Arcades in Ottonian architecture are a common feature of large buildings, especially churches and cathedrals. These architectural features divide space, create covered walkways, and provide structural support for the upper levels of the building.
They are typically simple, unadorned arcades with rounded arches and few decorative elements. However, they are sometimes more elaborate and decorative, particularly in Romanesque architecture, which has a rich tradition of arcades.
The Ottonian Renaissance grew out of the desire of the dynasty to confirm a sacred Roman imperial lineage that connected them to Christian rulers of Late Antiquity such as Theodoric and Justinian and to their Carolingian predecessors, particularly Charlemagne. This goal influenced Ottonian art, which sought to fuse traditions and influences from late Roman, Byzantine, and Carolingian art into an ostentatious style that tended toward excess.
Ottonian metalwork ranged from jewel-encrusted objects of precious metals to large-scale bronze reliefs of stylized yet dramatic figures. The most famous examples are the Bernward Doors, a pair of church doors commissioned by Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim that contain biblical scenes from the Gospels and Book of Genesis in bronze relief.
Stiftskirche Sankt Cyriakus in Gernrode is a fine example of Ottonian architecture that displays novelties anticipating Romanesque architecture, including the alternation of pillars and columns (a characteristic of later Saxon churches), semi-blind arcades in galleries on the nave, and column capitals decorated with stylized acanthus leaves and human heads.
Other Ottonian art reflects the dynasty’s desire to establish a visual link between itself and Christian rulers of Late Antiquity such a Theodoric and Justinian and their Carolingian predecessors, particularly Charles the Great. This desire prompted the production of presentation portraits, often featuring elements with a long imperial history as iconographies, such as province personifications and representatives of the military and the Church flanking the emperor.