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Richard Gem, Carola Hicks, David Park, Janet Backhouse, Leslie Webster and Mildred Budny

Art of the period in England between the Germanic invasions of the later 5th century ad and the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Richard Gem

The invading Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and possibly Frisians settled all over lowland England, bringing their Germanic culture (see Migration period) and establishing kingdoms—the Jutes and Saxons in the south and the Anglians in the east, Mercia (the Midlands), and what became Northumbria, north of the River Humber. The native British were pushed into Wales and the far south-west, and paganism replaced the Christianity that had survived from late Roman times. Artefacts from this period consist largely of burial goods recovered from excavated cemeteries.

New Christian missions arrived in Kent from Italy and Frankish Gaul in the late 6th century (see Canterbury, §I) and in Northumbria from Ireland and Scotland in the 7th, resulting in the gradual conversion of all the kingdoms and the adoption of the Roman liturgy after 664. The conversion to Christianity encouraged not only the construction of stone buildings and crosses, but also the production of liturgical books, vessels, and vestments, many of which survive. Although a Mediterranean-based culture was transmitted via the Merovingians (...


One of the few surviving, early medieval, Latin technical treatises. Its attribution, localization, and dating rest largely on internal evidence variously interpreted and inconclusive. The treatise now comprises three books: it is generally agreed that Books I and II, written in verse by one hand at some time between the 7th and 12th centuries, constitute the original text; Book III, written in prose, was added piecemeal during the 12th and 13th centuries. The treatise is commonly attributed to (H)Eraclius, who is cited as the author in Books I and III but probably wrote only Books I and II. It is not known whether he was a native of Italy or a northerner promoting his knowledge of Roman techniques, and accordingly De coloribus has been located to either Italy or northern Europe.

Relatively complete versions of the text survive in two manuscripts, both accompanied by Theophilus’s treatise De diversis artibus (extracts of the text within compilations of technical material are more common): the first (ex-Trinity Coll., Cambridge, MS. R. 15 5; London, BL, Egerton MS. 840 A) is German and dated ...


Lawrence Nees

Illuminated Carolingian Gospel book (Epernay, Bibliothèque municipal, cod. 1). The Ebbo Gospels is among the most famous of all early medieval manuscripts, and has figured in virtually all modern discussions of Carolingian art and of book illumination, primarily because of the wonderfully animated—some have said ‘expressionistic’—quality of the four portraits of the Evangelists, the only full-page figural decoration. Because of its style, it has generally been closely linked with an even more famous manuscript, the richly illustrated Utrecht Psalter, as the key works of the ‘Reims school’ of book illumination. The Ebbo Gospels is in some sense the key work, for it alone has some indication of date, patronage and place of production. In it is a long dedication poem, mentioning Ebbo, who was Archbishop of Reims from 816, and who died in 851as Bishop of Hildesheim. The manuscript must have been made in his lifetime, with most scholars favouring a date before his first deposition from the see, in 834, but this is uncertain, and it could be later. The other figure named in the poem is Abbot Peter of a monastery dedicated to St Peter. This might be the abbey of Hautvillers, near Reims, in whose library the book was preserved at the time of the French Revolution, but nothing is known of this figure, or his dates of office or death. The lively drawing style of the Gospel book, with elongated fingers, stooped shoulders, knit brows, and rapid brushwork, became an important element of medieval style for centuries, and occurs in other Carolingian centres, such as Tours and Metz, from about 840. Whether Reims, or the chief painter of this book, was the origin of the style is uncertain, although often asserted, but the great quality of the work is beyond question....


A matching jug and bowl used for hand washing during and after meals and for toilet purposes. They were made in precious and base metals, ceramics, glass and enamel. Early medieval ewers are usually in the form of animals or figures (see Aquamanile). In the Middle Ages their use was ceremonial as well as practical. From the 15th century ewers and basins were acquired by institutions and corporations for ceremonial presentation and as ambassadorial gifts, becoming prized display objects. In form and decoration the ewer and basin altered with stylistic developments, and they were always of the most elaborate design and finish. With the increased use of cutlery from the late 17th century, ewers and basins had less function, although mainly ceramic examples were used as an accoutrement for toilet use until the advent of widespread domestic plumbing in the early 20th century.

E. M. Alcorn: ‘Some of the Kings of England Curiously Engraven: An Elizabethan Ewer and Basin in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’, ...


Betsy L. Chunko

Italian town and commune in the province of Grosseto, southern Tuscany. Massa Marittima, as the name may indicate, was a territory that once extended to the sea. The early medieval town was associated with mining; nearly 700 metres of tunnels remain with supporting timberwork in the area. The bishopric was moved here from nearby Populonia around ad 1000. In common with other Italian cities, Massa Marittima was first ruled by bishops who, as early as the 9th century, established a fortified residence overlooking the city. In the 12th century, however, there was a gradual shift in political power away from the bishop to the citizens themselves and by the 13th century Massa Marittima was a fully-fledged commune. Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries, Massa Marittima was targeted by Siena and Pisa as a gateway to the resource-rich lands of the Maremma region. By the 1330s, tension from increased political control exerted by the Sienese led to a full-scale military campaign and by the latter half of the 14th century, Massa Marittima belonged to the Sienese, until it became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the mid-16th century....



