The World in its Right Order: An Exploration of Medieval Art and Architecture

The World in its Right Order: An Exploration of Medieval Art and Architecture


This article explores the diverse art and architecture of the medieval period. We delve into the architecture of citadels, churches, and palaces, as well as examine manuscripts, runestones, and paintings. We provide a glimpse into the mindset of medieval society and how they expressed their beliefs and values in art and architecture.

Table of Contents

  • Seventh-century Walls of the Citadel of Ankara, Turkey
  • Street in Scythopolis (Bet Shean, Israel)
  • Byzantine Emperor Basil II
  • Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious
  • Brixworth Church, Northamptonshire
  • Jelling Runestone, set up by King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark
  • St. Sophia in Kiev, built by Byzantine craftsmen
  • Castle of Canossa in the Emilian Appennines, Italy
  • Palace of Ramiro I of Asturias in Oviedo, Spain
  • Utrecht Psalter, illustrating Psalm 103


Q: What inspired medieval architecture?

A: Medieval architecture was heavily influenced by Roman and Byzantine architecture. Gothic architecture, which emerged in the 12th century, was also inspired by the architectural traditions of earlier periods. The medieval period also saw a resurgence of monumental building, especially in Europe where cathedrals, castles, and fortifications were constructed on a grand scale.

Q: Why did medieval art often depict religious scenes and figures?

A: Religion was a huge part of medieval life, and the Church was often the most powerful institution in medieval societies. Religious art was used for devotional purposes, and it also served as a way to communicate biblical stories and teachings to an often illiterate population. In addition, art was commissioned by the Church and other religious figures to display their piety and power.

Q: How did the Jelling Runestone come to be?

A: The Jelling Runestone was set up by King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark to commemorate his father, Gorm. The runestone is believed to date back to the mid-tenth century. While Harald was Christian, the imagery on the stone is non-Christian, depicting the Norse gods Thor, Odin, and Freyja. This indicates that while Harald was willing to embrace Christianity, he was also mindful of his pagan heritage and the importance it held for his people.

Q: Can medieval art tell us about the social classes of the time?

A: Medieval art can certainly provide insight into the social classes of the time. For example, in the early ninth-century Utrecht Psalter, there is an image of a peasant ploughing while a lord sits at a table being served food. This image illustrates the social hierarchy of the time, with the lord being served by his peasants. In addition to depictions of social classes, medieval art can also reveal the beliefs and values of the people who created it.

Q: How did architecture change during the medieval period?

A: Architecture evolved greatly during the medieval period, with new styles and techniques emerging over time. Romanesque architecture, for example, was prevalent from the 8th to the 11th centuries and featured rounded arches, massive walls, and barrel vaults. Gothic architecture, which emerged in the 12th century and lasted until the 16th century, featured pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and elaborate ornamentation. The medieval period also saw an increase in the use of stone as a building material, which allowed for greater structural stability and grander building projects.


The art and architecture of the medieval period provide a fascinating insight into the mindset and beliefs of the people who created them. From monumental cathedrals to humble runestones, each piece of artwork tells a unique story about its time. By examining these works of art, we can gain a greater understanding of the history and culture of this intriguing period in human history.

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