Discussion: Introduction to Humanities

Discussion: Introduction to Humanities

Discussion: Introduction to Humanities


The early Middle Ages in Europe took shape under the reign of Charlemagne, the Frankish king who unified Western Europe into one Christian empire. To recreate the Roman imperial ideal, Charlemagne fostered a renaissance of learning and the arts. At Carolingian courts and abbeys, the arts of manuscript illustra- tion, ivory carving, and metalwork produced a rich “culture of the book.” Charlemagne built a fine palace at Aachen, including a chapel modeled consciously after Byzantine imperial churches. After his death, Charlemagne’s European empire disintegrated under the force of Muslim and Norse invasions.

A medieval artistic style, called the Romanesque, developed under the tenth-century reign of the Ottonian emperors in Germany and the powerful abbots of ClunyThe Romanesque style appealed to the Ottonians’ desire for churches of imperial gran- deur, while also accommodating the Cluniacs’ monastic ceremo- nies. Other Romanesque churches were primarily shrines for pil- grims. As seen in Gislebertus’ decoration at Autun and at the sumptuous church at Vezelay, the Romanesque style encouraged a lively and accomplished art of sculpture.

A feudal system emerged to govern medieval Europe, which was ruled by a land-holding class of warrior knights. The feudal estate, encompassing both nobles and peasants, was the center of communal life. Feudalism also fostered the medieval code of chivalry, which required that knights be loyal to their lord and courteous to ladies. The fusion of medieval Christianity and feu- dalism is illustrated in the epic poem The Song of Rolond and the Bayeux Tapestry. Muslim rule brought a remarkable coexis- tence of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Muslim Spain fostered a lively intellectual culture and artistic achievements such as the Alhambra palace.

Both medieval music and drama evolved from the Catholic Mass. The increasing complexity of Gregorian chant required a system for teaching and writing music. The most important innovations of musical notation, including the first musical staff are attribut- ed to Guido of Arezzo. In Germany, the charismatic Hildegard of Bingen translated her mystic religious vision into compelling songs in praise of the Virgin Mary. The impulse to dramatize liturgical music and Bible stories eventually led to a vigorous sacred drama. As music-dramas grew more theatrical, Church authorities finally excluded them from the churches.

One of the strongest forces in medieval life was Christian monas- ticism, the practice of living in spiritual solitude. Followers of the monastic ideal took vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, withdrawing to the sheltered community of the cloister. Monastic



GED 120 Introduction to Humanities

orders built elaborate complexes to house hundreds of monks and nuns. Monasteries were centers of intellectual activity, where ancient manuscripts were copied and studied. The cloistered scholar Hrotsvit of Gandersheim drew on Roman models to cre- ate the first Christian literary drama.

The conservatism of medieval Christianity did not suppress the rise of urban schools, where philosophers taught new methods of theological argument and analysis. The most popular teacher from these schools was Peter Abelard, famous for his love affair with Heloise as well as his daring challenges to the established wisdom. By the twelfth century, the authority of feudalism and monasticism was being challenged by new forces in European life.

Self Test


GED 120 Introduction to Humanities

Multiple Choice Questions (Circle the correct answer)

1) The technique of interlace is associated with what topic or term?

a. the rise of feudalism b. Hiberno-Saxon manuscript illumination c. musical notation d. Romanesque sculpture

2) What Norman leader won a military victory at the Battle of Hastings that is celebrated in the Bayeux Tapestry?

a. Charles Martel b. William the Conqueror c. Charlemagne d. Constantine

3) Which of these is best cited as an example of the Romanesque style?

a. Book of Kells b. bronze doors of Hildesheim c. Bayeux Tapestry d. Utrecht Psalter

4) What phrase best describes John the Scot’s (or Erigena’s) book On Nature? a. a Neoplatonic study of categories of being b. the account of a medieval pilgrim’s journey c. an important tract in the nominalist debate d. an epic reflecting chivalric and military values

5) What kind of scene would most likely be depicted in a stone mural of the Classic Maya period?

a. the birth of the Buddha b. Norman cavalry in battle c. the crucifixion of Christ d. ritual blood sacrifice

Self Test


GED 120 Introduction to Humanities

6) Which statement most accurately describes the clef?

a. established the key note of a musical staff b. a medieval system of four-note chords c. first arose in Muslim Spain d. a song usually accompanied by an organ

7) In what pursuit is solmization useful or important?

a. medieval combat b. musical education c. Romanesque architecture d. the chanson de geste

8) Who was recruited from an English monastery to head Charlemagne’s palace school at Aachen?

a. Alcuin of York b. Pope Gregory c. Count Roland d. William the Conqueror

9) Which describes distinguishing feature(s) of the medieval Romanesque style in architecture?

a. a rectangular nave without transept b. exteriors decorated with marble and bronze c. highly decorated domed interiors d. rounded arches and barrel vaults

10) Which medieval work contained advice to the Jewish faithful, including instructions for pious charity?

a. the rule of St. Benedict b. Abelard’s Sic et Non (For and Against) c. Moses Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed d. Hrotsvit’s religious dramas

Answer Keys


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