Curatorial essay

Medieval objects and monuments are all over the world and they act as a reminder of the great medieval times. The Church of San Vitale, Santa Maria Maggiore, Church of Hagia Sophia and Chartres Cathedral are some of the examples of structures which display medieval art. They mark great history in the calendar of religion. The medieval era also referred to as the middle age dates back to the time between the fifth century and the fifteenth century. Due to this reason much of the medieval art that is analyzed has its origins in friaries and basilicas.

The church of San Vitale was started in the 6th Century by Bishop Ecclesius. In the church of San Vitale there is the image of Emperor Justinian together with his court. It is a very famous image which depicts political authority and command dating back to the Middle Ages. The church is located in Italy and this particular image is a fundamental part of the other bigger Mosaic program in the altar of the church[1]. The major purpose of the these mosaic program is to depict the authority practiced by the emperor in the plan of Christian history. It shows the emperor dressed in a black robe seated on a blue chair. He is surrounded by four men three of whom are dressed in white robes and the forth one is wearing a grey robe. They are pictured in the royal court of the emperor which implies it is a significant reminder of fascinating historical settings. Among the four examples, it is the only one that features four people in its art. It is a centrally placed apse which are surrounded by different works of art. It gets it lighting from the clerestory and windows which are on the walls.   

Santa Maria Maggiore has its origin from a dream that Pope Liberius had. He dreamt about the Virgin who appeared to him and told him she could wish for a church to be built on a site that she was to mark with snow while summer was at its peak. The next day after the pope had the dream, Esquiline hill was found covered with snow and since it was the fulfillment of the dream, the Santa Maria Maggiore was built there. It has mosaic decorations in its nave and the apse which were done back in the 5th century. The original apse decoration has long been lost and it has been replaced by a new design that was done by Jacopo Torriti[2]. This included a restructuring of the choir area without completely changing the initial structure. This was done under Pope Nicholas IV who gave the go ahead of the changes. The apse of the Santa Maria Maggiore is made up of the Coronation of the Virgin, comprising of five different acts. This ranges from the early life of the virgin Mary, when the birth of Jesus was announced to her, the Nativity, Adulation of the Kings, the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple and Dormition. The Dorminition which is presented with so much splendor takes the center stage. It is tied to the fact that Mary resurrected and although it had not been included in the previous apse decoration, it was included during Torriti's renovation of the mosaic. In this center piece the Virgin Mary is seated with Jesus and he is placing a crown over her head[3]. Although Mary is the mother of Jeaus, in this Mosaic she is also considered the mother of the church who is also the bride of her son as the jeweled crown implies. Around her feet are the sun and the moon together with a choir of angles all in great adornment. Other parts of the mosaic are made up of acanthus tress which have been placed on the right and left side of the decoration. The branches of these trees wind and flourish surrounding the golden background. Hagia Sophia is also another example which depicts medieval art in its apse decoration. The church is located in Istanbul, Turkey. Its name means holy wisdom and it was initially built in form of a cathedral back in the 6th century. It is made up two floors with are positioned on a massive nave with a huge dome shaped ceiling. The apse is so huge with a diameter of 108 feet and it is about 55 meters from the ground. Over the years it has had many functions having served as a cathedral, at some time a mosque. Currently it is a museum where people just come to visit for historical reconnections. It was built during the time of a great riot in Constantinople when the ruler during that time, Emperor Justinian was not popular among the people he was leading. He had ruled the state for five years. During the time of its decoration emperors put up their images on the cathedral. One very noticeable mosaics is that of the Virgin Mary carrying the baby Jesus which is located at the apse of the cathedral. Beneath the mosaic piece of art are windows which are for letting in light. Over time the other works of art of the emperors were all painted and covered with a yellow paint. This draws the difference between the Hagia Sophia and the other cathedrals discussed here. It underwent very many changes before it became what it is today[4]. That will include the fact that its original roof collapsed and it was later done and it has survived ever since.

The Chartres cathedral, also referred to as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres is a Catholic Church which is under the Latin denomination is located in Chartres, as the name suggests. It overlooks the southwest of Paris and was constructed between 1194 and 1220.  This building was the most significant building in the town and was the center of economy. Its most renowned milestone and central point of many events that in contemporary towns are provided for by specific indigenous buildings.There window on top is another curious case of fancy with a notion that the zodiac signs were too mysterious and foreign to the Christian principles however much this is a normal thing in Gothic Churches. Jewel-like aesthetics in the blemished glasses were later replaced by imitative qualities of painting. People believed that the only thing differentiating precious stones and blemished glass was that these natural stones contained magic that wasn’t in the glass making it ineffective[5].All the mosaic pieces of contains a deep historical attachment. The Chartres Cathedral also depicts Virgin Mary and Jesus in various ways. While the others are one image on one big piece of glass, the Chartres Cathedral has very images on its windows. The images of the other cathedrals are located on the upper part of the dome while the Chartres Cathedral the images are on the windows. It depicts several images which are showing the life of Mary and Jesus over the period that Jesus lived in this world. It is also important to note that they contain religious meanings and they were all done during the medieval era. They represent the history and life of Jesus and Virgin Mary who are very important personalities in the religious calendar[6].The mosaic pieces of art also differ in various ways, in that some have so many images at display, while others have very few. The church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Chartres Cathedral have many images of people. For this reason, they are seen to give a more detailed explanation on the life of Virgin Mary and Jesus than that of the Church of San Vitale and that of Hagia Sophia. The later only give minimal illustrations hence they leave more answered questions.

In conclusion, the mosaic art on these various cathedrals is very important because it answers various historical questions about the Virgin Mary and Jesus. It is a way of making the apse look beautiful by joining several pieces of differently colored glass together on a sticky surface. This could be wet cement, or even adhesive. The end result is a beautiful apse within the cathedral which is a sight to behold. These mosaic pieces of art are not only beautiful but they also tell the story of religion and outline the fundamental beliefs of that religion all in the form of art. 

Works Cited

Duggan, Anne J. Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King's College London, April 1995. Boydell Press, 2008. Print.

Jarus, Owen. Hagia Sophia: Facts, History & Architecture. 1 March 2013. Web. 9 April 2018.

Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Global History. Cengage Learning EMEA, 2009. Print.

Moore, Charles Herbert. Development & Character of Gothic Architecture. Macmillan and Company, 1890. Web.

—. Development & Character of Gothic Architecture. Macmillan and Company, 1890. Web.

Wright, Rosemary Muir. Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin Mary in Italian Alterpieces, 1300-1630. Manchester University Press, 2006. Print.

 

 

 

[1] Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner's Art Through the Ages: A Global History. Cengage Learning EMEA, 2009. Print. 316

 

[2] Duggan, Anne J. Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe: Proceedings of a Conference Held at King's College London, April 1995. Boydell Press, 2008. Print. 187

 

[3] Wright, Rosemary Muir. Sacred Distance: Representing the Virgin Mary in Italian Alterpieces, 1300-1630. Manchester University Press, 2006. Print. 87

 

[4] Jarus, Owen. Hagia Sophia: Facts, History & Architecture. 1 March 2013. Web. 9 April 2018.

 

[5] Moore, Charles Herbert. Development & Character of Gothic Architecture. Macmillan and Company, 1890. Web.

 

 

[6] Moore, Charles Herbert. Development & Character of Gothic Architecture. Macmillan and Company, 1890. Web.

Curatorial essay