The Era of Charlemagne: Frankish State and Society

By Stewart C. Easton; Helene Wieruszowski | Go to book overview

Reading No. 19
THE REVIVAL OF ART

To give an idea of the intentions and tastes of the ruler, the account of Einhard (19 A) is quite helpful. Einhard makes the point that native materials were supplemented by imports from Romeand Ravenna. This holds true also of artistic ideas and forms. Roman influence was not restricted to contemporary Rome, with its Byzantine and Christian art, but included also the ruins, monuments, and churches in the old Roman provinces of Charlemagne's empire. Ravenna, on the other hand, symbolizes Byzan tine as well as Germanic tradition. Charleshad the statue of the Ostrogoth Theodoric carried to Frankland and set up before his palace in Aachen. For the decorative arts craftsmen mostly borrowed from eastern models, but transformed them in their own Teutonic way. In his report Einharddoes not mention book illumination though this is one of the glories of the Carolingian period. Works like Charlemagne's "Golden Gospels" mingled influences from Englandwith those from the South and the East.

Another help for the understanding of the inclusion of art into Charles's program of intellectual, educational, and religious revival is provided by theLibri Carolini, the authoritative work on images and image worship composed by Charles's scholars. If pieced together, the pertinent passages in the book form what we would call a discussion of the aesthetical and practical values of art. No doubt, the formulation was influenced by ancient theories, but it reflects also in a most lively way the urgent need for clarification and definition of the nature of images stirred up by the theological struggle about image worship. In accordance with their conviction that the adoration of images was "wicked" and images should be destroyed, the Carolingian scholars had to prove that nothing supernatural or sacramental went into the making of pictures. Images were simply man-made. The same stand -

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