The Changing View Of Man, The Cosmos And His Place

1565 words - 6 pages

Throughout the middle ages, people have viewed the cosmos as a basis for the social order here on Earth. The celestial layers were representations of the medieval society and the church. The hierarchy of the Kings and Pope over their subjects was justified by the hierarchy of the heavenly bodies; it was considered natural and no one questioned it because it has been like that for so long. Medieval life was centered on God, abiding by the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and the strengthening of faith.

Arts and literature in the medieval age featured divine and supernatural beings that promoted the power and influence of the church. Spiritual and religious themes were constantly the subject of paintings, sculptures, and literary works. However, the same artists who were commission by the church would later pave the way for change in the how society looked at the world around them and just about everything that was thought to be fixed and stable.

The long established order of the church and the medieval society will gradually crumble due to man’s growing curiosity and thirst for learning that started when the Europeans recovered the ancient texts of the Greeks from the Arabs. Suddenly, math and science were very important to the great scholars who were slowly braking away from Aristotelian thinking as they searched for actual proof and explanations on how the world operated. However, education back then was exclusive to the royal family and wealthy, so the only way ordinary people could gain access to learning was to become a priest or a member of the church. One of those men was Roger Bacon, a Franciscan Friar, who was a tireless campaigner for both mathematics and experimental science (Wertheim, ch.2, pg.50). He urged the church to use three-dimensional space in religious art and called it “geometric figuring”, a style that emphasized depth and proportion which was profoundly different from the flat medieval paintings that were common at the time. A great example of this technique is Raphael’s Disputa, a fresco located at the Vatican which combined both heaven and earth in a single Euclidean space with Christ and the angels being equal in size with the morals. It portrayed the physical rather than the metaphysical allowing people to imagine the world differently from a new point of view (Wertheim, ch.2, pg.52).
Perspective painters inspired Nicolaus Copernicus to envision the universe differently that he came up with idea of a heliocentric model, having the sun at the center of the universe instead of the earth. His discovery was a threat to the Catholic Church because the geocentric model had always symbolized the hierarchy of priest, bishops, cardinals, and pope at the very top; at bottom of the celestial hierarchy was the lowly, corrupt, earth and the higher you are in the spheres, the more divine you become as you reached beyond the outer spheres of the stars, coming closer to the Empyrean Heaven of God (Wertheim, ch.3. pg. 67)....

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