Role of Art in Romanesque Churches: Painting & Sculpture

Role of Art in Romanesque Churches: Painting & Sculpture
Coming up next: Influence of Pilgrimage on Romanesque Art & Architecture

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Romanesque Churches
  • 0:55 Role of Art in Teaching
  • 2:20 Role of Art as Status
  • 3:16 Role in Pilgrimages
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up


Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Art is never without function, and in this lesson, we will talk about what roles painting and sculpture played in the Romanesque churches of medieval Europe.

Romanesque Churches

Hey! Let's go to church! No, I'm not trying to force you into any sort of conversion, but it is an undeniable fact that some of the greatest art in European history can be found in churches. Particularly in the medieval world, churches were the center of society, where resources were collected and people gathered. So, they ended up becoming artistic centers as well. In fact, art was more than just a pretty way to decorate these churches; it played an integral role in the church's function. This was especially true in the Romanesque churches, those built around 1050 and 1200. This was the first major artist and architectural program to sweep over Europe since the fall of Rome and had some major impacts. Want to see? Well then, let's go to church.

Role of Art in Teaching

As I said, art had actual function in Romanesque churches. Let's start with one of the most obvious; what do you go to church for? To worship and to learn about the faith. In the medieval world, the vast majority of the population was illiterate, which meant that they could not read the bible on their own. The only access to their faith was through the church and one of the major roles of art was to help reinforce biblical messages visually. Now unfortunately, most Romanesque art has been lost to time, but from our records, we can see that both paintings and sculptures were used for this purpose and we do have a few great examples.

Take a look at this: this is a relief, carved by one of the few medieval artists whose name we know- Gislebertus. This carving was a lintel, or horizontal top of a doorframe leading into the Autun Cathedral in France that was created around the 1130s. So what is it? This is an imagine of The Temptation of Eve, the moment when Eve takes the apple of knowledge and commits the first sin. This was a major moment in the Christian faith, one which priests in the medieval world would talk about to illustrate why sin exists in the world and why humans suffer. So, people would hear the sermon then see this relief. It was a nice visual cue.

Role of Art as Status

So, what else could art do in Romanesque churches? Well, churches were becoming powerful institutions in the medieval world and believe it or not, art was an important part of demonstrating the power and status of the church. Up until this point, the only real patrons of art were medieval kings and commissioning art indicated unchallengeable wealth and power. Churches used art to demonstrate how powerful they had become, but this did have a spiritual basis as well. There was a common belief in the medieval world that a wealthy church was blessed, chosen by God to protect and spread the faith. That explained their wealth and power. So, by filling their walls with paintings and sculptures, these churches communicated that not only were they rich, but that they held favored spiritual status.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account