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Charlemagne, Carolingian Art and Illuminated Manuscripts

June 30, 2011

Emperor Charlemagne was an influential patron of the arts and a strong believer in the power and authority of knowledge.  The Emperor actively sought to surround himself with scribes and learned scholars.  The scribes and illuminators working in isolation at monasteries scattered throughout Western Europe possessed the language skills to read and write in Greek, Roman, Hebrew and often additional languages.  Charlemagne said:  “To have another language is to possess a second soul.”  What are your thoughts on Carolingian Art during the reign of Charlemagne and his tremendous respect for intellect and language skills?

Bust of Charlemagne


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  1. Victoria Brown permalink

    I see that Charlemagne is responsible for so much of the culture that we get from this era. His way of thinking completely re-outlined the direction of the civilization that followed him. Art took a new focus. It was embellished and ornamental with great attention to detail. The art was adorning and worshiping to the religion Charlemagne lived and died by. Churches became adorned with expression. Jewels danced atop busts and figures hugged around walls. I see a real artistic awakening at the hands of Charlemagne.

  2. Joshua Stewart permalink

    Charlemagne embraced diversity and knowledge this diversity allowed a culture that was able to expand in many new directions. this allowed art to take many forms from many different cultures . this also allowed artist to mix various styles of art to make new style of artwork.

  3. Diana Cosio permalink

    Carolingian art was deeply influenced by the spread of knowledge and the enlightenment of the people. Not only was the empire benefiting from learning about older civilizations and different cultures, but it also sparked up trading routes and so an even greater exchange of ideas occured. Not only were manuscripts painted in lively and wonderful palettes, but there was also the the merging of gems onto architecture and sculptural pieces. Suddenly, the simple churches became lavishly decorated and detailed. These are ideas that endured through Charlemagne’s reign and some are still employed today, all due to his great dependence on scribes and educating the masses.

  4. Julie Dickinson permalink

    I think the abundant amount of importance Carolingian put on intelligence and language skills is highly respectable. Civilization has the ability to flourish with the increased knowledge it takes in. Art and individual expression also will benefit as the mind expands.

  5. Ngoc Le permalink

    Carolingian art adopted the architecture of Roman and Byzantine styles and I think that Carolingian art was remarkable for its time as it resurgence of classical styles applied to Christian subjects. And because Charlemagne and his tremendous respect for intellect and language skills, he created a great library that held copies of many great works from Christian and pagan. Carolingian art draw away from the popular art of the migration and Early Christian and reembraced the old classical forms.

  6. Douglas Falla permalink

    Its amazing how during this time so many artist had the opportunity to express art in a way that they saw it. Artist had the opportunity to express their different cultures and beliefs. Overall I believe that this era of time changed art in a very positive way and gave that freedom and life of creativity to artists.

  7. I completely tend to agree with Emperor Charlemagne in that the more knowledgeable one is the better the individual is. Placing importance on knowledge and language is very important because Charlemagne was demonstrating to the people the importance of diversity which was important for the expansion and growth of not only art but history and cultures.

  8. Chase Menaker permalink

    I think what Charlemagne did was great. I think it is very important that one embrace intellectual and cultural growth as he did. It is also nice to see the art flourish during this time. The mixing of ideas produced wonderful, ornate, colorful, manuscripts and churches. You can feel a new and more lively energy imbued into the artwork. It’s also interesting to see the reinterpretations of Christian subject matter.

  9. Lindsey Paige permalink

    Charlemagne not allowed expressionism, he created an environment conducive to artistic and intellectual growth- and grow it did. It is astounding and wonderful to see reinterpretations of subject matter and architecture, and it is truly marvelous to behold the blending of ideas and cultures that this era produced.

  10. Cristine Lim permalink

    It’s admirable that he was able to influence the arts in different cultural and religious ways through the power of knowledge. He truly understood the value of languages and I respect that. Languages open up a gateway of different feelings and different points of views because one word said in one language could be interpreted a different way in a second language. I agree that language and intellect should be respected because it is essentially how humans communicate with each other and grow.

  11. Maryann Floren permalink

    Charlemange’s respect for people who posses the skill to speak more than one lagnuage really shows in this time period of art. Language is in fact interpreted in different ways around the world as is art. Language is an art and Charlemange sought that out and to make it known during this time.

  12. Ed Goodman permalink

    Charlemagne contributed a lot to what defined art during this time period. Without all of his abundant financial and political support who knows how different everything would have been. Because of all of his support christian art flourished and started on the road to what it has become today.

