Teacher: “Why do some people call the Middle Ages the Dark Ages?” Student: “Because there were so many knights.”
Art overview Art in the Middle Ages (also known as the Medieval period) was inseparable from religion. The purpose of art was to awe and inspire the viewer with the greatness of God. Art also served to symbolize what people believed. Because so many people were illiterate during this time, art played a very important role.
During the Middle Ages architecture was the main means of artistic expression. The building of churches and cathedrals, as well as their decoration, was the primary means of employment for artists and builders. Churches were a point of civic pride, and towns vied to outdo each other in the glory of their churches. Architecture overview
Romanesque architecture Builders borrowed elements from Roman architecture, such as rounded arches and columns, hence the term Romanesque. During this time in Europe there was a very large interest in religion. Large numbers of people traveled on pilgrimages to visit sites of saints and martyrs. People believed that holy relics had the power to do miracles. The routes to the more famous holy places, such as Santiago, became very well traveled and required larger buildings to hold the large crowds. The basilica style church could not hold the large crowds which were coming.
They began to build churches in the shape of the Latin cross. The pilgrim would enter the church through the nave. The relics of the church would be held and displayed in the area of the high alter. The pilgrims would be allowed to view the relics from the ambulatory which allowed for a good traffic pattern for these large crowds. The more famous the relics a church held, the larger the crowds it would attract.
The architects also wanted to get away from using wood for the ceilings. They began to use stone ceilings on the new type of churches. Barrel or groin vaults were used in the ceiling. The stone was supported in the middle by the arch construction but was very heavy. The weight of the ceilings would tend to buckle the walls outward. To support the walls, large piles of stone would be stacked along the wall in intervals to buttress (or support) the walls from pushing outward.
Due to the weight of the stone ceiling, the wall of the church had to be very thick. Windows had to be small to keep the strength of the wall strong. Because of this, the churches interior was dim. The exterior of Romanesque churches was rather plain except for sculptural relief around the main portal.
Saint-Sernin Toulouse, France 1080-1120 This was a pilgrimage church meaning it was built to hold multitudes of travelers on their way to sacred shrines. Double side aisles helped control the crowds that moved through the church
Notre-Dame-La-Grande Poitiers, France. 1162-1271 Small windows makes the interior dark and gloomy. The exterior has more sculpture than many Romanesque churches. The cone-shaped helmets were added at a later time.
Gothic Architecture The pinnacle of Middle Ages artistic achievement was the Gothic cathedral. Built from 1200 to 1500, the cathedrals had soaring interiors unlike anything ever seen before. Gothic architecture has three distinct characteristics which set it apart from Romanesque; pointed arches, ribbed vault, and flying buttresses. These developments allowed the architects to make the church much larger and brighter. By transferring the weight of the ceilings to the flying buttresses, they were now able to place huge stain glass windows in the walls and helped give the illusion of greater height. This allowed the once dim Romanesque Cathedral to be transformed into a very bright and warm feeling Gothic Cathedral.
It was believed a church’s beauty would inspire people in their beliefs. The chief forms of inspirational decoration in Gothic cathedrals were sculpture, stained glass and tapestries. These churches also reflect the wealth and influence of the church in the Middle Ages. Many of these churches and cathedrals took over a century to build.
Cathedral of Chartres, France about 1194 Incorporated many new ideas: Flying buttresses (flying arches combined with tower buttresses) eliminated the need for heavy, solid walls Huge walls of stained glass
Answers – Activity 2 R omanesque G othic Emphasis (vertical or horizontal) HorizontalVertical Elevation Modest heightSoaring Arch Rounded, few windowsPointed, many windows Support system WallsFlying buttresses Ambiance Dark, solemnAiry, bright Exterior Simple, severe Richly decorated with sculpture 2 examples (Cathedral name and Country located in) St. Trophime. Arles, France Pisa Cathedral. Italy Reims Cathedral. France Notre Dame. Paris, France
Answers – Activity 3 M edieval A rchitecture G lossary VAULTArched ceiling NAVEMain part of church interior FLYING BUTTRESS A buttress arched over at the top to engage with a main wall. It lends strength and support. CLERESTORYThe upper story of the nave of a church containing windows ROSE WINDOW Circular window filled with stained glass BUTTRESSA mass of stone built up to support a wall, usually necessary to strengthen those of great height TRANSEPTThe "arms" of a cross-shaped church