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    • #5789
      jlchamberlain
      Keymaster

      Medieval churches are often considered to be bibles for the illiterate. Although the situation is much more complicated than this it is true that a lot of thought went into the choice of imagery, its medium, and its placement within the church. How does the medieval church function as an environment that serves not only the needs of the lower classes but all levels of society?

    • #7689
      Raven Shaw
      Participant

      Church artwork helped legitimize the rule of the upper class, but people from all classes were welcome into the church, and in hypothesis could mingle. A great example of political propaganda that was shown in a church was the Bayeux tapestry, which inspired contemporary Sherlock Holmes memes.

      The church hired architects and stone masons to build holy houses, contributing to the economy during their creation and then becoming central hubs of communities after.

      Churches housed the collective knowledge of civilization. They protected and passed on the written language so that the culture could last beyond the lives of its believers.

      Cistercian abbeys allowed lay men to join, who were given less opportunities for advancement but also were held to less strict standards than actual monks. In Medieval times, if a landed family had too many sons, they couldn’t all inherit. So some lesser lords took oath at an abbey where they’d have a better chance at moving up in their field, and poorer men could come work there as a way to get three hots and a cot.

      • #7700
        Laura Barber
        Participant

        Very interesting post! The pictures you included were hilarious. I hadn’t seen them before, but they gain a new level of hilarity after studying the original work. Thanks for sharing!

      • #7789
        Bob Hook
        Participant

        I was so glad to see that at least someone had a sense of humor during these times. It was great to see these images thanks for posting them.

      • #7806
        ckocsis
        Participant

        Raven-
        Thank you so much for including the pictures! Those are amazing! I also like how you said that churches held the collective knowledge of civilization. That’s very interesting. Great post!!

    • #7703
      Laura Barber
      Participant

      The art of this period served as a means for illiterate people to learn the stories of the Bible and grow closer to their religion without having to actually read the Bible. The Bayeux Tapestry, for instance, clearly depicts stories of the time without using the written word. Art such as this and the artifacts seen by pilgrims were all sources of religious and political power used to influence both the literate and illiterate alike.

      • #7729
        Miranda Jackovich
        Participant

        To Laura Barber
        The ‘Bayeux Tapestry’ was a great example of how both illiterate and literate could understand a message and/or story. Do you believe that some imagery could have been altered to manipulate those who are illiterate? Possibly for political gain by the church?

      • #7817
        Miranda Johansson
        Participant

        Laura – I agree with you that the artwork during this time in cathedrals were intended to tell biblical stories to those who were not able to read. This is probably one of the reasons why art is so amazing, is that it can communicate to so many without using words.

      • #7859
        Lucas Warthen
        Participant

        Laura,

        I agree that the Bayeux Tapestry is an excellent example of ‘bibles for the illiterate’ in this time period; in fact, I used it as an example in my post as well. I think it is safe to say that arts, such as the Tapestry, were created specifically for pilgrims and the illiterate alike so that they could be read, observed, and learn from while on the move. Without them, many of the pilgrims of the time might have gone without the equal understanding of other believers of the time.

      • #7869
        csayreswoody
        Participant

        I to agree that they used the art to explain there religion and for their people to grow closer to their religion through the art.

    • #7726
      Miranda Jackovich
      Participant

      Many Medieval churches took opportunity to use the monumental scale of its architecture by displaying biblical imagery and symbols on it. ‘The Church of Saint Lazare at Autun’ used the archway entrance of the church to depict the Last Testament. The art piece shows the representation of Christ watching over heaven and hell, to his right is Saint Michael weighing souls on a scale that is being tipped by a demon. Underneath the image is a inscription stating “May this terror terrify those whom earthly error bind, for the horror of these images here in this manor truly depicts that will be’. Those who were illiterate could still comprehend the gravity of its message. The church would remind all levels of society that God weighs everyone’s soul the same, and the imagery allows all to understand.

      • #7752
        Raven Shaw
        Participant

        This was an interesting point, that God weighs everyone’s soul the same. The church and rulers were in bed together in many ways, but the base belief still allows for the eternal damnation of the rulers. The church also allowed the rich and poor to mingle when they were on a pilgrimage, which may indicate that Christianity leveled the playing field far more in comparison to the older religions in which your ruler was a god on earth.

