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Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....


Danielle B. Joyner

From the time John Cassian established the first female foundation in Marseille in ad 410, monastic women lived in varying states of enclosure and were surrounded by diverse images and objects that contributed to their devotion, education and livelihood. The first rule for women, written in 512 by St Caesarius of Arles, emphasized their strict separation from men and the world, as did the Periculoso, a directive issued by Pope Boniface VIII (reg 1294–1303) in 1298. Various architectural solutions developed throughout the Middle Ages to reconcile the necessities of enclosure with the access required by male clerics to celebrate Mass and provide pastoral care. Nuns’ choirs, where the women would gather for their daily prayers, were often constructed as discreet spaces in the church, which allowed women to hear or see the Mass without interacting with the cleric, as in the 10th-century choir in the eastern transept gallery at St Cyriakus in Gernrode, Germany. In some Cistercian examples, the nuns’ choir appeared at the west end of the nave. Dominican and Franciscan architecture was largely varied. Double monasteries, which housed men and women, also required careful construction. A 7th-century text describing the church of St Brigida in ...



Charles B. McClendon

Italian former Benedictine abbey near the mouth of the Po River and 45 km north of Ravenna in the province of Emilia Romagna. Although first documented in ad 874, a monastic settlement probably existed there at least two centuries earlier. Pomposa rose to prominence in the 10th and 11th centuries through the support of the Holy Roman emperors. Over the course of the 14th century, a notable series of wall paintings in three different buildings were sponsored despite the monastery’s waning fortunes. In 1663 the monastic community was suppressed by papal decree. The site was secularized in 1802 and became property of the Italian state after 1870.

The proportions of the wooden-roofed basilican church, along with the polygonal outline of its main apse, reflect influence from nearby Ravenna and Classe and suggest a date in the 8th or 9th century. An elaborate pavement of mosaic and cut stone (opus sectile...


William M. Voelkle

Portable altar–reliquary (New York, Morgan Lib.), made c. 1156 for the Stavelot Abbey in the Ardennes, Belgium and decorated with both Mosan and Byzantine enamels (see fig.). The reliquary is named after the Benedictine abbey headed by Wibald of Stavelot, its enlightened abbot from 1130 to 1158. It is the first of a series of Mosan reliquary triptychs containing portions of the True Cross. Of these, only the Stavelot Triptych contains scenes from the life of Constantine and the legend of the finding of the True Cross by Empress Helena, his mother. Although two commissions by Wibald are documented (the St Remaclus Retable, destroyed during the French Revolution, and the Head Reliquary of Pope Alexander of 1145; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.), the Stavelot Triptych is not. Wibald may have been given both the cross relic and the two small Byzantine enamel triptychs displayed on the centre panel of the Stavelot Triptych during his diplomatic mission (...


Francis Woodman

Term used to classify an artistic style that is thought to be in the process of evolution from one established style to another. It was, and to some extent still is, applied especially to European art and architecture from the late 12th century to the mid-13th, as styles changed from Romanesque to Gothic.

The idea of transition resulted from the attempts by such 18th-century antiquaries as Thomas Warton (1728–90) to classify architectural styles, and in the first decade of the 19th century it had been taken up by Friedrich Schlegel and James Dallaway. The first scholar systematically to pursue the notion of linking styles by transitional periods seems to have been Arcisse de Caumont in 1824, and by the 1840s the idea was firmly established in the classification of painting and sculpture in addition to architecture. It was well suited to 19th-century approaches to the history of art, which were influenced by the type of evolutionary theory best known from Charles Darwin’s ...


Italian, 12th – 13th century, male.

Painter, sculptor, architect.

This artist painted madonnas and saints for churches in Bologna.


Chinese, 12th century, male.

Active during the first half of the 12th century.

Born in Dongwu (Shandong).

Painter. Local scenes, river landscapes, architectural views.

Zhang Zeduan was known as a painter of architecture, and especially liked boats and carts, markets and bridges, moats and paths, as the colophon to his famous handscroll ...


Chinese, 12th century, male.

Active in Kaifeng (Henan) then Hangzhou (Zhejiang).

Born c. 1120; died c. 1182.

Painter. History painting, scenes with figures, genre scenes, landscapes, architectural views.

Zhao Boju was a descendant of the first Song emperor and the son of the well-known painter Zhao Lingrang. He initially worked at the imperial painting academy in Kaifeng before moving to Hangzhou, where he became the favourite artist of Emperor Gaozong (...