Medieval art is discussed traditionally in its stylistic or iconographical framework. However, the majority of medieval historic monuments and works of art were prepared primarily with special goals. Thus a real understanding of many of the great pieces of art cannot be imagined without the knowledge of their original historical and functional context. As the best preserved medieval buildings and works of art are usually coming from church context, the research of their original liturgical purpose is of primarily importance.
This course intends to help in understanding key elements of medieval art in their original liturgical function. Necessarily, the first classes are dedicated to the complex system and history of western Christian liturgy, which is usually not studied in depth by historians and art historians. The second part of the course will focus on the architectural problems, as the main framework of any liturgical event. Special problems, as that of the westworks, eastern and western sanctuaries, and the evolution of the crypts will be discussed in details. The third part will introduce to the world of the altars and their equipment, including the changing forms of the altarpieces, the splendid objects of the church treasuries, and, with special emphasis, the arrangement and decoration of the liturgical manuscripts. The course will end with a conclusion.
As no specific training in art history or the history of liturgy is required, the course is recommended to beginners of this field as well as to passionate lovers and experts of the ornamenta ecclesiae, who might need more information on these usually neglected aspects.