued relics of different saints.
To build this entire system, powerful pillars and strong walls were used to support the groin vaults that covered the naves. And as if the presence of the resounding pillars and solid walls were not enough, they were reinforced on the outside with thick buttresses.
This model of Lombard architecture, which we can perfectly read in the church of San Miguel de Pavia, gradually spreadtowards France, Germany and other European regions, where little by little it was installed while small local variations were incorporated.