Medieval Christendom

This is one of the periods of art that I have perhaps the most interest in and am already aware that I will be coming back to this chapter again to reread and do further specific research as well as some serious sketching for both this course and my textiles courses (I have bookmarked in World History of Art some photographs I am finding architecturally inspiring).   I have a love of all church buildings and in particularly those with a long and varied history dating from the Medieval period of history – my interest started with a visit to Lincoln Cathedral (in effect my local cathedral as I grew up partly in Lincolnshire) and also having visited Notre Dame in Paris aged 13 as well as other cathedrals within the UK.

What was fascinating at the start of the chapter however was the history on Basilica San Marco in Venice as I had an all too short foray into it on a brief stop over in Venice 25 years ago and my memories of it are of the gleaming gold mosaics and the incredible art within which was only made more breathtaking by the dim lighting – the outside is imposing and beautiful but the inside has an atmosphere as unique as its building and sumptuous art.  I feel this is one architectural and artistic gem that warrants further personal research over the coming weeks.

Overall though the art of the medieval period and the architecture is, for me personally, one of the greatest periods in art history – I find religious art of all genres has a beauty that is hard to define but maybe goes back to the question of spirituality and ultimately perhaps my own roots of Catholicism play a part.


  • Early Christians saw Christ as a healer and the Crucifixion was rarely represented but the representation of Christ on the cross in all his suffering did not come about until the Middle Ages – the depiction of him as suffering and degraded is a Christian conception and unlike the depiction of any other god in any other religion and originated in Northern Europe. First seen on cross carved for Gero, archbishop of Cologne (969-76).  Depiction of a suffering Christ became a distinguishing feature of Western Catholic as opposed to Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
  • The cross before this period was a symbol of triumph over death.
  • WHA p. 361 – note to self to do further personal research on medieval manuscripts.
  • French poetry blossomed with ‘chanson de toile’ – songs to sing to whilst ladies sewed.
  • Bayeaux Tapestry – WHA p. 369 – note to self to do further personal research and add later post to this blog.


