2022 American Association for Italian Studies Annual Conference, Online: May 13–15, 2022; In-person in Bologna: May 29–June 1, 2022
IAS-Sponsored Session

Transatlantic Romanesque: Medieval Italian Architecture Between Los Angeles and Ciudad de México

Bologna, Palazzo Marescotti, Aula Laydi
Monday, 30 May 2022

Organizer and Chair: Dr. Luis Javier Cuesta Hernández, Universidad Iberoamericana, Ciudad de México

Organizer: Dr. Alison Perchuk, California State University Channel Islands

Much attention has been given recently in European and American scholarship to the phenomenon of architectural medievalism. Such studies have primarily addressed Europe and the former British Colonies, largely in the context of the formation of national identities. This international panel explores neomedieval architecture in other parts of North America, focusing on the Italian Romanesque. Beginning with Fernand de Dartein’s 19th-century “discovery” of the Lombard Romanesque, we discuss the transatlantic transmission of Italian Romanesque styles and their adoption and adaptation by early 20th-century architects building two of the great cities of the New World: Los Angeles and Ciudad de México. This session would be held in person.


Dr. Tancredi Bella, Università di Catania
Lombard Romanesque, from the Old World to the New

The style known as “Lombard Romanesque” entered the architectural lexicon during the late nineteenth century. Before American Arthur Kingsley Porter’s Lombard Architecture (1917) successfully translated it beyond the ocean, French, Austrian, German and Italian art historians and architects had found in the architecture of central-northern Italy a font of inspiration for architectural restoration and new production. While Fernand de Dartein was not the first to produce a lavishly illustrated study of these medieval buildings, his Étude sur l’architecture lombarde et sur les origines de l’architecture Romano-Byzantine (Paris 1865-82) was the most significant of its era, disseminating plans, facades and decorative motifs of 11th– and 12th-century Lombard Romanesque buildings. An Alsatian engineer and architectural historian avant la letter, de Dartein’s contribution to the creation of the historiographic myth of “Lombard Romanesque” was fundamental. It is often thought that Porter’s work underpins the renown of the style in the USA as exemplified by the facade of Royce Hall at the University of California in Los Angeles (Allison & Allison, 1929-32), but I suggest that this reconstruction of the narthex of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan is better understood as the American culmination of Dartein’s Italian studies.

Martín M. Checa-Artasu, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Iztapalapa and Luis Javier Cuesta Hernández, Universidad Iberoamericana, Ciudad de México
Neo-Romanesque Architecture in Mexico: A First Glance

Although “Neomedievalisms” and “Neo-Romanesque” have their own peculiar history in México’s architecture, their definitions have neither been debated nor contested in Mexican academic circles. In this first overview of the topic, we sketch out a history of the use of Neo-Romanesque architecture in México and of related definitions and debates. Mexican Neo-Romanesque architecture is characterized in particular by its eclecticism, blending forms adapted from Italy, Germany, and France with Gothic and Byzantine elements, and one of its protagonists was the Italian architect Adamo Boari (1863–1928). More importantly, we demonstrate what is at stake in recognizing how Neo-Romanesque architectural styles worked in Mexico, first under the regime of President Porfirio Díaz (1877–80, 1884–1911), a phase that largely ended with the Mexican Revolution that sent Díaz into exile, and then, surprisingly, in the middle of the 20th century, and in Ciudad de México as well as in other locations throughout México. We hope this presentation will spur a larger conversation about neo-medieval architecture in México, its particularities and contexts, and its position in the wider discourse of global medievalisms.

Alison Locke Perchuk, California State University Channel Islands
Italian Romanesque Architecture in Interwar Los Angeles

During the 1920s, Los Angeles went on a building spree to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of migrants from across the United States, and the world, drawn to the City of Angels.  These new homes, shopping centers, houses of worship, universities, and cemeteries were built in a range of architectural styles, the discoordinate nature of which was evoked by Nathanael West in the opening pages of “The Day of the Locust” (1939).  Medieval featured prominently: Romanesque and Gothic, Byzantine and Islamic, and eclectic combinations or derivations thereof. Among these were the new campus for the University of California Los Angeles (YEAR), a paean to the so-called Lombard Romanesque; St. Monica’s Catholic Church (YEAR), which would sit comfortably in Modena or Como; and St John’s Episcopal Church (as of 2008, Cathedral), a tufa, steel and concrete reimagining of the late eleventh-century church of San Pietro in Tuscania (1925). Analysis of the design processes and related contemporary architectural and historical discourses sheds light on how such structures helped to construct Los Angeles as a modern city—but also as one that, ironically, privileged White and Protestant identities over indigenous, Hispanic, or Catholic ones.

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