notes for chapter 9 – Medieval Europe
Political, economic and social factors
Charlemagne died in 814 after which there were invasions form Vikings, Islam and Magyars. Very turbulent times. 10th Century the Romanesque style emerges after Muslims pushed out of Italy and the city states develop (church rebuilding programme started). 11th Century the Gothic style emerges. During 10/11th Century Germany and France start developing their own cultural identity fuelled partly by the church. Gothic cathedrals built in a way to bring the community together both through construction and its place in the heart of the town/city, it also helped commerce in terms of attracting pilgrims. 13th Century decline in mosaic production to economic downturn, people turned to wall painting instead which was much cheaper. Bubonic plague hit Europe in 1348 which led to the greater strangle hold of the rich and powerful in society (especially land owners and merchants). As a consequence commissioning of art by secular powers developed and led onto a flourishing of art and inventiveness paving way for the Renaissance.
Changes to status or training of Artists
Monks were taught to produce illuminated manuscripts. Rise of the ‘Master Mason’ they would travel around and get ideas from other Cathedrals to bring back and develop on their own projects. Up until the emergence of Giotto painters are not valued very highly or treated very well. Giotto broke the mould and became both wealthy and celebrated in his lifetime. He really developed patronage to his own advantage.
Development of materials and processes
During Medieval period both the production of stained glass and illuminated manuscripts was developed. Romanesque = dev. of the barrel vault and the internal buttress. Gothic = dev. of the groin vault and external buttress. Buttresses and arches generally dev. to help with problems of ever increasing dimensions of Cathedrals in this period but were turned into notable decorative features themselves during the Gothic period. Church figure carving becomes more realistic and naturalistic during Gothic period. Fresco/secco painting developed as mosaic died out.
Styles and movements
Stained glass developed as a way for the church do display Gospel events to the masses (i.e. those who could not read the bible themselves). Helped to spread the church’s message.
Romanesque style emerged, was quite conservative and backward looking (began in Tuscany). Outside of churches reflect inside, lots of geometrical patterns. Style spread to other parts of Italy then across Europe fuelled by monasteries being set up. Romanesque has origin in Roman engineering.
Gothic developed after starting in France (St Denis, Paris), then spread to other parts of France and then England, Germany and Italy. See next page for main differences between two styles. Attempt to unite heaven and earth for the brethren through soaring architecture, diffused light through the windows, etc… – give an unearthly feel detached from normal life. Cathedral helps to reinforce the faith and revels in the glory of god.
Critics, thinkers and historians
The term Romanesque was coined in the 19th Century as a derogatory term meaning debased Roman.