Early Medieval

Because of the often nomadic nature of the clans of the British Isles, their art is primarily limited to small wares that were easy to transport. Important persons within the clans would have owned finely crafted metal wares, including buckles, clasps and purses, and these were often buried with the individuals when they died. Many of these pieces feature beasts that intertwine upon themselves in complex patterns, or in the animal style.


Unlike manuscripts created upon the continent at this time, books created on the isles did not separate text from illustration; rather, the text itself became illuminated. The words are highly decorated and feature precise geometric patterns that many believed to showcase the complexity and beauty of god himself. Later books tend to break with this tradition, especially after Roman influence appeared in the area.


On the continent, Charlemagne took the reigns as the Holy Roman Emperor. To add legitimacy to his rule, he commissioned art and architecture that feature a considerable amount of Roman influence. As in the Byzantine empire, there was a significant crossover between state and religion. Charlemagne worked with the church leaders to establish a number of monasteries—places of worship in which monks could live, worship and work. These monasteries helped boost social order and education.


In the Ottonian era, we see a significant rise in Byzantine influence—including an imperial connection with holy figures, heavy outlines of garments, two-dimensional figures and backgrounds of deep gold.