The Role Of The Church In The Renaissance

1850 words - 7 pages

The Christian Church was absolutely instrumental in the art of the Renaissance. It was the driving force behind every inspiration; without the Church, there would have been no art. The Church was the only institution powerful enough to be able to support the commissions of all of the artwork, and it was the only institution, in which people had enough faith and devotion to spend so much of their time and money creating pieces that—although beautiful—were not necessities. The role of religion in art actually began during the Byzantine era. During this time, all artwork was religious in nature, and most of it was done in a consistently similar style so that figures from the Bible could be easily recognized by everyone and so that people had a consistent view of religious matters. Art during this time was largely iconic, meant to inspire the awe of God in the viewer. Along with various versions of the crucifix, one of the most popular images of the Byzantine style was The Pantokrator, an image of Jesus Christ as shown from above. An example of one of these pieces was done in the twelfth century in the abbey church of Monreale in the city of Palermo. Jesus is a monumental figure that takes up much of the space across the apse of the Church. One of his hands forms a mudra as the other holds the scripture. His fully frontal and direct stance along with the glimmering gold background serves to strike awe and fear into the viewer. Clearly this piece was done with the intent to impress the value and mightiness of religion first and attention to the detail and technique of the art second.
This emphasis on religion continued deep into the Renaissance, as the Church was one of the few organizations that could fund such massive undertakings. There is also the fact that most of Italy was Roman Catholic, a unifying attribute in a time when people identified with their cities and did not consider themselves a coherent nation. With so many diseases and such a high rate of death during the Renaissance, most people were superstitious and feared the wrath of God. As such, they devoted much of their time and money to Him, partly as honest methods of worship and partly as guarantees of salvation. Most large-scale architecture and paintings were religious in nature. Three religious works of art of this time period that best reflect the role of the Church are Giotto’s Arena Chapel, Duccio’s Maestà, and Masaccio’s Trinity.
Giotto is considered the first artist to be fully immersed in the Renaissance, and the man who truly brought the Renaissance to Florence. He learned from the skills and progress of the artists before him and took their work one step further. By this time, artists were viewed as skilled workers in society, whereas before they had been seen more as craftsmen. It was recognized that creative and intellectual skill were needed to create art, and artists became more educated, prosperous, and prominent in society, and this increased...

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