      • #7843
        tmbergan
        Participant

        Miranda, the Church of Saint Lazare is a great example — especially the image of Saint Michael weighing souls. Having powerful images along with the inscriptions made it readable regardless of the viewer’s literacy.

      • #7854
        rdnelson4
        Participant

        Miranada,
        This is a great point! I just commented on someone else’s response about how different the separate class’s lives were. Sometimes the upper class saw the lower class as little more than vermin. The church’s message, that regardless of class you can be saved, put the classes on the same playing field, spiritually. The depiction of the Last Testament is indeed would have been a strong message that one’s lot on this earth has no bearing on one’s lot in the afterlife then, as probably still to this day.

    • #7741
      Aubri Stogsdill
      Participant

      Because the masses were for the most part illiterate, it was up to the church to communicate the biblical stories and values that they wanted to be held in a visual manner. By creating incredibly beautiful churches with carvings and paintings inside of them, the illiterate would have visual representations of biblical narratives and the wealthy would still appreciate the beauty of the architecture. One example of this is seen at the Cathedral of St Lazare. Above on of the doors is a carved scene that has been dubbed a ‘sermon in stone’. In this stone carving we see a depiction of the final judgment. This would have easily conveyed the message of the need for ones to submit themselves to God and to the Church in order to avoid eternal suffering. This would have been a powerful message that would have easily been understood by anyone who took the time to look. Art played a massive role in the authority and control that the church had on society. It was also the way that many illiterate were able to grasp the gospel, other scripture, and the messages that the church was trying to convey.

      • #7795
        Gabe
        Participant

        Hey Aubri! Good summary- I like the turn of phrase ‘Sermon in Stone’! What an important sounding thing! I agree that the churches were important ways that the rulership of the time used to control people. Not that it was any better or worse than other methods throughout history, but these impressive structures that carried divine messages carved in stone no doubt solidified, quite literally, the ‘divine’ but also the social order of the time.

      • #7853
        rdnelson4
        Participant

        Aubri,
        I really like the way you phrased this: “the illiterate would have visual representations of biblical narratives and the wealthy would still appreciate the beauty of the architecture.’ During this time period the upper class looked at the lower class as almost ‘less than human’ so it may not have even occurred to them, or at least bothered them that church would be a very different experience for those who couldn’t read or understand the spoken Latin language. To the upper class, all they might’ve seen when looking at the beautiful religious scenes was splendor they were already somewhat accustomed to, whereas not only did the lower class have the benefit of seeing the stories they were unable to read, but also have a taste of the majestic art they could not afford to own themselves.

    • #7744
      Aubri Stogsdill
      Participant

      RE: Miranda

      Great post! It is very clear the message that the church was attempting to convey, and I am certain that they were successful in conveying it! It is pretty incredible how art can bring such a strong message and how that message can be used to further a religious belief.

    • #7745
      Kaitlyn
      Participant

      The churches provided artwork so the illiterate could connect the words to the pictures. Instead of providing written bibles, the artwork was a way to tell the stories to all classes of people. The Bayeux Tapestry is an example of this, or the image of the Last Judgement Tympanum, at the Cathedral of St. Lazare, Autun. The church obviously constructed these visuals with the purpose of getting the message across to people in all levels of society. Another example of an important message waiting for any person upon entering the church can be seen at the Church of Sainte’Foy, and the image of the last judgement. The placement in particular means the message is aimed at every single person passing into the church, not simply the illiterate. The artwork used by church was a very useful tool to portray the Bible stories and the important messages being preached.

      • #7818
        Miranda Johansson
        Participant

        Kaitlyn – great point about the carvings at the Church of Saint-Foy. These do speak a message that encourages individuals to rebuke or even convert them to believe.

    • #7746
      Kaitlyn
      Participant

      Aubri, I like how you pointed out that the art played a massive role in the authority and control the church had on society. That reminds me of how in past art like ancient Egypt or the ancient near east the large scale or elaborateness was used to legitimize a kings rule and divine right. I feel the church is kind of channeling the same idea

    • #7760
      Lacey Miller
      Participant

      The illustrations of the Bayeux Tapestry are the most obvious example of this in the Romanesque wing. Words are outweighed by imagery here, giving an opportunity to those unable to read, to, in essence, read a story with their eyes. HILDEGARD OF BINGEN’S LIBER SCIVIAS is also an example of a picture story. The churches were careful to represent their characters in an obvious way, primarily so the illiterate would recognize the subjects. Because the church was a welcoming place to the rich and the poor, the uneducated had to be accommodated as well, better for business.

