German art and architecture: The Carolingian and Ottonian Periods

The Carolingian and Ottonian Periods

Carolingian architecture and art are commonly considered to have been the earliest manifestations of discernibly Germanic art. As the center of Charlemagne's empire, the Rhineland was the home of the massive palace chapel at Aachen (c.800), decorated with mosaics, and of contemporary churches such as the one at Fulda. Many of these show the revival of early Christian plans (see Early Christian art and architecture). Carolingian ivory book covers and diptychs were also notable.

The first outstanding examples of German painting and sculpture were created (c.960–c.1060) during the Ottonian dynasty. Splendid manuscripts, enriched by illuminations remarkable for their force of linear expression, issued from the school of Reichenau (e.g., the Gospels of Otto III, State Library, Munich), while in Cologne miniature painting exhibited a brilliant use of color. Fine craftsmanship is apparent in the metalwork of this period, from the small objects produced by the goldsmiths of Mainz to more massive achievements, such as the bronze doors (1015) for the Church of St. Michael at Hildesheim. The architecture of St. Michael's exemplifies a tendency in Ottonian buildings toward the development of a complex ground plan. A highly rational system was devised of dividing the church into a series of separate units, a method that was to be of consequence in Romanesque design.

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