Eternity and its Effigy

Art in the Middle Ages

Romanesque and Gothic

Art in the Middle Ages: Eternity and its Effigy In the Middle Ages, art mainly served the glorification of God and the idea of a better life in the world hereafter. Numerous panels, statues and stained-glass paintings evoke a radiating world beyond, free of fear and misery.

Art also served the personal salvation of the soul. With the help of generous donations, those who commissioned a work of art wished to secure their place in heaven, and all posthumous fame is owed to them. The artist was mostly an anonymous craftsman. Order is a central concept in medieval thought.

The rigid social order on earth is revealed as the image of an ideal heavenly order. Each social rank was allocated its task:

tu rege – Rule! – was assigned to the prince,
tu ora – Pray! – to the clergy,
tu labora – Work! – to the common man.

Art, too, was subject to strict rules, artistic imagination in the modern sense was unheard of. The themes were provided by the Bible and the legends of the saints.

Image Credits

Mary - Helper of Christians and Queen of Heaven
As the mother of Christ Mary was regarded as the most important saint. It was the early church that started to worship her as Mother of God and as preparing the way for Christ.
Celestial Light - Stained Glass Paintings
The philosophy of antiquity regarded light as a divine power, an idea that continued to live in medieval theology and found its highest artistic expression in stained glass paintings.
The Godly Child - The Appearance of the Lord
It was the early Church that first proclaimed the two-fold nature of the Redeemer: Christ is God and man in one. His childhood history reveals his human side.
The Servant of God
Sufferings - Death on the Cross - Lamentation. Jesus’ sheltered childhood is followed by the painful stations of the Cross. The arts illustrate this in unsparing realism.
The Succession of Christ - The Saints
According to the Gospel of St. Matthew’s the work of the Apostles and Saints is seen as a direct succession of Christ. The Roman Church, too, saw itself in this tradition.