8_medieval | History homework help

GUIDE 8                                                                                     UNIT 3


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                  MEDIEVAL ART


o  Early Medieval Art

o  Romanesque Art

o  Gothic Art



Middle Ages… When we hear these words, we think about the castles, knights, and magnificent cathedrals. Since the early 19th century the artists have been in love with this romantic time and would most often choose it to illustrate the fairy tales. Yet, historically speaking, the Middle Ages had started long before the knights’ époque and lasted all together for 1,000 years. Traditionally the historians divide this millennium into three major periods.



          400 – 1400








                EARLY MEDEIVAL art              ROMANESQUE art                GOTHIC art

                           5 – 11th centuries                                   11 – 12thcenturies                           12 – 13th centuries                                                  




Migrations       Carolingian  art       Ottonian art



We are entering yet another 1,000 year long period – the Middle Ages.

Art and culture of this period are called Medieval.


There will be a lot of information in this chapter – prepare yourself for a serious work. But when you finish this guide, you will know much more about architecture that you know at this moment. I can promise you that!


After you observe the Graph above, you may want to switch to the Normal View – click on the first button in the lower left corner.


Why the Middle Ages are also called Dark Ages? – *  


                                                   EARLY MIDDLE AGES

                                                      I.    Barbarian art [Period of Migrations]

                                                      II.  Carolingian art

                                                      III. Ottonian art


Barbarian Period of Migrations                                   Early Middle Ages


Animal style *      [Why such name?]


*      Scythian Plaque with Animal Interlace 

Found in – *  

Material: – *  

Size:  – *  

     [It is small plaque.  Can you envision it?]

Describe the object and its decorative pattern.  Do you believe it is an object of art?

What makes it such?  – *  


*      Page from * 

Date: *  

            How would you describe it? – * 


Carolingian Period                                                          Early Middle Ages



Charles the Great – legendary Frankish king.

*…. – King’s French name,

         [Pronounced <sharl-MAhN>; both L and N soft]


“Charlemagne is the first great man of action to emerge

from the darkness since the collapse of the Roman world.

He became a subject of myths and legend.


“A magnificent reliquary, made about five hundred years

after his death to hold a piece of his skull, expresses what

the High Middle Ages felt about him in terms that he

himself would have appreciated – gold and jewels.


“He was a commanding figure, over six feet tall,

with piercing blue eyes” … tireless warrior and administrator…

“…in year 800 the Pope in Rome crowned him as

the head of a new Holy Roman Empire…”

(Northern Europe)


“…it was through him that the Atlantic world re-established

contact with the ancient culture of the Mediterranean world.

~  Kenneth Clark, Civilization, 1969, (p 18).


They say about Charlemagne that he has saved the

Western civilization by savingthe classical culture.



Reliquary in the form of the head of the Emperor Charlemagne

(c. 1350). Cathedral Treasury, Aachen


What else have you learned about this remarkable king from your book?



 “The period of Charlemagne’s supremacy is called *

*  – city in which Charlemagne established his court.



*      The Palatine Chapel of Charles the Great 

Date of construction – *  

Palatine*   [meaning]

What church was a probable prototype for this chapel? – *  

Describe the plan: *  


Manuscript Illumination

Manuscript * A book or document written by hand.



“People don’t always realize that only three or four antique manuscripts of the Latin authors are still in existence: our whole knowledge of Ancient literature is due to the collecting and copying

that began under Charlemagne.”~ Kenneth Clark, ibid. (p.18)


What was the Charlemagne’s favourite project? –  *  


Was it as surprise for you to read about Charlemagne being illiterate himself? By the way, being already adult he had taught himself to read and always carried the bible with him in his trips.


“Like most able men who have had to educate themselves the hard way, Charlemagne felt strongly the value of education, and in particular he saw the importance of an educated laity.” – Kenneth Clark, Ibid., (p. 19)



*      Coronation GospelsCharlemagne’s own gospel book.

Compare and contrast two illuminations – one from the Charlemagne’s gospel book and the other one from Gospel Book produced 10 years later. 







     Classical traditions
Charlemagne’s Gospel Book

               St. Mathew



      Medieval manner

    Ebbo’s Gospel Book

              St. Mark







[Doest it have weight?]




[How natural do folds look?]



Three-dimensional or








Doesn’t this illumination truly demonstrate the Charlemagne’s passion for Classical art? – *


What happened after Charlemagne‘s death? –*

Holy Roman Empire*

Why is this period called Ottonian? – *

Had been the classical Carolingian ideals extended during the Ottonian period? – *


*      Abbey Church of St. Michaelat Hildesheim in *…   [country].

This church can serve as the first example of a church plan that will serve as a basis for most of Romanesque architecture in the next period to come.

