Medieval Literature And Poetry Illuminated Manuscripts Essay

Medieval Literature And Poetry/ Illuminated Manuscripts Essay, Research Paper

Medieval Literature and Poetry/

Illuminated Manuscripts

The Middle Ages was a period of about one thousand years, between the collapse

of the Roman Empire during the fifth century AD and the revival of classical art and

learning known as the Renaissance around the fifteenth century. During this dark and

chaotic period small groups of devout Christians could live with security and pursue a

religious life. These people were doing something that almost no one else could do at the

time- reading and writing. They were making something that almost no one else could

make or have any use for- books. The first of these books was the Bible, and as time

passed, more forms of literature such as poetry and illuminated manuscripts were created.

Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, is a written religion. The Bible is regarded as a

sacred text for Christianity containing the revealed truth of G-d. The most important part

of early monastic life was the preservation, reading, and copying of these texts. The

connected to and interested in all types of literature. Up until the end of the twelfth

century, nearly all books were produced by and for the church. For many centuries, the

church remained the center of all learning and literacy in Europe. In time, however, the art

of reading, writing, and bookmaking passed outside the monastery and into the court and

town. Books came to reflect nearly every aspect of medieval life. Books also began to be

written in the vernacular. Books changed as the medieval world changed, but the tradition

of making them as beautiful as possible continued into the Renaissance and into the age of

the printing press. The Bible was the starting point which sparked the interest of creating

other forms of literature in the Middle Ages.

Another form of literature in the Middle Ages was poetry. One of the greatest

poets of the middle ages was Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400.) Chaucer was one of the

most influential poets of the Middle Ages. He was one of the first poets to compose in

English and was therefore called the Father of English poetry. He wrote in heroic couplets

and iambic pentameter as many other poets of his day did. His famous medieval tale, The

Canterbury Tales, left us a vivid picture of an age that existed thousands of years ago.

These accounts may be the only accurate description of everyday life in the Middle Ages

we have to study today.

Books produced during the Middle Ages, before the perfection of printing with

moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid fifteenth century, were all handwritten

and were therefore called manuscripts. Many of these manuscripts were decorated with

small painted pictures. These small pictures were called miniatures. Actually, the

miniatures may make up only a small proportion of the ornament in a manuscript, for

usually the text also contains decorated letters and calligraphic writing and is surrounded

by elaborated borders. All of the elements are present in what is called an ?illuminated?

manuscript. In many medieval manuscripts, these illuminations make up a major part of the

book, whether as symbolic ornament, representations of holy people, or accompanying

and elaborating the text with illustrations. The amount of decoration and time spent on a

manuscript was in proportion to the importance of the text. Some of the ?best-selling?

manuscripts were gospel books, Psalters, bibles, apocalypses, herbals, bestiaries, and

classical manuscripts. The creation of an illuminated manuscript was a long and tedious

process that produced an astonishingly colorful and detailed manuscript that were

cherished as precious objects.

There were many stages in the creation of these beautiful manuscripts that required

the efforts of several skilled artisans: the vellum maker, the scribe, the illuminator, and the

binder. The first stage in the productions of the manuscript was the preparation of pages,

made of specially prepared animal skin called vellum. Usually the skins of sheep, goats, or

calves were used. The skins were cleaned in running water for a day or so, soaked in a

solution of water and lime for several days to loosen the hair, scraped with knife to

remove the hairs, then rinsed and stretched on wood frames to dry. While on the

stretchers, the skins were scraped and rubbed to make them thin and even. The next stage

in this process was the writing of the text by a scribe. Scribes trained for many years to

develop graceful and uniform writing of the text by a scribe. Scribes trained for many

years to develop graceful and uniform writing. The ink colors usually used by the scribe

were black and red. Next, the illuminator painted the decorations for the manuscripts. The

term illumination derives from the frequent use of gold and silver, which reflected light

and literally made the page appear to be lit from within. Now the manuscripts was ready

for binding. The folded pages were stacked up and sewn together with thick thread, and

the illuminated manuscript was now complete.

The Middle Ages was a period where many renowned works of literature and art

were created. The illuminated manuscripts from this period were well preserved and can

still be viewed today under low artificial lighting. The illuminated manuscripts are our best

link with this long and fascinating period. They provide us with accurate depictions of

battles and banquets, stag hunts and church services, weddings, and funerals. They tell us

what people prayed for and feared, how they worked and what they did for fun, what kind

of clothes they wore, what weapons they used, what they ate and drank- basically they tell

us what life was like in the Middle Ages. Chaucer?s story The Canterbury Tales provides

vivid description of the people and lives of those who lived in the Middle Ages. All these

works of literature provide us with an illustrated and well written history of the Middle



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