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desiree333's avatar

Urgent Art History help?

Asked by desiree333 (3195 points ) December 9th, 2012

In my History of Art class I have to write a comparative essay on this question: “In the medieval conception of architecture, the religious implications of a building were uppermost in the minds of its contemporaries.” I have to discuss how this statement applies to ALL aspects of Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, with specific examples.

The problem is I’ve been reading and re-reading this statement and I just do not have a clear picture of what it is asking. We did not touch upon this specific subject in lecture. Any clarification and possible topics I can write about would be GREATLY appreciated. This is due very soon. I just finished my other essay for this assignment.

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20 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Ask yourself what “religious implications of a building” means. Paraphrase it. I find the question clumsy, I must say, but you are stuck with it.

Judi's avatar

I may be wrong, but I think it is talking about how the buildings seemed to reach up to heaven, draw your eye and your heart up towards God. I would choose a few cathedrals, study them and see if what I said is true and explain how the architecture tried to bring you into God’s presence or into a reverent place.

desiree333's avatar

@gailcalled Honestly, I hate to admit it but I just do not understand what it is asking. I feel quite dumb right now to say the least. I don’t want anyone to hand over the answers/topics, sorry if I made you feel like I’m trying to get my homework done for me. Would saying the question means “after the medieval construction of such cathedrals, later individuals felt that religion is the most important aspect in the architecture”? Well…isn’t that pretty obvious, it IS a massive cathedral. Last time I checked “implication” means a conclusion drawn from something not very obvious or a potential consequence. But how would the religious conclusions (or consequences?) be important to the contemporaries? I’m just confusing myself more, so frustrated.

@Judi That may play a part. We did learn that churches were built on hills and were constructed to be the tallest building in the town to symbolize power/domination. Thanks, that helped.

Unbroken's avatar

Well I’m rusty but it seems like I remember there were specific formulas for the buildings that set them apart.
They often have specific reasons for the construct in a think symbolism. It wasn’t just about the aesthetic each measurement was a formula. Think crosses from an aerial perspective etc.

desiree333's avatar

@rosehips Yes, I was definitely planning on talking about cross plans and such. I have my textbook for the topics but I just don’t know exactly what the specific question means. You know when there’s an awkward sentence that just doesn’t make sense to you? That’s how I feel when I read this question.

Unbroken's avatar

Yes I do. And you are correct it’s not only clunky but isn’t really a question.
I might go into why symbolism was important. But then it might be hard to give specific examples. Maybe how it came to be so important. Also could be hard to give buildings as examples. But that is all I have.

_Whitetigress's avatar

“In the medieval conception of architecture, the religious implications of a building were uppermost in the minds of its contemporaries.”

This isn’t a question. It’s a statement. I first read it as a question too. All you have to do is talk about how it helped convey the overall theme of the medieval ages. Hence, what @Judi is poking at. Like most architecture commissioned by churches, they were meant to wow the public, to look grand and to display power.

Maybe you can choose a specific Medieval town and compare and contrast it to another that is more or less Romanesque or Gothic. The difference is always on the archways if you’re having trouble seeing some difference.

desiree333's avatar

@_Whitetigress I cannot thank you enough. It is a statement! Jesus, it felt as if I was deciphering code for awhile there.

cookieman's avatar

When a designer creates something, they make a series of choices. Some practical, some aesthetic. Through those choices, the designer is attempting to create something that is both structurally sound, but that conveys a message to a certain audience.

The audience in question for you is god.

So…
What is the message being communicated to god with a particular building?

And…
What choices did the designer make to help convey that message?

Example…
In an attempt to convey strength, the designer chose a certain type of stone for the walls.

Or…
Large south-facing windows were included to let in the maximum amount of light to help create a feeling of ethereal weightlessness inside the building.

lifeflame's avatar

Since it’s a statement, I think you can make a thesis that either supports or refutes this statement. Did religious implications seem utmost, even at cost to practical considerations? Or was the religious design integrated with other structural considerations?

Bellatrix's avatar

It is a statement but nonetheless, you have to turn it into a question in order to respond to it.

“In the medieval conception of architecture, the religious implications of a building were uppermost in the minds of its contemporaries.”

Considering medieval architecture, in what ways are religious implications evident in all aspects of Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals?

So how is ‘religion’ inferred in through the various aspects of architecture of Roman and Gothic cathedrals?

I would suggest the first thing you need to do is to research how different elements of cathedrals relate to religion – spires, arches and other symbolic elements? Find research that discusses Gothic and Roman architecture. Then find examples from each period and look for evidence of these elements. Remember it says ALL elements which suggests the whole of these buildings have religious connotations.

It certainly is a clumsy question. “It’s contemporaries” for instance. I suspect it means religion was a key element in architecture generally in the medieval period but you are going to particularly focus on cathedrals.

Research how religion and architecture connect during these two periods. That’s your first step. Look for similarities and differences. This is a comparative essay. So you are comparing the two different eras through an analysis of the architecture of cathedrals built during each period.

Keep in mind that this is an art history course. Look at your learning objectives. What do your lecturers want you to learn from this course. This will give you useful clues as to how to respond to this assignment. Similarly, look at any marking criteria you have been given.

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zenvelo's avatar

A couple of thoughts:

In the Middle Ages, it was “The Church as Sanctuary” – heavy, stone, Roman arches, thick doors.

In the Renaissance/Gothic period, it was “The Church Triumphant”. Light, airy, beautiful, soaring.

gailcalled's avatar

The technical issues are also interesting to explore.

The Roman arch with its keystone and the Gothic arch, with a higher and narrower shape. Look up the physics necessary for both.

Check out the flying buttresses also, which gave the architects much more leeway aesthetically.

Kardamom's avatar

Here’s some info about the Architecture of Gothic Cathedrals

Here is some info on Romanesque Architecture and History

Basically you just need to describe what the various aspects of these types of buildings look like and explain why each of the aspects including the floor plans, or the roof type, or the window style, or the shape of the building (such as rotunda or cross shaped or other shape) or the orientation of the building to the north, south, east or west, the building materials, whether they have spires, or buttresses etc. or how the seats were placed for the churchgoers, etc. for religious reasons (in addition to practical reasons, like maybe that’s the only kind of stone they had in a particular area). Then pick some examples of both types of buildings.

Here’s some very cool looking Gothic Cathedrals

Here’s some more info and examples of Romanesque (and earlier) Cathedrals

janbb's avatar

Dare I suggest you do some research? There is a wealth of material on the iconography of the medieval church. But I agree, the statement is hard to understand, particularly in the use of the phrase “its contemporaries.”. Whose contemporaries – the buildings?

desiree333's avatar

@janbb That’s what I was confused about too!

Thank you everyone for all of the clarification. The essay is coming along well now!

janbb's avatar

@desiree333 It could be worth asking the teacher for clarification. It is badly written – but don’t mention that. Aside from that, it is a very doable topic and I’m glad it’s going well.

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