Medievalism is a system of belief and practice inspired by the Middle Ages, or by devotion to elements of that period, which have been expressed in areas such as architecture, literature, music, art, philosophy, scholarship, and various vehicles of popular culture. Since the 18th century, a variety of movements have used the medieval period as a model or inspiration for creative activity, including Romanticism, the Gothic revival, the pre-Raphaelite and arts and crafts movements, and neo-medievalism (a term often used interchangeably with medievalism). The words medievalism and Medieval are both first recorded in the 19th century. Medieval is derived from Latin medium aevum ("middle of the ages").
In the 1330s, Petrarch expressed the view that European culture had stagnated and drifted into what he called the "Dark Ages", since the fall of Rome in the fifth century, owing to among other things, the loss of many classical Latin texts and to the corruption of the language in contemporary discourse. Scholars of the Renaissance believed that they lived in a new age that broke free of the decline described by Petrarch. Historians Leonardo Bruni and Flavio Biondo developed a three tier outline of history composed of Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. The Latin term media tempestas (middle time) first appears in 1469. The term medium aevum (Middle Ages) is first recorded in 1604. "Medieval" first appears in the nineteenth century and is an Anglicised form of medium aevum.
During the Reformations of the 16th and 17th centuries, Protestants generally followed the critical views expressed by Renaissance Humanists, but for additional reasons. They saw classical antiquity as a golden time, not only because of the Latin literature, but because it was the early beginnings of Christianity. The intervening 1000 year Middle Age was a time of darkness, not only because of lack of secular Latin literature, but because of corruption within the Church such as Popes who ruled as kings, pagan superstitions with saints' relics, celibate priesthood, and institutionalized moral hypocrisy. Most Protestant historians did not date the beginnings of the modern era from the Renaissance, but later, from the beginnings of the Reformation.
In the Age of Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, the Middle Ages was seen as an "Age of Faith" when religion reigned, and thus as a period contrary to reason and contrary to the spirit of the Enlightenment. For them the Middle Ages was barbaric and priest-ridden. They referred to "these dark times", "the centuries of ignorance", and "the uncouth centuries". The Protestant critique of the Medieval Church was taken into Enlightenment thinking by works including Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–89). Voltaire was particularly energetic in attacking the religiously dominated Middle Ages as a period of social stagnation and decline, condemning Feudalism, Scholasticism, The Crusades, The Inquisition and the Catholic Church in general.
Romanticism was a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the eighteenth century in Western Europe, and gained strength during and after the Industrial and French Revolutions. It was partly a revolt against the political norms of the Age of Enlightenment which rationalised nature, and was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature. Romanticism has been seen as "the revival of the life and thought of the Middle Ages", reaching beyond rational and Classicist models to elevate medievalism and elements of art and narrative perceived to be authentically medieval, in an attempt to escape the confines of population growth, urban sprawl and industrialism, embracing the exotic, unfamiliar and distant.
The name "Romanticism" itself was derived from the medieval genre chivalric romance. This movement contributed to the strong influence of such romances, disproportionate to their actual showing among medieval literature, on the image of Middle Ages, such that a knight, a distressed damsel, and a dragon is used to conjure up the time pictorially. The Romantic interest in the medieval can particularly be seen in the illustrations of English poet William Blake and the Ossian cycle published by Scottish poet James Macpherson in 1762, which inspired both Goethe's Götz von Berlichingen (1773), and the young Walter Scott. The latter's Waverley Novels, including Ivanhoe (1819) and Quentin Durward (1823) helped popularise, and shape views of, the medieval era. The same impulse manifested itself in the translation of medieval national epics into modern vernacular languages, including Nibelungenlied (1782) in Germany, The Lay of the Cid (1799) in Spain, Beowulf (1833) in England, The Song of Roland (1837) in France, which were widely read and highly influential on subsequent literary and artistic work.