  • King Harold Bluetooth (conquered Norway and Denmark) first tried to convert Danes to Christianity – failed and he was deposed.  Conversion happened a century later.
  • When money was sufficient reliquaries, liturgical vessels and crosses encrusted with precious stones – economic effect on art of medieval period.
  • Cross (World History of Art p. 357, figure 9.2) – crux gemmata (jewelled cross) had heavily and lavishly decorated front with triumph of Christ but on back was simple engraving of Crucifixion – effect at coronations was to symbolise union of Church and state under the Emperor.
  • After Charlemagne died in 814 Europe became very turbulent for centuries due to various invasions and subsequent changes of power including Duke William of Normandy of England in 1066.
  • Despite turbulent history of century after Charlemagne foundations of Medieval life were laid – individual cultures in Germany and France developed and feudal systems grew out of it.
  • Germany re-established stability – King Henry first and then Otto I crowed by the Pope and classed as a new version of Holy Roman Emperors – Ottonian art named after him and his dynasty.
  • Otto I stability in Italy meant economic growth and city-republics which was most important event since fall of Roman empire – effected political and cultural life for centuries after.
  • Pisa prospered from trade with eastern Mediterranean so much became a free republic in 11th Century – allied with Genoese and later Normans waged war on Muslims and the looting of the ships at battle of bay of Palermo resulted in the funds to build the cathedral at Pisa. Victory over Amalfi (rival Christian maritime republic) resulted in building of Baptistery – as point of note when you see photos of the Leaning Tower of Pisa you rarely see either the Cathedral or the Baptistery despite their beautiful architecture.  Pisans were very prosperous – sent crusaders to Holy Lands in 12th Century with vast profits.
  • S Marco of Venice built as chapel attached to palace of the Doges who were elected leaders of the Venetian Republic.  Venice originally founded 5th Century and ruled by eastern Byzantium empire but by end 9th Century almost independent (oligarchic rather than democratic) and only acknowledged Constantinople when needed!  Grew rich due to trade between northern Europe and West Asia. Eventually Venice sacked Constantinople and become rulers of Eastern empire. Gradually became richer over time due to aforesaid trade. S Marco in Venice changed styles and added mosaics in non-Byzantium style with windows filled in and exterior becoming more dignified  with bulbous outer shells. S Marco signified independence from Papacy and also rise to international importance – Cathedral of Venice is smaller and is away from S Marco.
  • France suffered more due to Charlemagne’s empire crumbling due to invasion by Vikings, Muslims and Magyars – slow recovery meant later growth of Romanesque art and architecture in late 11th Century. Areas under control of Hugh Capet (Frankish noble king of 987) and his successors were poorer than those of the duke of Normandy and other nominant vassals (Dukes of Normandy became English rulers and ruled well organised states both sides of the Channel). Church held more land than any other ruler though and was a unifying institution – some bishops were great feudal lords as many were members of ruling families as were abbots. From French monasteries 2 major movements for religious reform radiated out with massive consequence on visual arts including architecture (expressed temporal and religious authority).
  • Duke of Normandy in 910 bequeathed large amount of land to form a monastery at Cluny but with condition that it was exempt from either ecclesiastical or secular interference and the second abbot founded a kind of empire  which united number of houses from ‘which a reformed Catholicism generated the militancy of the Church’ (World History of Art p. 367).
  • Cluniac Order meant new standards of religious life and monastic organisation including churches.
  • Pilgrimages became common – possibly Santiago de Compostela more difficult to get to than Rome but easier than Jerusalem and aided by Augustinian and religious orders whose houses became hostels and who benefited greatly. Pilgrimages binding force in medieval life as brought together all walks of life.
  • Secular as much as religious art and culture depended on Church patronage such was the influence.
  • Riches of monasteries and luxurious way of life (increasingly so) of abbots and priors meant call for monastic reform which in turn in 1098 meant a stricter Cistercian Order was founded 15 miles south of Dijon.
  • The style of Durham Cathedral gave awe inspiring impression of absolute power and authority and is the an expression ‘of that proud moment in medieval Christianity at the end of the eleventh century when reform had triumphed at Rome’ (World History of Art p. 375).
  • Ambulatory of St Denis in Paris is remains of the chevet (east end) finished in 1144 – first part of any building in the Gothic style and every subsequent Gothic church in the world can trace ancestry back to it.
  • St Denis was royal abbey with enshrined relics and Suger (abbot) had links to royal house and was more involved in politics than religious aspects. Consequently Suger began raising funds to rebuild St Denis which previously was in bad state of repair whilst also re-establishment of royal power in France as first minister to Louis VI.
  • Economically funds had to be raised to build these great cathedrals and this was done in variety of ways including raising of taxes, revenues from agricultural land estates and even canons of a cathedral foregoing their stipends for 3 years – lack of funds often meant façades rarely got finished. Some patrons agreed to pay for certain parts of the building e.g. a sculpture or stained glass if their names could be attached. Some windows could be gifts of the builds of medieval craftsmen or trademen.
  • Lives of the communities revolved around the great cathedrals or churches – markets took place for instance so buildings became civic almost as much as religious.
  • St Frances of Assisi founded new religious order to call people back to faith and penitence.  New church of S Francesco built to accommodate size of congraation – decorated surprisingly sumptuously but based on the life of Christ and the Christ-like life the founder. St Francis obtained a papal sanction so that he and 11 followers could act as wandering preachers and were known as the Fratri minori. St Clare who founded a sister of order of nuns lived, as did the brethen, in absolute poverty subsisting on what they could grow, menial work or begging for alms.  The only exception for the rule of no corporate buildings being owned was regarding the building of churches and communal houses.  St Francis did not agree with the other monks who lived lives of richly endowed seclusion – the Cistercians tried to have them suppressed.
  • Another order also founded – that of the Dominicans- founded by St Dominic (1170-1121) – founded to battle against a group of heretic people known as the Albigensis.  The Dominicans and the Franciscans became known as the Black Friars and Gray Friars respectively and nearly all learned men of the 13th Century were drawn to either one of them. Each had houses in main university cities and influenced the educated portions of society as well as active amongst the poor.
  • Wall paintings done to supplement more expensive mosaics – decline in economics after 1204 and sacking of Constantinople by crusaders who then carved up the Eastern empire between them.  During partial recovery and cultural revival painters who had developed freedom of handling and expressionism was then picked up by the mosaic artists.
  • Inlays of stone in intricate patterns known as Cosmati and named after Magister Cosmatus – common in Roman during late 13th Century – mosaics glittered with gold and porphory and other rare types of precious stone.
  • Frescoes deemed inferior to mosaics but also gave greater subtlety and expressiveness.
  • Giotto (Florentine Giotto de Bondone) like many others hired out looms as way of investing money.
  • Early 1300’s King Robert of Naples tried to play a political game to establish Angevin supremacy in central Italy – he had his elder brother canonized very quickly after his death (before died he had accepted a bishopric and renounced the throne). Painter of an altarpiece, Simmone Martinin, attempted to reconcile the various aspects of political, eternal and temporal concerns with the religious which would otherwise seem discordant.
  • Great Plague of Europe  – the Black Death – decimated a third of the population in just one summer and there changes such as in the feudal system that were already changing were brought to a head.  No longer shortage of land, no surplus of manpower, no scarcity of food and wealth became concentrated on ever expanding land owning mercantile class. Also religious fervour brought about by belief that many believed plague was divine punishment. Only very brief hiatus though in arts – major building works continued including that of Doges palace in Venice (latter as oligarchic system adopted which remained for 5 centuries).
  • Richard II of England was unstable ruler but had an internationally cultivated court and hugely extravagant which lead to his deposition – the William Diptych painting was classic International Style (World History of Art p. 411 and p. 412). Cultural contacts between England France during brief period of peace between wars were strong.


