After the fall of the Roman Empire, large stone sculptures disappeared
for a long time. Some wooden sculptures were around in the proto-Romanesque
period, and works like the Gero Crucifix became the first version of
what was to become a very popular theme. The sculpture at this time,
especially early in the period would have been used mostly in decoration
of architecture. Low-relief carvings on doors and walls were very common.
Figures are often not very realistic; like stained glass and illuminated
manuscripts, the figures are recognizable as humans but are extremely
symbolic. Size and position was However, because they are 3-dimensional,
they appear more realistic than equally stylized paintings. This art
was often used to convey stories or send a message. For instance, a
series of carved capitals could tell stories by showing characters or
scenes. This makes sense, as this art form rose along pilgrimage routes.
Often illiterate pilgrims, off to view various relics would be interested
in visiting churches which housed these relics and would also be interested
in the religious tales explained on the walls and windows. Certain scenes
appear over and over, such as the Arrest of Christ and the Last Judgement.
It became more and more popular as churches continued to spring up especially
in the South of France. Churches would be very thouroughly decorated:
inside walls, outside walls, jambs, the trumeau and niches would all
be carved but perhaps most important were the carved tympanums over
the large entry portals. This area was perfect for carving as it was
not load bearing and was clearly visible. Not only would a scene, such
as the Last Judgement be present, often decoration would be carved in
bands around it. These sculptures were often preferable to painting
as they had a much longer life, and thus could spread their message
for a longer period of time.