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Hah I like that ‘Lock in a Spot in Heaven’. Were there heaven-ticket scalpers? Probably! That’s what the whole indulgences thing was iirc. I’d be curious about some of the cheaper and more personal things that people created to remind them of their faith in their everyday lives. Of course the largest, most expensive items are what have been most well-preserved through time, but I wonder if people made little crosses out of wood and straw and carried them around, or something like that. Of course we still see ‘Holier than the Joneses’ in our society too! Do ornate Christmas light decorations count? Or is that something different lol.
Gothic architecture is the most ‘public’ manifestation of the period. Giant, mind-blowingly ornate Cathedrals were stationed in major cities. The stained glass and stonework, for instance jam sculptures, all told the holy stories from Abraham through the acts post-Christ saints. These provided a method for anyone visiting and viewing these sites to have a religious experience, however each visitor had essentially the same experience.
More personal techniques did exist at the time – the Moralizing bibles were intensely detailed illustrated texts, and were also incredibly expensive. Nothing else like them existed at the time though, so the owners and readers of such texts were likely in awe of what they saw. This allowed them to absorb the holy stories, and pray etc. without engaging with the throng at the Cathedrals (perhaps this was an anticipation of the Gutenberg bible and the philosophies of the protestant reformation). Another instance of more personal devotional art was the Book of Hours. Thousands of these books were produced that had illustrations and sets of prayers to be recited throughout the day. Here was another way to make the religious practices of Christianity more personal in one’s life.
Miranda, it’s interesting that you use the term ‘grounded’ to refer to the heavier style of the Romanesque period architecture. It made me think about how the pilgrimages of that period brought people closer to the earth that they had to travel across, as well mixed different social classes together. The Gothic style however developed around Paris and its monarchy and aristocracy, and so it is much removed from the ‘common folk’. It’s thematically appropriate for this ‘high-court’ culture that Gothic churches and cathedrals have such an elevated, lofty, and impressive feeling. Almost too much so! They appear so light, grandiose, and (as we’ve seen from the fire at Notre Dame) fragile.
The introduction of windows and light was the defining feature of Gothic churches and cathedrals that distinguishes them from their Romanesque counterparts. The goal to fill churches with light drove the architecture of the time to find techniques to relieve the heaviness of Romanesque thick stone walls and allow for more windows. Features like groin vaults and flying buttresses were used to accomplish this. The actual works of stained glass were however more than just a light source, they were actually a visual metaphor for how the ‘light’, that is the divinity and grace of God, entered the world through Christ, Mary, and the Saints and Prophets of scripture. Images of these figures were placed into the the patterns of color in Stained glass designs so that within the church, the light would literally enter the space through Christ, who was often at the center of a ‘rose’ stained glass piece.
- This reply was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by Gabe.
So the most obvious effect of Romanesque period pilgrimages was that there were more people traveling to and visiting churches. Naturally this meant that churches had to grow larger and more sophisticated to accommodate them. To accomplish this however wasn’t so simple. Architecture in Europe had been largely stagnant since the fall of Rome, but the need to construct new Churches that could meet the needs of the Romanesque Pilgrim Period meant that techniques such as sweeping arches and huge domes had to be rediscovered and applied. Pilgrims were travelers, so many churches built wings with beds for the pilgrims. The layout of Romanesque churches with an ambulatory and radiating chapels with reliquaries was designed so that pilgrims could move through, stopping and praying at each relic in turn, without getting in each other’s way.
Raven, that’s a cool analogy you drew to yoga and the hippie trials. I personally practice yoga regularly, and there is a huge difference between talking and thinking about a philosophy or perspective, and actually physically engaging in some action in pursuit of an experience. I’m sure the action of taking a pilgrimage played into the metaphorical significance of the art and scriptures. I’m also curious whether the physical effects of a long journey such as endorphins would enhance the religious experience that pilgrims achieved 🙂
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.
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.
That’s an interesting point that the decentralization and fracture of culture at the time equated to ‘darkness’. I wonder if there is any correlaries to modern slogans such as ‘Diversity is our Strength’ etc. Like people may perceive the lack of uniformity as a lack, whereas in reality there is a hidden richness in the different pockets.
An idea that I’ve heard from a friend of mine who studied anthropology is that a reason the ‘Dark Ages’ were called ‘Dark’ was because the feudal system that was implemented at the time was so stable (not necessarily just or fair though), and so relative to other times not that much was happening. I’m not sure of the absolute validity of that idea, but it provides and interesting context for the kinds of artwork that were emerging at the time. The illuminated manuscripts for instance show and intense attention to detail and the repetition of small movements which might be thematically appropriate for a people who lived in the same fiefdom that there were born in and would die in. That being said, the Palace of Charlemagne is undeniably tremendously impressive, so any idea that the ‘Dark Ages’ lack wealth and opulence is definitely mistaken.
Hey Lacey, I also made the connection of extreme attention to detail with for instance the feathers of the Nike from the Classical period. Whoever was creating these works obviously care a lot about them. I wonder if there is some meaning to the intricacy, like if they meant to convey the intricacy of the deity or the intricacy of the word of God or something like that. Interesting!
I was actually surprised how intricate and beautiful the illuminated manuscripts were! I can certainly see why anyone would accept whatever was written in the Lindau Gospel, it is impressive as heck! This effect seems comparable to the impressiveness of classical Greek and Roman sculptures and depiction of the emperor for instance. In both cases it serves the purpose of a kind of propaganda, impressing people with it’s authority. The influence of Byzantine art comes through in the content, especially in light of our discussion of graven images, the intricate detail is beautiful, yet doesn’t depict a figure or the deity. Instead the intent is probably to transfer the impact of the art strictly into the words of the gospel, and the concept of the Christian deity.
Hey Lucas – I also noticed the similarity that Byzantine art had to Ancient Egyptian art. I think it’s interesting that the Ancient Greek stuff came from this tradition, then sort of went on it’s own kick into realism and lifey-ness through the Greek and Roman periods, then kind returned to the old style in Byzantine art. Looking farther ahead the cycle continues with the Renaissance, the onto modern art – sort of a pulsing of these different emphasis. Pretty weird!
One huge difference between the Christian Byzantines and the Ancient Greeks which could account of their disparate art styles is the different values coming from their spiritual systems. The Greek Pantheon was very embodied, very full of ‘salt and vinegar’, didn’t shy away from food, sex, violence, etc. In comparison, the Christian mythology is one of temperance, martyrdom, and transcendence. It makes sense that with their lust for life, the Greeks would depict realism, dynamic expression, and movement in a very visceral and ‘realistic’ way. Christianity however is about transcending this life, so really the realism of this plane of existence doesn’t matter. Interestingly Byzantine iconography starts to resemble the Ancient Egyptian depictions of deities (especially with the halos) which Greek art originated from. Another reason for the difference in style goes back to the other discussion post about the second commandment. Given that artwork was more likely to be illegal, the profession of master artist was less desirable. Iconography probably requires less technical skill that photo realistic rendering, so people ended up doing what they could do. Without a compelling mythology to motivated them otherwise, simpler depictions of saints and martyrs was the flavor of the day.
Again, sorry for the late post 🙁
I agree with you! Especially in depictions of Christ, it seems like the church set up a catch 22 type paradox. Christ is both Man and God, so insofar as he is a man, images are fine, but insofar as he’s God, they are not! I think it opens up a whole can of worms with a discussion of ‘Art vs. Hisotry’ which probably goes even way beyond Christianity and the Byzantines to how we humans think about and know ourselves.