  • Prime aims of artists in Medieval period was to represent the stories of the Gospel in such a way that the viewer believed it was happening before their eyes – imagery became further separated from Byzantium art. Pisans valued their architects so much names inscribed on the Baptistery.
  • Bayeaux Tapestry made by ladies (traditionally court ladies of Matilda).
  • Work in monasteries of Cistercian Order including illumination of manuscripts.
  • Stone masons and architects in much demand for their skills – like all other master craftsman they learned their trade by years of apprenticeships and then carrying out a technically accomplished piece of work known as their ‘masterpiece’. Often architects were also stone masons.
  • Stained glass master craftsman also must have been prized for the skills for the great stained glass windows of the great cathedrals but so little is known of them so can only conclude and that like the stone masons they were considered mere labourers.
  • Mosaic artists developed – expensive art form but again no mention of how they were perceived so can only draw the conclusion that although their skills were highly valued again there were considered little more than labourers.
  • Great painter called Duccio was merely hired as a wage labourer – merely supplied with paints and other materials and paid by the day and this was common for all painters so most forgotten or names lost in the midst of time.
  • Florentines patronised art and wrote first histories of art.
  • Giotto painted frescoes and this marked turning point in patronage for arts and history of Western Art – private citizens paid for private chapels to be decorated with frescoes in very lavish manner and in the case of Scrovengni Chapel of Padua (that marked the turning point) the paintings done were in a style that showed he ‘sought to expiate the sins of his father’.
  • Due to the difficulties of painting frescoes or panel paintings artists had to work with assistants but due to the technical difficulties a premium was set on the virtuosity of the painter – the painter had to be able to paint swiftly and confidently whilst also knowing the overall composition – each painting had to be done section by section.
  • Change in status of artists due to patronage by non religious people or institutions – more secular patronage.
  • Tres Riches Heures (Very Rich Book of Hours) – one of very few medieval works of art made for private patron.


