Medieval Arts, Architecture, and Literature


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Covers the main strands of Medieval Arts, Architecture, and Literature.

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Medieval Arts, Architecture, and Literature

  1. 1. Medieval Arts, Architecture, and Literature Expressive Arts of a Medieval Ideology
  2. 2. Medieval Arts: Mortal Body, Immortal Soul <ul><li>The theme of salvation dominates the arts, architecture, and literature </li></ul><ul><li>Prototype of medieval themes: Dante’s The Divine Comedy , a symbolic epic poem on the three levels of the afterlife. </li></ul><ul><li>Architecture symbolizes the grandeur of the Christian God </li></ul><ul><li>Plays emphasize biblical theology and the morality derived from it </li></ul><ul><li>The arts depict the saints and the divinity itself </li></ul>
  3. 3. Medieval Verse and Poetry <ul><li>Poems tended to be long, and were divided into main divisions called cantos </li></ul><ul><li>Several themes include </li></ul><ul><li>Accounts of fighting nobility ( Song of Roland) </li></ul><ul><li>Code of courtly love: de Troyes’s Lancelot </li></ul><ul><li>Theological epics, such as Dante’s Divine Comedy </li></ul>
  4. 4. Medieval Arts: The Divine Comedy <ul><li>Dante Aligheri’s The Divine Comedy is a prototypic classic of the medieval era </li></ul><ul><li>It describes the pilgrimage of a Christian soul through Hell (Inferno) and Purgatory (Purgatorio) </li></ul><ul><li>Then to salvation (Paradiso) </li></ul><ul><li>(Ed. Note: If this epic poem doesn’t scare the living bejasus out of you, nothing will. ) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Symbolism of Divine Comedy <ul><li>Every aspect of Divine Comedy has symbolic meaning </li></ul><ul><li>Numerology of three: Trinity, three levels of the afterlife, Aristotelian division of human psyche into reason, will, and love—and three guides </li></ul><ul><li>Nines: nine levels of Hell, spheres of heaven, and circles of penitents in Purgatory </li></ul>
  6. 6. Medieval Arts: The Divine Comedy <ul><li>Dante Aligheri’s The Divine Comedy is a prototypic classic of the medieval era </li></ul><ul><li>It describes the pilgrimage of a Christian soul through Hell (Inferno) and Purgatory (Purgatorio) </li></ul><ul><li>Then to salvation (Paraidiso) </li></ul><ul><li>The poem is rich in symbolism, especially the numerology of threes (Trinity, three levels of the afterlife) and their multiples </li></ul>
  7. 7. Virgil the Poet <ul><li>Virgil, the Roman poet, accompanies Dante in Hell and Purgatory </li></ul><ul><li>Virgil represents Reason, but as a pagan he can never enter paradise </li></ul><ul><li>Here, Dante and Virgil are seen in the background in the Inferno </li></ul><ul><li>As tormented souls writhe in the foreground. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Paradise with Beatrice as Guide <ul><li>His beloved Beatrice accompanies him through Paradise </li></ul><ul><li>This is a study of unrequited love; in real life, Beatrice was uninterested in him </li></ul><ul><li>At a more abstract level, she was the personification of wisdom </li></ul>
  9. 9. Divine Comedy: Inferno <ul><li>There are nine levels of Hell, punishment varying with the sin </li></ul><ul><li>Lowest (ninth) reserved for those accused of treachery (Judas, Brutus) </li></ul><ul><li>Sins of passion (sex) receive the lightest </li></ul><ul><li>Punishment is carried out by the sin itself: </li></ul><ul><li>Gluttons are punished with their own excrement </li></ul><ul><li>The violent are immersed in boiling blood </li></ul>
  10. 10. Divine Comedy: Purgatorio <ul><li>Sins are also hierarchically arranged </li></ul><ul><li>Least serious sin is lasciviousness </li></ul><ul><li>The most serious: the lethargic, considered worse than the wrathful or the proud </li></ul><ul><li>Purged of their sins, the souls may enter paradise </li></ul>
  11. 11. Divine Comedy: Il Paradiso <ul><li>Is there a hierarchy in heaven? </li></ul><ul><li>To Dante, yes: there are nine circles of heaven </li></ul><ul><li>The lowest circle: souls who abandoned their vows and so were deficient in fortitude </li></ul><ul><li>Intermediate circles: souls with less defects then with various degrees of glory </li></ul><ul><li>The highest (ninth) circle: the abode of angels and the primum mobile of all creation </li></ul><ul><li>Above: Dante and Beatrice at the gate of the Empyrean Paradise </li></ul><ul><li>Below: Artist’s conception of Paradise according to Dante. </li></ul>
