Art and the Feudal System

Jacob Wrestling the Angel
The Vienna Genesis,
Probably made in Syria or Palestine.
Early 6th century.
Tempera, gold, and silver paint
on purple-dyed vellum,
approx. 9"x12"
Osterreiche Nationalbibliothek, Vienna
Byzantine Style
detail images go tosee also Stokstad fig 7-35
Page with Rebecca at the Well
Form:  This manuscript page, made on animal skin, marks the evolution of Christian manuscript making.  Manuscripts combined two forms of art, calligraphy and painting.  The term calligraphy literally means beautiful writing (kalos: beauty graphos: to write)  The letters and words are written in silver (now tarnished black) in Greek and follow a fairly unified style of script without much of the variation and ornamentation that develops later in Christian and Islamic manuscripts.The page was conceived of as a whole composition in which the words at the top, packed tightly and uniformly across the surface, balance with the almost frieze like image beneath.  The narrative beneath starts at the left and continues around in a reversed "C" like shape.  Multiple scenes with the same characters inhabit the same space.  This convention referred to as a continuous narrative, run throughout the entire manuscript and mimic the paintings of Dura Europos.
Iconography:  Color and the materials used to adorn the book are iconic.  The silver and gold paint elevate the physical and therefore highlight the spiritual value of the text.  The same is true of the expensive purple dye of the page which is also symbolic of royalty.  (Note the purple robes of Theodora and Justinian above.)  The decorative qualities of how things are written, called calligraphy (calos- beautiful graphy- to write) is symbolic in and of itself.  The beauty and care in which the letters, words, and decorative forms are written is symbolic of the beauty of the meaning of the words and phrases.  Figures are represented very much like Christ figure from Hagia Sofia, which exists from the 13th century. The drapery stylization and face are the same.
The story here is important Read Mencher Liaisons 15-21 (Selections from Genesis-Jacob and Esau)
Context:  Early Christian artists or calligraphers, borrowed and developed the decorative forms of calligraphy from the Romans, Greeks and sacred books of the Jewish Torah, in order to decorate and honor the words of the Old and New Testaments. 
Since Jews and Christians share in many of the ideas expressed in the Old Testament, one of the concepts they share is the second commandment which forbids the creation of graven images.  Early Jews and Christians took this commandment quite literally and did not create any such sculptures or images.  The rational was that image making could lead to idolatry.  Some Jewish groups and Christians felt that the word graven indicated a ban on sculptural images but both graphic ones.  Christians were split over this decision but came on a comprise in which images were useful because they instructed. This controversy is called the iconoclastic controversy (see Stokstad "Iconoclasm" page 309).  This may account for the deliberate stylizations and lack of naturalism of the figures that is similar to the relief sculptures on the Arch of Constantine.

Virgin and Child with Saints and Angel
icon second half of 6th century
Encaustic on wood, 27x18"
Monastery of Saint Catherine,
Mount Sinai, Egypt
Form:  This encaustic painting (wax and pigments) is symmetrical in its composition.  The painting also combines several styles of painting faces and bodies.  The central figures are painted in a slightly more naturalistic Graeco Roman style while the two figures of Theodore (left) and George (right) are painted in a more Byzantine and codified manner.  There are more tonal transitions on the faces and bodies of the Virgin and Jesus and that the anatomy is revealed more by the drapery than in the flanking figures.Iconography:  The symmetry of the composition places the most important figures at the center.  Icons like this begin the tradition of creating the symbolic system in which Mary serves as the throne of God referred to by Stokstad as an intercessor and the Throne of Wisdom.  The halos each wears are derived from the ideas of enlightenment they represent.  A halo is a graphic representation of the light or aura of wisdom or knowledge that sacred individuals exhibit.  The halos are often differentiated almost as if to give a rank.  For example, Jesus' halo is inscribed with a Greek cross.  Her clothing is both Jewish and eastern in style which precedes the invention of the Muslim Hijab but looks very much like it.  The clothing, organization of the composition and use of halos sets the standard for costuming and depictions of Mary and Jesus well into the Renaissance.  The two flanking figures are idealized types and one would have to be told how to identify them to know who they are.  Nevertheless, their attributions as Theodore (left) and George (right) are the warrior saints who slew serpents similar to the one that Adam and Eve were tricked by.
Context:  Not many icons exist from this period mainly because of the iconoclastic controversy.  (see Stokstad "Iconoclasm" page 309)