      • #7777
        Aalieyah Creach
        Participant

        Lacey,
        Its is amazing how they were able to illustrate so man events from biblical events that allowed the less fortunate to also take part in appreciating/learning about their religion. It may have even been a fun way for them to be able to perceive their own sense of the stories as they observe the illustrations.

    • #7761
      Lacey Miller
      Participant

      Raven
      Nice memes, way to tie history to current humor.

    • #7776
      Aalieyah Creach
      Participant

      The medieval church was able to to serve different levels of society because they made it to where people of that time who were illiterate the same opportunities that the upper class had in being able to understand the bible through pictures. While on the other hand still offering it to other social classes as well, thus creating a church that allows for all levels of society to come together and just be a community that worships together. This gave people the option (who could read) to either learn of their faith through reading the actual bible or by going to the medieval church and being able to see illustrations play out the scriptures.

    • #7778
      Lucas Warthen
      Participant

      Churches not only serve low levels of society but also high and everywhere in between. The Fontenay Abbey is an example of this, allowing lay men to join the order (unique to all Cistercian abbeys at the time). Bernard of Clairvaux felt that decorations would detract monks from their heavenly ruminations and the lack of them made the church more acceptable and approachable (the decorations and crossing tower were seen as “ostentatious and excessive”).

      Additionally, tapestries were a big part of accessibility during the this era, the Bayeux Tapestry being a perfect example of this. Khan academy states that “The Bayeux Tapestry consists of seventy-five scenes with Latin inscriptions depicting the events leading up to the Norman conquest and culminating in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.” The tapestry is 230 feet long, but without the ability to read Latin most observers could most likely tell what story was being told.

    • #7788
      Bob Hook
      Participant

      I think the imagery depicted at the entry portal at the Church in Conques, France is a perfect example of the essence of the Bible in a non-literary format. It is scenes from the Last Judgement carved in marble in the semi-circular area above the entrance called the tympanum. Christ is passing judgment on all of us, the living and the dead. The hand of God is above him and below are the Saints and other members of the Holy Family. To his left are those souls on the way to the eternal happiness of heaven and on the right on those souls heading for the chaos of hell.
      Interestingly enough there are few guidelines for how to live a righteous life, but there are details of what gets you into hell. Gluttony is out along with being wealthy or having committed suicide by hanging. The images are grotesque, and the demons are many. Satan is also depicted and is even seated on a throne passing out judgment and sentences. The illiterate pilgrim would have no problem determining the lifestyle to avoid to prevent eternal damnation.

    • #7793
      Gabe
      Participant

      The core stories of Christianity, that is Jesus and the Saints, is told again and again in pictorial and imagistic versions throughout all the christian art we’ve looked at. While an example like the Bayeux Tapestry isn’t religious in nature, it is performing largely the same function by telling the story of the Norman conquest through pictures. Art like this gave illiterate people a chance to engage with these stories, but it also, as with the Bayeux Tapestry, legitimized the political authority of the time. As they say, history is written by the victors, and in these instances it was ‘written’ into artwork. In this vein, the impressive churches that housed this art served not only the illiterate people who came to absorb the stories and drama of the place and found solace in its powerful effects, but they also served the religious-political (the two were very interconnected) powers that existed at the time. The connection that was made between impressive art, propaganda, and authority continues through this period.

      One other thing I wanted to mention that isn’t here or there is that looking through the related articles to the Liber Scivias I was struck by how much the imagery and form resembled the Tarot deck. Pretty fascinating that this too was a way for illiterate people to engage with imagery that depicts ‘The Fool’s Journey’ or some kind of process. It’s interesting now that this imagery can be used to try and escape the rationalism and ‘hyper-literacy’ of our time and tune into a more intuitive imagery driven state of mind.

      • #7842
        tmbergan
        Participant

        Gabe, I like that you mentioned how intertwined religion and politics were in this section. The Bayeux Tapestry is definitely the most noticeable example here, but a lot of people didn’t mention how it had more of a political meaning. Oh, and I looked at the Liber Scivias article too — they really do resemble a Tarot deck!

