Architecture in Germany is as varied as the time periods, people, and fractures that have descended upon the region for thousands of years. Due to the nature of all chaos and upheaval in Germany, the styles of architecture are not only historic, but draw upon the rich heritage of cultural and historical clashes. All basic architectural periods from Pre-Romanesque to modern and art nouveau styles are represented.
The area known today as Western Germany (what was once the Federal Republic of Germany) was once occupied by the Roman Empire, and thus the Roman influences in German architecture are vast. Bridges, forts, military camps and churches all show the mark of the Roman influences of that time.
The numerous abbeys, monasteries, and cathedrals illustrate both the Romanesque period, with semi-circular arches, and the Gothic period, which transformed those arches into pointed ones. The Romanesque period, followed by the Gothic period of the medieval era, influenced the architecture of the Bamberg Cathedral. This cathedral was started during the Romanesque period and completed during the Gothic period.
One of the most famous cathedrals is the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne. Second only to the Milan Cathedral, it would be the second highest Gothic cathedral in the world. While the construction of this church began in the year 1248, it would not be finished until some 600 years later in 1880. Renaissance architecture followed these two periods, and generally flourished in Germany between the 15th and 17th centuries.
The Renaissance period would prove to draw on influences directly related to the unrest that existed in Europe at the time. This style of architecture was a specific nod to the styles of Roman and Greek cultures that had come before it. Based on the events of the Protestant Reformation, Germany was divided both in terms of religion and in political demographics. The principalities were still struggling to use and define their authority while the reformation repercussions were being felt throughout the country. This resulted in large areas of land remaining undeveloped.
The Baroque architecture that followed the Renaissance was a purposeful attempt to showcase the counter-revolution against the Protestant Reformation. Started in Italy in the early 1700’s, the Baroque influence made its way into Germany from Italy and France after the Thirty Years War. Then, as a reaction to the Baroque period, the Classical period came about in the mid 1800’s.
Two of the more contemporary styles of architecture in Germany are the “Jugendstil” and the Modern styles. The Jugendstil is commonly referred to as art nouveau, a style that reflects very hard lines and edges. The Modern style is known for the elimination of most ornamentation and detail in a building or structure. These styles were primarily used in the beginning of the 20th century.