Germany Arts and Architecture – From the Early Middle Ages to the 15th Century

The remains of the Frankish, Saxon, Alemannic, Thuringian and Bavarian populations are limited to goldsmith products with zoomorphic and interwoven decorations. From the devastated Roman cities (Cologne, Trier, Mainz, Speyer, Augusta), in which late antique art and then the Church had left important signs (St. Gereon in Cologne, Constantinian basilica in Trier), they resume from the end of the 7th century . construction activities by monastic institutions. The pre-Carolingian architecture has as its maximum expression the Marienburg rotunda in Würzburg (consecrated in 706) and the traces of the basilica of Fulda, whose abbey founded by s. Bonifacio (744), together with those of Lorsch (763), of Corvey (824), of Reichenau (831) etc., has been at the center of artistic production since the end of the 8th century. Closely connected with the emperor are the most impressive buildings of the Carolingian period: the Torhalle of the abbey of Lorsch (8th-9th century); the Palatine Chapel of Aachen (consecrated in 805); the Westwerk of the church of Corvey (873-85). Particular Germanic characteristics emerge after the Treaty of Verdun (843), above all with the affirmation of the Ottoni dynasty (➔ Ottonian, art).

From the end of the 10th century. begins an architecture marked, in the regional varieties, by an imposing sense of the masses, a very important chapter of European Romanesque art, starting from the Westwerk of S. Pantaleone in Cologne (consecrated in 986) and the church of the convent of Gernrode (from 961) up to the great basilicas of Hildesheim, Paderborn, Essen, Trier, Reichenau, and the imperial palace of Goslar. The churches of the early 12th century. monasteries linked to the Cluniac reform, of Hirsau (destroyed), of Alpirsbach and of Prüfening (which also preserves a very important cycle of frescoes, 1130-60) attest to an original elaboration of French models. The vaulted roof system was fully developed in the cathedral of Speyer (11th-12th century) and in the abbey of Maria Laach (from 1093). The works of sculpture are characterized by the search for a strong expressiveness (bronze doors by Bernward of the cathedral of Hildesheim, wooden doors of St. Mary in the Campidoglio of Cologne).

The following period (1190-1240 ca.), under the impulse of the French Gothic and in the general cultural flourishing under the Hohenstaufen, is extremely fruitful: the cathedrals are renewed, churches of the Cistercian type spread (Maulbronn convent). Generally, however, the French example is recreated in the German sense (St. Elizabeth in Marburg, Liebfrauenkirche in Trier). Great originality reaches the sculpture (Halberstadt, Wechselburg; golden gate of Freiberg; sculptures of the cathedrals of Naumburg, Magdeburg, Bamberg, Strasbourg).

From the second half of the 13th century. art is in tune with international taste, albeit with nuances of local schools. In terms of architecture, some of the most important creations appear in the Rhenish region (central body of Strasbourg Cathedral; Freiburg Cathedral in Breisgau ; Cologne Cathedral, 1248-1322, completed only in the 19th century). The church with three naves of equal height ( Hallenkirche ) begins to spread, while original works are produced in Austria, in Bohemia, in Germany del Nord (churches of St. Mary in Lübeck, Rostock, Stralsunda, examples of brick architecture that branches off to Scandinavia and the Baltic area). The monumental sculpture is marked by subtle refinements (western part of the Strasbourg cathedral, apostles in the choir of the Cologne cathedral), while the wooden sculpture and the painting on wood, which are associated in altarpieces often of gigantic proportions (altarpiece of St. Peter in Hamburg, by Meister Bertram). The last Gothic period takes on a strong national character (Sondergotik). Religious architecture is important Swabia with the cathedral Ulm (1377-1493), which waited the Parler, U. von Ensingen with their children and M. Böblinger(1473-93). A homogeneous school operates in Upper Saxony (Zwickau, Freiberg etc.). Profane architecture acquires importance with the use of brick in the municipalities of Münster (1355), Brunswick (14th-15th century) etc., half-timbered houses (Fachwerk) of the central Germany, largely destroyed in the Second world war (Hildesheim, Goslar, Celle etc.), city fortifications (preserved those of Nördlingen and Rothenburg, in Bavaria), castles and fortresses.

Since the end of the 14th century. the so-called “soft” style (weicher Stil) is imposed in sculpture, with the “beautiful Madonnas” and the Pietà (Vesperbild, St. Petersburg, Ermitage; Madonna di Krumlov, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum), characterized by more intense realism in Bavaria (figures of the west portal of the cathedral of Regensburg, bust of the architect H. Stethaimer in St. Martin of Landshut; tomb of U. Kantenmayer in St. Jacob of Strubing); with the strong personalities of H. Multscher, active in Ulm since 1427, and of M. Gerthner in Frankfurt and Mainz. Gothic painting has the school as its important centersBohemian, who radiates his influence in neighboring countries, and significant personalities such as Conrad of Soest, active in Westphalia until the second decade of the 15th century, and the younger Maestro Francke who works in Hamburg. C. Witz, active in Basel since 1434, achieves an uncommon plastic power with his brutal realism; in stark contrast is the Cologne school, dominated by S. Lochner, while in the northern Germany the pre-eminent personality, in the second half of the 15th century, is B. Notke, of whom only the sculptures remain. In the sculpture of the late 15th century. have to remember J. Syrlin in Ulm, A. Kraft and V. Stoss in Nuremberg, T. Riemenschneider in Würzburg. With them, late Gothic art expresses itself with realism and incisiveness, which are found in the nascent art of engraving (M. Schongauer).

Germany Arts and Architecture - From the Early Middle Ages to the 15th Century