What plan was used? – *

It will serve as a basis for *… 



Crossing square*

Alternate support system*


What can you say about the exterior of church?  Hoe does it look outside? – *


*    Adam and Eve Reproached by the Lord

Relief on a panel from the *                  Date – *

In your book it is said to be first… in what respect? –  *

Would the ancient Classical motto proudly claiming that “man is a measure of all things” apply here? – *

Describe the emotional language of this relief. In your opinion, what is the message of this work? –*


                                          ROMANESQUE ART               

                                                           *                 [centuries]       


                                           [French word pronounced as [romah-NESK]

It was also this time when the notions and very words romance and  romantic originated.  As you can guess, those words were derived from the name of the period, which in its term is connected with Rome – a chosen model for inspiration and imitation.


Name two major social forces/factors that shaped the Romanesque period.



Why the Middle Ages are called the “Age of Faith”?

What was the greatest preoccupation/concern of the medieval people?


Name two phenomena that reflect this religious obsession and that helped to spread the new ideas over Europe.  Provide short definitions.



What gave impetus to intense church construction during the Romanesque period?





                            Recommendations on how study the section on architecture

(1) Even if I am not asking questions keep reading thoroughly while finding all the elements in the pictures of churches or plans.


(2) Unfortunately, the book is not illustrated well enough, and without pictures it is hard to understand the text.  I am omitting some material.  Please follow the guide to with the require minimum. 


(3) Terms:  You are going to learn a number of architectural terms. Take time to work through them properly.

In regards to architecture topics it is crucial to refer to the Glossary or web. I recommend you to sue the site that was developed at Pittsburgh University (see link below).  It has wonderful drawings, explanations and even the audio files with the proper pronunciation. 

1. Architecture Online Glossary:   http://www.pitt.edu/~medart/menuglossary/INDEX.HTM


2. There is another reference site that you may like: www.norwichchurches.co.uk/Glossary/glossary.html

    It has fewer terms but pictures but shows you images of real constructions.

       You may want to bookmark this site and use it later whenever you come across a new term.


Two Romanesque criteria – two requirements to the cathedral architecture:   (name them and explain “why…”)




*      St. Sernin

The Church of St. Sernin, Toulouse, *_  [country?]     [pronounced <ser-NAhn> – nasal ‘n’]  

Find the terms in the Glossary at the end of book or go to http://www.pitt.edu/~medart/menuglossary/INDEX.HTM


Radiating chapels*



What important change was made in the ceiling structure of the Romanesque church compared to the Roman basilica?  What caused this shift? – *

Barrel vault*              [Refresh your memory – take one more look]

Tribune gallery – *


Read the last paragraph in the St. Sernin section. It contains an important idea about the evolution of the medieval church architecture.  It is connected with the problem of the solid walls and resulted lack of light.  What would be the way to solve this problem? Complete the last sentence and try to remember about this concept while further studying the architecture of the Middle Ages.

 “The history of Romanesque can be written as the history of *  


*       St. Étienne – The cathedral of St. Etienne in Caen, *…     [country]            

       [Pronunciation: e-TIEN]


NOTE that new type of ribbed vault – as opposed to barrel vault – is more efficient in supporting the weight and thrust of heavy stone ceiling. Thus, it allowed medieval builders to introduce a striking innovation – piercing the walls with big windows and let more light inside the church.








Vault of ambulatory of St. Denis, France


The vault itself (between arches) can be very thin – the entire thrust is transferred via the ribs and then pillars (columns).

The ribbed vault consists of 3 three types of ribs:

1. diagonal ribs – start at the top of each pier (circled in

    red) and meet in the centre;

2.  longitudinal ribs (across the nave)
3.  transverse ribs (parallel to the nave axis)


You absolutely need to go to this site in order to understand all the terms.  It is impossible to get from reading only.









Alternatea-b-a-b support system*

       Ribbed vaulting – there is a nice metaphor in your book comparing the system of ribs with a *

Clerestory- *

Buttress – *

Portal – *




See how the thrust of the roof and vault

is broken into two forces :


(1) compression force through the pillars that

     transmit it to the ground;


(2) shear force – is transferring the weight via

      the buttress.



Note take a close look at the façade of St. Étienneand notice thatit is divided into

3 vertical sections (central nave part + two towers) &

 3 horizontal bands.

This type of tripartite façade will become typical for *… cathedrals.


When you see a church with a façade like the one St. Sernin has, it is for sure the medieval church.

Find below the Major characteristics of Romanesque church, and on the next page you will learn in what way the Gothic church is different.