The name Nazarene was adopted by a group of early nineteenth-century German Romantic painters who reacted against Neoclassicism and hoped to return to art which embodied spiritual values. They sought inspiration in artists of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, rejecting what they saw as the superficial virtuosity of later art. The name Nazarene came from a term of derision used against them for their affectation of a biblical manner of clothing and hair style. The movement was originally formed in 1809 by six students at the Vienna Academy and called the Brotherhood of St. Luke or Lukasbund, after the patron saint of medieval artists. In 1810 four of them, Johann Friedrich Overbeck, Franz Pforr, Ludwig Vogel and Johann Konrad Hottinger moved to Rome, where they occupied the abandoned monastery of San Isidoro and were joined by Philipp Veit, Peter von Cornelius, Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld, Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow and a loose grouping of other German artists. They met up with Austrian romantic landscape artist Joseph Anton Koch (1768–1839) who became an unofficial tutor to the group and in 1827 they were joined by Joseph von Führich (1800–76). In Rome the group lived a semi-monastic existence, as a way of re-creating the nature of the medieval artist's workshop. Religious subjects dominated their output and two major commissions for the Casa Bartholdy (1816–17) (later moved to the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin) and the Casino Massimo (1817–29), allowed them to attempt a revival of the medieval art of fresco painting and gained then international attention. However, by 1830 all except Overbeck had returned to Germany and the group had disbanded. Many Nazareners became influential teachers in German art academies and were a major influence on the later English Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
The Gothic Revival was an architectural movement which began in the 1740s in England. Its popularity grew rapidly in the early nineteenth century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval forms in contrast to the classical styles prevalent at the time. In England, the epicentre of this revival, it was intertwined with deeply philosophical movements associated with a re-awakening of "High Church" or Anglo-Catholic self-belief (and by the Catholic convert Augustus Welby Pugin) concerned by the growth of religious nonconformism. He went on to produce important Gothic buildings such as Cathedrals at Birmingham and Southwark and the British Houses of Parliament in the 1840s. Large numbers of existing English churches had features such as crosses, screens and stained glass (removed at the Reformation), restored or added, and most new Anglican and Catholic churches were built in the Gothic style. Viollet-le-Duc was a leading figure in the movement in France, restoring the entire walled city of Carcassonne as well as Notre-Dame and Sainte Chapelle in Paris. In America Ralph Adams Cram was a leading force in American Gothic, with his most ambitious project the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York (claimed to be the largest Cathedral in the world), as well as Collegiate Gothic buildings at Princeton Graduate College. On a wider level the wooden Carpenter Gothic churches and houses were built in large numbers across North America in this period.
In English literature, the architectural Gothic Revival and classical Romanticism gave rise to the Gothic novel, often dealing with dark themes in human nature against medieval backdrops and with elements of the supernatural. Beginning with The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, it also included Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and John Polidori's The Vampyre (1819), which helped found the modern horror genre. This helped create the dark romanticism or American Gothic of authors like Edgar Allan Poe in works including "The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839) and "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1842) and Nathanial Hawthorne in "The Minister's Black Veil" (1836) and "The Birth-Mark" (1843). This in turn influenced American novelists like Herman Melville in works such as Moby Dick (1851). Early Victorian Gothic novels included Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847) and Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847). The genre was revived and modernised toward the end of the century with works like Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897).
By the late nineteenth century pseudo-medieval symbols were the currency of European monarchical state propaganda. German emperors dressed up in and proudly displayed medieval costumes in public, and they rebuilt the great medieval castle and spiritual home of the Teutonic Order at Marienburg. Ludwig II of Bavaria built a fairy-tale castle at Neuschwanstein and decorated it with scenes from Wagner's operas, another major Romantic image maker of the Middle Ages. The same imagery would be used in Nazi Germany in the mid-twentieth century to promote German national identity with plans for extensive building in the medieval style and attempts to revive the virtues of the Teutonic knights, Charlemagne and the Round Table.
In England, the Middle Ages were trumpeted as the birthplace of democracy because of the Magna Carta of 1215. In the reign of Queen Victoria there was considerable interest in things medieval, particularly among the ruling classes. The notorious Eglinton Tournament of 1839 attempted to revive the medieval grandeur of the monarchy and aristocracy. Medieval fancy dress became common in this period at royal and aristocratic masquerades and balls and individuals and families were painted in medieval costume. These trends inspired a nineteenth-century genre of medieval poetry that included Idylls of the King (1842) by Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson and "The Sword of Kingship" (1866) by Thomas Westwood, which recast specifically modern themes in the medieval settings of Arthurian romance.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of English painters, poets, and critics, founded in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The three founders were soon joined by William Michael Rossetti, James Collinson, Frederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner to form a seven-member "brotherhood". The group's intention was to reform art by rejecting what they considered to be the mechanistic approach first adopted by the Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. They believed that the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art. Hence the name "Pre-Raphaelite". In particular, they objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts, believing that his broad technique was a sloppy and formulaic form of academic Mannerism. In contrast, they wanted to return to the abundant detail, intense colours, and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian and Flemish art.
