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Medieval Art Lesson

Updated on November 7, 2015

This is part 3 of a 4 (or 5) part hands-on unit on the Medieval Period. Mix together and paint with egg yolk paint, design and eat stained glass window cookies, create colorful tapestries, and more! These lessons are geared toward 4th-5th grade level children and their siblings. They were created by another creative mom for our weekly homeschool co-op. We meet each week for 2 1/2 hours and have 33 children between the ages of 1-13. Use these fun lessons with your class, family, co-op, after school program, or camp!

Introduction to Illuminated Texts and Egg Yolk Paint

1. Pray. Read & discuss Psalm 2:11.

2. Read "Marguerite Makes a Book" by Bruce Robertson.

3. Make egg paint. Pass out eggs and have children separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Have them place individual egg yolks in small, disposable cups. (The egg whites can be thrown away or you can save them to cook with them. Our kids got a lot of shells in the egg mixture, so we threw out the egg whites.) Ask children what people used to use to add color to the paint. After they have answered, tell them that we will be using colored chalk. Pass out bags of crushed sidewalk chalk, and have children mix in the sidewalk chalk into the egg yolk.

YOU WILL NEED: at least 1 egg per child, disposable cups, a variety of colors sidewalk chalk that has been pounded into small granules, & spoons

Our Favorite Books on Illuminated Texts

Illuminations by Jonathan Hunt is a beautifully illustrated book that includes lots of vocabulary children will come across as they study the medieval period. At least one of the pages is featured per letter; sometimes the illustration goes across two pages. The illustrations are beautiful and highly detailed. With each word there is a 3-4-sentence explanation of what the word is about. The author states he has gone to great lengths to make the illustrations historically accurate. A few more favorites include Magic in the Margins: A Medieval Tale of Bookmaking by W. Nikola-Lisa, Bestiary: An Illuminated Alphabet of Medieval Beasts by Jonathan Hunt, and Bibles and Bestiaries: A Guide to Illuminated Manuscripts by Elizabeth B. Wilson. While not related to illuminated texts but relating to book-making, Johann Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press by Bruce Koscielniak is an excellent picture book about the invention of the printing press.

Marguerite Makes a Book (Getty Trust Publications: J. Paul Getty Museum)
Marguerite Makes a Book (Getty Trust Publications: J. Paul Getty Museum)

This is a fabulous book! A daughter helps her father make an illuminated text prayer book. In the book you follow her as she buys parchment made from calfskin, old eggs for the paint, goose feathers for the paintbrushes, and apothecary roots and herbs for paint colors. My 3, 5, & 9 year old children loved this book. Of all the books we read about illuminated texts, this was by far the favorite and the most educational.

 
The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane
The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane

This was a great book about a monk in a monastery in Ireland who grew tired of copying books and became inspired when asked to create ink. He collected various plants and started making beautiful colors and pictures. This does a great job of emphasizing that many of the colors for ink came from dried plants. It includes facts about the history of monasteries, scriptoriums, and illuminated manuscripts.

 
Painting with egg yolk paint
Painting with egg yolk paint

4. While listening to music from the medieval period, paint with egg yolk paint. Show children some examples of paintings from the Middle Ages. (If they don't notice, you can point out that most of them were religious paintings.) Pass out paper and paintbrushes. Let children paint a picture using the egg yolk paint. Children should share paint. You can also pour some out onto small plates if children want their own "palates."

YOU WILL NEED: Medieval period music CD (or uploaded to an iPad or similar device), pictures of paintings from the Middle Ages, paper, and paintbrushes

Stained Glass Window Cookies made using sugar cookie dough and crushed Jolly Rancher candy
Stained Glass Window Cookies made using sugar cookie dough and crushed Jolly Rancher candy

Cathedrals & Stained Glass

5. Introduce cathedrals & stained glass windows. As already mentioned, much of the art was religious. Not only did they paint religious scenes, but religious "art" was put up in cathedrals in the form of the stained glass windows. Show some pictures from books.

6. Make stained glass cookies. Give each child a piece of aluminum foil. Have each child write their name on the foil with a sharpie marker so they can later identify their baked cookie. Spray the aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray. Give each child a scoop of sugar cookie dough and have them roll it into a snake shape (about 1/4 inch thick). Have them form it into a shape (circle, star, diamond, etc.) and make sure to pinch the edges together. Let them sprinkle crushed candy inside the dough outlines, filling the spaces completely and heaping it slightly. Place them on a baking sheet and have a teacher or parent bake them at 375F for 8-10 minutes. (If you're not limited by time, let children make more than one cookie and use cookie cutters to make the outline shapes. They can even place their cookies near each other on the baking sheet to have them bake together to form a window.)