Characteristics of Romanesque Churches:           

          Latin cross plan

          Round arches

          Vaulted ceiling (Barrel vaults mostly)

          Thick, solid stonewalls

          Blocky forms



Make sure that you know these characteristics really well. From now on you will be always able to recognize the Romanesque church. It will take more knowledge though to distinguish between the Romanesque and Gothic churches. I will teach you how to do it. But first read about the sculpture from this period.



What was more common for the Romanesque sculpture – freestanding sculpture or relief in the cathedrals decorations? – *


Sculptural decoration of church:     [Whereplaced]              


Now let us learn more about these important parts of the entry to the cathedral.  

Go to the same website. It takes time yet it is very important.  Terminology is like a language in any professional area.  You cannot understand a thing if you do not know words, right?  Listen to the pronunciation – Learn as much as you can.


Tympanum *…  



Archivolts *… 


Lintel* …


Trumeau*…           (listen to and write down the pronunciation)


Jamb*…  (check out the jamb figures too)


Remember:   It was on the Tympanum and on the Jambs wherethe most elaborate sculptural

                     decoration in the Romanesque cathedral was placed.


Last Judgement from the tympanum of

the Autun Cathedral, France.  

              Take time to observe the carved relief.

Describe what is depicted in this scene? 



Was realism the sculptor’s goal? 



Does the scene seem emotional and dramatic

to you?


(Keep in mind that most people in this time

were deeply religious).


What is of primary importance for

the Romanesque artist?   


Was it realism or a task of sending an

emotional religious message?

  [highlight with color the proper characteristic]


I want you to pay attention to the small figures of mortals. As unnatural as their postures are, there are very expressive. The sculptor imagined the scene so vividly… he also seems to have a deep sympathy for those who are awaiting the soul weighting.  They are naked and humble and scared… It is quite a touching artwork, don’t you think so?


West Portal tympanum depicting the Last Judgement: detail of Christ’s feet, an angel and mortals.



      MANUSCRIPT ILLUMINATION                                             Romanesque Period


*      The Annunciation to the Shepherds      Page from the*

                                                                         *  [date]   (That would be the11thcentury, right?).

Observe how the medieval illustrator had rendered of the human figures. Is it done in realistic manner? – The answer would be “no.”  You have just seen the figures of the same type on the tympanum of the St. Lazar. 

Provide the characteristics of Romanesque artistic manner.

  • Gangling feet    * 
  • Drapery – *   

What about the folds of the cloth? Do you remember the beautifully rendered folds of the Greek drapery? How do the folds look on Romanesque figures?   

  • Sizes of figures* 
  • Hierarchical scaling” –* 

 How do you understand this expression?                                                                                          

Remember, all the characteristics you have just put above were typical for Romanesque art.


Read the story about the German abbess Hildegard of Bingen and an unusual example of monastery art. The illumination from her book looks like a work of contemporary art, doesn’t it? Yet, this work is not a product of artistic creativity, but rather a visual document of what a medieval mystic saw in one of her visions.  Anything worthy to write down, anything that impressed you the most in this story?




Write down a few words about the art of weaving and embroidery.  Who were the artists?



*      Bayeux Tapestry       *    century (?)

In what technique is it done?  *   

             Attention: a tricky question. Traditionally it is called “tapestry” which means woven rug,

              but it is not a tapestry. Read the text above picture.


What historical event does this artwork describe?  


What is so unique about this tapestry?  What is its length? – *  

      — Impressive work, isn’t it?


                                          GOTHIC ART                                                

                                           *               (indicate period/centuries)

 Gothic” originally was a term of derision, meaning ‘primitive’, barbarian, poor art.  How did it originate? – *  

Is it still used as such? – *


“The term “Gothic“, when applied to architecture, has nothing to do with the historical Goths. It was a pejorative term that came to be used as early as the 1530s by Giorgio Vasari to describe culture that was considered rude and barbaric.[1] At the time in which Vasari was writing, Italy had experienced a century of building in the Classical architectural vocabulary revived in the Renaissance and seen as the finite evidence of a new Golden Age of learning and refinement.”  (- wikipedia)




Which date and which event are considered to mark the beginning of the Gothic style?


The abbey church of St. Denis

 [de-NEE]                                                                             Early Gothic


Construction began in *


What is so special about this church?


Ribs – *


Arch (Imp!) – *…

[Which type of arch had replaced the Romanesque rounded arch?]  





                   Laon Cathedral

                                                      Early Gothic

Date:  1190    Century: *      


What is new here compared to the Romanesque churches?








Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris  

                                [NOTR- DAhM]


Begun * …, completed *…  


So, how long had it been under construction? – *    


It is “a curious mixture of old and new


What is old? – *


What is new? – *



This one is a must to know since it is one of the most famous buildings in the world.



