The Early Medieval Period (c.400 -1000A.D.) witnessed the decline of the Byzantine Empire, due to the Persian invasions in the 6th century and the Islamic invasions in the 7th century. Western Europe was dominated by illiterate, nomadic tribes. This was the great migration period of the Celts, Saxons, Franks, Ostrogoths, Goths etc. The Church and major monasteries were the only central authority and preservers of culture and literacy.

Three Main Periods of this Age.

Northern European Art:
Mainly the art of this period came from Irish Monasteries. These included many gospels, stone carved crosses, and nomadic riding gear or jewelry items in the animal style reminiscent of Persia.
Carolingian Period:
(c.750-887) Frankish Kingdoms, The most important era was that of Charlemagne, who initiated an intellectual and classical revival. Many manuscripts, ivory carvings and goldsmith work were created. Architecture of this period receives a new impetus along with new churches built with a continuation of the western longitudinal plan with emphasis on the facade and towers
Chapel of Charlemagne, Aachen, Germany
Ottonian Art:Doubting Thomas Ivory
Ottonian art begins with the death of Charlemagne's son in 843, when the old empire is divided into three parts, the French section, Eastern and Middle, the latter being the continued Holy Roman Empire, ruled by Lothar I. This de-centralization of the empire ultimately led to feudalism and the separation of lords, knights and serfs (peasants) all owing varying degrees of allegiance to the king. By 911, the political power was concentrated in the North in Saxony. The Saxon Kings (919-1024), several named Otto, thus the term Ottonian, emphasized the importance of art in their resurgence of authority. The originality of Ottonian style with it's emotional emphasis, a form of medieval expressionism has come to be associated with the Germanic style and sensibility in general, often referred to by the German term 'angst' a deep state of pathos, guilt, and emotion. Such works as the Gero Crucifix, the Adam and Eve scene from the bronze doors of St. Michaels at Hildesheim, (see images in text) or numerous manuscripts and carved ivories, show us the exaggeration of emotion, the elongation of form, or the deliberate, naivety of expression, which modern German artists have found a great source of inspiration. These expressive distortions also anticipate Romanesque art. At the upper right is one half of a carved ivory DIPTYCH showing the 'Doubting of St. Thomas'. Christ stands elevated on a low pedestal, raising his arm, while Thomas clamors eagerly and crudely up to Christ's body to examine with his own eyes the wounds as proof of His resurrection. The scene, compressed within a niche, elongated and distorted, defies both Byzantine and Classicism to achieve a new refreshing form of piety that reflects the ordinary trials, failings and emotions of the believers. These same qualities will be seen in the next era.

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 Last Published 7/14/16