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Its origin is to be found in the Roman oculus. During the Romanesque period, the oculus became a window, and from about the middle of the twelfth century its dimensions began to increase with the development of Gothic architecture. By the middle of the thirteenth century it had attained the greatest possible size -- the entire width of the nave.
The earliest important examples are the west rose of the Cathedral of Mantes (c. 1200), the west rose of Notre Dame de Paris (c. 1220), and those of Laon and Chartres. In all these cases, the rose was put under a circular arch. The next important step was to put it under a pointed arch, as was done in the Notre-Dame de Reims (1230), in the transepts as well as in the later roses of the facade. Thereupon the rose was inscribed in square, with pierced spandrils as in the transepts of Notre Dame de Paris (1257). The last step was to place the rose in the tier of lower windows, in which case it became the centre of a vast window composition, covering the whole end of the transepts, as in Rouen Cathedral.
In England, the use of the rose window was usually confined to the transepts (illustration, right), although roses of great span were constructed in Byland Abbey and in the east front of Old St. Paul's Cathedral in London. In Germany, it was more frequently used as well in the Romanesque as in the Gothic period; a fine example is in the facade of the Cathedral of Strassburg. In Italy, it was particularly used by the Lombard architects, as in San Zeno in Verona, and in the Cathedral of Modena, and in the Tuscan Gothic churches like the Cathedrals of Siena and Orvieto.
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