Medieval Europe + Byzantium

Carolingian art

Charlemagne, King of the Franks and later Holy Roman Emperor, instigated a cultural revival known as the Carolingian Renaissance.

780 - 900 C.E.

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Carolingian art, an introduction
Carolingian art, an introduction

Thanks to Charlemagne, religious reform and cultural revival swept 9th-century Europe. We call this period “Carolingian.”

Charlemagne (part 1 of 2): An introduction
Charlemagne (part 1 of 2): An introduction

Warrior, politician, reformer—Charlemagne was all three. Crowned emperor in 800, he made northern Europe a center of the Christian world.

Charlemagne (part 2 of 2): The Carolingian revival
Charlemagne (part 2 of 2): The Carolingian revival

Under Charlemagne, literate priests and educated bureaucrats ran a Christian kingdom modeled on ancient Rome.

Palatine Chapel, Aachen
Palatine Chapel, Aachen

The octagonal plan references earlier churches and symbolizes regeneration. Was Charlemagne’s throne at its center?

Matthew in the Coronation Gospels and Ebbo Gospels
Matthew in the Coronation Gospels and Ebbo Gospels

Two different portraits—it’s St. Matthew in both, but watch the style change from smooth modeling to frenzied brushwork.

Saint Matthew from the Ebbo Gospels
Saint Matthew from the Ebbo Gospels

This expressive illumination depicts St. Matthew at work. He juggles a stylus in one hand and an ink horn in the other.

Lindau Gospels cover
Lindau Gospels cover

Few medieval book covers survive. This bejeweled example depicts the crucified Christ and comes from Charlemagne’s workshop.

Mosaics, Santa Prassede (Praxedes), Rome
Mosaics, Santa Prassede (Praxedes), Rome

Flat figures, linear drapery, and jewel tones make these mosaics pop. Why the square halo?

Selected Contributors | Carolingian art