The arts and crafts movement was an aesthetic movement, directly influenced by the Gothic revival and the Pre-Raphaelites, but moving away from aristocratic, nationalist and high Gothic influences to an emphasis on the idealised peasantry and medieval community, particularly of the fourteenth century, often with socialist political tendencies and reaching its height between about 1880 and 1910. The movement was inspired by the writings of the critic John Ruskin and spearheaded by the work of William Morris, a friend of the Pre-Raphaelites and a former apprentice to Gothic-revival architect G. E. Street. He focused on the fine arts of textiles, wood and metal work and interior design. Morris also produced medieval and ancient themed poetry, beside socialist tracts and the medieval Utopia News From Nowhere (1890). Morris formed Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. in 1861, which produced and sold furnishings and furniture, often with medieval themes, to the emerging middle classes. The first arts and crafts exhibition in the United States was held in Boston in 1897 and local societies spread across the country, dedicated to preserving and perfecting disappearing craft and beautifying house interiors. Whereas the Gothic revival had tended to emulate ecclesiastical and military architecture, the arts and crafts movement looked to rustic and vernacular medieval housing. The creation of aesthetically pleasing and affordable furnishings proved highly influential on subsequent artistic and architectural developments.
Historians have attempted to conceptualize the history of non-European countries in terms of medievalisms, but the approach has been controversial among scholars of Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
Film has been one of the most significant creators of images of the Middle Ages since the early twentieth century. The first medieval film was also one of the earliest films ever made, about Jeanne d'Arc in 1899, while the first to deal with Robin Hood dates to as early as 1908. Influential European films, often with a nationalist agenda, included the German Nibelungenlied (1924), Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938) and Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957), while in France there were many Joan of Arc sequels. Hollywood adopted the medieval as a major genre, issuing periodic remakes of the King Arthur, William Wallace and Robin Hood stories, adapting to the screen such historical romantic novels as Ivanhoe (1952—by MGM), and producing epics in the vein of El Cid (1961). More recent revivals of these genres include Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991), The 13th Warrior (1999) and The Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
While the folklore that fantasy drew on for its magic and monsters was not exclusively medieval, elves, dragons, and unicorns, among many other creatures, were drawn from medieval folklore and romance. Earlier writers in the genre, such as George MacDonald in The Princess and the Goblin (1872), William Morris in The Well at the World's End (1896) and Lord Dunsany in The King of Elfland's Daughter (1924), set their tales in fantasy worlds clearly derived from medieval sources, though often filtered through later views. In the first half of the twentieth century pulp fiction writers like Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith helped popularise the sword and sorcery branch of fantasy, which often utilised prehistoric and non-European settings beside elements of the medieval. In contrast, authors such as E. R. Eddison and particularly J.R.R. Tolkien, set the type for high fantasy, normally based in a pseudo-medieval setting, mixed with elements of medieval folklore. Other fantasy writers have emulated him, and films, role-playing and computer games also took up this tradition. Modern fantasy writers have taken elements of the medieval from these works to produce some of the most commercially successful works of fiction of recent years, sometimes pointing to the absurdities of the genre, as in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, or mixing it with the modern world as in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.
In the second half of the twentieth century interest in the medieval was increasingly expressed through form of re-enactment, including combat reenactment, re-creating historical conflict, armour, arms and skill, as well as living history which re-creates the social and cultural life of the past, in areas such as clothing, food and crafts. The movement has led to the creation of medieval markets and Renaissance fairs, from the late 1980s, particularly in Germany and the United States of America.
Neo-medievalism (or neomedievalism) is a neologism that was first popularized by the Italian medievalist Umberto Eco in his 1973 essay "Dreaming of the Middle Ages". The term has no clear definition but has since been used to describe the intersection between popular fantasy and medieval history as can be seen in computer games such as MMORPGs, films and television, neo-medieval music, and popular literature. It is in this area—the study of the intersection between contemporary representation and past inspiration(s)—that medievalism and neomedievalism tend to be used interchangeably. Neomedievalism has also been used as a term describing the post-modern study of medieval history and as a term for a trend in modern international relations, first discussed in 1977 by Hedley Bull, who argued that society was moving towards a form of "neomedievalism" in which individual notions of rights and a growing sense of a "world common good" were undermining national sovereignty.
