The Power of Architecture in the Early Middle Ages
The text discusses the power and authority represented by the building projects of Pope Paschal, specifically the church of S. Prassede in Rome. The author notes that Paschal’s construction of large churches with expensive internal finishings and his moving of saints’ bodies demonstrated his authority and challenged Carolingian protagonism. The text also explores the impact of architecture on visitors and the emergence of different types of hierarchy in villages during the early Middle Ages.
Table of Contents
- Pope Paschal and his Building Projects
- Palaces as Sites of Rhetoric
- The Emergence of Villages
- Hierarchy and Leadership Structures in Villages
- The Power of Architecture
Who was Pope Paschal and what made him notable?
Pope Paschal was a builder-pope who constructed large and impressive churches with expensive internal finishings such as gold and silver furnishings. He was notable for his power and authority, which he demonstrated through his building campaigns. Additionally, he moved 2,300 saints’ bodies from Rome’s catacombs to S. Prassede, which further cemented his authority and challenged Carolingian protagonism.
What was the purpose of Paschal’s building campaigns?
Paschal had a variety of audiences for his building campaigns, including the Byzantine emperors, the Frankish court (whom he opposed), and the Romans themselves. The churches he built challenged Carolingian protagonism, were self-representations of the unbroken continuity of papal legitimacy, and made Rome into the ‘papal city.’
How did palaces function as sites of rhetoric?
Palaces were long-standing sites of royal or imperial rhetoric aimed to impress both royal subjects and visitors from outside. They were decorated elaborately with a painted program in the church drawn from the Bible and a decorative program in secular areas of the palace. Visitors would have to pass through numerous rooms, each more impressive than the last, before reaching the ruler’s inner sanctum. The overall effect was to impress upon visitors the power and authority of the ruler.
What was the layout of Frankish royal palaces?
Frankish royal palaces, such as Ingelheim and Aachen, were complex structures consisting of large rooms built in stone. Visitors had to pass through numerous rooms, each decorated elaborately with a painted program in the church and a decorative program in secular areas of the palace.
How did villages develop during the early Middle Ages?
Villages in Europe during the early Middle Ages developed through the crystallization of farmstead blocks, centred on a main building, with subsidiary buildings and sunken-floored huts in a yard, usually fenced. The layout of villages was not planned, and farmstead units were not all alike. In some instances, villages crystallized under the influence of incoming Germanic groups.
What contributed to the formation of a more stable spatial structure and social hierarchy in villages?
The establishment of village churches and fortifications around the tenth to twelfth centuries contributed to the formation of a more stable spatial structure and the rise of more solid social hierarchies. Through the construction of visually impressive buildings, be it churches, towers or bath-houses, people from emperors to peasants alike made claims to status, power, and cultural prestige.
The power of architecture in the early Middle Ages cannot be overstated. From palaces to churches to simple farmsteads, architecture was used to convey meaning, demonstrate power, and make claims to status and cultural prestige. Whether through the opulent buildings of Pope Paschal or the impressive palaces of Frankish rulers, the intervisuality of architectural style was a powerful tool for conveying meaning and visual effect, allowing every actor in the early Middle Ages to compare and assert their strategies.