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The beauty of stain glass windows was an exquisite technique that really did bring attention to the story being told. I think all art has a way of telling a story and awing the audience with the intricate details and techniques used. The clever idea of telling a story that can be understood by both literate and illiterate and also having the dual function of bringing light into a dark space all made for a great way to share art with this audience.
Great post and I agree that the wealthy definitely seemed to have an advantage with obtaining religious items. It seems that throughout history, no matter the religion or time frame, those with money were able to obtain more things for their faiths and likely felt they were more spiritual. Even in cultures where religion wasn’t as common, it still seems that wealth brought the status and ability to show off one’s own accomplishments.
I feel like there are definitely differences in how social class separations enabled people to worship in different ways but I’m not sure I see it as impersonal. Wealthy followers were able to buy more ornate objects to show their devotion. Wealthy individuals also could spend the money on fancy stained glass windows and other religions items. Those unlucky enough to not afford those items simply didn’t have the option to show their religious devotion in the same way. I don’t see any of these types of followers as necessarily being impersonal though. The Christian faith was based on a relationship with their God and although the wealthier could show off their faith better, ultimately everyone was given the chance to have a personal relationship. Those who were illiterate likely had the hardest path simply because they couldn’t read the teachings and religious documents themselves.
Light was thought to bring one closer to God and to be a spiritual experience. Lighting up the churches would then make people have that closer God/divine experience and it also would make people look up to the sky where God was believed to be looking down on his followers. This trend in architecture made the construction of many new churches light and airy and turns from the dark and closed off portrayal of past architecture. Abbot Suger helped a whole new movement of religious followers to feel connected to a God and teachings through a buildings construction.
Re sjsaccomen: I didn’t catch that it was believed that some of these pilgrimage churches were made for the revenue they could bring. Seems sad if that was the reason to build a church. The idea of socialization was an interested point of these pilgrimaged too, crazy to think you had to travel long distances to socialize.
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.
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.
To take a pilgrimage was an important part of the Christian faith in this time period. It was said it was “an expression of Christian devotion and it was believed that it could purify the soul and perhaps even produce miraculous healing benefits.’ Due to the end-time teachings that many followers believe in, when the end-time had not occurred many felt the pilgrimage would show gratitude and reverence for their faith and honoring it until the end time occurred. Church design changed to accommodate these pilgrimage people by keeping the center of the church for the local worshipers and an outer area for relics and pilgrimage people to visit and not disturb each other. The church of Santiago de Compostela was one of the very popular pilgrimage options that was affordable to most and easy to accomplish.
Re Dean Riley:
I agree, the Christian aspect of this time frame is being carried over form past eras but without being graven or idols. Its interesting how a newer religion could make such huge changes in not allowing portraits in their art to finally allowing it.
I really think you are correct in assessing that the term “dark ages” is more from what what was happening in this time period than its art. I don’t find the art to be any darker than any other time period.
Byzantine arts were mostly concerned with religious expression albeit hiding religious faces through much of it to avoid the graven images issue. The early medieval era was clearly still influenced in how there was still some cross images used in manuscripts and it seems like graven images were still worried about. The Book of Kells was a beautiful example of the manuscripts showing this times period views on the Christian religion.
The Medieval era is clearly not lacking in cultural production and innovation. Just discussing the Vikings era and the beautiful ships they created with artistic creativity and ingenuity as well as the Stave churches and their amazing architecture alone shows how this “dark age’ was not without cultural production and innovation. There is also the intricate Rune stones like the Rune Stones at Jelling show beautiful intricate carving and story-telling through this artistic interpretation of their god and its story. I think the misnomer of this time period really has to do with the fact that some of the art styles are different than past time periods but they are unique in their own way.
I think you hit the nail on the head with saying people do things out of fear. Having fear would play into a rulers feelings on iconoclasm and how their leadership was being influenced by possible new religions. Any powerful leader lives under threat of losing their power and thus keeping their communities religious teachings as the leaders saw fit would be very important.
I didn’t think your response to organized religion was crass at all and I agree that the realism of past religions tried to bring the humanness of their gods to relate to the people. Christianity was based on a religion where God sent his son to be a human and yet be a part of a holy trinity. That separation needs to be addressed in the art so that the people realize this holy person is someone to respect and put reference to in their holy scriptures. A strong separation from past Pagan gods would have definitely been important too.
Good question Miranda, I do think the Greco-Roman and the Christians viewed “God(s)” differently. Their ideas of how a God acted or how humanlike they were influenced everything about the stories and scriptures of their Gods.