Middle Ages: Failed Return

Middle Ages: Failed Return

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1706-2.ch010

Abstract

The sources to mind evolution study were chosen. The methods of the depicting space in the painting of the European Middle Ages and painting of previous and synchronous cultures are considered. The trends in the development of medieval pictorial art are established and their connections with the general laws of evolution of the human mind are revealed. When analyzing markers of evolutionary changes, the most active channels were established, and the forecast following from the scenario of self-organization of complex systems was checked. The results of the analysis are presented in the form of a psychological portrait of one of the most outstanding women of the Middle Ages - Eleanor of Aquitaine. The behavior patterns of the Middle Ages main estates representatives were described.
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Background

In the period between the fall of the Western Roman Empire and until the collapse of Byzantium (circa 1500-550 years ago) – these particular dates are considered to be provisional timeframes of the Middle Ages – Europe constituted a formation that was extremely heterogeneous from the political, religious and cultural perspective.

The heroic age of Justinian striving to restore the Roman Empire in the east, the ruins of Italy, Gaul, Iberia in the south and west, lands devastated by the Huns in the center of Europe… In a matter of just two hundred years, that picture was replaced by the Mauritanian conquest of the Pyrenean Peninsula, the Carolingian Renaissance in France, Germany, and Italy and by the devastation of Byzantium exhausted in its fights against the Avars, Slavs, Persians, and Arabs. 200-300 years more – and the newly organized kingdoms began the Reconquest in the south, converted to Christianity in the east and north, sent their subjects on the Crusades, assailed Constantinople and led endless wars with each other. And – the rise of Italy and Northern Europe that paved the way for the Renaissance; the conquest of Grenada as a prelude to the conquest of America; an almost accomplished liberation of Rus that had become a Third Rome after the final downfall of the Second one, with which that boisterous epoch that reflected, as it were, the entire history of mankind, ended.

The Middle Ages are sometimes called the Dark Ages hinting at the cultural and technological regress as opposed to the Antiquity.

Was it the case? The Byzantine sources brought to us the information about disputes sparkling at marketplaces solely because of theological controversies; about convocations discussing articles of faith at the time when hostile battering rams where ruining the walls of their cities, and – sometimes – about miraculous rescues from foes. The focus of the society’s interests had shifted in the direction of the Christian mysticism – and the mind, so to speak, rushed back to the first and second levels, gaining there a new unity – the unity with God... And that, indeed, resulted in the abandonment of temporal affairs. The same very Byzantium that had inherited the Rome’s achievements untouched lost its technological advantages in a matter of just 600 years. Thereafter, the interest in temporal affairs was aroused again, and the mind returned to the fourth level.

The Medieval understanding of space immediately precedes the creation of the perspective methods of representation of space forms and relations that emerged in the epoch of the Renaissance. Does the Medieval understanding of space have an independent value? Or is it only important as a preparatory stage? How do the changes in that understanding correlate with the patterns of changes in space representation methods during the previous historical epochs? These questions need to be answered after tracing space representation methods from the Early Middle Ages to its “Autumn” (Huizinga, 1988), and by comparing the resulting patterns with the synchronic monuments of other cultures.

The sources (Beckwith, 1964; Mango& Hawkins 1964; Rice, 1968; Henderson, 1977; Tiazhelov, 1981; Weitzmann & Chatzidakis, 1982; Cormack, 1985; Dodwell, 1993; Campbell, 1998; Nesselstrauss, 2000; Adams, 2001; Benton, 2002) consider Medieval pictorial art from the perspective of art history. A periodization is introduced and peculiar features of styles are researched, including storylines and techniques. The chronology is based on historical events – the establishment and the fall of the feudal formation. A distinction is made between the differences characteristic of certain regions of Western Europe, in particular, of the Byzantine, Italian, French, Spanish, and German. In the framework of researching Western Europe, space representation methods are singled out and are occasionally compared with the methods characteristic of the antiquity period.

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