2018HSSL_FlipBooks

2018_FlipBook_Getlein_LivingWithArt_12e

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362 • C H R I S T I A N I T Y A N D T H E F O R M A T I O N O F E U R O P E By the year 600, the migrations were essentially over, and kingdoms whose area roughly approximated the nations of modern Europe had taken form. Their inhabitants had steadily been converted to Christianity. For purposes of this discus- sion, we will focus initially on the people who settled in two areas—the Angles and Saxons in Britain, and the Franks in Gaul (modern France). On the island of Britain northeast of London (then Londinium) was Sutton Hoo, where the grave of an unknown 7th-century East Anglian king was found. Objects discovered at the burial site include a superb gold-and-enamel purse cover (15.11), with delicately made designs. The motifs are typical of the animal style prevalent in the art of northwestern Europe at that time—a legacy, very likely, from the migratory herdsmen who were these people's ancestors. Animal-style images were often accompanied by interlace, patterns formed by intricately interwoven rib- bons and bands. We can see interlace clearly in the upper-center medallion of the Sutton Hoo purse cover, where it is combined with abstracted animals. Among the most important artistic products of the early Middle Ages were copies of Christian scriptures. In the days before the printing press, each book had to be copied by hand. During the early Middle Ages, this copying was carried out in monasteries; monks, educated by the Church, were the only literate segment of the population. Monks not only copied texts but also illuminated them—furnished them with illustrations and decorations. The illumination here (15.12) was probably made by Irish monks working in Scotland. It is the first page of the Gospel of Matthew—one of the four accounts in the Bible of the life and works of Jesus—and it shows how the monks adapted animal style and interlace to a Christian setting. The text spells out "Liber" or "Book" in highly stylized letters. Each letter consists of multiple interlace patterns in different widths and colors, some terminating in stylized animal heads. Matthew appears twice holding his Gospel text, first to the left of the letters and again at the top of the page. In both cases, his figure is flat and abstracted, with no suggestion of its mass or three-dimensionality. He is entirely spirit, not substance. In France, a different style of art was taking root, called Carolingian after the emperor Charlemagne. Charlemagne, or Charles the Great, was a powerful Frankish king whose military conquests eventually gave him control over most of western Europe. Like his father before him, Charlemagne was asked by the pope for military help against the Lombards, a Germanic tribe that had conquered Ravenna and besieged Rome. In 800, he intervened yet again on the pope's behalf, this time to restore order in Rome. On Christmas Day that year, a grateful pope crowned Char- lemagne Romanorum Imperator, Emperor of the Romans. It was the first time the title had been used in the West in more than 300 years. Even before being crowned emperor, Charlemagne was well aware of his pre- eminence among the rulers of Europe. Frankish kings had traditionally moved from palace to palace throughout their realm. Charlemagne, while continuing this cus- tom, also decided to build a permanent and more magnificent capital in Aachen, 15.11 Purse cover, from the Sutton Hoo ship burial. 625–33. Gold with garnets and enamels, length 7 ½". © The Trustees of the British Museum, London/Art Resource, NY

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