History: Christian/ The Middle Ages term paper 15689

History: Christian term papers
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The Middle Ages rose out of the ashes of the Roman Empire. The Pagan religion was under threat from the huge up rise in Christian followers. Christianity quickly became a standard religion with churches, Bishops, officials such as the Pope, and most importantly the cathedrals, which were strongly influenced by the virgin mother Mary. Chartres Cathedral in France is one as such; it is of high magnitude, known for its architecture, sculptures, stained glass windows and liturgical music, or plain chant, which was of the highest importance amongst the Christian people and their worship.

During the time of the Middle Ages religion was of utmost importance. The Christian church was noted for saving the west and maintaining order throughout. Chartres Cathedral in France was built in place of an earlier Romanesque church from 1194 to 1260; it suited the religious needs and became the geographical center for the surrounding area. The Cathedral was seen as the loftiest expression of the medieval period it held in these miracles of soaring stone- the crystallized expressions of community effort, religious exaltation, and emotional and intellectual forces of the people who created them. (Fleming 199) Cathedral de Notre Dame de Chartres is most widely known for the Sancta Camisia. People would pilgrimage to Chartres from all over to see the scarf that the Virgin Mary wore while giving birth to the baby Jesus. There was never a doubt of those who entered that they were in the presence of Mary. This mediator of God and patroness of the arts and sciences is depicted in every artistic discipline in the Cathedral. This was not uncommon as the Christian church linked all the arts together; they supported and had the general control over large artistic projects such as, the Chartres Cathedral.

Chartres Cathedral incorporated the religious enthusiasm and craftsmanship of patrons of the local guild as well as royalty and community members. Examples of this religious devotion in the form of art can be seen through numerous disciplines throughout the cathedral. The first example is illumination. This consists of elaborately colored illustrations that decorate manuscripts, often created by monks of the church. Theatre in the form of plays or speeches took place in the Cathedral, and consisted of popular religious themes like miracles or the Virgin Mary. Literature was read in a performance style for the many that could not read. It consisted of epic poems, novels, or myths and tales of hero s, that were all prompted by religious enthusiasm. An art of extraordinary beauty, which lined the walls of all Cathedrals, was the stained glass window. This technique of intricately placed coloured glass allowed a glowing God- like light to enter the Cathedral and shine religious subjects on the worshippers. Chartres contains over one hundred and seventy windows, including the most famous rose windows, and over forty different depictions of the Virgin Mary. These magnificent windows made it unnecessary for an elaborate inside; therefore the intricacy lay in the first impression. The eye is drawn irresistibly upward by the rising vertical lines, so on the outside it follows the rising vertical piers to the pinnacles, along the procession of the flying buttresses toward the roof of the transept, and on to infinity. (Fleming 206) The architecture of the Middle Ages was mainly derived from the Romanesque style. The Chartres Cathedral consists of massive walls, round arches, simple decoration, heaviness and vaults. Cathedrals, such as Chartres have been described as the Bible in stone and glass, or the books of the illiterate. (Fleming 208) Placed both in the interior and the exterior is sculpture, a dominant discipline for the Cathedral of Chartres. Carved figures depicted scriptural scenes, lives of Saints, ancient lore, contemporary history, prophecy and fact, fabulous animals, the latest scientific knowledge, portraits of Princes and merchants, beautiful angels and grotesque gargoyles. (Fleming 209) Not the last, however the most important discipline which plays the biggest role in tying the people to the Christian religion is music.

Massive and magnificent as the Gothic cathedral is, it can be considered the highest achievement of its time only if associated with the various activities it was designed to house. (Fleming 214) The most important discipline being the liturgical music. The vast auditorium that hummed with collective voices at communal prayer, resounded with readings and the spoken word from the pulpit, and reverberated with the chanting of solo and choral song from the choir. (Fleming 215) The only example that we have in today s society of music from the Middle Ages comes in two forms. The first is the plain chant, which is a wave-like chant by monks singing in a cappella. The second is music in the style of plain chant, composed by Hildegard of Bingen; she made it so that women could sing in the church as well as men. The origin of the plain chant is unknown, however there are three theories, which may have somehow contributed to this music of the Christian church. The first is that there may have been an influence from Hebrew liturgy or Judaism. The second consideration was that of the music of the Greek and Roman people, however little is known about this music either, and the last theory is that the music may have come out of the early Christian church itself. This was not a definite possibility either as the themes and lyrics of the early Christian church changed as the years went on; a lot had to do with the leaders of the church and the views, which they held. Hildegard of Bingen was an advocate for the reform of these views, she would write in her journals and in the form of morality plays as well music on the topics of the church. Hildegard was able to see numerous problems, which she felt she could fix through her writing. Problems of simony, lay investitures, clerical marriages, priests ignorant of the Latin language, the hierarchy of the church and the abuse of indulgences. Her music and writing had important views and expressed her opinions of the Christian religion.

Music, as we see it in society today is a form of entertainment, however in the time of the Middle Ages this was not the concern. Plain chant is a strictly functional and practical form of music used to beautify the worship of the church and God. God can be seen in a musical sense, where the soul may resonate by his music. There were plenty of opportunities for both the divine offices and the regular mass to worship and listen to these pleasant melodic sounds.

The most important aspect in the worship of any religion is the liturgy, however the most valued artistic contribution would be the music. Plain chant the music of the Middle Ages and of the early Christian church was one of the disciplines which contributed to the greatness of Chartres Cathedral. The chant was not used as entertainment, but as a practical form of religious worship. Sculptures, painting, architecture and stained glass also contributed to the religious magnificence of Chartres. These disciplines depicted the Virgin Mary, Christ, saints, and other important figures and values of the Middle Ages, throughout the entirety of the Cathedral.

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