Norman Architecture is that species of architectural style which is counted a part of the Romanesque (q.v.), and which, as its name implies, originated among and was chiefly used by the Normans (q.v.). Soon after their conquest of the north of France they began to erect very large churches and cathedrals in memory of their victories. Their conquests supplied them with the means for erecting such large edifices, which they desired as monuments worthy of their great conquests. They accordingly expanded the dimensions of many of the small churches then common in France, while to a great extent retaining the style of the buildings. They seem also to have borrowed some of their ideas from the Rhine. SEE GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE.
The leading characteristics of the Norman, or, as it is sometimes called, Anglo-Norman architectural style, are size and massiveness, combined with simplicity. The Normans evidently adopted the old Latin plan (derived from the Basilica) of central and side aisles, and at the east end they invariably placed a semi-circular apse. They seized on the tower as a distinguishing feature, and developed it as their style progressed. In the early period they used but few moldings, and those were principally confined to small features, such as the string, impost, abacus, and base, the archways being either perfectly plain or formed with a succession of square angles, and the capitals of the pillars, etc, were for the most part entirely devoid of ornament. Sculpture was very sparingly used before the 12th century, and was frequently added to the earlier buildings at some later period. As the style advanced, greater lightness and enrichment were introduced, and some of the later specimens exhibit a profusion of ornaments. The moldings were but little varied, and consisted principally of rounds and hollows, with small fillets, and sometimes splays intermixed. A very common mode of decorating buildings in this style was with rows of small shallow niches or panels, which were often formed of intersecting arches, and some of them were frequently pierced to form windows. The doorways were often very deeply recessed, and had several small shafts in the jambs, which, when first introduced, were cut on the same stones with the other parts of the work and built up in courses, but at the latter end of the style they were frequently set separately, like the Early English, and occasionally were also banded; in many doorways, especially small ones, the opening reached no higher than the level of the springing of the arch, and was terminated flat, the tympanum or space above it being usually filled with sculpture or other ornament. The windows were not usually of large size, and in general appearance resembled small doors; they had no mullions, but sometimes they were arranged in pairs (not unfrequently under a larger arch), with a single shaft between them; towards the end of the style they were occasionally grouped together in threes, like the Early English. The pillars at first were very massive, but subsequently became much lighter; they were sometimes channeled, or molded in zigzag or spiral lines, as at Durham Cathedral; in plan they differed considerably, though not so much as in some of the later styles; the commonest forms were plain circles, or polygons, sometimes with small shafts attached, and a cluster of four large semicircles with smaller shafts in rectangular recesses between them. The buttresses were most commonly broad, and of small projection, either uniting with the face of the parapet, or terminating just below the cornice; sometimes they had small shafts worked on the angles, and occasionally half-shafts were used instead of buttresses. Spires and pinnacles were not used in this style, but there are some turrets, of rather late date, which have conical tops, as at the west end of Rochester Cathedral, and in Normandy several small church towers have steep pyramidal stone roofs. It was not till towards the end of the Norman style that groining on a large scale was practiced; at an early period the aisles of churches were vaulted with plain groining without bosses or diagonal ribs, but the main parts had flat ceilings, or were covered with cylindrical vaults, as at the chapel in the White Tower of London. The Norman arch was round either semicircular or horse-shoe, and sometimes the impost molding or capital was considerably below the level of the springing, and the moldings of the arch were prolonged vertically down to it; this arrangement was common in the arches round the semicircular apses of churches, as at St. Bartholomew's, in West Smithfield, London; it was not till the latter part of the 12th century, when the Norman style was in a state of transition into Early English, that the pointed arch was commonly introduced, but some buildings erected at this period retained the Norman characteristics in considerable purity. The best example in the British realm of an early ecclesiastical structure in this style is the chapel in the White Tower of London; later specimens are to be found in very many English cathedrals and parish churches; the churches of Iffley, Oxford, and Barfreston, Kent, are striking examples of late date; the latter of these shows considerable signs of the near approach of the Early English style.
The Norman style of architecture prevailed from about the beginning of the 10th century till the death of William the Conqueror, near the end of the 11th century. In Normandy there are many examples, the churches at Caen being well-known buildings of the date of William. This style of architecture was taken into England by the Normans at the Conquest, 1066. They there extended the scale of the buildings, as they had done in Normandy, preserving, however, many local peculiarities of the Saxon style which they found in the country. The chapel in the White Tower of the Tower of London is, as we have said, the earliest example of pure Norman work in England. There are, however, it may be added, many buildings, both in England and Scotland, which date from before the end of the 12th century, when the pointed style began to be used. Durham, Lindisfarne, Canterbury, Dunfermline, are partially Norman, besides many other churches and castles. There are some buildings of this style dating back -even to the time of Edward the Confessor, or earlier still, but the style is so very rude that it can hardly claim the name of Norman. The Anglo-Norman is heavier than the French-Norman, the cylindrical nave piers of the above buildings being much more massive than those of French works. To relieve this heaviness, the chevron, spiral, and other groovings were cut in the piers. The moldings and forms of doors, windows, etc., are the same as those of Normandy. There is one remarkable difference in the plans of the Early Norman churches in the two countries: in France the apse at the east end is always semicircular; in England this form was gradually given up; and towards the end of the style the square east end was universally adopted. See Milman, Hist. of Latin Christianity, 8:4h6, 437; Parker, Glossary of Architecture, s.v.; Milner, Eccles. Arch. of England during the Middle Ages (Lond. 1811, 8vo), ch. iii.