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Medieval Arts

Updated: Dec 17, 2021

Medieval Arts

Early Medieval Art emerged out of of many cultures, as diverse as the Classical world, Pagan, Anglo-Saxon, Celts, and Muslim cultures. The designs developed over a thousand year period leading up to the Renaissance. During this era many forms of Decorative Arts flourished, including Illustrated Manuscripts, woodcut prints and masterfully woven tapestries and textiles . As trade routes opened up new materials and techniques advanced art, design, and architecture.

This week we were inspired by two of the most recognizable aspects of the time period: Illuminated Manuscripts and Family Crests and Heraldry. Both represented a certain status and identity within the culture. Illuminated manuscripts were created by a few monks and owned primarily by royal families. They took years to create and remarkably, because of the quality of the materials, many remain today. The inks were derived from plants and insects, drawn on animal skins, and often adorned with precious metals, gold and gems. As the popularity grew, skilled craftsmen and guilds also created versions. The invention of the printing press eventually led to the demise of the art form. We focused on non secular illustrations and many of the images that remain popular today in folklore, tales and myths.

Historically a coat of arms is a design on the shield of a medieval knight. A culture developed with the rising class of knights and a particular code of ethics and the concept of chilvary. The designs were unique to each person. Originally the individual only had rights to the coat of arms during their lifetime. As the increased trend for status and individual identity grew, they were allowed to pass the design to their descendants, and they became the family coat of arms. Every color, animal, or plant was a symbol of a virtuous quality. The patterns and designs were sewed onto flags that flew above their castles and manors. Only the highest classes of people in Medieval Europe used coats of arms, as they were the only ones that had the distinction of having been granted them by the King for service to the crown. Noble women could also have their own coat of arms, as long as it incorporated unique designs along with the main family design. Animals were frequently used as focal points in coats of arms. Usually the animals chosen were ferocious looking like the lion, however they were symbols of positive traits such as wisdom, courage ,resourcefulness and loyalty. The Unicorn represented virtue and strength. Colors also played an important role, especially Gold which represented generosity and an elevated mind and Blue, truth and loyalty. Today, in addition to family names, many universities, and countries have adapted their own identities with coats of arms.


The students chose between many symbols and colors to create either a personal coat of arms or an illustrated page that included some of the elements from Medieval times. They were very enthusiastic. For a starting off place , I gave them their initial to decorate it in the style of and Illuminated Manuscript and go from there. It was exciting to see their finished pieces. We also looked letters we're sealed with wax and a personal stamp. They included one on their finished pieces.



 Week One: Cave Paintings

It has been an eventful week in our Art Literacy class. We have been all around the world.  I would like to thank all of my wonderful students for their great efforts. We began with the story of the discovery of the discovery of cave paintings in Lascaux,  France  and also looked at images from  Spain , where the oldest known cave paintings have been found,  in the cave called El Castillo. The prehistoric dots and crimson hand stencils are now the world's oldest known cave art that dates more than 40,800 years old.

© Serene Greene- Art Literacy Academy
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