The Need to Give: The Patron and the Arts

By Andrew Sinclair | Go to book overview
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3
Giving to God and Self

WHEN GIVING to the church that bound together their lives, patron and craftsman gave their services to God. As the illuminators of manuscripts at Durham were told in a sermon:

The pen, divided in two that it may be fit for writing, is the love of God and our neighbour . . . The ink with which we write is humility itself . . . The diverse colours with which the book is illuminated not unworthily represent the multiple grace of heavenly Wisdom . . . The desk whereon we write is tranquillity of heart . . . The copy by which we write is the life of our Redeemer . . . The place where we write is contempt of worldly things.

Most art was applied art, as Huizinga pointed out in The Waning of the Middle Ages. The beauty of objects was less a consideration than their use, sacred or profane. 'Their purpose and their meaning always preponderated over their purely aesthetic value.' So the artist was not distinguished from the craftsman, for he rarely signed his work, but gave it to his patron, to his religion or to both of them. One of the more interesting combinations of local craftsman and travelled patron can be seen in the Bishop's Chapel at Hereford, an intended copy of Charlemagne's chapel at Aachen which William of Malmesbury attributed to Bishop Robert of Lorraine. But the Hereford mason who constructed the chapel was evidently trained in the ways of the Anglo-Romanesque style. So his brief resulted in an exquisite hybrid of Germanic inspiration with Norman and English interpretation. Robert of Lorraine himself was a rare cosmopolitan and savant of his time, bringing mathematics and astronomy

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