Best Lesson Plan Ever: Early Medieval and Romanesque Art.

I learned recently that you should not present your "best lesson plan ever" to your students on the day before any kind of holiday break. Ah, my Romanesque presentation. You were beautiful, even if only 70% of my students saw it.

Since there are so many elements of Early Medieval art in both Romanesque and Gothic art, it is necessary to first look at the genesis. The art of the Early Middle Ages was made by pagan migratory tribes throughout modern Europe and Scandinavia.

EARLY MEDIEVAL: Shoulder clasp from Sutton Hoo, found in a ship burial site in England, 7th c. 
Detail: Cloisonné with garnet and animal interlace. 

The pagan art of the migratory tribes was later assimilated into Christian art in various and interesting ways.

Stave Church, Borgund, Norway, 12th c.
Painted Reproduction of the medieval Jelling Rune Stones, Copenhagen.
Carpet Page, Lindisfarne Gospel Book, 7th or 8th c.

As part of our discussion on Romanesque art, I was able to visually explain why I missed an entire week in September. It was wonderful to be able to talk, even briefly, about my particular area of interest. The students that were in class were very interested and had lots to say. It's a rare treat to discuss one particular style and region at length. And I got to show them Ripoll. Hooray!

One of my many wondrous experiences in Spain included the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya in Barcelona. Sadly, we arrived just before closing time, but we did get a chance to run wild in the Romanesque section for about thirty minutes. It was glorious! Full of frescoes that had been removed from at risk church walls and lovingly placed inside the museum. These are all from eleventh and twelfth century.

ROMANESQUE: Frescos from the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, SP.

Apse of Santa Maria d'Àneu: Seraphim.

Apse of Sant Climent de Taüll.

"This is one of the masterpieces of the European Romanesque. Its genius lies in the way it combines elements from different Biblical visions (Revelation, Isaiah and Ezekiel) to present the Christ of the Day of Judgement. Christ appears from the background causing a movement outwards from the centre of the composition, which is presided by the ornamental sense of the outlines and the skillful use of colour to create volume. The exceptional nature of this work by the Master of Taüll and its pictorial strength have reached out to modernity and fascinated twentieth-century avant-garde artists like Picasso and Francis Picabia." (MNAC website)

Christ in Majesty.
Ripoll, SP, 12th c. Notice the similarity between the painted Christ in Majesty and the stone one.

To close the discussion on Romanesque art, I shared select clips from the Pillars of the Earth. Especially the scenes that talk about relics, pilgrimage, Abbot Suger, and new technology in the shift from Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture. Of course these bits are little gems found in the company of bloody violence, sex, intrigue, torture, and other kinds of HBO material. Oh religion. 


  1. I love you so much - you get so excited about art!

  2. Jamie, I'm teaching a Romanesque lesson this week. Can you tell me about the clips you showed? Can you find them on youtube?

    1. Thanks for your message. I couldn't find the exact clips I wanted to use on Youtube. Instead I brought in the DVD of the entire show and played certain bits in class to illustrate details and shifts in architecture. It worked out really well, but you'd have to watch the entire series first and then take note of the particular moments. It's worth it though!