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Our study of the Vikings and other ancient cultures of northern Europe showed skilled and beautiful metalwork. We learned about their “animal interlace” style. The insatiable drive of these northern tribes to raid and infiltrate their southern neighbors had the interesting effect of blending their artistic forms with the prominant forms, styles, and methods of Christian Europe.
The Church established monestaries throughout Europe. These self-sufficient complexes became centres of knowledge, religion, wealth and power. With Church support, they retained remarkable stability in a world of constant war and turmoil. We learned about the development of illuminated manuscripts as an art form. We saw the “animal interlace” style blend with traditional christian forms, and later, during the Ottonian era, we saw the introduction of middle-eastern and Byzantian themes. This rich and complex blend of styles and vernaculars came together in the detailed, highly stylized and endlessly inventive Medieval artworks.
Charlemagne, King of the Franks, gathered much of Europe, including Italy, under his control. He was evenutally recognized by the Pope as emporer. This strong tie with Italy is probably responsible for a brief renaissance during his reign of art and culture. Roman artistic styles were especially revived in Charlemagne’s architectural feats.
The Romanesque period saw the invention of a new sculptural art form – the relief sculpture of the “tympanum” or church “portal.” This was the first use of sculpture on a monumental scale since classical antiqutiy. We studied these and other relief sculptures that adorned Romanesque churches. These scultpures served the function of communicating the stories of the bible in a way that was meant to inspire awe and wonder, and leave the viewer aware of his or her small and insignificant position.