  12. 12. The Empyrean Paradise <ul><li>Finally, Beatrice leaves him to his final guide, St. Bernard, because theology has reached its limits </li></ul><ul><li>The Empyrean Paradise is the abode of God Himself, represented by three circles </li></ul><ul><li>The circles represent the Trinity </li></ul><ul><li>The story ends with Dante experiencing God’s love while trying (and failing) to understand his ways. </li></ul><ul><li>The Empyrean Paradise exists beyond space and time </li></ul>
  13. 13. Divine Comedy: Conclusion <ul><li>The Divine Comedy encapsulates the Augustinian conception of Christianity and the Church. </li></ul><ul><li>All the world of the afterlife is hierarchical, from Hell through Purgatory to Paradise itself </li></ul><ul><li>The entire epic is a engaging story, yet it is full of symbolism that requires several readings to adequately understand it. </li></ul><ul><li>Theme of all aspects of medieval life appears in the Divine Comedy: theology, hierarchy of the Church, fear of damnation, Church doctrine </li></ul>
  14. 14. Medieval Arts: Morality Plays <ul><li>Definition: A type of play dramatizing moral themes </li></ul><ul><li>Conflict between good and evil is a recurring motif </li></ul><ul><li>The qualities are personified and engaged in dialogue—Everyman, Death, Knowledge </li></ul><ul><li>In Everyman, the protagonist realizes that Death has come to take him to the Last Judgment </li></ul><ul><li>No one—Wit, Knowledge, even Kindred—can save him but Good Deeds (with the aid of the priesthood, of course) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Mystery and Miracle Plays <ul><li>Mystery Plays (left): Plays originating in Church liturgy </li></ul><ul><li>Dramatized biblical history </li></ul><ul><li>Among the themes: fall of Satan, Last Judgment </li></ul><ul><li>Miracle Plays: Plays depicting the miracles of Christ, the Virgin, and the Saints. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Medieval Music: Polyphony <ul><li>Within the church, choirs sang in a pattern of polyphony, in which two or more lines of melody of equal importance are sung </li></ul><ul><li>Organum refers to a generic variety of polyphone </li></ul><ul><li>In parallel organum, the two voices move exactly parallel with each other </li></ul><ul><li>In free organum, the second voice moves in contrary motion </li></ul><ul><li>Melismatic organum involves the use of multiple notes for the individual syllables of the text </li></ul>
  17. 17. Medieval Architecture: Romanesque Church <ul><li>Size of nave enlarge to accommodate pilgrims </li></ul><ul><li>Eastern part of the church enlarged for chapels where small parties could worship undisturbed </li></ul><ul><li>Salient features: rounded arches, thick walls, large towers, and decorative arcading </li></ul><ul><li>Most of them were abbey churches </li></ul><ul><li>They generally dominated the countryside </li></ul>
  18. 18. Medieval Architecture: Gothic Cathedrals <ul><li>They were abstract, symbolic, and expressive linearity </li></ul><ul><li>Colorful and highly decorative </li></ul><ul><li>The rounded arch was replaced by the pointed arch (upper left, Riems Cathedral, France) </li></ul><ul><li>The ribbed vault appears at the ceiling of the church (lower left; San Zanipolo, Venice) </li></ul><ul><li>The flying buttress transfers the weight of the vault to a buttress outside the building </li></ul><ul><li>They involved the extensive use of stained glass windows </li></ul>
  19. 19. Medieval Scholasticism <ul><li>Based on the need to reconcile Christianity with Aristotelian philosophy and science </li></ul><ul><li>Peter Abelard introduced rationalist approach to Church dogma: </li></ul><ul><li>It entailed the freedom to doubt and question authority </li></ul><ul><li>Sic et Non presented 150 conflicting opinions on religious matters </li></ul><ul><li>Thomas Aquinas advances reasoned arguments for the compatibility between reason and revelation on theology. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Conclusion <ul><li>Generally, the arts reflected the principles of hierarchy, Christian salvation, and Church doctrine that dominated medieval society </li></ul><ul><li>Dante’s Divine Comedy reflected the Augustinian influence of the medieval world view </li></ul><ul><li>The architecture, art, and music were dedicated to the glory of a God as seen through medieval eyes. </li></ul>