S. Gall Benedictine Abbey, St. Gall Switzerland 7th-8th C
The Monastic System fulfilled the needs and took care of the people. It educated the Lords and the Serfs. The Monks kept the world going by praying, and they were very intelligent. The Monk Monasteries were like Universities, they were a place to learn spiritual renewal and a place to pray. They would also copy the Bible and make manuscript. They preserved some of the text that would have otherwise been burned. In the Monastery the servants slept next to the livestock. There was a big church at the entrance with statues of Gabriel and Michael (Archangels). The Monastery also included a hospice for the poor (a free clinic) where a medieval physician would bleed you. There was also a physicians house. There were breweries and bakeries etc. next to the kitchen. There was a caretakers house and a cemetery. In the middle there was a cloister, a courtyard where you go to reflect on the life of God. There was also a guest house and a school. There was a novitiate house (convent for the novices) for people who were thinking of becoming Monks and Nuns.
 Stokstad 497-502
Political and Theological Systems570 or 580 AD- Pope Gregory comes to power. Everyone is worried because they are moving to a new century. He tries to save as many souls as possible. Some of the things that Pope Gregory does is to codify or systematize worship and the liturgy of the church. One such system was Gregorian Chant.
Gregorian Chant : all sing together (monophonic)
Why was chant invented? It passed on Catholic beliefs in an oral tradition and it helped people remember the words. Gregorian chant started with Pope Gregory -ceremonial from the Jewish temple Gothic cathedral and Gregorian chant-echo (overtones and undertones)
The next passage is quoted directly from the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
Gregorian chant, monophonic, or unison, liturgical music of the Roman Catholic Church, used to accompany the text of the mass and the canonical hours, or divine office. Gregorian chant is named after St. Gregory I the Great, pope from 590 to 604. It was collected and codified during his reign. Charlemagne, king of the Franks (768-814), imposed Gregorian chant on his kingdom, where another liturgical tradition--the Gallican chant--was in common use. During the 8th and 9th centuries, a process of assimilation took place between Gallican and Gregorian chants; and it is the chant in this evolved form that has come down to the present.
The Ordinary of the mass includes those texts that remain the same for each mass. The chant of the Kyrie ranges from neumatic (patterns of one to four notes per syllable) to melismatic (unlimited notes per syllable) styles. The Gloria appeared in the 7th century. The psalmodic recitation, i.e., using salm tones, simple formulas for the intoned reciting of psalms, of early Glorias attests to their ancient origin. Later Gloria chants are neumatic. The melodies of the Credo, accepted into the mass about the 11th century, resemble psalm tones. The Sanctus and Benedictus are probably from apostolic times. The usual Sanctus chants are neumatic. The Agnus Dei was brought into the Latin mass from the Eastern Church in the 7th century and is basically in neumatic style. The concluding Ite Missa Est and its substitute Benedicamus Domino usually use the melody of the opening Kyrie.
The Proper of the mass is composed of texts that vary for each mass in order to bring out the significance of each feast or season. The Introit is a processional chant that was originally a psalm with a refrain sung between verses. By the 9th century it had received its present form: refrain in a neumatic style--a psalm verse in psalm-tone style--refrain repeated. The Gradual, introduced in the 4th century, also developed from a refrain between psalm verses. Later it became: opening melody (chorus)--psalm verse or verses in a virtuosically embellished psalmodic structure (soloist)--opening melody (chorus), repeated in whole or in part. The Alleluia is of 4th-century Eastern origin. Its structure is somewhat like that of the Gradual. The Tract replaces the Alleluia in penitential times. This chant is a descendant of synagogue music.
The sequence flourished primarily from about the 9th century to the 16th. In its modern form the texts are sacred poems with double-line stanzas having the same accentuation and number of syllables for each two lines. The melody of the first line was repeated for the second line of then stanza, a new melody being given to the next stanza; the music is syllabic. The Offertory originally consisted of a psalm and refrain, but by the 12th century only the refrain remained. The music is quite melismatic. Peculiar to the Offertory is repetition of text. The Communion is, like the Offertory, a processional chant. The music is neumatic in style.
The canonical hours consist of eight prayer services: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. Each includes antiphons or refrains, short texts that precede or follow each psalm and are set mostly in syllabic chant; psalms, with each set to a psalm tone; hymns, usually metrical and in strophes or stanzas, and set in a neumatic style; responsories, which follow the lessons of Matins and the chapter, a brief lesson of the other hours, and have the form response- salm verse-partially or entirely repeated response. The responsory is related to the form and style of the Gradual.
Encyclopaedia Britannica,
St. Augustine-theologen who wrote about man's relationship with God system to understand philosophical structure-spiritual world and physical world are tied together.
Greek Orthodox Church exists in Constantinople and the Roman Catholic Church lives in Rome, Italy. Everybody believes in the ten commandments, that Jesus has come to save them and that he died for our sins. This is a theology everybody has come to accept, except for the Jews and Islamics. The beginning of some of the problems that they have is that they start reading different doctrine and different ways of worshiping into that and that changes what people think. In the Greek Orthodox church they speak Latin, only because it's a trade language.
Feudalism- Starts at almost 600-700 A.D. Feudalism was a system of military service and land ownership that created a pyramid of political and military power. Feudalism is a system of government in which the minority rules the majority. For every Lord there are 60 to 70 Serfs. It called for support mostly from the church and included mainly little kingdoms run by Landlords-kings. It did not rely on one single dictator or person to run the empire. During or about this time Monasteries were also built . They served as universities, hospitals, library, training schools for future monks, public shelter, and many other purposed. These same monasteries also were responsible for preserving many important documents that are so vital in today's history. If it weren't for them we may have not seen many of the documents that have provided us with many important information about history.
In around 500-600 AD there was a breakdown in the pre-established Roman order which had dominated Europe and the Near East.  Feudalism came to the fore and cities, as we know them, disappeared.  The Church at this time became the central repository of classical knowledge.
When Charlemagne, in the late 700 to early 800's attempted to centralize the "Holy Roman Empire," the churches he built also served as a kind of palace/throne room.  The architecture of these structures is not as sophisticated or ornamented as earlier basilica.
Another great achievement of the middle ages was the rise monasticism.  The monastery was almost a great fortress of information.  Scribes and scholars housed in monasteries were basically responsible for transcribing and storing the information of classical antiquity and later philosophers and theologians.

One of the main products or art forms the monks produced was the illuminated manuscript.

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