Friday, August 28, 2015

Medieval Splendor

From the blog Once I Was a Clever Boy:
 The priory church of St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield is one of the very few medieval churches to survive in central London, although it is not as well known as it should be. A substantial part of the priory church - presbytery and transepts - survives, and is a fine example of early twelfth century work - the priory was founded by Rahere, jester to King Henry I:

When we visit it can be very grateful that it has survived and feel we are seeing something of medieval London. 
However what we are not seeing is the colour that would have enriched the church. This changes the atmosphere  and experience. A medieval church was 'other' than that day to day living because it was, in the modern phrase, 'sacred space.'  Entering a medieval church was to enter a foretaste of Heaven. Yet this point seems still to be lost on so many people. I have even known distinguished academics in medieval history who have dismissed medieval colour schemes as garish and somehow imply we are better off without them.
To visualise the interior of St Bartholomew's as it would once have been is difficult - we have fragments and pieces but little in the way of complete schemes, or if they are they are faded  and pale. At Issoire in central France one such scheme has been recreated in 1857-59 - albeit controversially in the eyes of some, but maybe they also do not like the fact of  colouration.

(Read more.)

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