Art History Chapters

  1. Introduction to Western Art History
  2. Art in the Ancient Middle East to 400 B.C.
  3. Art of the Hebrews and Jews, 2000 B.C. to A.D. 135
  4. Art of the Ancient Greeks, 1200 B.C. to A.D. 146
  5. Art of the Romans, 753 B.C. to A.D. 300
  6. Christian Art in the Roman Empire, 4 B.C. to A.D. 1453
  7. Art in the Early Middle Ages, A.D. 500 to 1000
  8. Art in the High and Later Middle Ages, 1000 to 1500
  9. Art of the Renaissance, 1400 to 1648
  10. Art in Early Modern Europe, 1543 to 1815
  11. Art during the Industrial Revolution, 1764 to 1914
  12. Art in the Age of Imperialism and Nationalism, 1810 to 1918
  13. Art during the InterWar Years and World War II, 1917 to 1945
  14. Art during the Early Cold War, 1945 to 1980
  15. Art during the Contemporary Era, 1980 to the Present
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Art History for Chapter 7:

From Old Rome to the New West: The Early Middle Ages, A.D. 500 to 1000


After the German Barbarians fled Roman cities for the countryside, they produced little High Art for several centuries. The lack of high art in the Early Middle Ages is largely due to the economic collapse caused by the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire. A rich civilization can support great art. The barbarian kings lacked the resources to produce much art. Briefly the reign of Charlemagne indicated a hopeful rise in culture. Yet, the collapse of the Carolingian empire pushed back artistic efforts.


Painting/Graphic Arts

Very few graphic arts survive. If frescoes were painted, they were often later destroyed. Some beautiful manuscripts reflect a great deal of creativity and effort. With the Carolingian Renaissance and its increase of learning, manuscripts increased in number and beauty, and the writing improved due to Carolingian minuscule.



The new barbarian rulers particularly valued jewelry and every-day objects made with great care and attention to detail, usually laid out with animal motifs or ornate patterns and knots. Gold inlaid with precious stones, especially garnet, became buckles, brooches, belts, sword hilts, drinking vessels. Many of these survive because they were buried with their dead noble owners and later excavated by archeologists.



The lack of economic resources and the early barbarian dislike of cities meant they built little permanent architecture. Only a few Dark Age churches remain, since later tastes changed and successors could afford to build bigger and better (they thought) churches. The ruins of Rome in the West power and the bright remnants of Ravenna would help to inspire Charlemagne to revive his own “New Rome” in Aachen (or Aix la-chapelle). As Christendom slowly recovered from invasions, stone churches, especially for monasteries, became more numerous.

castleLoches At the end of the Dark Ages, the construction of castles provided security for slow recovery of Christendom.


Last Updated: 17 January 2017