YOU WILL NEED: prepared sugar cookie dough, non-stick cooking spray, aluminum foil, sharpie marker, crushed hard candies (Jolly ranchers, life savers, lollipops, etc.) of a few different colors, & baking sheets

*Note: If you are planning on including the lesson on Cathedrals in this Medieval Unit Study, then do not make these cookies as this activity is repeated in the Cathedral lesson plan. Instead, make Cathedral Window Jello Dessert, which has the recipe and directions posted in the YouTube video clip below. 1) Ahead of time (before class) prepare various colors of jell-o. (We used red, green, and yellow.) 2) At the beginning of class, have the children work together to whisk together 1 1/2 cups water and 3 tbsp. unflavoured gelatin. In a separate bowl they will mix up 1/2 cup pineapple juice, 1/2 cup condensed milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 4 tbsp. sugar, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Then you, the parent/teacher will add 1 cup of boiling water to the unflavored gelatin mixture. Then combine that with the pineapple and milk mixture. 3) Have the children crumble up the prepared colored jello and put it in a mold (such as a silicone bundt pan). 4) Pour the milk mixture over all of this. 5) Place this in the freezer for one hour and then in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it.

Good picture book on cathedrals

Cathedrals (First Discovery series)
Cathedrals (First Discovery series)

This is a nice overview of Cathedrals. It includes great illustrations and has some fun see-through pages. It includes plenty of historical information so that even my 9 year old was able to learn from it, but is short enough so that even my 1 year old enjoyed listening to us read through the 24 page book.

 
Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction
Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

While not a book you'll want to read in one sitting because of its length (80 pages), this classic book is a must-read as it describes the long process involved in building a cathedral, including the many tools and workers needed for this 80 year project.

 

If you are including the optional lesson on Cathedrals, instead of making stained glass cookies twice, you can make stained glass jello this week.

7. While the cookies are baking, make a stained glass window. Pass out 2 sheets of black construction paper to each child. Lay out scraps of various colors of tissue paper, pencils, scissors, and glue. If desired have children cut the 2 pieces of black construction paper into a large shape (dome, diamond, etc.). Use a pencil to outline about 1/2 inch all around the edge of the construction paper. This will be the frame for the window and should never be cut. Inside that "frame," they can cut out various shapes. They should always cut both sheets of construction paper the same as one will be the front and one will be the back. Place glue all over the construction paper and then lay pieces of tissue paper over the holes. The tissue paper will act as the stained glass. After covering all of the holes, paste the second piece of construction paper over the piece of construction paper that has the ragged edges of tissue paper showing. Punch a hole in the top and string yarn through it so that it can be hung near a window.

*When doing this for young children, pre-cut out the black construction paper stained glass "frames" ahead of time and have the children simply place the glue and the tissue paper on the construction paper and then glue the 2 frame pieces together.*

YOU WILL NEED: 2 pieces of black construction paper per child, scissors, pencils, rulers, glue, scraps of tissue paper of assorted colors, hole punch, yarn or string

More of Our Favorite Children's Books on Cathedrals

Cathedral Stained Glass Coloring Book (Dover Stained Glass Coloring Book) by Ed Sibbett Jr. is a great book with reproductions from some of the best of mediaeval stained glass. The pictures are not too complicated that they can't be traced, and the paper is sturdy enough so that you can trace them. Cathedral Mouse by Kay Chorao and Ambrose and the Cathedral Dream by Margo Sorenson are also delightful story books you'll want to read!

Pippo the Fool (Junior Library Guild Selection)
Pippo the Fool (Junior Library Guild Selection)

This is a fictionalized account about the real Renaissance architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, as he designed and built the dome of the Cathedral of Florence, the Duomo. My 5 and 9 year old boys really enjoyed reading this story.

 
You Wouldn't Want to Work on a Medieval Cathedral!: A Difficult Job That Never Ends
You Wouldn't Want to Work on a Medieval Cathedral!: A Difficult Job That Never Ends

My 5 and 9 year old sons love the books in this series! Using humorous illustrations and dialogue, the author slips in plenty of historical information. You learn about the years of apprenticeship, backbreaking labor as a journeyman, and the work of a master stonemason working on the Canterbury Cathedral.

 

Tapestries

8. Using books, show pictures of various tapestries and quickly discuss how they were made and their uses (decorating stone walls and keeping warmth in a drafty castle).

Our Favorite Picture Books on Tapestries

The Tapestry Cats by Ann Turnbull is a cute picture book about a princess who makes up stories from the tapestries on the castle wall. Medieval Tapestries Coloring Book (Dover Fashion Coloring Book) by Marty Noble is a coloring book has gorgeous replicas of many of the famous tapestries. You can use it for coloring or you can simply use it as a picture book to read through as it does also include interesting text. Lady and the Unicorn by K. Price is a story made up about the characters in the famous tapestry of the lady and the unicorn. Tapestries: Stories of Women in the Bible by Ruth Sanderson includes a tapestry theme and tapestry-like illustrations to tell the stories of some of the women in the Bible.

The Crystal Mountain
The Crystal Mountain

This is a fairy tale about a tapestry maker. It has gorgeous illustrations and an enjoyable story!