  • Bulbous outer shells above domes – construction due to system developed by Islam (see S Marco in Venice – World History of Art p. 365).
  • Cluniac Order that affected churches of ‘imposing magnificence’, solid construction and huge stone vaults but style not initiated by rather developed from styles started elsewhere at the same time. Wooden roofs stopped being used part due to fire risks but also due to recover ancient Roman architectural large vault construction.
  • At time of denunciation by St Bernard French Romanesque sculpture at height – not been practised anywhere in Europe since fall of Roman Empire but several local styles suddenly appeared  (note: this point is a cross over of development and style due to the re-emergence of sculpture).
  • Innovations in Romanesque architecture:  transverse system which was series of tunnel vaults placed transversely and also tunnel vaults meant potential of groin vault became apparent (half one and half the other);  huge piers with alternate engaged shafts that formed blind arcades (think Roman aqueduct); transverse arches supported great vaults were major step forward; projecting diagonal ribs that were constructed before filling in the triangular webs were further development; ribbed groin vaults meant medieval architectural quest for lofty well lit, fire proof and unified interiors space was achieved (aesthetic motives inseparable from merely technical aspects); tunnel vaults became unsatisfactory – costly and cumbersome and characteristic of heaviness of Romanesque architecture and excluded light; Groin vaults spread weight so allowed for clerestory windows high above the tribunes but also were difficult to construct due to the need for woodwork to support them during building; rib vaults meant ribs that formed support were built first and therefore did away with the wooden framework as they could be filled in later with lighter stone or other material – ribs also integrated each bay or double bay into defined units whilst giving binding rhythm (rib vaults were most important structural device which reduced Romanesque architectural inert masses and lightened the appearance); rib vaults were combined with tall think shafts attached to piers that led the eyes upwards so solidity of wall and roof less noticeable; sexpartite vault also developed by adding a second transverse rib that split the vault into 6 compartments; Durham cathedral also added third innovation – that of the combination of rib vaults and pointed arches.
  • In churches in Northern Europe 4 upright wooden posts which were joined at top by beams that supported rafters (sloping) of a pitched room were the origins of the bay system which divided nave into equal compartments.
  • Flying buttresses that had formerly been concealed within the building of a church or cathedral were now a design element in their own right and carved and decorated elaborately as well as being paired down to virtual skeletons the combination was both aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. Also often topped with little spires which also created the vision of the upward force of the building – design of the flying buttresses concealed their purpose in resisting the lateral spread of the building and therefore integrated both exterior and interior of the building into one.
  • Stained glass windows developed artistically so they told the scenes of biblical life and ‘tracery’ walls that separated them (Gothic invention) developed from plate tracery to bar tracery which essentially went from plain to more elaborate stone work.
  • Carving developed with restraint shown on figures and a sensitivity to human emotion  whilst keeping an austere geometry to pieces too – human suffering is apparent and also vivid visualisation too of actual events – the carving seems to have echoes in Classical naturalism to me personally but far more expressive in both scenes and emotions.
  • Giotto developed style of painting of frescoes that eliminated anything unnecessary but also interiors done to the ancient Roman tradition of wide angle perspective – like Duccio their paintings appear as a kind of transparent window.  Fresco painting was skilful as could only paint whilst plaster was wet – fresco means damp plaster and true frescoes are as endurable as mosaics when done correctly.  Soluble earth pigments chemically react with the wet plaster and fix them whilst having a transparent effect.  If some pigments couldn’t be absorbed then they were mixed with an adhesive and added after the plaster had dried and added al seco. Venice only city rich enough to use mosaics and frescoes deemed inferior but the latter is a humbler meaning and therefore S Francesco has a lot of painted decoration.
  • Panel paintings used same pigments but applied layer after layer on dry gesso (type of plaster) ground on top of wood panel.
  • Paint used to give Trompe l’oeil substitute for different materials in the Scrovegni Chapel – as well as the use of simulated use of stones to give impression of marble – mentioned here because both I feel are clever techniques and developments in themselves.
  • Manuscripts developed in style and technique – see Tres Riches Heures (World History of Art p. 412-p.413) which was a Book of Hours (prayer book).


