art of the barbarians places different values on human beings than the
classical art of the past. Instead of glorifying man as incredibly beautiful,
he is almost unrecognizable and has to be identified with a label: imagus
hominus, the image of man. This is not to say, though, that it is necessarily
inferior. Celtic designs, such as knots and the beautiful books of this
time are undeniably beautiful and took a great deal of skill to make.
This art would have been small, because these people did not live in
permanent cities and it may not have been very common as things like
books were very expensive to make. Also, what we have today is a small
sampling of what existed then. Not only was it a long time ago, and
much of it was wooden, but these items would not have been the Christian
church's priority of things to save.
Subject: The subject of this piece is Jesus Christ being crucified.
It is said that at the time preceding his death, Jesus was doing controversial
things and many said he was blasphemous for claiming to be the Son of
God, and King of the Jews. At the Last Supper, Jesus said that he would
soon be arrested and executed. It is said that when it was called for
his arrest, Judas Iscariot, one of his apostles, gave away his identity
by kissing him. Though apologist Bibles claim that Pontius Pilate felt
that the execution was unjust, it is likely that Pontius, the man who
sentenced Jesus to death, cared at all about whether or not it was a
just decision. The crucifixion itself is a disturbing story, as it is
among the most disturbing of methods of death. Jesus first was flogged,
made to wear a crown of thorns, spit on, beaten, and humiliated. It
is said that he carried his cross through Jerusalem until he reached
the place of his death. At this point he was nailed to a wooden cross
until he was dead. Christian tradition believes that after three days,
he rose again and ascended to heaven.
Jerome was a Christian apologist priest and contemporary of St. Augustine.
In a dream, Christ appeared to him and scolded him for being more of
a Ciceronian than a Christian. After this, he decided to devote his
life entirely to the study of religious texts. He has had a lasting
impact on the world of literature, as he was a prolific translator.
Most importantly, he translated the Vulgate which is a Latin version
of the bible from the fifth century. It was originally in old Latin,
which was translated directly from Hebrew as opposed to Greek. For over
a thousand years, this was the official Bible promoted by the Catholic
church and it had a profound impact on the faithful. Many of today's
translations are based on Jerome's version, including English translations.
Aside from the Bible, other works began to more prevalent. Like all works of this time, and in fact, all works up until closer to our time, the hero of Beowulf is not flawed. His enemy, likewise, is wholly evil. It is simple: you cheer for the hero, who is high above any real person; and you boo for the villain who is supernaturally horrific. He fights against all odds to prove himself and succeeds in killing the Grendel and the Grendel's mother. Medieval troubadours would have traveled, telling such tales. They would have either read them aloud as poetry or sang them. This could be accompanied by an instrument or two, such as a lute. Not only would this be more interesting for the audience, but the stories could be extremely long (Beowulf, for instance, is 3182 lines) and it would have been impossible to remember them without a technique such as rhyme or rhythm.
Charlemagne's church, the Palatine Chapel in Aachen, is modeled heavily on the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna. San Vitale was built by Justinian in the 6th century, in the Byzantinian style. Charlemagne himself made several visits to this church before deciding he would build a copy of it. It was built from 792 to 805 using materials imported from afar at great cost. It contains huge arches, Corinthian columns, and two levels. Beside the main entrance, there are two spiral staircases leading up to belltowers. These would call the faithful to prayer, not unlike a minaret. The upper level was meant for the highest of nobles and contained a huge throne for Charlemagne. Charlemagne initiated a revival of the classical heritage which had been all but lost by assembling great minds from all over the Western World. He allowed the liberal arts to flourish and encouraged church reformation. This, as well as his extreme support of education contributed to an event known as the Carolingian Renaissance. The ancient world finally progressed into the middle ages, and Charlemagne was the driving force for this. However, when he died, he divided his kingdom among his three grandsons. They were, unfortunately, completely incompetent. They also clearly had very different values, and did not encourage the arts in the same way their grandfather had done. The empire did not stay together as a strongly united force, and this spike in these artistic ideals petered out.