World History

Art and Literature of Middle Ages

Depending on where in Europe a person lived and the time of day, many types of art were produced during the Middle Ages. However, Byzantine art, Romanesque art, and Gothic art are the three main eras and styles that make up Middle Age art. The majority of the Middle Ages’ artistic production in Europe was religious, with Catholic themes and subjects. Painting, sculpture, metal work, engraving, stained glass windows, and manuscripts were among the various forms of art.

With the beginning of the Renaissance Period, there is frequently a significant change in art that marks the end of the Middle Ages.

Byzantine Art

Often referred to as the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages began here. From 500 to 1000 AD is the time frame in question. The Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium, produced the majority of the art at that period, which was known as Byzantine art.

The absence of reality in Byzantine painting was a defining feature. Instead than attempting to make their paintings realistic, the artists concentrated on the symbolism of their work. Paintings were flat with no shadows and the topics were often very solemn and sad. Nearly all of the paintings’ subjects were religious, and many of them included Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Romanesque Art

Around 1000 AD saw the beginning of the Romanesque Art period, which lasted until about 1300 AD, when the Gothic Art period began. Pre-Romanesque art is that which existed before that. Roman and Byzantine art both had an impact on Romanesque art. Christianity and religion were the main topics. Architectural features such as stained glass artwork, huge paintings on walls and domed ceilings, and carvings on structures and columns were all present. Sculpture and illuminated manuscript art were also included.

Gothic Art

Romanesque art gave rise to Gothic art. Gothic artists shifted towards greater realism and started to utilise more vivid colours, dimensions, and perspectives. They also started experimenting with subjects other than religion, such as animals in epic scenarios, and increased the use of shadows and light in their artwork.

Artists of the Middle Ages

We don’t know very much about the early Middle Ages’ artists. Some of the most well-known individuals lived in the later Middle Ages and are frequently seen as being a part of the Renaissance’s infancy. Here are a few artists from the late Middle Ages who became well-known:

A famous Italian sculptor who is well known for his statues of the Madonna, Mary Magdalene, and David.

Italian painter from the 13th century best known for the frescoes in Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel.

Benvenuto di Giuseppe –
This Italian painter from Florence, also known by the name Cimabue, is well-known for his mosaic work.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti –
The Allegory of Good Government and the Allegory of Bad Government are two classic frescoes by this Italian Gothic movement painter.


The majority of the authors who produced literature during the Middle Ages were monks and clergy. Only a few other people could read and write. They penned hymns or songs about God frequently. Some people also produced religious philosophy in their writings. Jacobus de Voragine, the archbishop of Genoa, wrote The Golden Legend, which was among the most read works of the Middle Ages. It related tales of the saints’ lives in mediaeval times. There were also some non-religious, or secular, literature written.

Here are a some of the more well-known Middle Ages books:

Author unknown of Beowulf.
While Beowulf’s tale is set in Scandinavia, this epic poem was penned in England.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.
A collection of stories that show Chaucer’s perspective on mediaeval English society.

The Caedmon’s Hymn
The earliest known Old English poem is this hymn, which was written down by a monk.

Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy.
This tale illustrates Dante’s perspective on the hereafter and is frequently regarded as one of the best pieces of literature ever written.

The Margery Kempe Book, written by Margery Kempe.
This work is regarded as the first English-language autobiography.

By Venerable Bede, “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.”
Bede was given the title “Father of English History” for his account of the English church.

Written by Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron.
This book includes several tales that depict life in Italy in the fourteenth century.

The Marco Polo Travels, written by Marco Polo.
This book chronicles Marco Polo’s journey to China and the distant east.

Sir Thomas Malory wrote Le Morte d’Arthur. This book chronicles the legend of King Arthur.

William Langland’s Piers Ploughman.
A man seeking the authentic Christian life is the subject of this allegorical poetry.