  • Depiction of Crucifixion became distinguishing feature of Western Catholic Christianity – first appeared on cross commission for Gero, archbishop of Cologne (969-76).
  • Northern artistic traditions from Denmark and Norway of flat patterning (very intricate) contributed to creation of medieval art in Western Christendom.
  • Ottonian art style combination of revival of Carolingian style with imperialist overtones (former and earlier Carolingian style named Carolingian family and emulated Roman architecture and so was inspired by early Christian and Byzantium architecture but with innovations).
  • Imposing westworks typical of Ottonian style – effectively a huge western front to a church but in a different church the entrances were placed on a south flank with a complex plan that broke away from earlier Christian basilica plans that could be monotonous (World History of Art p. 360 for full explanation of style and plan).
  • Emotional expressiveness starts to appear in art – new type of liturgical book (Pericope) came into use in Ottonian period – no portraits but incidents of liturgical year instead.
  • ‘… a solemn monumentality is combined with a vibrant inwardness, an unworldly, visionary quality with sharp attention to actuality, surface patterns of flowing lines and rich bright colours with passionate emotionalism. Such conjunctions and syntheses typify the art of the Ottonian period and the centuries that immediately followed.’ (World History of Art p. 362) – quoted as sums up the style and is in reference to manuscripts associated with the Abbey of Reichenau.
  • Decorative schemes revived  after Otto I restored stability. Brick architecture with brick and rubble vaulting style seen in Lombardy (first introduced in 800). Classicizing style evolved from traditional plans  for exterior elevations – known as Tuscan ‘Proto-Renaissance’. At Pisa similar traditional plans but more divergent style and use of marble as cladding to add dignity to a building.
  • Romanesque style (as in buildings at Pisa and Florence) meant ‘debased Roman’ – term only coined in 19th Century to describe round arches and columns of Medieval architecture before the pointed arches were adopted – embraces painting, sculpture and architecture much more divergent that just at Pisa and Florence and covers churches in France, Germany, Norman Sicily and also owes influence to Islam equally to Rome but early Medieval Venetian architecture not included.
  • Byzantine style – S Marco in Venice (designed by Greek architect in 1063) modelled on Church of Holy Apostles in Constantinople.
  • Cluniac Order changed style of churches from flat roofs and recovered art of Roman vaults which gave solemn but noble effect and also better acoustics for Gregorian chanting.
  • ‘Pilgrimage churches’ built on roads that led across France to the shrine of St James at Santiago de Compostela.
  • Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela best of all Romanesque interiors – (see description in World History of Art p. 368) – style originated in the Roman engineering and utilitarian architecture.
  • New sculpture styles of 11th Century centred on capitals of columns and exterior entrances to the churches –  Romanesque portals consisted of semi-circular tympanums resting on lintels above doorways – these were carved decorative wall surfaces with additional carving on the jambs (essentially door posts) – combines delicacy with dramatic intensity. Tympanums were originally painted and brightly coloured and represented images of heaven linking the building it is on with its prototype in the holy city of Jerusalem. Idea of carving tympanums in stone and placing on exterior of churches to draw attention of pilgrims conceived in France. Central member that supported the tympanum was called a trumeau and these were often carved very richly too.
  • Different style of sculpture on bronze font cast at Liege appeared – influence was clearly Greek and the possibility is that the sculptor had possibly been through Constantinople in 1096 on his way to the Holy Land as that is the only place were Greek sculpture could be seen by that point as so few remained above ground in Rome by this point. The font seems to have been sculpted rather than cast and is striking in its appearance (World History of Art p. 372 figure 9.29).
  • All elements of the chevet in St Denis (first Gothic church) were not new.  Quote of description in World History of Art (p. 376) describes the emerging style ‘The architectural revolution effected at St-Denis was one of structural relationships rather than forms.  It is in many ways analogous to the developing intellectual movement known as Scholasticism, which without introducing original ideas, created a new and enduring structure of thought from a systematically dialectical reconciliation of the truths of reason and faith, philosophy and theology, Aristotle and the Bible’ – in other words the architecture seem to change to suit a new range of thought about the religious faith.  Well established construction methods were used to create a new interior with a new form of clarity. Suger who was the abbot of St Denis was also the patron and played a crucial role and his writings describes this (World History of Art p. 376).
  • Combination of St Bernard of Clairvaux’s high born and highly intellectual character combined with Suger’s wordly character with love royal and pomp and ceremony both combined to creation of the Gothic style.
  • Cistercians also created version of Gothic style that expressed their own ascetic ideals – flat ended choirs, slender Gothic windows and lofty vaults which relied on masonary precision and perfect balance of proportions.
  • High Gothic style – late 11th Century – in Amiens Cathedral is 3 times as high as is wide and interior design created smooth and spacious rhythm and concentrated in 3 units with momentum of the architecture going vertical. Piers were done as bundles of circular shafts and on inner side branched out into the ribs of the vaults which were oblong. Instead of solid walls windows were installed and going along the nave ‘aspiring arches’.
  • Stained glass windows had been around since 4th Century as plain glass not developed until much much later but details and skill of stained glass meant the churches were filled with jewel like colours which combined to a violet tone but also the level of skill and detail was exquisite and became a feature of Gothic churches as each window told stories of different scenes within the Bible to people whether literate or illiterate.
  • Naturalistic style in carving emerged on buildings and major part of Gothic architecture – still large scale and with withdrawn faces but no doubt the figurative carvings are human.  Folds of garments carefully sculpted to give impressions of different fabrics and also carved in techniques not known to have been done for 900 years since Roman times – some poses also of Classical style but with ‘new warmth’ in the sculptures.
  • Variations in styles of Gothic according to country.
  • English Gothic had the ‘Decorated Style’ with lots of double curved ogee arches and twisted window tracery and also additional ribs in the vaults (Lincoln Cathedral) which splayed out to subsidiary ribs which created a pattern of stars. Decorated style developed in later 13th Century.
  • Elaborate vestments were finest works in England and English embroidery was a speciality which was prized all throughout Europe (known as ‘opus Anglicanum’ … personal note to study more about this).
  • Germany clung to Romanesque style longer but eventually as the change begun to be seen in small works naturalism taken to furthest extreme in sculpture – to the point some figures are hauntingly lifelike.
  • Italian Gothic again differed – introduced to Italy by Cistercians – less rarefied yet equally noble to the French and simpler. Horizontals and verticals very balanced that produced self confident appearance. Style is simple, solid and clear.
  • Altarpieces developed as a result of liturgical change around the 12th Century as priests celebrated mass with their backs to the congregation – on depicting St Francis architectural backgrounds and figures done to Byzantine style and with an effort to incorporate St Francis into Eastern icon tradition – known as Greek Style (maniera greca) (World History of Art p. 395).
  • Late 12th Century Greek mosaic artists developed scene more complex and more dynamic as well as a great deal more decorative.
  • 13th Century Italy wall paintings also became more boldly done and more colourful.
  • Radical change in style seen in Bonaventura Berlingheiri’s painting of St Francis of 1235 which was tempera on panel – incisive contours and soft gradations of tone that give human bodily tone but with recession in architecture seen in the throne rising up in stages (see World History of Art p.395 figure 9.69).  Style seems to have changed to incorporate poems that were both inspiration and challenges .
  • ‘Proto-Renaissance’ type of style developed by Nicola Pisano – absorption of Classical culture with direct quotations from Roman sarcophagi and studying antique sculpture.
  • Giotto de Bondone (1267-1337) great painter of frescoes who used many influences  but changed them out of recognition and essentially eliminated anything that was not considered necessary. Giotto’s style concerned with states of inner mind as well as physical appearance.
  • Style change of St Francis of Assisi due to concessions to secular demands and therefore elaboration started to come back in.
  • Simone Martini, painter, rejected the maniera greca in his style which a logical organisation of space and determined viewpoint.
  • Style evolved that included naturalist vision in mural paintings – rooms became decorated as if  bringing the outside in.
  • Style of Doges palace with rows of loggias and damask-like brickwork is  Venetian style of Gothic with Islamic architecture and developed for rich merchant class. Venetians still loved paintings of late Gothic style developed by artists working for ruling families of Europe and known as International Gothic.
  • International Gothic had the ability to have many variations influenced by local traditions and styles but concentrated on rich elaboration of surface patterning and detailed naturalism..
  • Adoration of the Magi painted in late Gothic period in courtly style – jewelled colours, naturalist detail, intricate composition and rich textures – picture captured a single moment but technically accomplished in forms and textures and clearly painted from direct observation.
  • Style of fountain – the Moses Fountain by Netherlandish sculptor Claus Sluter for Philip the Bold of Burgundy shows the medieval Christine conceit that the sacrifice of Christ was the human fountain (a view that seems strange but I still understand). Sluter has expressed human dignity and tragic intensity that takes it beyond other examples of International Gothic in its sensitive carving of the heads that almost seem lifelike and must have been even more so when originally painted.  The piece combines spirituality with realism with mysticism and logic that inspired in different ways all Gothic art and architecture.


