Last edited 26 Jan 2021

Dwarf gallery

Wormscathedral.jpgWorms Cathedral, Worms, Germany (completed in 1181).

Romanesque architecture mainly developed in Europe in the Middle Ages between the 10th and 12th centuries. It adopted some of the features of Roman and Byzantine architectural forms and materials, characterised by thick walls, round arches, vaults and vast towers. It was a pan-European style, although it is often referred to as 'Norman' in the UK.

One of the distinct features of Romanesque architecture, and some of the styles it was derived from, is the dwarf gallery. While the origin of the name is unknown, some suggest the term was used because the gallery was thought to be a passage for spirits or imps.

Dwarf galleries are typically inaccessible and purely decorative. They serve no practical purpose and are only a visual element, although some dwarf galleries have been used by priests to showcase religious items to crowds below.

Most often found in churches in Germany and Italy (although a few examples do exist in France and the Netherlands), dwarf galleries are covered passageways several stories above the ground (often towards the top of the structure) on the exterior of a building. They are typically closed in by a solid wall on one side. The outward facing side is open for public view and may be decoratively lined with columns that are sometimes linked together by arches.

[edit] Famous dwarf galleries


Mainz Cathedral, Mainz, Germany (dedicated in 1009).


Southeastern choir tower, apse and dwarf gallery, St Servatius, Maastrict, Netherlands (dedicated in 1039).


(Left) Pisa Cathedral, Pisa, Italy (consecrated 1118) and (right) Leaning Tower of Pisa, featuring six rings of dwarf galleries (completed in 1372).


Modena Cathedral, Modena, Italy (1184).


Trier Cathedral, Trier, Germany (current structure completed 1270).


In Notre-Dame de Paris (completed in 1345), the Gallery of Kings (located just below the rose window) is a dwarf gallery that was filled with statues depicting 28 figures known as the Kings of Judah. These statues were destroyed during the French Revolution, but their heads were saved, hidden and then donated to the Musée de Cluny. They were replaced by 19th century reproductions.

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