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Understanding the History of Medieval Art

June 29th, 2015
History of Medieval Art

Just as human life moved through different eras and people were exposed to new experiences, art evolved along with it. The medieval period of art history began at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire in 300 CE and continued until the beginning of the Renaissance in 1400 CE. There were three major periods of medieval art: Early Christian, Romanesque, and Gothic.

During the Early Christian age, the Catholic Church was gaining power. By 350 CE, the Church had two main centers of power: Rome and Constantinople. Medieval art was popular in houses of worship and was used as decoration for the public’s appreciation. The Christians enjoyed mosaics with both dull colors and bright, eye-catching colors. Roman mosaics made up a majority of the artwork during this particular time-frame.

As wealth began to spread throughout Europe at the beginning of the eleventh century, so did churches and affluent families. This sparked an interest in Romanesque architecture. Semi-circular arches, heavy stone walls, and stable construction in monasteries and churches marked the growth of the European city.

Medieval art continued its expansion into the twelfth century when Gothic style was developed as a result of the French monarchy. Menacing gargoyles and flying buttresses were commonplace throughout a Gothic cathedral. While some did not understand their beauty, these cathedrals are timeless and stunning landmarks from era.  The most recognizable is Notre Dame in Paris.

There is a lot to be gained from this 900 year movement. One way to observe this breakthrough period of art is by looking at the changes in church decoration. Throughout the three eras of medieval art, evolution of the human form can be seen through such elements as the Madonna and Child from having abnormally large heads on small bodies in the era of Early Christianity, to more natural countenances in the Gothic era. As time progressed, artists became bolder in their representation of religious figures.

So does art imitate life, or life imitate art?  Whichever way you personally feel, the Markeim Arts Center is here to broaden your knowledge of the subject. If you are seeking a more hands-on approach, we offer classes, exhibits, and workshops to familiarize and teach you about the ins and outs of different techniques and mediums. Give us a call today at (856) 429- 8585 to learn more.