  13. Kellilyn Monar permalink

    Charlemagne’s focus on knowledge, language, and cultural growth allowed artists of his time to express themselves more freely. Thus,civilization and artwork flourished during this period. Trade routes were developed, resulting in economic prosperity. The exterior of churches became more detailed, and the manuscripts were colorful, and well made. I find it fascinating that, even without a printing press or any technology that we have today, the manuscripts of that time period are quite similar to what our books are like today. Without his focus on knowledge and language, I don’t believe the illuminated manuscripts would have been created. Even today, knowledge, and speaking multiple languages creates better opportunities.

  14. Irene Webber permalink

    Charlemagne’s focus on knowledge and the arts is very admirable. His appreciation for these things allowed their culture to thrive. With Charlemagne so aware of the world and with such a strong understanding of things could only make their civilization grow. His respect for the arts left us with lively, colorful manuscripts and remarkable architecture. Our society today benefits from his reign.

  15. Danielle Nazareno permalink

    His respect for intellect and language skills ultimately changed and influenced the art in this time period. He philosophies and values inspired many to revive the arts and believe in the future which is quite amazing. The decorative ornamental art is beautiful and inspirational. Although the art is not exactly proportional and do not follow the Roman and Greek’s style in naturalism, the symbolism and meanings behind Carolingian Art is powerful and influential.

  16. Cally Vaurs permalink

    I think that Charlemagne was such a positive influence on expression and art as we know it. In my opinion he responsible for bringing light back to the artisic community. By embracing expression he allowed artisans that had been afraid to begin to open up and pave the way for the future.

  17. Bryan Yim permalink

    What are your thoughts on Carolingian Art during the reign of Charlemagne and his tremendous respect for intellect and language skills?

    I think Charlemagne played a huge role on helping the culture to get back on track with the development of a civilization. Without his support it would have taken decades more for the culture to develope again. It also reminds me that culture blooms after civilizations unite and grow stronger together. If they were still in shattered pieces like the Dark Ages they would have focused on protecting themselves from the barbarians instead of making art.

  18. Christina Lopez permalink

    Charlemagne understood that there was a different level of art that could be created through learning languages, higher level of thinking and using all those skills together to create a new work of art. He created that new art because he put people to think beyond what was normal thinking at that time. He really encourage people to dig deep into their minds so they could move forward into more modern and creative thinking. The end result is great, especially, his bust is decorated beautifully and a resemblance can be seen.

  19. Knowledge of a different language in Charlemagnes day like today expands your world. Charlemagnes encouragement of art helped the culture flourish and I believe it was the key to later developments in the Renissance.

  20. Brook Haller permalink

    I believe it is his respect for intellect, linguistics, art, and architecture that brought about the change in art…the way movement, perspective, and proportion again become important and cultivated. Artisans and scholars became trained and were cultivated again. I would say that art and intellect would be hard pressed not to flourish in such an environment. Perhaps, he is part of the reason that we still know these languages today versus them having been lost. Certainly, we would have lost many a text had the monks and scribes not taken the time to copy them and preserve them. Many religious stories would be lost to theologists and religious followers today.

  21. Silvia G permalink

    I think with the knowledge of an other language is very impressive because not only do you know about your own language and culture but you learn knowledge from another race that may influence you i’n many ways.

  22. Jason Carrara permalink

    When people given power and responsibly use that to do great things such as support the arts and language, it is a great thing. Learning about different cultures and ways of life is a way to expand, conquer, and progress society as a whole. I think he recognized that and wanted to be remembered as a patron of intellect as well as vigilant ruler.

  23. Alex Kereczman permalink

    Crolingian art represented more than just stories from the Bible. It contained reverance for the scholars and the literature of the time. The human forms are still somewhat odd looking, in that they lack realism in their depictions, however symbolism and storytelling still reigns supreme in this time period. The illuminated manuscripts depicted knowledge and literary skills of the time period. They put tasks such as teaching of farming, or someone documenting words, on a pedestal to elevate everyday life into something wonderful.

  24. Lucy Glover permalink

    It is absolutely humbling that Charlemagne embraced the knowledge
    of intellect and language skills. He is highly admirable for
    heavily influencing the arts and many cultures, and placing an
    importance on the enlightenment of knowledge.

  25. Mike Bautista permalink

    If one is to learn and grow, it is important to be open to all cultures and ways of thinking. It creates a better understanding of all things, and inspires respect and and care of others. This respect effects not only the growth of one’s intellect and awareness, but also one’s art. You can see styles become more diverse. Art grows just as the mind does. By being exposed to more things, people are open to try out more styles and integrate it into their own. Opening yourself up for knowledge is essential in growing.

  26. Charlemagne’s respect for intellect and language skills started a huge age of the sharing of knowledge. This was the time when religious peoples began depicting in art and in words, the stories of the Gospels, which was very important. People those days had a hunger for knowledge as did Charlemange.

    Devin Cook

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