Norman Architecture

The Normans were the descendants of Vikings who established a stronghold in Normandy in the 10th century. From Normandy, they then ranged into other regions such as England, Italy, Sicily, and eventually Ireland and Scotland as well.


Norman Nobility

At all of these locations, the Normans ruled for significant periods and left lasting imprints on the local culture.

Norman architecture was a distinct style of construction that amalgamated with local cultures in different regions and resulted in unique Norman structures.

Medieval King William the Conqueror

Norman Architecture in England

Soon after the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the Normans built motte-and-bailey castles all over the country.

These castles were the earliest architecture erected by Normans in England. This was soon followed by more impressive stone structures.

Motte and Bailey Castle Viewed From the Sky

While very few of the original Norman structures dating back to this time are extant, nearly all of these stone structures such as castles and medieval towns continued to exist in good condition today.

motte bailey wooden castles

The Tower of London, for instance, was built after the Norman invasion and was originally built in a Norman style.

Other important Norman constructions in England include:

  • Colchester Castle
  • Rochester Castle
  • Norwich Castle
  • Hedingham Castle
  • Oxford Castle
The White Tower of London

Tower of London *The White tower has a history of be-headings

Norman Architecture in Italy

Normans began to be a considerable power in Italy beginning in the 11th century. As soon as Normans had considerable power in southern Italy, they began building castles.

Many of these were commissioned by local Norman barons and became the earliest form of Norman architecture in Italy.

Monte Sant'Angelo

Monte Sant’Angelo

In building castles in Italy, Normans used the opus gallicum method which was previously used by the Gauls during the reign of the Roman Empire.

Normans also built many ecclesiastical buildings such as shrines, monasteries, and cathedrals. Among the extant Norman structures in Italy are Aversa Cathedral and the shrine at Monte Sant’Angelo.

The opus gallicum was a technique of construction whereby precise holes were created in stone masonry for the insertion of wooden beams to create a wooden infrastructure

Norman Architecture in Sicily

The Norman architecture in Sicily is noted for its unique style. Normans accepted influence from local culture when ruling Sicily in the 11th and 12th centuries.

As a result, elements from Muslim and Byzantine architecture can be seen in extant Norman buildings in Sicily.

Cathedral of Palermo

Cathedral of Palermo

Normans built a large number of buildings in Sicily and many of them are extant.

The most notable among the extant Norman architecture in Sicily:

  • Cathedral of Palermo
  • Cathedral of Cefalu
  • Itala
  • Bronte
  • San Fratello
Cathedral of Cefalu

Cathedral of Cefalu

Norman Architecture in Normandy

When the Normans arrived in Normandy, the Franks were already building wooden castles. Normans took up this form of construction and soon created a unique style of motte-and-bailey castles.

church g399bef923 640

In the late 10th century, Normans had started building more durable structures with stone construction. Notable features of Norman architecture in Normandy included a kind of basilica and towers.

The Normans also built religious structures using the Romanesque style of construction which the Franks already used.

Norman Architecture in Ireland

The Normans arrived in Ireland in the second half of the 12th century. In order to cement their control of the region, they built a series of earthwork castles as well as many stone castles.

Most of the Norman architecture in Ireland was meant to serve a military purpose. Among the notable castles built by the Normans in Ireland include Dublin Castle, Swords Castle, and Trim Castle.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle