The Visual Arts lessons for the month of January parallel and reinforce literature and World Civilization lessons for the month, centered on Europe in the Middle Ages. You may want to point out to the students that the adjective we use to designate the Middle Ages is Medieval, so the two terms refer to the same time period; Middle Ages is the noun, and Medieval is the adjective.
The first lesson will deal with the growing power of the Church in the Middle Ages, the growth of monasticism, its role in education, and some of the art that was its flowering. The second lesson concentrates on book arts of the period, in the form of illuminated manuscripts. Lesson 3 continues the study of book arts with an activity that involves the students in choosing and illuminating one initial from the alphabet and building a saying with it. The study of Gothic cathedrals will begin in the last lesson for this month with a close look at their architecture and the engineering problems it presented for the architect and builders. The first lesson next month will continue the study of Gothic cathedrals by looking at the various skills that went into the interiors, and the students will have a chance to reproduce some of the details, such as stained glass and the fanciful gargoyles that served as downspouts for these huge buildings.
Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 16 - Medieval Art
Note for the Teacher
When utilizing the Suggested Books to illustrate this particular art lesson, choose examples that illustrate the religious nature of early Medieval art. Any standard adult history of art or survey of art appreciation will also have representative Medieval images from illuminated Bibles, and from stained glass, wall painting and sculpture in Romanesque churches that can illustrate this lesson. Next month, the students will continue their study of Medieval art, looking at the Bayeux tapestry, bestiaries, castle architecture, and other aspects of secular life.
Observe examples of Medieval art.
Identify subjects as primarily religious.
Identify churches and monasteries as locations for early Medieval art.
Investigate portrayal of time and space in Medieval art.
Speculate about reasons for lack of "realistic" space in Medieval painting.
Identify Medieval art as a tool for teaching people who could not read.
Complete a journal prompt.
Examples of Medieval religious art, see Suggested Books and Note to Teacher
Classroom-size map of the world or of Europe
Timeline from history lessons, or sentence strips to construct one for the Middle Ages that begins with 450 A.D. as the time designating the fall of the Roman Empire.
Journals or paper and pencils
Batterberry, Michael. Art of the Middle Ages. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.
This book is out of print but readily available in the County Library System. It has excellent photos of mosaics inside of early Medieval churches, of painted illuminations from manuscripts, of representative pieces of sculpture and enamelware, etc. for student browsing as well as showing examples of Medieval art & architecture to the class.
Corbishly, Mike. The Medieval World. New York: Peter Bedrick
This is the second in a series called "Timelink" that tries to look at a period of history in a truly cross-cultural way. (All the other books in this list deal only with the Medieval period in Western Europe.) Corbishly's book is based on the continual use of a timeline, and it covers events in Western Europe, the Far East, the Islamic world, and (to some extent) pre-colonial Africa. The book moves chronologically from A.D. 450 to 1500, and it presents an excellent overview that includes maps, detailed timelines, and side-by-side lists of events occurring simultaneously in different parts of the globe for given time periods. A good reference book for the students.
Howarth, Sarah. Medieval People. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook
Beautifully written and illustrated with reproductions of Medieval art, this book would be ideal for reading aloud to give an overview to the students. Many of the illustrations would be good examples for this lesson. See, for example, the painting on p. 18 that tells several episodes in the story of Thomas Beckett's martyrdom. The artist has time and space and tells the story within one painting. Short chapters on "The Pope," "The Monk," and "The Bishop" are particularly useful for this lesson.
________. What Do We Know About the Middle Ages? New York: Peter
Bedrick Books, 1995.
Howarth arranges this book as a series of questions, such as "What Did People Believe?" "Who Went to School?" "Did People Go to the Doctor" and "What Did People Wear?" As in her other book (listed above) there are good reproductions of Medieval art. See the paintings on pp. 28-31 for good examples to share with the class.
Beckett, Sister Wendy. The Story of Painting. London & New York: Dorling Kindersley in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994.
There are good examples of Medieval painting on pp. 28-60.
If the students have begun a timeline in the classroom as part of their World Civilization lessons, by all means utilize it in the art lessons: art and history lessons run parallel for the next few months, investigating the Middle Ages (A.D. 450-1450) in Western Europe, as manifested first in Christian art, then in Islamic art, finally in African art.
Begin by reviewing, with the use of both map and timeline, the beginning of the raids by various Germanic peoples into the old Roman Empire, and have a student point out on the map the areas where these peoples came from, and then the areas both on the continent and in the British Isles where they conquered and settled.
Ask the students: After the fighting died down and the invaders became settlers, how do you think people were able to live together? (Allow any thoughtful responses.) Tell the students: People have come to the United States from countries all over the world; what are some of the important things they have to do to live with others as citizens? (learn to speak, read, and write the English language) When people invaded and settled into the various parts of the old Roman Empire do you think many different languages were spoken? (yes) Most of these people did not read or write, so we will have to look for different ways that they began to feel unified.
Tell the students you are going to show them a variety of examples of art in Medieval Europe from about the 8th to the 15th centuries, to see whether there is anything they can observe that might be a common theme to help unify the many different peoples who had conquered the territories and settled down to farm the land. Write the phrase Medieval Art on the board and encourage the class to identify the subjects and the symbols they observe in the examples they see. (Write subjects on one side and symbols on the other underneath the Medieval Art heading.)
Be sure to show them Virgin and Child paintings, stained glass representations of scenes from the Bible, representations of saints, of Christ, of angels, and other scenes they can identify. The list of symbols may include haloes, crosses, and wings; subjects might include men in robes and hats (as in bishops' miters, copes), priests, nuns, monks, people praying and bowing. Help them identify and name some of the characters they describe as they tell you what they see, since they may not know priests, nuns, monks, and bishops when they see them.
Finally, ask the students whether they think these works of art were a part of people's homes, hanging on their walls or if the stained glass was used in their houses as windows (no). Ask them: Where do you think all this art was? What do you think it was made for? Give them enough hints so they arrive at the conclusion that the art is primarily religious in its subjects and symbols, and that it was created for churches and cathedrals, and for places called monasteries where monks and nuns lived their whole lives praying and singing thanks to God.
Tell them it was the Christian Church that became the main force that brought the different peoples together at this time. Ask who knows what language was spoken in the Medieval Church throughout all of Europe (Latin). Remind the students that most of these peoples were converted to Christianity (review the term with them), so they all heard Latin in the churches no matter what part of Europe they settled in. They heard it spoken by the priests and sung by all the choirs, so it became familiar to them, even though common people could neither read nor write, since there were no schools for them.
Show some examples to the class again, and tell them that almost all the paintings and stained glass and sculpture were really telling stories to the people. Ask the students: When you write stories, where do the subjects for the stories come from? (personal life, movies, TV, imagination, accept any sincere answer) Ask them: Where do you think most of the stories came from in the Medieval art you are looking at now? (the Bible)
Ask them: What about history? Suppose I asked you to answer some questions about history? Where would you find the answers? (Accept any reasonable answer.) In the Middle Ages, the source for history was also the Bible, and its stories of how people lived and struggled in both the Old and New Testaments. What about our ideas about how the world began and how the animals were named, and how plants began to grow on Earth? In what subject do you learn that? (Science) In what subject do you think Medieval people learned about it? (religion, the Bible) Tell them: You can see that no matter how many different languages most people spoke and the different ways they lived, they all looked to the same source for answers about the most important questions in their lives, and they learned the same stories -- from the stained glass windows in their churches, from the sculpture that decorated the churches, and from the paintings they saw on the walls. If people wanted to see and hear things of beauty, they found it in their churches, where all the special celebrations for every holiday were held.
Even most music was religious and was composed around words from the Bible, and when plays -- which had been pretty much lost with the end of Greek civilization -- began again, they began in cathedrals and monasteries, and the stories that were dramatized mainly came from where, do you think? (the Bible)
Tell the students that even the poorest were surrounded by beautiful music and art when they entered churches and cathedrals, which were never locked. Those people must have felt a little like we do if we've been sick or feel tired, and maybe our families are crowded into too small an apartment or house, which is dark and not very pretty, and then, on a Saturday, we go to a movie and see a wonderful film filled with color and excitement, people of exceptional courage and strength, and music that surrounds us. For the time we are there, our whole lives feel big and wonderful, and all things seem possible, and we forget about our own troubles and conditions, and sometimes those wonderful feelings even stay with us for a while after we leave.
Finally, show the students at least one example of a painting that tells several episodes of a story within the same frame. (*An example is reproduced below, but if you could show a colored reproduction, it would be even more striking. In some cases, the same characters appear in several different places in the same painting.) Ask the students to look carefully at the picture. Remind them of the painting they saw earlier in the year of "Washington Crossing the Delaware." Ask: Who remembers what kind of a painting we called that? (narrative, or history painting) Tell them: A narrative painting tells a story too, the way this Medieval one does, but when we looked at "Washington Crossing the Delaware," we saw just one scene of the story, one special part of the whole story. How many parts of a story can you find in this Medieval painting? (Help the students identify the scenes from one of the paintings. The colored miniature reproduced on p. 18 of Howarth's Medieval People shows 4 different scenes from the story about Thomas Beckett in one small painting. The students will learn about Beckett in history next month; meanwhile, this serves as a clear example of 4 scenes that actually took place at different times and in different places, but are shown here within a single frame.) Does it seem as though some scenes are in the background and some in the foreground? (probably not) So how can we tell where people are in space and time? (probably can't) And how can we tell which scene comes first? (Usually, the scenes flow from left to right, or from top to bottom. In the case of stained glass, they may take a few panels to tell a story, moving from left to right. Let the students tell you from the sense of what's happening in the particular picture.)
Ask the students: Do you think Medieval artists just didn't know how to paint in a way that made it look three-dimensional and "realistic" to our eyes? Why else do you think they might create art that did not try to show time and space the way we know it, and put gold where there shouldn't really be any, and paint haloes on people's heads, and have people floating in space without any kind of support or visible grounding? Ask the students to complete the following journal prompt:
I think Medieval artists combined different times and places in the same painting, because . . . .
*If you use the example reproduced below, point out to the students the 2 different times and places represented in the one frame. At the top, the shepherds in the fields are being approached by the angel who proclaims Christ's birth in Bethlehem. Below is the scene of Jesus in the manger, with Mary and Joseph on either side; this scene actually takes place in Bethlehem, before the angel tells the news to the shepherds.
Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 17 - Illuminated Manuscripts
Look closely at examples of Medieval illuminated manuscripts.
Explore the meaning of the term illuminated.
Hear that illuminated manuscripts were written and illuminated by hand.
Investigate Medieval paintings for names of artists and hear the term anonymous.
Discover the monastic origins for early Medieval illuminated manuscripts.
Write short responses to a questionnaire.
Examples from the Book of Kells and/or other Medieval illuminated manuscripts, see Suggested Books
Classroom-size map of the world or, if possible, of Medieval Europe
Questionnaire about Medieval handmade books, attached
Batterberry, Michael, adapted by. Art of the Middle Ages. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.
See enlargement of a page from the Book of Kells on p. 41 and pages from other illuminated manuscripts on pp. 42, 44, 47, 50, and 51.
Boyd, Anne. Life in a fifteenth-century monastery. Minneapolis:
Lerner Publications, 1975 (also published in the same year as The monks
of Durham, in 1987 in paperback under the title Life in a medieval
This slim book has only 50 pages and black and white illustrations, but serves as an excellent introduction to the Medieval monastic life for young people. Excellent for reading aloud, especially the 2nd chapter, called "The daily life of the monks" which gives the exact schedule for summer, the many job titles and descriptions in the monastery, and explanations of both Mass and Office -- all from real historical sources. Chapter 3 is very short and tells about "Books and learning."
Brookfield, Karen. Book. New York: New York: Dorling Kindersley,
This is part of the wonderful Eyewitness Books series, with the same two-page-spread format for its subjects. In this case, everything related to bookmaking is included. Handmade books with illuminated initials and miniature paintings are reproduced beautifully on pp. 26-29.
Howarth, Sarah. Medieval People. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook
Howarth uses illustrations from Medieval manuscripts as well as decorated initials throughout her book.
Knox, Bob. The Great Art Adventure. New York: Rizzoli, 1993.
This book is unpaged, seemingly elementary, and has been recommended before. It is truly multicultural in its approach to art and includes, for each style of art, an outstanding original example plus a copy in Knox's own rendition. He includes a wonderful example of Celtic Manuscript Art taken from the 9th-century Book of Kells
Medieval Life. New York: Knopf and London: Dorling Kindersley,
Another book in the Eyewitness series, this includes a beautifully illustrated section on "Holy orders," and "Life in a monastery" (pp. 36-39).
Beckett, Sister Wendy. The Story of Painting. London & New York: Dorling Kindersley in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994.
Pages from the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels are illustrated in color, large enough to show to the class, on pp. 30-31.
Mitchell, Sabrina. Medieval Manuscript Painting. New York: Viking,
Part of the Compass History of Art series, this book has some text at the beginning, but its chief value for teaching is its nearly 200 continuous pages of examples (both colored and black and white) of manuscript paintings, arranged chronologically and identified in the back as to origin (date, country, and common name of the manuscript book).
Baltimore is fortunate in having the Walters Art Gallery, which has a world-class Medieval collection. A regular display of selected Medieval illuminated books is changed periodically, and a visit at any time guarantees that the students will see a selection of books that are written and illuminated by hand. In addition, both the Walters (for sale) and the Enoch Pratt system (for loan) have copies of catalogs of exhibitions of Medieval manuscripts and objects that were held over the years at the Walters. These are usually listed in the Enoch Pratt under the name of Dorothy Eugenia Miner, who curated most of the exhibitions and wrote the text for the catalogs.
Review with the students the powerful role of the Medieval Church in unifying the various peoples who lived in Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire, and the role of works of art to teach stories and Christian traditions to all classes of people. Remind the students that very few people learned to read or write in Medieval times, since there were no public schools at all and no universities or colleges before the 12th century -- when just a few were founded to teach only men about the world through the study of religion, which they called theology. (Indicate the place of the 12th century on the class timeline.) (Review with them how all the questions we might today ask of history, science, or art were taught through the study of theology and the Bible in Medieval times, which they covered in the last art lesson.)
Tell the students that anyone who was fortunate enough to study in Medieval times had to learn everything in Latin. Not only were the very few books that were available written in Latin, which was the language of the Church, but all lessons were taught in Latin. Tell them that many men who desired learning became monks; women who desired learning had to become nuns, studying and living in convents. Learning for nuns and monks was not like your studying in a public school. It was more like a colonial apprenticeship, for they lived where they studied, and worked and lived by the rules of the house; unlike apprentices, nuns and monks were expected to spend their whole lives at the convent or monastery and were never paid for their work. There were some schools for boys and young men that did not require life as a monk; some were run by monasteries, and others were run by cathedrals, thanks especially to the efforts of Charlemagne. (If you have access to the Boyd book, this would be a good time to read to them about a typical day in the life of a monk in Medieval England. Susan Howarth's chapter called "The Monk," pp. 31-33 in Medieval People, is also good for this and simpler.)
Next, tell the students that you need their help coming to a conclusion about books. Ask them first: How do you think books are made nowadays? (printed, printed by photo offset, cameras, etc.) Before we had cameras, how do you think books were made? (printing press, metal type, movable type, etc.) Show them the place on the timeline where the year 1450 would fall, and tell them that printed books, using first wood and then metal letters that are called movable type, began to be published in Europe at that time, first in Germany, then in Italy, England and the Netherlands as well (have someone point out the locations on the map).
Suppose you were living in a Medieval monastery in the 12th century, learning to read and sing Latin, memorizing long passages from the Bible by heart, and perhaps learning to serve in the Infirmary, in which case you would be learning to treat people who were sick or injured. You wouldn't learn from books, but from the person who had served as Infirmarian in that monastery for many years. But you might be able to see some books, and they would be filled with the kinds of paintings we saw in the last lesson. You will see examples of pages from these books, and I want you to look at them closely and then tell me anything you can about them: about the colors and shapes, about how you think they were printed, since movable type was not yet in use, and see whether you can find the names of the authors and illustrators of these books.
Pass out copies of the attached questionnaire, then spend the next 5 or 10 minutes showing examples of illuminated manuscripts to the class without saying anything as they jot down their impressions and answers. Refer to the list of Suggested Books for those with good examples, make sure you have found colored illustrations of at least 1 page with initials from the Book of Kells, and try to have some examples with music printed on them if possible. The students should be able to see 3 different kinds of illumination: miniature paintings that are incorporated into the text or take up most or all of a page; large initials that are decorated and may have whole scenes incorporated inside of them; and all kinds of borders that may surround the entire text or be woven throughout the text, spidery and delicate or -- in the case of Celtic manuscripts such as the Book of Kells -- very geometric and imposing.
Invite the students to begin reading their responses to what they have seen, taking one question at a time in turn, and allowing that to guide a discussion in which they can be told the following:
1. The books are made by hand, not printed mechanically. They are called manuscripts (from the Latin manus, hand, plus the Latin scriptus, written); because of the glowing pictures that decorate most of the pages, they are called illuminated manuscripts. (Karen Brookfield in the Eyewitness Book calls them manuscript books.)
2. Colors you show the students will vary depending on the examples chosen. Many of the colors glow remarkably, considering their age; some have gold and silver.
3. Shapes will also depend on the examples chosen. The students may have noticed the braided and geometric figures in the Celtic manuscripts and the very rounded quality of the many initials in manuscripts that have scenes enclosed in the initials.
4. They will not find the names of authors or illustrators, and need to know that these handmade books called illuminated manuscripts were the job of monks and nuns who lived in the monasteries. No one ever thought of signing individual names to paintings or writings during Medieval times, especially not in a monastery where everything was held in common, work done for the glory of God and the good of the community. Tell the students: When we don't know the name of the author or illustrator of a work, we say it was done anonymously, and we still use the word today. If you forgot to sign your name to your work, we could say it is anonymous.
5. These illuminated manuscripts were all made for churches and monasteries until very late in the Medieval period, when people of the nobility might have had illuminated manuscripts made for praying in their own private chapels. Still, the illuminated manuscript would have been made or copied and illustrated by a monk or a nun in a monastery. Most illuminated manuscripts are Bibles, Psalters (that includes all the 150 Psalms from the Old Testament that monks and nuns sang or recited by heart each week), missals (that contain all the parts the priest has to sing or say for the Mass) and choral books, which contained the music sung in monasteries (by the whole community) and cathedrals (by choirs and soloists).
6. The books were written in Latin, the language of the Church in all of western Europe during the Middle Ages.
7. Illustrations will vary with the examples; interesting fanciful and decorative animals are found in many of the manuscripts.
8. Most of these books were not for reading, since young monks and nuns learned everything by heart from older members of the community. They were more like a recording of what people sang and prayed and knew in a certain place at a certain time. They contained special calendars that named the hundreds of celebrations held during the year and included instructions for priests about how to conduct the Mass, when to move around a cathedral, when to stand and sit and pray. For us, these books tell more about the history of the Medieval times than almost anything else we can find for evidence. The illustrations themselves, the illuminations, show us about how people were dressed, what kinds of plants they loved, and even what their banquet tables were filled with.
Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 17 - Illuminated Manuscripts
1. Were these books printed? If so, how?
2. What colors do you see?
3. What shapes do you see?
4. Can you find the names of the authors or illustrators?
5. What are the subjects of the books?
6. What language is written in these books?
7. Are most of the illustrations of people or animals?
8. Who do you think actually read these books?
Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 18 - Illuminated Initials
Look at decorated initials from Medieval illuminated manuscripts.
Choose an initial, write a saying, and illuminate them both.
Examples of illuminated initials, see Suggested Books for Lesson 17 and especially the one repeated below
Letters of the alphabet, capitalized and written in large print on the board before class
Practice paper of any size
Drawing paper 8 " x 11," at least 40 lb weight, 1 piece for each student
Crayons in many colors, tempera and thin brushes for each student
Brookfield, Karen. Book. New York: Knopf & London: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.
See in particular the section on papermaking (pp. 22-23), handmade books with illuminated initials and miniature paintings (pp. 26-29) and various typefaces and initials of printed books (pp. 44-45). The double-page spread on pp. 24 and 25 shows a life-size reproduction of a Medieval Psalter, opened to the beginning of Psalm 101, so the students can appreciate the way the layout is intended to be seen across 2 pages at one time. The large initial D is filled with the figure of a woman, surrounded by delicate roundels and leaves, and painted with a lot of gold leaf. The various materials used as well as information about the Gothic script used to copy the words of the psalm are all explained clearly in Brookfield's text.
Procedure - Activity
In this lesson, the students will produce brief sayings that they make up, based on an initial of the alphabet they have chosen. They will write out the saying, illuminating and decorating all or parts of it in the style of Medieval illuminated manuscript art that they have seen. This activity is closely tied to material the students saw and discussed in the last lesson, so you may want to begin the class by showing them some of the examples you chose again. The pages recommended in the Brookfield book above, are ideal as an impetus for the work they will create themselves.
You may want to tell them something about the "paper" used for illuminated manuscripts (and even for the earliest printed books). They should know that the Ancient Egyptians discovered how to make a kind of paper from the papyrus plant that grew in the Nile Valley. Its use spread to areas all around the Mediterranean, but eventually the supply ran short, and people began to use animal skins, called parchment or vellum. The animal skin had to be soaked for days, scraped of hair, then stretched on a frame and scraped several times again before it could be used to write on. This made it costly and rare. What we know as paper, made from plant materials soaked and beaten with water into pulp, was invented by the Chinese, but was not brought to the West until well into the Middle Ages. Even then, most books of vellum or parchment have lasted in better condition than books made of paper; it is the material used for the illuminated manuscripts you see reproduced in books and preserved in museums.
Point to the large capital letters written on the board and say to the students: You are each to choose one of the capital letters and turn it into a beautifully decorated initial. Remember that letters with large round, enclosed or nearly enclosed areas such as B's, D's, G's and O's lend themselves to being filled with little pictures and designs. Others, that are mainly verticals, like
T's, I's, and N's can be made to resemble architectural columns, and could be decorated with vines, plants, even scampering animals or joined flower heads. You might want to experiment first with your pencils on scrap paper to see which shapes appeal to you most.
Give the students 5 or 10 minutes to work and then say: The other part of your illuminated manuscript page will be a little saying that uses the initial you have chosen, to begin as many of the words as possible. The saying can be silly or serious, nonsense or reasonable, whatever you choose. Brainstorm with the class for examples and write them on the board as examples. A few possibilities are listed here.
Monsters make me miss my mother.
Items in ice cream include inchworms, icicles, and Indian squash.
Noses need neither nuzzle nor nip.
Licking little lemons is lovely.
Rolling rivers rise richly red.
Give them time to work out their little sayings and try them out on
the scrap paper, as you circulate around the room to help with spelling
and suggestions. They may want to read their sayings to one another before
copying them out with their decorated initial. Remind them that the illuminated
letter begins the little saying they have devised; it is not to be repeated.
They may want to draw and decorate a box around that first letter (the
initial) of the first word, to set it apart. Be sure they understand they
are to print the other words they write as well. Then pass out the
good paper, crayons, and paints and small brushes. Give them time to finish
their sayings and, again, circulate in case anyone needs help or encouragement.
Fourth Grade - Visual Arts - Lesson 19 - Gothic Cathedrals, Architecture
Observe examples of European Gothic cathedrals.
Identify and describe characteristics of Gothic cathedrals.
Discover structural reasons for architectural features such as flying buttresses.
Complete an activity related to the work of an architect.
Illustrations of Gothic cathedrals built in Medieval Europe, see Suggested Books
Cardboard box with thin sides and box or carton with thick sides, for demonstration (optional)
Paper, pencils, rulers for each group for activity
Batterberry, Michael, adapted by. Art of the Middle Ages. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964.
Batterberry includes, on pp. 95-135, large color photographs of Gothic cathedrals built around the turn of the 12th to 13th century: Notre Dame and Laon in France; Bamberg in Germany; and Canterbury, Winchester and Wells in England. Pictures include overall views of the outside and details of portals with sculpture, stained-glass windows and other features inside the cathedrals as well. By contrast, show the students the Romanesque churches pictured in colored photos on pp. 57 to 65.
Bergere, Thea and Richard. From Stones to Skyscrapers: A Book About
Architecture. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1960.
Bergere's chapter on the Gothic is on pp.48-56. A good explanation of the function of flying buttresses is included, and good pen-and-ink drawings of 6 representative cathedrals.
Caselli, Giovanni. A Cathedral Builder. New York: Peter Bedrick
This is part of an imaginative series called "The Everyday Life of," in which the writers -- in this case it is Fiona Macdonald -- use young people as the chief characters in storybooks that make other times and civilizations come alive for youngsters. This one is about a young French boy apprenticed to the architect of the cathedral at Rheims at the beginning of the 13th century. (As part of the story, the young apprentice also visits Chartres cathedral as it is being finished.) This would be a good story to read aloud to the class.
Gandiol-Coppin, Brigitte. Cathedrals: Stone upon Stone. Ossining,
NY: Young Discovery Library, 1989.
A tiny book that youngsters will enjoy holding in their hands, and they can read the text by themselves. In addition to nicely reproduced paintings by Dominique Thibault that are done very much in the colors and feeling of Medieval art, a typical floor plan for a Gothic cathedral is given on p. 14.
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New
York: Doubleday, 1992.
A good explanation of Abbot Suger's vision of architecture expressed in the abbey church of St. Denis, outside of Paris, is to be found on pp. 227-228; it is followed by black-and-white photographs of the exteriors of the Gothic cathedrals Notre Dame in France, Cologne in Germany, and Salisbury in England.
Langley, Andrew. Medieval Life. New York: Knopf and London: Dorling
See the section called "Building a cathedral," pp. 32-33.
Macaulay, David. Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1973.
This happens to be the first of the now-many books Macaulay wrote. It tells everything a youngster would want to know about the actual process of building a Gothic cathedral. Macaulay has created a fictitious cathedral, named Chutreaux, but it is based on his usual painstaking research and attention to detail, and told in a convincing narrative. Floor plans and wall elevations are included along with the usual Macaulay pen-and-ink drawings and careful layout.
Macdonald, Fiona. A Medieval Cathedral. New York: Peter Bedrick
Part of Bedrick's Inside Story series with pastel-colored illustrations by John James, who is an artist specializing in historical reconstruction. Not a storybook in the way Macaulay tells it, but filled with human interest and descriptions about the life that the surrounds the building, staffing, and functioning of a Medieval cathedral.
________. A Medieval Cathedral. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1991.
Martindale, Andrew. The Rise of the Artist In the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972.
Martindale's chapter on "The Architect," (pp. 79-96) is filled with interesting information about the role of the architect in Medieval art and includes many wonderful illustrations.
You may want to begin this lesson with a very brief review (from World Civilization and art lessons) about the power and importance of the Church in the lives of all classes of people in the Medieval period. Remind the students that the priest in charge of all the priests of any one diocese was called a bishop. His duties and powers might be very great. He might advise kings and princes, oversee all the lands the Church owned in that area, be responsible for blessing churches, ordaining priests, overseeing convents and monasteries in his area. If he sounds a bit like a king, it won't surprise you to know that there was always a special throne built for him to sit on when he was at home in his own church. A bishop's throne had a special name that comes from the Latin word for chair, which is cathedra. From the name of his chair, or throne, comes the name of the bishop's church, cathedral. Since it was the bishop's home church, the cathedral was always larger and more elaborate than regular churches. Sometimes it took up to a hundred years to build a Medieval cathedral from planning to finishing, and often whole towns grew up around the building of a cathedral, because the building provided work for so many people, mostly men -- carpenters, masons, glass-blowers, sculptors and painters, as well as the master builder or architect who made the plans for the building and had to oversee the whole.
Show the class as many examples of Gothic cathedrals as you can. (If they are in color, the students will be more able to see the expanses of the stained-glass windows, which tend to disappear in black-and-white photographs.) Say to the students: These may be exactly what we all think of when we think of a cathedral, but cathedrals didn't always look this way. Before about 1150 (show on the timeline) Medieval churches and cathedrals were not nearly so tall or grand. Sometimes they were built of wood, not stone, and often they burned to the ground. They had very thick walls and were dark inside, because of the walls and because the windows were very small.
If you have access to examples of Romanesque (early Medieval) churches and cathedrals (see Suggested Books above), show them to the class as evidence of their characteristics. Have the students tell you briefly what they notice particularly about them. Then show the examples of Gothic cathedrals again and tell the students to observe them closely. Ask them: Which of the arts are we looking at when we look at these Gothic cathedrals from the Middle Ages? (Architecture is the most obvious answer, but they may also correctly see sculpture and painting as well.) Remind them once again of the overriding characteristic of all Medieval art: religious inspiration. In the Gothic cathedral nearly all the arts could be seen.
Write Gothic Cathedral on the board, and ask the students to tell you what they observe in the examples, writing down their responses under a heading labeled Characteristics of Architecture. If they need some hints, ask questions such as: What kinds of lines do you see, mostly horizontal or vertical? (vertical) What about the arches? Are they round or pointed? (pointed) Are the outside walls of the cathedrals built of wood or stone? (stone) Do the buildings seem to hug the ground or soar into the sky? (soar) Let them continue to give responses, which may include things such as tall stained-glass windows, a lot of sculpture as decoration, and -- if they have seen interiors of the cathedrals as well -- very tall ceilings, fancy decorations around the pointed windows and arches.
Add another heading on the board that says Problems to Solve, and say to the class: We have talked before about the problems artists have to solve when they create things. For example, when we looked at Alexander Calder's mobiles (kindergarten), we talked about the artist's problem being one of balance -- how to balance things so that the whole mobile would hang freely. Sometimes a landscape painter wants to show the depth, or 3-dimensionality of what he or she is painting, and then the problem is sometimes solved by showing foreground, middle ground, and background. What special problems do you think are the problems an architect building a Gothic cathedral had to solve? If the students need help, remind them of the thick, relatively solid walls of Romanesque (early Medieval) cathedrals, and demonstrate for them the difference between a thick-walled carton turned upside down with weight on it (a few books will serve) and again with a cardboard box that has thinner and higher walls. The walls of the latter will collapse, and the students can see the main problem. Tell them that the higher the cathedral, the larger the problem: and the more windows that were added for light and decoration, the larger the problem again.
Ask the students what kind of solution they could suggest. (Accept any thoughtful ideas.) If you have access to the Langley, Macaulay, Gandiol, or Gandiol-Coppin books, you will find good illustrations and explanations of the way buttresses, and then flying buttresses, were the solution to the problem. (If you have done a demonstration with boxes, show them what happens when you place supports -- again, it could be as simple as books leaning against the "walls"-- which are the buttresses; and then add weight to the roof to make the point stronger, since the roof was made of stone or lead or some other heavy material. Point out the flying buttresses in the photographs of Gothic cathedrals so the students can see how architects were able to make the solution to a structural problem part of the design of the building and actually add to its beauty and decoration.
Using one of the books suggested above, show the class examples of both floor plans (sometimes also called ground plans) and elevations of Gothic cathedrals. In the absence of any of these, show the students the example reproduced below, which is for a guest house in a Medieval monastery from the 9th century. Tell the students that architects from the time of the Middle Ages right up to the present use these 2 kinds of plans when they are designing a building. Tell them the names of the two kinds of plans and write the two phrases on the board: Floor Plan and Elevation.
Next, brainstorm with the class about what the view, or perspective, of each of the 2 plans is and what each one is designed to show. You might tell them that floor plans are like the bottom horizontal slice; elevations show the details of vertical slices. List under each kind of plan whatever you come up with as a class. Tell them you are going to be concerned now with floor plans.
Divide the class into 4 groups and have each draw a floor plan. Tell them that they are to design a plan for their own classroom, an auditorium, or an imaginary room. Point out the forms on the floor plan, and ask them if it reminds them of anything else (map). Tell them that when they do a floor plan, they may have to make some decisions about how they are going to show things, such as the locations of doors, and it could possibly require a key or legend. The group should decide in each case how they want to do it. The plans need not be exact, but they should consider the overall size and the approximate proportions. They may want to use rulers for straight lines, or they may decide simply to draw things in a freer way. The main idea is for them to draw a plan that would be useful for anyone who wanted to build such a space and that would give a clear idea of its proportions.
Be sure and give them time for discussion as well as drawing. If more
than 1 person in a group wants to do the actual drawing, that is an option,
but it would be good for them to discover who among them can best do the
actual drawing and choose someone else to be the spokesperson for the group
when it comes time to show the finished plan to the rest of the class.
If there is time when the plans are finished, the students may enjoy observing
the differences in how the groups perceived the spaces and which things
each thought most important to represent.
Batterberry, Michael. Art of the Middle Ages. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.
Bergere, Thea and Richard. From Stones to Skyscrapers: A Book About Architecture. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1960.
Brookfield, Karen. Book. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993. (0-679-94012-X)
Boyd, Anne. Life in a fifteenth-century monastery. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 1975 (also published in the same year as The monks of Durham as well as in paperback in 1987 under the title Life in a medieval monastery). (0-82251-208-4) and ppr (0-521-33724-0)
Caselli, Giovanni. A Cathedral Builder. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1992.(0-87226-115-8)
Corbishly, Mike. The Medieval World. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1992. (0-87226-362-2)
Gandiol-Coppin, Brigitte. Cathedrals: Stone upon Stone. Ossining, NY: Young Discovery Library, 1989. (0-944589-24-3)
Hirsch, E. D., Jr., ed. What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1992.(0-385-31260-1)
Howarth, Sarah. Medieval People. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press, 1992. (1-56294-153-4)
________. What Do We Know About the Middle Ages? New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1995.(0-87226-384-3)
Knox, Bob. The Great Art Adventure. New York: Rizzoli, 1993. (0-8478-1688-5)
Langley, Andrew. Medieval Life. New York: Knopf and London: Dorling Kindersley, 1996.(0-679-98077-8)
Macaulay, David. Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1973.(0-395-17513-5)
Macdonald, Fiona. A Medieval Cathedral. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1992.(0-87226-350-9)
Beckett, Sister Wendy. The Story of Painting. London & New York: Dorling Kindersley in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1994. (1-56458-615-4)
Mitchell, Sabrina. Medieval Manuscript Painting. New York: Viking, 1965