Arsifa Deliyana

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Week 1 Medieval / Late Gothic


First of all, I’d like to thank Mr. Rodrigo for his pleasant to teach us Visual Cultures. I am very interested to know more about this study because it overall talks about history of art. In the first week, I learnt religion, mythology, and architectural basics before 1300. Deeply, we discussed Medieval / Late Gothic. We learned about “Western Art Timeline”. In this posting, I will share what I’ve known from the class and from my reading.

The God and Goddesses of Mount Olympus

Have you ever heard about Zeus, Poseidon, or Athena? They are Olympian gods. Actually there are 12 the most famous Olympian gods, they are: Zeus (Jupiter), Hera (Juno), Poseidon (Neptune), Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres), Ares (Mars), Athena (Minerva), Hephaestos (Vulcan), Apollo (Apollo), Artemis (Diana), Aphrodite (Venus), Hermes (Mercury), Hades (Pluto), Dionysus (Bacchus), Eros (Amor or Cupid), and Asklepios (Aesculapius). Greeks believe that these Gods ruled the world from Mount Olympus. Hence, these God and Goddesses figured in Greek, Etruscan, Roman, and Renaissance art to the present.

Buddhism and Buddhist Iconography

Move to the Eastern before 1300. The Buddha (Enlightened One) was born around 563 BCE as Prince Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism formed into Theravada (the Path of the Elders, Mahayana (Great Path), and Hinayana (Lesser Path). The Buddha’s path leads to nirvana, the cessation of endless cycle of painful life, death, and rebirth (or we call it reincarnation).

This picture is Buddhist Iconography. As you can see, the repeating picture are telling story like episode from the Buddha’s life. Artists represent Buddha with mudras or hand gesture. Each gesture has different meaning, just like dhyana (meditation) mudra, with the right hand over the left, palms upward. The picture is about Buddha’s first sermon of Sarnath.

Hinduism and Hindu Iconography

art1Hindu or religion of Indians has three most important deities; they are the gods Siva and Vishnu and the goddess Devi. Picture besides is Hindu iconography, the dancing Siva. Siva is the Destroyer. In this picture, you can indentify that it is Siva by the unique appearance; has multiple limbs, signs of supra human nature, and matted locks piled atop the head, crowned by a crescent moon.

The Life of Jesus in Art

Jesus or Christ, I can say, is the main actor in every single religious artwork in Roman. Christian do believes that He is the son of God. His life put in three cycles: incarnation and childhood, public ministry, and passion.

The picture is Crucifixion, made in 1090-1100. From the picture, we can know that it is representation of the events leading to Jesus’ death, where Jesus’ hand and feet were nailed into the cross. Jesus’ mother, John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalena mourn at the cross. There is also pain and blood in his body because of the stub (done by one of soldiers).

Greco-Roman Temple Design and the Classical Orders

Have you ever seen about Greco-Roman temple? At first, I thought that all of temple in Western just designed in one style, classical style. As the picture beside, Greek Doric peripteral temple, I think that temple in Greek and Roman does not have any window or wall. Why the designer designed it like that? Want to know more about that, I read a book that explained the basic design principles of Greek and Roman and the most important components of the classical orders.

The core of a Greco-Roman temple was the cella, a room with no windows that usually housed the statue of the god or goddess to whom the shrine was dedicated. Just like the picture, temple erected in honor of Hera at Paestum, a colonnade (column) was erected all around the cella to form a peristyle. Related to classical orders, Greeks developed two basic architectural orders, or design systems: the Deric and the Ionic.

Arches and Vaults

In the middle ages, Roman leaded the architectural design which is more extensive and effective than any other ancient civilization. The Romans used post-and-lintel system in construct the arch, while the simple arch is extended to form barrel vault in semi cylindrical ceiling over parallel walls. After that, by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults of equal size, groin vault or cross vault is formed. As the last, hemispherical dome as a round arch rotated around the full circumference of a circle.

Medieval Church Design

What is meant by medieval? What is the correlation between Middle Ages, Gothic, and Byzantium? How are the differences of Basilican churches and central-plan churches style? As I read, Medieval is period of European history in the 5th to 15th century. This period indicated by ocean exploration, the rise of humanism, and Protestant reformation in Renaissance Era, 1517. Medieval, closely, related to Gothic art, because at that time arts and sciences were in great progress.

In the middle ages, churches were identified into two cathedral architectural styles:

  1. Basilican churches

In Western Christendom, the typically medieval church had a basilican plan which evolved Roman columnar hall, or basilica. The great European cathedrals of the Gothic age shared many elements with the earliest basilican churches constructed during the fourth century. While, Gothic cathedral architectural style began in France in the 12th Century. The key characteristics of this architectural style are: pointed arches, flying buttresses, elaborate, ornate interior, taller, more airy – lots of light and lavish sculpture,

2.  Central-plan churches

Central-plan churches are most often square with a central dome, as is the Hagia Sophia from sixth century. As in the picture beside, the major axis church is thus vertical, from floor to dome, or symbolically to the vault of heaven. The top portion and four segments around the rim of the larger dome are omitted, creating four curved triangles, or pendentives. The pendentives join to form a ring and four arches whose planes bound a square. The thing that strictly differ Byzantine churches upon basilican churches is manner in which they were adorned. Mostly, the interiors churches from this Byzantium are decorated in glittering mosaics.

The picture beside is the image of Christ Pantocrator on the walls of the upper southern gallery. It is the most famous of the surviving Byzantine mosaics of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. From seeing the picture, it supports the idea stated if an image of Christ, the Virgin, or a saint is the main icon of Byzantine art. This icons as religious expression used as an object of veneration in Orthodox church or private home alike.


Kleiner, Fred. (2009). Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History


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