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The Story Of Art: Chapter Six


Temples and churches are both places of worship, but until Gombrich pointed it out I hadn’t realized how much they differed in terms of function. Because churches include a congregation their structures are vastly different from temples. They required a lot more space than what a statue or shrine required.

Thus it came about that churches were not modeled on pagan temples, but on the type of large assembly halls which had been known in classical times under the name of ‘basilicas,’ which means roughly ‘royal halls (p. 103).’

The art work in the churches in Europe really astounded me when I was visiting them back in 2014. I knew they were there mainly because not everyone could read or write back in the day. However, I didn’t realize the magnitude of this importance. If Pope Gregory the Great had not said

Painting can do for the illiterate what writing does for those who can read (p. 105).

who is to say that art would have developed so much as it did back then? Of course, the Greeks and Romans had mastered a sort of perfection when it came to human sculptures, but those often featured gods or goddesses as well. How interesting that art is so intertwined with religion!

Greek and Roman art provided an immense stock of figures standing, sitting, bending down or falling. All these types could prove useful in the telling of a story, and so they were assiduously copied and adapted to ever-new contexts (p. 107).

Reference, reference, and reference. In every art medium it seems that references are of  the utmost importance.

On the other hand, the stress on tradition, and the necessity of keeping to certain permitted ways of representing Christ or the Holy Virgin, made it difficult for Byzantine artists to develop their personal gifts (p. 108).

So it seems that commission came at a cost. Gombrich does add that it doesn’t mean that the artists had no room to be creative, but I can only imagine how irksome it would have been to only paint Christ or his mother. I remember skipping over some of the repetitive pieces featuring them time and time again. Not that I have anything in the least against them, just that there was so much more I wanted to see!

Your turn ♥ Have you ever visited a cathedral with beautiful architecture before? What stood out the most to you?

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