RomanesqueSpain is a digital resource that provides virtual access to Romanesque architecture and sculpture in Spain through the technologies of gigapixel imaging and three-dimensional modeling. The site was originally conceived as a digital visualization tool for Elizabeth Lastra’s research in Carrión de los Condes, but its geographical scope has since expanded to include wider Palencia, Burgos, and Cantabria, as well as other sites in northern Spain. The site now offers virtual access to dozens of monuments and can be useful as a springboard for academic research, or as a general resource for anyone with an interest in medieval Spain.
Find out how to navigate the site in the Exploring the Site page.
Methods: Visualization Tools for Art History
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, new digital tools have emerged and grown in value within humanistic research. In the field of art history, and on our RomanesqueSpain website in particular, two technologies—gigapixel imaging and three-dimensional modeling—serve to complement traditional photography and offer new ways of looking not possible before.
Gigapixel photography is, quite literally, an extension of traditional photography (both are two-dimensional media). Technically defined as over one billion pixels in size, a gigapixel image is typically composed of a large set of photographs which, once stitched together, provide a single explorable image with ultra-high resolution. These large-scale, high resolution composites allow a remote viewer to freely zoom in and out of an image, so that the user can examine details in perfect clarity while still bearing in mind where these details are situated within a larger work. Gigapixel images contextualize details in a way that traditional photography generally cannot, and therefore offer a more comprehensive and objective viewing experience.
This site also employs photogrammetry to produce 3D models of extant objects from sets of 2D photographs. 3D models are well-suited to visualizing smaller-scale sculpture, such as that on capitals and sarcophagi. 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, on which imagery runs around a curved surface and would be cut into abrupt fragments if represented in photographs.
While these technologies are not intended to replace on-site viewing, they do simulate the physical viewing experience much more closely than traditional photography alone. 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 façade or portal. As visitors rotate a 3D model, they are afforded the ability to circumambulate the object as if on foot. Gigapixel images and 3D models allow for higher objectivity and intellectual autonomy; unlike a photograph that has been framed in a specific angle and with zoom 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 difficult or impossible.
All photographs on this website are by Elizabeth Lastra, as are all gigapixel images. Liz, Zoilo Perrino, and Jasmin Lin have contributed to the 3D model collection embedded on this site. Texts are by Liz, Gigi Leung, and Jasmin Lin.
For site pages that have more in-depth descriptions, publications cited are listed in the footnotes at the bottom of each page.