Ottonian architecture is a style of medieval architecture that flourished from the 10th to 11th centuries and drew inspiration from Carolingian and Byzantine art. It represents the absorption of classical Mediterranean and Christian architectural forms with Germanic styles.
A key feature of this style is the careful attention to balance and mathematical harmony in building construction. This focus on geometry was inspired by the writings of 6th century philosopher Boethius and was reflected in many Ottonian buildings, including churches and cathedrals.
The carved decoration in Ottonian architecture is largely restrained and abstracted. In many cases, the capitals are simplified cubic forms instead of a complex Corinthian style.
This is a major shift from the previous period of Carolingian construction, when the emphasis on the towers in the facades was prevalent. In the tenth century, the towers became increasingly symmetrical and placed at each end of the building rather than in the centre like those found in the Gothic style.
Manuscripts and illumination were also popular in this period. Many illuminated manuscripts included a dedication portrait of the donor presenting the book to the saint of his choice.
Another striking Ottonian piece of metalwork is the Bernward Column, produced around 1000 for St. Michael’s Cathedral in Hildesheim. It depicts images from Christ’s life arranged in an upward spiralling frieze similar to Roman victory columns.