CHARLES HARBUTT | Romance for the Real 5
Christianity was of course the primary art motif in the Middle Ages. Like the Egyptians, the priests claimed to have figured out a system to achieve immortality, eternal life, which they controlled and whose verbal brains legislated the rules, but medieval class structure was a subtext, through the positioning of subjects. God was highest and frequently the largest figure in the frame, cardinals, saints and bishops were next, emperors and other believers next, especially the nobility and at the bottom came the serfs and sinners, often tiny. Art’s purpose was to teach religion’ as Pope Saint Gregory said: The picture is to the illiterate what the written word is to the educated. A detailed list of symbols was promulgated to which artists had to conform. There could no longer be any reference to anything actual because neither the artists nor the image police had ever seen the events being portrayed.