 

9. (If you are not limited by time) Allow children to use a child's loom (as shown below) to begin weaving a potholder so that they can get the idea that tapestries were woven and grasp how challenging it really would have been to make one. When we did this as part of a co-op class, we had the children work in groups. They each took turns weaving one strip at a time. After 10 minutes we stopped and had them briefly discuss the challenges that might come up when actually trying to design a picture into the "tapestry."

10. Pass out a piece of fabric to each child. (An old pillowcase works perfectly.) Even though tapestries would have been stitched together to form the designs, we will simply be painting the designs onto fabric. Allow children to paint a medieval-type design onto the fabric. If desired, staple the top ends over a stick. Tie a piece of string to each end of the stick so children can hang it up on the wall. Save these for the medieval feast!

YOU WILL NEED: large square or rectangular pieces of fabric provided by moms (you can tell each parent to bring an old pillow case for each child), paintbrushes, paint, & smocks or old t-shirts to cover clothing (optional)

11. (If time allows) Eat stained glass cookies and drink water.

12. Review what we learned.

Do You Need More Activity Ideas for Medieval Art?

Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning)
Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning)

We LOVE this book! It reviews the lives of many of the famous artists (listed in chronological order) and includes an art project that is related to each of the artists' styles. It includes some great art project ideas related to the medieval artists. I know of a number of after school classes and homeschool classes and co-ops who base all of their lessons on the activities from this book. The above egg yolk painting activity idea came from this book. Many more activities like that are included.

 

Ready for the next lesson?

Knighting ceremony and joust from part 4 (or 5): Knights & Ladies Lesson
Knighting ceremony and joust from part 4 (or 5): Knights & Ladies Lesson

Bake medieval meals, create a medieval village, design stained glass window cookies, hold a jousting tournament, and more during this fun 4 or 5 week hands-on unit study of the medieval period!

  • Medieval Life Lesson - This is part 1 of a 4 (or 5) part hands-on unit on the Medieval Period. Cook & eat a Medieval meal, play Medieval games, create Medieval crowns, and more!
  • Castles Lesson - This is part 2 of a 4 (or 5) part hands-on unit on the Medieval Period. Build model castles, weapons, and more!
  • Medieval Art Lesson - This is part 3 of a 4 (or 5) part hands-on unit on the Medieval Period. Mix together and paint with egg yolk paint, design and eat stained glass window cookies, create colorful tapestries, and more!
  • Cathedral Lesson - This is an optional lesson in this unit focusing on Cathedral design and architecture. Decorate stained-glass cookies, design a dome using blocks, sketch each type of cathedral, sing about the true foundation of cathedrals, and more in this fun lesson on cathedrals!
  • Knights & Ladies Lesson - This is part 4 of a 4 (or 5) part hands-on unit on the Medieval Period. Create a Coat of Arms and swords, hold a jousting tournament, act out a knighting ceremony, and more!
  • Medieval Feast and Field Trip Ideas - This is the culminating activity we did after a 4 (or 5) week hands-on unit on the Medieval Period. We held a festive medieval feast complete with entertainment and much merriment. Also included are the field trips we took during our unit.
  • Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above link.

Our Favorite Books on Medieval Monks

During this lesson we did not focus on monks, but my family did read about them this week as many monks were involved in the creation of illuminated texts and other forms of art during this time period. Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido D'Arezzo by Susan Roth is a fabulous picture book on the monk who developed our current system of written music. It is a must-read picture book! The Little Jester by Helena Olofsson tells the story of a jester who is taken in by monks and teaches the abbot about joys of generosity and laughter. It is similar to Tomie dePaola's Clown of God, which is another great story book to read. Both have wonderful messages! Saint Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy by Robert F. Kennedy was our favorite book on Saint Franscis of Assissi. We enjoyed numerous picture books about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi including this book and A Gift from Saint Francis: The First Creche by Joanna Cole and Clare and Francis by Guido Visconti.

Brother William's Year: A Monk at Westminster Abbey
Brother William's Year: A Monk at Westminster Abbey

Find out about the typical daily life of a monk named Brother William during the fourteenth century. He gardens, illustrates a manuscript, builds a barn, prays, sings psalms, etc. The illustrations are also a delight!

 

Manuscripts as explained by the Getty Museum

Konos Volume I
Konos Volume I

Konos Curriculum

Would you like to teach this way every day?

Konos Curriculum

I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful Christian curriculum and was created by moms with active children!

Konos Home School Mentor

If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!

© 2012 iijuan12

Comments, questions, or ideas? - Please leave a note to let me know you dropped by. I LOVE getting feedback from you!

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    • iijuan12 profile image
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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @siobhanryan: Thank you!

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 4 years ago

      Very interesting

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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @julieannbrady: Thank you!

    • iijuan12 profile image
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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @KarenTBTEN: Thank you!

    • iijuan12 profile image
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      iijuan12 4 years ago from Florida

      @sukkran trichy: Thank you!

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 5 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      very interesting read. your lesson plans series are really great.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 5 years ago

      What a lot of good teaching ideas... and personalized reviews of books. SquidAngel blessings.

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      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      The Medieval Ages were sure an interesting time for us to learn from.