Chartres Cathedral                           

                       [SHAhRTR ]( “s” is not pronounced)         

                                        High Gothic

Date: *   /Century: *…


Which of the following High Gothic features

do you find in the Chartres Cathedral?


  • Three-level wall elevation
  • Larger windows let more light inside
  • Flying buttresses
  • Rectangular bay system
  • No alternate support system (of columns)
  • No Triforium
  • Increased height of arches & windows
  • Abundant stained glass

                Yes, all of them are there…





Now, after you have read about several cathedrals from this period – 12th-13th centuries – let us see what they have in common –  what exactly makes them Gothic.

                 Major characteristics of Gothic architecture              

  • Pointed archas opposed to Roundedarch (in the Romanesque church).
  • Walls are pierced with arches and stained glass windows;  

            They are thinner;  less massive; less heavy.                              

  • Rib vaultconstruction of the ceiling made it possible to build the thinner walls with big windows.
  • Tunnel-like entranceconsisting of portal jutting forward from the plane of the facade.
  • Rose windowin the center of the facade   
  • Flying buttresses (see below –A; also see Notre-Dame in Paris as viewed outside)



            Knowing these features you can always recognize the Gothic architecture.


Late Gothic period, also called Flamboyant Gothic

      (A little bit more on the last phase of the Gothic period)

Gothic architecture had been progressing fast and its evolution took an amazing direction.  Here is a good example – the St. Chapelle in Paris – notice that the stone walls seem to disappear; they are almost dissolved in the elements of stained glass. Just imagine how strong these thin columns have to be and how skilfully the thrust has to be calculated.



Photo credit: Donald.W.Gregory.



Take a look at the lacy tower.




Notre-Dame, Paris.           Photo credit: Donald.W.Gregory.

High Gothic Characteristics


Describe the trend using a few nicely put phrases from the end of Laon Cathedral section in your book.


“…rose window in the center and the twin bell tours seem to be *….


“…all efforts were directed toward * ….


The walls were *…

nave became *

carved details *…




What mystical quality is the author talking about?*






Florence Cathedral   (“Dome”)

Photo credit: Olga. I. Nosova


Country: *…

Date: *…



Was Gothic style in Italy different from French Gothic? –


Why could it be so?



                                            GOTHIC SCULPTURE


What were the crucial changes in mood and in iconography (subject) in Gothic sculpture compared to the Romanesque period?


What part has the Virgin Mary assumed in Gothic art?  * 

Notre-Dame*                      [NOTR-DAHM]

   [What does this name mean in French?]        


Placement of sculpture is confined to *              

              [Which parts of the Gothic cathedral are decorated?]


*      Sculptures from the Chartres Cathedral.   Date: * 

*      Sculptures from the Reims cathedral.       Date: *


Compare the figures from two cathedrals built in two periods – Early Gothic and Late Gothic.



Jamb Figures from Chartres Cathedral

              Early Gothic

Jam Figures from Reims Cathedral

                High Gothic




Body’s shape






Attachment to column



Degree of realism




Look at the figures of Mary and Elizabeth from the Reims Cathedral.

What is so particular about these sculptures that make historians to consider them as an introduction to the Renaissance?  In other words what is so classical about these High Gothic figures that we did not see in the Chartres figures (14-29)? Can you see a difference?

Do you recognize a contrapposto stance that you saw in the Doryphoros (Spearbearer) of Polyclitus?


The last picture I would like to show you – a masterful and curious sculptural group from the Cathedral of Strasburg.  Take the last look and marvel at the expressive and impressive Gothic sculpture.




The Devil tempting the foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)

adorning the jambs of Strasbourg Cathedral’s portal.


Devil is “represented as a handsome young man eating an apple,

but his cloth is open (on the back) and toads and snakes can be seen

underneath it.”









In Conclusion:


Emotionalism and religious subjects (iconography) – as opposed to Realism and Rationalism of the previous Classical period (ancient Greece and Romans) and the following Classical period of the Renaissance.


Why do you think the Middle Ages were called “MIDDLE?”
This is an interesting point that I would like to emphasize one more time.

The people who lived in the next epoch of the Renaissance called the previous centuries (ages) “Middle” because in their perception  this time had been a break between two Classical periods – the one of ancient Greece and their own time of the revival of ancient classical culture.

How many years did this break last?  *   Quite a long break it was, wasn’t it?


This section might feel for you pretty intense. And it was indeed. This is why I tried to provide you with this detailed and richly illustrated guide. I hope it helped you.  The guide will also be useful in preparation for the test as well.                        



For 800 years, this gargoyle keeps observing Paris from its Notre-Dame seat.

Under its watchful eye Paris had grown from the small medieval town to an artistic capital of the world.

As for the gargoyle itself –it became a tourist celebrity.



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