Philancy N. Holder

[It.: ‘palace’]

Italian term originally applied to large or residential buildings but now used more broadly to describe any large secular or urban structure. Although the early medieval Italian palazzo contained residential space, it was primarily civic in purpose, providing the seat of government during the era of the independent city-republics, communes and later rule by individuals. The terms Palazzo Pubblico, Palazzo Comunale, Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo dei Priori all indicate types of designated government at the time of a particular civic building’s construction. Residential palazzi, on the other hand, are identified by the names of the families who built or remodelled them, as in the Palazzo Rucellai and the Palazzo Medici (later Palazzo Medici–Riccardi; see §2 below).

The architectural characteristics of such medieval civic structures as the Palazzo del Podestà (1255; also known as Palazzo Bargello) in Florence (see Florence, §I, 2) strongly influenced the development of the private palazzo. The massive, fortress-like exteriors, solid, sparsely fenestrated walls and crenellated watch-towers that characterized the medieval palazzo were clear indications of the fierce political climate of the Middle Ages. Until the 15th century, crenellations with rectangular merlons indicated papal or Guelph loyalties, while cleft battlements declared imperial or Ghibelline sympathies. Regardless of allegiance, however, masons throughout Italy built secular structures using identical vernacular building methods, adopting the uncomplicated post-and-lintel bay system. Builders dressed local stone into rusticated blocks for the load-bearing walls. Where stone was not readily available, brick construction predominated....


John Higgitt

Anglo-Saxon sandstone cross in Ruthwell Church, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. It is one of the earliest and also perhaps the most complex of the free-standing stone crosses of early medieval Britain and Ireland (see Anglo-Saxon art §III). It is a product of the ecclesiastical culture of the Northern English kingdom of Northumbria in an area that had recently passed from British to Northumbrian control. Although a date as early as ad 680s is possible, most scholars now date the cross to around the second quarter of the 8th century. The cross is first recorded c. 1600 as standing inside the church at Ruthwell, where possibly it had always been, although stone crosses normally stood outside. In 1642 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ordered its destruction as an idolatrous monument, and there are later references to scattered fragments. In the early 19th century it was inaccurately reassembled with modern inserts (including the transom) and re-erected outside. It was moved into the church in ...


John Osborne


Situated in the Forum Romanum, at the foot of the Palatine Hill, S. Maria Antiqua is an early medieval church inserted into a pre-existing complex of classical buildings. It was excavated by Giacomo Boni in 1900. The original structure, dated by brick stamps to the late years of the emperor Domitian (reg 81–96 CE), comprised an atrium, a vaulted quadriporticus, and three chambers beyond. Its precise function remains uncertain, although it was presumably related to Domitian’s palace on the hill above, to which it was connected by a ramp. At some point, probably in the second half of the 6th century, the site was converted for use as a church. Columns were substituted for the four brick pilasters on the long sides of the quadriporticus, and an apse was cut into the end wall. A church with this dedication had been known from an early 8th-century reference in the ...


Patsy Vanags

Site of a Roman temple incorporated into an Early Christian or early medieval church, c. 15 km north of Spoleto, Italy. The River Clitumnus, with its numerous springs, was sacred in Roman times, and there were many shrines along its course. Spolia from these may have been used in the existing structure. It has some traits in common with Roman temples, most notably its four-columned façade with a pediment above. The framing of the columns with two apparently contemporary square section columns is uncommon, but other aspects of its design mark it out as an Early Christian building (4th or 5th century ad) or an early medieval one (8th or 9th century). The interior has a narrow horseshoe arch in the apse and carved mouldings with early medieval characteristics. The building stands on a podium, but instead of a staircase at the front, a flight of steps on either side leads to a small pedimented doorway giving access to the interior. This unusual arrangement may be due to the siting of the building on a sloping bank, but its bold form, with miniaturized Hellenistic grandeur reminiscent of the Roman sanctuary (late ...



Marius Hauknes

[ Vic ]

French village in the commune of Nohant-Vic, south-east of Châteauroux, in the central département of Indre. The name suggests Roman origins (Lat. vicus: ‘village’), but nothing is known of its ancient and early medieval history. A bull promulgated by Pope Paschal on 15 November 1115 shows that at least from the early 12th century the village was a parish dependent on the Benedictine Abbey of Déols. The parish church of St Martin, dated on architectural grounds to the late 11th century or early 12th, is the only surviving medieval building. A common type for this period and region, it is a small church with a single nave, a square chancel, and round apse in the east. Fragments of sarcophagi from the 12th century indicate that a cemetery surrounded the church from its earliest beginnings.

St Martin is best known for its extensive fresco decoration (early 12th century) that covers the interior walls of the church in its entirety. The nave is painted in non-figural, monochrome decoration and the chancel walls, as well as the vaulting of the apse, have Old and New Testament narrative scenes as well as some eschatological subjects. Episodes from the ...