Tag Archives: symbolism

Rose Window.

13 Mar

st-denis-rose-window

The abbey church of Saint-Denis near Paris is considered the first Gothic, or French Style, building. Its characteristics include the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress. It emphasizes verticality and light. Abbot Suger, the commissioner of the abbey, underscore how deep an emotional and spiritual chord is struck by the play of light that passes through glass. By the time Saint-Denis was completed, stained glass had been in use for over a hundred years in relatively small windows of certain churches. Many contemporary authors see the rose window as a mandala as it operates on spiritual, meditative and emotional level. The instructional aspect is visible by the subjects chosen: God at the centre, the six days of Creation, the Zodiac with the order of the heavens, the labours representing the order of the earth, Adam and Eve eating the fruit and being expelled from Eden.

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Eve’s Apple.

11 Mar

Romaans sculptuur op kapiteel Eva & Apple

Romanesque Art refers to the art of Europe from 1000 AD onwards. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the tradition of sculpting figures in stone and bronze died out, as it did in the Byzantine world, for religious reasons . The growth of Romanesque art was stimulated intensely by the circulation of pilgrims and by travelling craftsmen and artists, who moved from one construction yard to another to offer their services. Most Romanesque sculptures are pictorial and biblical in subject. A great variety of themes are found on capitals. The ‘Temptation of Eve’ from Gislebertus was created around the 1130s. Eve lays in a sensual pose, keeping her face away from the sin she will commit. She hold the hand with the apple, subject of the Fall, on her back. On the right we notice the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Satan, here symbolized as the snake, only shows his tale as he is leaving quickly after tempting Eve with the forbidden fruit.

Book of Kells.

7 Mar

book-of-kells-chi-rho-iota-resized-600

The Book of Kells is a manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament. It was created by Celtic monks ca. 800. It is a masterwork of Western calligraphy and widely regarded as Ireland’s finest national treasure. It symbolizes the power of learning, the impact of Christianity on the life of the country, and the spirit of artistic imagination. The decoration combines traditional Christian iconography with the swirling motifs typical for insular art, the art of the islands. Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours, enliven the pages. As many as ten different colors were used in the illuminations. Today, the manuscript, made with high-quality calfskin, comprises 680 individual pages and, since 1953, has been bound in four volumes and is kept in Dublin.

Theodora, a Byzantine Mosaic of a powerful woman.

4 Mar
Theodora, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

Theodora, Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

Art produced during the Byzantine Empire was marked by the development of a new aesthetic. One of the features was its abstract or anti-naturalistic character. If classical art was attempting to create representations that mimicked reality closely, Byzantine art abandoned this attempt in favour of a symbolic approach. Mosaic art flourished in the Byzantine Empire from the 6th to the 15th century. Church interiors were generally covered with golden mosaics. Brightly coloured, the mosaics were without any emotion and rather ceremonial and static. This mosaic shows the empress Theodora, a former actress and courtesan, who moved to Constantinople, where she meets Justinian, a powerful person and the nephew to the Emperor Justin. Justinian lobbied very hard to change the law that prohibited men of standing to wed a courtesan, and when emperor Justin dies in 527, Justinian ascended the throne and crowned Theodora his empress and co-ruler. A true love story.

Roman Underground.

3 Mar

Bird and Fruit fresco

Frescos in Rome’s catacombs witness to a strong devotion to religion. These underground cemeteries, solely reserved for Christians, were decorated with paintings of great importance to understand the history of early Christianity. Still-lives and portraits at that time, inspired by Roman and Greek imagery, gained strongly in symbolism. For Christians the fruit symbolized abundance, the gift of God, while the bird could represent the Holy Spirit, the soul of the believer. The fish, Ictus, is the symbol of Christ. Ictus means fish but is also an acronym for Jesus, the Christ, Son of God, Savior. The Good Shepherd holding a lamb is another symbol of Christ carrying his faithful disciples. In 313, with emperor Constantine, Christianity was officially recognized. The citizens of Rome converted in mass crowds and the catacombs expanded greatly.

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