RomanesqueSpain is a born-digital resource that aims at opening up access to Romanesque architecture and sculptures in Spain through the technology of gigapixel imaging and 3D modeling. The site’s inception was as a digital visualization tool for the architecture and sculptures investigated in Elizabeth Lastra’s PhD dissertation, “Biography of a City: Art, Urbanization, and Shifting Structures of Power in Carrión de los Condes, 1050-1200.” Its geographical scope has since expanded to include the wider Palencia, Burgos, and Cantabria, as well as other sites in northern Spain. This is now a site that can connect you virtually to multiple historical sites, that can be useful as a springboard for academic research, or as a guide for the public and travelers to Spain alike.
Find out how to navigate the site in the Exploring the Site page.
Methods: Visualization Tools for Art History
The highlights of this digital resource are the gigapixel images and the 3D models, even though standard photography and textual descriptions are also present on each site page. The discipline of art history is naturally inseparable from visualization tools; until very recently, photography has been the chief and most popular among them. With technological advancement, digital humanities has emerged and grown in significance in humanistic research. In the field of art history, and on our RomanesqueSpain website, in particular, the two technologies—gigapixel imaging and three-dimensional modeling—serve very well to complement traditional photography.
Gigapixel imaging is, quite literally, an extension of a photographic image (a two-dimensional medium). Technically defined as over one billion pixels in size, a gigapixel image implies an ultra-high resolution image; these images are usually composed of a large set of photographs. These large-scale, high resolution composites allow a remote viewer to freely zoom in and out of an image of a building facade, so that they can examine details in high resolution, perfect clarity, while still bearing in mind where these details are situated within the entire building. In other words, gigapixel images can contextualise details in a way that traditional photography cannot, and so may offer a relatively comprehensive and objective viewing experience.
This site also employs of the technology of three-dimensional modeling to produce 3D models of extant objects from a set of 2D photographs, a medium very suited for visualizing smaller-scale sculptures, such as capitals and sarcophagi (i.e. rather than entire building facades). These models are volumetric, allowing a viewer to freely rotate, pan, and zoom in and out with just a few clicks on their electronic devices. Other than enhancing the remote viewing experience, 3D models can also accommodate objects that are especially unsuited for two-dimensional representation. such as baptismal fonts, where imagery run across the entire curved surfaces and would require traditional photography to cut them into abrupt fragments.
While these technologies are not meant to replace on-site viewing, they do simulate physical viewing experience much more closely. While zooming in and out of a gigapixel image, visitors of this site may imagine themselves approaching a building on foot, or taking a few steps back to take a better look at the whole facade or portal. As visitors rotate a 3D model around, the effect would be similar to them circumambulating around the actual object. Navigating a gigapixel image or a 3D model also allows for higher autonomy on the viewers' part. Unlike a photograph that has been framed in a specific angle and zoom level chosen by the photographer, viewers can now choose how they would like to investigate a building or an object and which parts they would like to focus on—much like they would in a physical visit.
With the use of new technologies, it is our hope that this website will offer a whole new level of access for all, especially when access to physical sites is rendered impossible or difficult.
All photographs on this website are by Elizabeth Lastra, and all gigapixel images are likewise her creations. Liz and Zoilo Perrino have both contributed to the 3D model collection embedded on this site.
For site pages that have more in-depth descriptions, publications cited are listed in the footnotes at the bottom of each page.