    • #7796
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      During this era, the privilege of becoming literate belonged mostly to scholars and religious people. Those of the lower class were not literate, so the churches and art in the medieval era depict art of the stories within the bible and of christianity. The art of the churches serves both the lower class and higher classes by acting as something to gather around, pilgrimage, and become educated about. This helped popularize and spread the Christian religion. The visual power of medieval art inspired and educated all those that got to view it. I attribute the amazing art and architecture of Christianity for it’s huge and fast spread.

    • #7797
      Maggie May
      Participant

      Churches functioned as bibles for the illiterate in that they provided a visual way (through art) for the large numbers of illiterate individuals to learn about the religious events and customs of Christianity, or other political or social events of importance.. For example, the Bayeux Tapestry would help viewers (even if they could not read) to understand events leading up to the Norman conquest. They also functioned as hubs for the community, and were beneficial to societies on an economic level.

    • #7798
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      RE: Raven Shaw
      Oh my gosh, these made me laugh. I love Sherlock but I never got to see these memes. Thanks for posting those, and your had a great response — such as how churches help hold culture of older civilizations.

    • #7800
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      RE: Bob Hook
      I can only imagine the awe it must put into those that are illiterate or otherwise unexposed to such grand artwork when they walk through the entry portal in Conques. Even the frightening things depicted would still inspire a person to become converted or devoted to the Christian religion.

    • #7805
      ckocsis
      Participant

      When we looked at the art from the Byzantine era, we discussed how the purpose of their art seemed to change from recreating life to telling a story or relaying a message, and then how that idea was taken to the next level in Medieval times with their illuminated manuscripts. I feel like the turning churches into ‘bibles for the illiterate’ is the next step in this process. Entire stories were depicted with images, like with the ‘The Bayeux Tapestry’. I think it’s interesting that written word started with pictures which progressed to pictographs then to hieroglyphs etc. and now in Medieval times it’s reverting back to pictures in a sense.

    • #7810
      Valene
      Participant

      During the Romanesque period, the use of pictorial iconography for moral purposes became widespread. It was very common for all people who were not church leadership to be illiterate. Intricate and complex religious scenes were used to guide and teach the Christian doctrine. Buildings were planned to have an arched area above the doors of the church, to show scenes such as the Last Judgment to set the mood upon entering the church, and other biblical stories, saints, and prophets decorated interior and exterior doors, and walls. This way all economic and literate worshipers could understand the teachings of the church.

    • #7815
      Tamara Toy
      Participant

      In a time when books of any kind were quite expensive, the use of imagery to tell the story of the Bible and its meanings was a sensible way to bring the sacredness to the illiterate masses. This served the lower classes by helping them to understand the Bible, while the higher classes could understand as well, leveling the field between classes instead allowing the division to be between the damned and those allowed into heaven. All men were to be equal in the eyes of God (supposedly), so it mattered more the dedication to the church and one’s own soul than to what economic lass one belonged to.

      • #7867
        Valene
        Participant

        Re:Tamara
        I agree that the illiterate were put on level playing fields with all social classes in terms of the church. They were supposed to be loved by God no matter their status which likely really helped the masses convert to this faith. Communicating through art and not words is a great way to show an idea to large group of people.

    • #7820
      Miranda Johansson
      Participant

      A great example is the The Tympanum of the Last Judgment on Church of Saint-Foy, in France. This speaks of what will happen to all individuals after death, pending their salvation. I can imagine that this imagery was effective in speaking the message of salvation, and encouraging people to repent. Another interesting thing about the layout of the church itself is the cruciform plan, where the building takes form of the cross. Another example of this cruciform plan is the Abbey of Notre-Dame, Fontenay. Although this church is interesting, instead of using artwork to inspire and tell biblical tales, this one is almost void of ornamental designs and images. This is because Bernard of Clairvaux felt that it would distract the monks from being able to carry out their religious duties.

      A work of art that I believe had an important role in telling stories was the HILDEGARD OF BINGEN’S LIBER SCIVIAS. There is a book (read BRICK) containing the visions of Saint Hildegard. But this artwork instead speaks the visions in a plain way that one does not need to literate to understand.