  • St Bernard – patron, architect and also experienced in writing, painting and science plus art of bronze foundling.
  • Raoul Glabor -monk – wrote of period of stability effected by Otto I and the fact that the fabric of churches were rebuilt (World History of Art p. 362).
  • St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) severest critic of monastic abuse – took command of Cistercian Order in 1134 and later denounced secular tone that had crept into monasteries including that of the Cluniac Order  (World History of Art p.370). Kind of carving seen on capitals or churches in Southern France (such as the strange one at Souilliac) were the ones that St Bernard disapproved of.
  • Suger – abbot of St Denis – writer as well as patron of St Denis
  • St Bernard of Clairvaux critic of monastery of St Denis initially but after 5 years changed his tune – St Bernard influenced by Neoplatonism.
  • St Bernard criticised Cluniac churches due to size and overall sumptuousness which took away a worshippers attention which meant focus became centred on form and structure.
  • Gervase, Canterbury brethren, sums up Gothic style in his writings (World History of Art p. 380).
  • St Thomas Aquinas – greatest theologian writer of the Middle Ages and writer of the Summa theologica – ‘set out systematic exposition of all Christian doctrine’ (World History of Art p. 388).
  • Latin remained written language in Italy and spoken too meant that the sermons of the Black and Gray Friars influenced the poet Dange Alighieri.
  • Cimabue – founder of Italian school of painting reputation rests on stanza in Dante’s Purgatorio (see quote in World History of Art p.398).
  • Poet Petrarch wrote of Giotto’s paintings (World History of Art p.407).
  • Geoffrey Chaucer – civil servant at court of Richard II transformed English into  literary language.
  • Florentine Humanist – Palla Strozzi – commissioned an alterpiece called the Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano in 1423. Strozzi had studied Greek and collected manuscripts of Classical orders as wished to form a public library and was richest man in Florence. Fabriano was most highly esteemed painter in Florence.


