We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Mrs. BD and I attended a lecture on Romanesque stone architecture at the Cloisters today. I've seen plenty of it in Europe and have read plenty about the style. I asked the expert whether the stone sculptures on lintels and columns in churches and cloisters had been painted.
Definitely, she said. Columns were painted in primary colors. The church walls, so often plain limestone now, had been stuccoed and then plastered with frescoes. Over 1000 years it flaked off.
I've seen reconstructions of the once-painted Greek sculpture and architecture. I'd like to see the same of Romanesque-era churches and cloisters.
Photo is from Pórtico da Gloria, Santiago Cathedral. The colouring once common to much Romanesque sculpture has been preserved - via Wiki
The reason for the colors is that all of them were designed to teach illiterate peasants, just as frescoes were. We look at lovely white carved sculptures now, and it's an aesthetic or spiritual experience. But in medieval churches and cathedrals, those pictures and sculptures were there to terrify the peasants into obeying the clergy, and their lords, with the threat of hellfire. Think of all those Italian frescoes of scary demons dragging people to perdition or gnawing on them. Also, there were the inspiring stories of saints and Bible stories designed to teach. Color would have been essential.
Most of us go into a medieval cathedral looking for a kind of otherworldly experience that lifts us out of our bodies, as if we were floating up with our prayers to mingle with the incense, carried to God along with beautiful music.
But with a largely illiterate congregation, and a service in Latin which nobody except the clergy and perhaps a few of the aristos understood, only the pictures and statues would have got the message across understandably. Also, think of all those garish Saint's Day parades we still have in parts of our cities, and that there are in Latin America and all over Europe, where people carry around dolls dressed up in bright colors and decorated in gold. People like bright things. Nowadays it's a conceit of education and privilege to prefer spare, minimalist lines and greater simplicity.
Took the words out of my mouth. I used to shudder at all those painted Catholic statues, thinking we Protestants knew so much better, and even the elevated Catholics, the non-peasanty ones were more reserved. I didn't start to relearn that until the Sistine Chapel was repainted.
Oops. I was completely wrong. The classical statues and temples were often colored as well. The Renaissance imitators mistook the flaking off for the original intentions.
There is a parallel in the New England Puritans believing they were seeing primeval forests in Massachusetts. Those woods were actually closely managed by the Natives, with undergrowth burning once or even twice a year to aid visibility for hunting.
One of the copies of the Magna Carta is on display in Salisbury Cathedral in England; and I, just like all the other tourists, go to see this document. There isn't much of it to see as it is preserved behind very dark glass and the ink has faded a lot. Nor is it in modern English and the script is one most of us cannot read anyway. But, I got to see the Magna Carta. Yea!
However, the real overlooked sight is the room the Magna Carta is displayed in. It is a truly magnificent room. While everyone else usually comes to view the Magna Carta and then leave, the employees there urged me to stay and look at the room itself. All along the top of the walls are carved panels depicting scenes from the Bible; Adam and Eve, Noah and his ark, the Tower of Babel, etc. They lent me a rather thick set of cardboard sheets explain each panel. I am so glad that I took the time to go around the room and read about and look at each panel.
I did sort of chuckle to myself as I thought: "wow, the medieval version of a PowerPoint slideshow!"
It seems like they were never painted; but, they were fantastic! So, yep, if though the congregation could not read they found another way to engage them.