      All in all, I believe that the imagery, design, and layout of churches during this time were intended for inspiration and telling the tale of salvation through Christ in a simple way that many could understand.

    • #7844
      tmbergan
      Participant

      The medieval churches made the biblical stories and parts of history clear for all levels of society by having a combination of the visual stories as well as inscriptions to go along with them. This made it so the rich weren’t the only ones that could understand and appreciate them. The Bayeux Tapestry, though not necessarily religious, is the biggest example of this as it tells history through both means. The Church of St. Lazare was another good example, with its depiction of the Last Judgement over the west door. As mentioned by others, the heavy meaning of the stories is understandable by both the illiterate and literate members of society that view it.

    • #7852
      rdnelson4
      Participant

      During the 11th and 12th centuries, secular and religious authority really combined, and rulers used buildings embellished with religious depictions to further their reputations and commemorate their reign. Understandably, in this time of poverty, being literate was a symbol of the upper class. The huge depictions of religious scenes were probably very useful during prayer, reflection, and religious ceremony; much the way power point is useful during an academic presentation. Those unable to read along during a service would have a reference point, or even a reminder of aspects of the religion that would otherwise be kept fresh through repeated reading. The beauty and lasting splendor would have been a blessing to all levels of society, a place where the rich and poor alike could marvel as equals.

    • #7861
      Sam Saccomen
      Participant

      During the medieval times, we start to see a use for art. Art during this era was used to help individuals who were illiterate understand religion, from these pictures/sculptures those who were unable to read the bible could gain understand of Christianity from these images. Religion spread quickly as medieval churches drew stories and important religious individuals all around the churches. From higher class to lower class, individuals in all classes were able to fully understand Christianity with the help of medieval art. This art did more than just help people would were unable to read the scripture, it gave those who were in lower classes a sight of hope that one day everyone could be equal. I believe that’s why so many people supported Christianity in this time. People enjoyed the togetherness, faith, and equality that the church portrayed.

    • #7862
      Sam Saccomen
      Participant

      Raven, I enjoyed the pictures you added in your post this week. They were great examples and after reading your response it was different than most. I thought you added information no one else recognized and it gave me insight on the time period. You did a great job of sticking out and making your post unique.

    • #7870
      csayreswoody
      Participant

      in this weeks wing I noticed that they used the art to tell the stories of how the different classes played apart in their religion. It show that the upper class was the ruler of many things but yet the lower classes were able to be apart of the religion. It also seem as a insult to the lower class as well to a certain point. Its like they thought that people wouldn’t be smart enough understand the religion through just writing so they was to somewhat dumb it down in picture forms. I don’t I could be wrong though.

    • #7959
      Jess
      Participant

      Medieval churches used pictures as a way to tell stories from the bible for those that could not read. They also used these images to show other travelers or visitors that may not be of the same religion, what they viewed as important to them. I believe that churches met the needs of all class types during the medieval period because those that could read were able to read the bible or share a story from the bible with others while those that could not were able to learn from pictures as previously mentioned. The Bayeux tapestry is a great example of this because it not only had words for those who could read, but also for the illiterate or those too young to learn to read.

    • #7968
      Guy Gaswint
      Participant

      The churches of the medieval era chose to use many images that depicted scenes from the bible. The Maestà of Duccio, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308, Tempera and gold on wood, is a great example. This altarpiece is made up of 43 panels all depicting a small scene or characters from the bible. The front boasts the virgin Mary with child along with 19 saints and 20 angels.

      The choice to depict scenes from the bible helps to give an understanding not just for the illiterate but the literate also benefit from having a picture to go with words. The choice of placement id interesting because The Maestà was placed so the front and the back could be seen, the back has a connected theme of the life cycle of Christ and the virgin Mary.

      The choice of medium was tempera and gold on wood, the colors are very vibrant and gold itself has had an important part in culture throughout history. Gold is often associated with wealth but has also been an important part of art in churches throughout the ages.

      The way this piece helps the church function at all levels of society can be explained by a written account from a witness to the installation of the altarpiece. He wrote that nobody worked that day, The Clergy, the politicians, and all the people came to see the glorious painting. The bells were ringing in the square and the poor received many gifts of food or money. The church and this painting captivated a entire town with depictions from the bible and brought hope of everyone that the city would be blessed because of the wonderful image that Duccio had created.

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