  • Biblical influence on art including on bronze doors (St Michaels in Hildesham), windows and paintings – in the West.
  • Roman influence in architecture of Medieval period – early reference in St Michael’s church in Hildesham (World History of Art p. 360).
  • Influence of manuscript illustrations on art.
  • Byzantium inspiration for new liturgical book.
  • Influence of Classical antiquity and Hellenistic statues on manuscripts associated with Abbey of Reichenau.
  • Early Christian art – Roman relief carving influence and other Roman influence as seen on above mentioned manuscripts.
  • By 1100 influence in carving on new style of sculpture of  tympanums came from integration of Old and New Testaments and topical concerns -characteristic of medieval art and thought too plus also calligraphic swirls.
  • Inspiration for the Gothic church of St Denis came from in part the manuscripts attributed to Dionysius  (born Syria around 500) (later called pseudo-Areopagite) – he fused philosophy of Plotinus with Christian theology and therefore from then Suger developed new ideas of God in forms of light reflecting in harmony and radiance which means the new chevet at St Denis radiated in light.
  • Masons and master masons of architects travelled wildly and took inspiration from drawings of buildings that appealed to them.
  • Gothic architecture influenced all areas of the visual arts including manuscripts.
  • Influence of Gray and Black Friars on the visual arts as well as poetry. St Francis may have influenced Italian painting too as one in S Francesco done as a fresco and is totally distinct from Roman and Byzantine.
  • Giovanni Pisano (son of Nicola) and great sculptor influenced art of 14th Century Italy including on reliefs of Orvieto Cathedral – both father and son developed a visual language that helped painters and sculptors.
  • Artists it seems influenced one another with their difference personal influences such as Byzantium art and the mosaics of that region.
  • Gospel influence on art incredibly strong – bearing in mind most pieces were for church buildings this may seem obvious but each artist had a different take on each scene as they visualised the images.
  • Byzantine influence persisted.


Boyd, Douglas. 2004. April Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Stroud. The History Press

Hindley, Geoffrey. 2003. The Crusades. London, UK. Constable and Robinson Ltd.

Honour, Hugh and Fleming, John. Revised seventh edition 2009. World History of Art. Laurence King Publishing Ltd.

Rebold Benton, Janetta. Medieval Mischief Wit and Humour in the Art of the Middle Ages. Sutton Publishing.



This entry was posted in Notes, Research & Reflection and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s