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The Church in the middle ages was much more than a religious organisation
Leonardo da Vinci
THE OLD MASTERS
The spirit of Renaissance and humanism was not confined to literature.
It also touched other field of intellectual activity like the fine arts. There was a spate of remarkable paintings, sculpture and architecture during the period. In the Middle ages, art and architecture were dominated by the Church. It was used to decorate cathedrals and churches. Its subjects were Christ, Virgin Mary and the Christian saints. Art did not portray nature and the life of the people. The characters in painting and sculpture were depicted in formal and rather rigid postures. But the artists of the Renaissance portrayed nature and life along with religious themes.
They revived the classical spirit and produced well rounded figures with greater faithfulness to the natural form. At the head of the list of Renaissance artists is the name of Michelangelo (1475 – 1564). he was an artist, a sculptor, and architect and a poet all rolled in one. He made as many as 400 frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (named after of the Popes named Sixtus) at Rome. (Frescoes are paintings on plastered surfaces of walls and ceilings). `The Last Judgement' was one of these frescoes. It is still considered to be one of the finest works of art. The most famous of his works in sculpture are the marble status of Moses and David. In architecture, the world indebted to him for designing the wonderful dome of St. Peter's Cathedrals at Rome. It is a marvellous piece of architecture, which even the most modern architects cannot excel.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was another great artist of the same period. He was a versatile genius. He was not only an artist of the first rank, but also a sculptor, and architect, an engineer, a musician, a scientist and a philosopher. In every one of these arts and skills, he ranked among the greatest men of his time. Some writers consider him to be the greatest man that ever lived. His most famous painting is a portrait of a lady known as `Mona Lisa'. Art critics pronounce this picture to be the finest portrait ever painted. The smile on the face of the lady, which is almost not a smile, it its most famous feature. Another great product of the Italian Renaissance was Raphael (1483 – 1520). He is best known for his `Sistine Madonna', the picture of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus.
Miniature showing Pope Leo III crowning
Last Roman Emperor
Archbishops and bishops ruled over their areas like petty kings
During the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church had great power and authority over the lives of the people of Europe. The Pope of Rome was the supreme head of the catholic Church. He appointed the various church officers all of whom were also directly under his command. Except for a small part of Eastern Europe which belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church, the whole of central and Western Europe was under the control of the pope.
Nobody questioned the authority of the Pope and the Church. It was considered heresy, that is, insult to God and the Church, to criticize things pertaining to religion. As the people in the Middle Ages were deeply religious, they followed the rules and practices laid down by the Church because they believed in the divine authority of the Pope.
The Church in the middle ages was much more than a religious organisation. It had control over the politics of states as well. The kings of the European countries were appointed and dismissed by the pope. The Church had its own laws and courts. The officers of the Church could not be touched by the King's officials. The Church insisted on dealing with its guilty officers on its own.
The Church officers tried all cases involving clergymen, widows, orphans and all questions of marriage and divorce. The Pope, like other kings, had his ambassadors in the courts of the various states. Archbishops and bishops ruled over their areas like petty kings.
The Church had become a wealthy organ. It did not depend on the voluntary contributions of devout Christians. It had its own sources of income from extensive lands attached to the monasteries and churches. The Church also imposed a tax known as `tithe' on all Christians. This tax amounted to one – tenth of a person's income. With such resources, the Church make its own policies without having to depend on the support of kings and princes. In time, some questionable practices began to creep into the church organisation. The clergymen began to lead a life of luxury and ease.