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High Middle Ages: The Search for Synthesis. Outline Chapter 10. Outline Chapter 10 : High Middle Ages: The Search For Synthesis The Significance of Paris The Gothic Style Suger's Building Program for Saint Denis The Mysticism of Light The Many Meanings of the Gothic Cathedral

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High Middle Ages: The Search for Synthesis

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outline chapter 10
Outline Chapter 10

Outline Chapter 10: High Middle Ages: The Search For Synthesis

The Significance of Paris

The Gothic Style

Suger's Building Program for Saint Denis

The Mysticism of Light

The Many Meanings of the Gothic Cathedral

Music: The School of Notre Dame


The Rise of the Universities

Francis of Assisi

Thomas Aquinas

Dante's Divine Comedy

timeline chapter 10
Timeline Chapter 10
  • Timeline Chapter 10: High Middle Ages: The Search For Synthesis
  • 1121 Abelard, Sic et Non; birth of Scholasticism
  • Abbot Suger begins rebuilding Abbey Church of Saint Denis;
  • Gothic style evolves: use of pointed arch, flying buttress,
  • and window tracery
  • c. 1163 Oxford University founded
  • Chartres Cathedral destroyed by fire; rebuilding begins 1195
  • (ends 1260)
  • c. 1209 Cambridge University founded
  • 1215 Magna Carta, limiting powers of king, signed in England
  • 1220-1269 Cathedral of Amiens
  • c. 1220 Growth begins of mendicant friars;
  • Franciscans, Dominicans
  • c. 1224-1226 Saint Francis of Assisi, "Canticle of Brother Sun"
  • c. 1267-1273 Aquinas, Summa Theologica
  • 1301-1321 Dante, Divine Comedy
urbanization and the rise of the middle class
Urbanization and the Rise of the Middle Class

The High Middle Ages saw the growth of a number of institutions that

stood in sharp contrast to those of the Carolingian period. Foremost

was the rise of the city. Urbanization brought with it a lessening of the

importance of monastic life as a cultural center and the emergence of

the influence of the bishop and the cathedral school. The increased

need for a "knowledge class" triggered an expansion in education that

would eventually lead to the university of scholars. Urbanization also

warred against the old feudal values; it fostered trade and commerce;

it made possible the growth of what today we would call a

"middle class" who stood on the social ladder between the rural

peasant/city worker and the landed royalty or hereditary aristocracy.

intellectual ferment and advance
Intellectual Ferment and Advance

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were times of intense intellectual

ferment and advance. New sources of knowledge came through

Arabic sources either as original contributions

(e.g., in medicine and science) or in the form of lost works of the

classical past (e.g., the writings of Aristotle) to fuel the work of scholars.

Advances in technology as "spinoffs" from the ambitious plans of

both Romanesque and Gothic architects had their impact.

The increase of a money economy aided the growth of artistic and

musical culture.

rationality in the service of god
Rationality in the Service of God

One conspicuous characteristic of medieval culture was its belief

that everything knowable could be expressed in a manageable and

rational whole. Whether it appeared in stone (Chartres) or technical

prose (Thomas Aquinas) or in poetry (Dante), the medieval mind saw

hierarchy, order, intelligibility, and, above all, God in all of observable

creation. This hierarchy expressed itself in its emphasis on advancing

steps of understanding. The sculptural program of Chartres, for

example, is a revelation of the Old Testament figures who point us to

their proper fulfillment in the New. In the theology of Aquinas we move

from the plane of natural reason to a fuller truth taught by revelation.

In Dante we progress from an awareness of our sinful nature to an

intuition into the nature of God. In all of these cases the emphasis is

on harmony and gradation and a final purpose of all knowledge,

which is to become aware of God. In that sense, at least, much of

medieval culture could be said to be oriented in an otherworldly manner.

gothic cathedrals and abbot suger soo jay
  • Massive front hall (narthex) or vestibule in between have and west entrance of cathedral
  • Rose window – perfect shapes of Christian works in circles or squares
  • Royal portals – entrances arches of the façade (front)
  • Twin towers – historical lineage from French kings; provides balanced frame for Rose windows
  • Ribbed vault
  • Large glass windows
  • Flying buttresses – supporting armatures to transmit the thrust of the vault or roof to an outer support
  • Strong Vertical Themes
portrait of suger from st denis
Portrait of Suger from St. Denis

Portrait of Suger, Abbot of Saint-Denis Infancy Window,

Annunciation Panel, c 1140

st denis interior
St Denis, Interior

View of the choir and north transept at St. Denis.

gothic cathedral construction
Gothic Cathedral Construction

This diagram shows the main sections of a Gothic cathedral.

saint francis of assisi
Saint Francis of Assisi

Berlinghieri, St. Francis Altarpiece (c. 1235)Tempera on wood, Church of San Francesco, Pescia.

st thomas aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas

Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Allegory of the Sciences -- Sacred and Secular

Left Wall, Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Italy

Fresco painted by Andrea di Bonaiuta

dante s divine comedy
Dante’s Divine Comedy

Hell - a terrifying representation of Hell that certainly inspired Dante when he

wrote his Divine Comedy. Florence Cathedral, mosaic