Australian Literary Studies is a peer-reviewed academic journal of literary studies, specialising in historical, critical, and theoretical studies of Australian literature. It was established in 1963 by Laurie Hergenhan (University of Queensland), who edited the journal for its first forty years. It was then edited by Leigh Dale (University of Wollongong) from 2002 to 2015; in 2010 the journal increased its publication frequency to quarterly, with two issues (May and October) focussed on Australian authors and texts, along with two "general" issues (June and November). Successful special issues have focussed on queer writers and writing, the environment, medievalism, and biopolitics. Since 2016, the journal has been edited by Julieanne Lamond (Australian National University). In 2016, the journal ceased producing print volumes and digitised its entire archive. It also moved to a rolling publication model involving a mix of open access for new essays and low-cost subscription access to the archive. The journal, described as "the preeminent journal in Australian literary criticism", is abstracted and indexed by the MLA International Bibliography and AustLit.Dark Ages (historiography)
The "Dark Ages" is a historical periodization traditionally referring to the Middle Ages, that asserts that a demographic, cultural, and economic deterioration occurred in Western Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire.The term employs traditional light-versus-darkness imagery to contrast the era's "darkness" (lack of records) with earlier and later periods of "light" (abundance of records). The concept of a "Dark Age" originated in the 1330s with the Italian scholar Petrarch, who regarded the post-Roman centuries as "dark" compared to the light of classical antiquity. The phrase "Dark Age" itself derives from the Latin saeculum obscurum, originally applied by Caesar Baronius in 1602 to a tumultuous period in the 10th and 11th centuries. The concept thus came to characterize the entire Middle Ages as a time of intellectual darkness between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance; this became especially popular during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment.As the accomplishments of the era came to be better understood in the 18th and 20th centuries, scholars began restricting the "Dark Ages" appellation to the Early Middle Ages (c. 5th–10th century), and now scholars also reject its usage in this period. The majority of modern scholars avoid the term altogether due to its negative connotations, finding it misleading and inaccurate. The pejorative meaning remains in use, typically in popular culture which often mischaracterises the Middle Ages as a time of unchecked violence and backwardness.Fantasy tropes
Fantasy tropes are a specific type of literary tropes that occur in fantasy fiction. Worldbuilding, plot, and characterization have many common conventions. Literary fantasy works operate using these tropes, while others use them in a revisionist manner, making the tropes over for various reasons such as for comic effect, and to create something fresh (a method that often generates new clichés).International Society for the Study of Medievalism
The International Society for the Study of Medievalism is an academic organization that exists to promote the interdisciplinary study of the popular and scholarly reception of the Middle Ages in postmedieval times. The society is based on the work and studies of Leslie J. Workman (1927–2001), who is recognized as the founder of the academic study of medievalism in the English-speaking world. The work of the society is characterized as open to innovative and inclusive interdisciplinary scholarship. As Elena Levy-Navarro writes: "The Society has not restricted itself to a single definition of medievalism, and has, both by its calls for papers and by its acceptance and inclusion, encouraged academics to explore medievalism in such disparate phenomenon as the 'Celtic' tattoo, medieval gaming, and the early modern. Such an expansiveness that resists firm boundaries, and thus resists any efforts to develop a concrete field of specialty over which the academic can preside as expert is evident to the continued commitment of its members to electronic media that can provide (for those who can afford it) open access to its collective work, including its journal, Year’s Work in Medievalism, and its community-authored blog, Medievally Speaking. One need only consider the subtitle of this blog—'An Open Access Review Journal Encouraging Critical Engagement with the Continuing Process of Inventing the Middle Ages' (emphasis mine)—to see that the members insist on an openness, in which they critically engage—but not adjudicate—the 'continuing process of inventing the Middle Ages.'" In 2017, the ISSM's president, Richard Utz, published a short monograph, Medievalism: A Manifesto, that embedded the subject of medievalism studies within the larger academic contexts of reception studies, feminism, gender studies, and medieval studies.The society maintains a peer-reviewed journal, Studies in Medievalism, an online journal for shorter articles (The Year's Work in Medievalism), and a review journal, Medievally Speaking edited by Richard Utz. They also organize annual conference sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University and the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, and hold their own Annual International Conferences on Medievalism at institutions of higher education worldwide.Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association
The Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association is an annual peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Australian Early Medieval Association. It covers research on the early Middle Ages, broadly defined as the period from the late Roman Empire to the Norman Conquest (roughly 400 CE to 1100 CE). It examines art history, archaeology, literature, linguistics, music, and theology, and from any interpretive angle – memory, gender, historiography, medievalism, and consilience. It was established in 2005 and the editor-in-chief is Geoffrey D. Dunn (Australian Catholic University). The journal is abstracted and indexed in Scopus.Leslie J. Workman
Leslie J. Workman (5 March 1927 in Hanwell, London, England – 1 April 2001 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA) was an independent scholar and founder of academic medievalism.Medieval folk rock
Medieval folk rock, medieval rock or medieval folk is a musical subgenre that emerged in the early 1970s in England and Germany which combined elements of early music with rock music. It grew out of the British folk rock and progressive folk movements of the later 1960s. Despite the name, the term was used indiscriminately to categorise performers who incorporated elements of medieval, renaissance and baroque music into their work and sometimes to describe groups who used few, or no, electric instruments. This subgenre reached its height towards the middle of the 1970s when it achieved some mainstream success in Britain, but within a few years most groups had either disbanded, or were absorbed into the wider movements of progressive folk and progressive rock. Nevertheless, the genre had a considerable impact within progressive rock where early music, and medievalism in general, was a major influence and through that in the development of heavy metal. More recently medieval folk rock has revived in popularity along with other forms of medieval inspired music such as Dark Wave orientated neo-Medieval music and medieval metal.Medieval studies
Medieval studies is the academic interdisciplinary study of the Middle Ages.Middle Ages in film
Medieval films imagine and portray the Middle Ages through the visual, audio and thematic forms of cinema.Middle Ages in popular culture
Representations of the Middle Ages are frequently attested in various media of modern culture, from literature, drama and film to comics, reenactment and videogames. Examples include:
Medievalism and Neo-medievalism
Middle Ages in filmEarly Middle AgesKing Arthur in various media
Lady Godiva in popular culture
Irish mythology in popular culture
Welsh mythology in popular culture
Vikings in popular culture
Norse mythology in popular cultureHigh Middle AgesKnights Templar and popular culture
Robin Hood in popular culture
List of films and television series featuring Robin Hood
Assassins in popular cultureLate Middle AgesKnight-errant
Cultural depictions of Joan of ArcIslamic Golden AgeScheherazade in popular culture
One Thousand and One Nights in world cultureMusée national des Monuments Français
The Musée national des Monuments Français is today a museum of plaster casts of French monuments located in the Palais de Chaillot, 1, place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, Paris, France. It now forms part of the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, and is open daily except Tuesday. An admission fee is charged.
The collection was a re-founding in plaster of a collection opened in 1795 by Alexandre Lenoir as the Musée des monuments français of actual monuments of French Medieval and Renaissance art, removed from churches and chateaux after the French Revolution. This remained open until the Bourbon Restoration of 1816, and was highly influential on French taste, making the medievalism of the Troubadour style popular, and providing inspiration to its artists.Neo-feudalism
Neo-feudalism or new feudalism refers to a theorized contemporary rebirth of policies of governance, economy, and public life reminiscent of those present in many feudal societies, such as unequal rights and legal protections for common people and for nobility.The concept of "neofeudalism" may focus on economics. Among the issues claimed to be associated with the idea of neofeudalism in contemporary society are class stratification, globalization, mass immigration/illegal immigration, open borders policies, multinational corporations, and "neo-corporatism".Neo-medievalism
Neo-medievalism (or neomedievalism, new medievalism) is a term with a long history that has acquired specific technical senses in two branches of scholarship. In political theory about modern international relations, where the term is originally associated with Hedley Bull, it sees the political order of a globalized world as analogous to high-medieval Europe, where neither states nor the Church, nor other territorial powers, exercised full sovereignty, but instead participated in complex, overlapping and incomplete sovereignties. In literary theory regarding the use and abuse of texts and tropes from the Middle Ages in postmodernity, the term neomedieval was popularized by the Italian medievalist Umberto Eco in his 1986 essay "Dreaming of the Middle Ages".Rhodes Hall
Rhodes Memorial Hall, commonly known as Rhodes Hall, is a historic house located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. It was built as the home of furniture magnate Amos Giles Rhodes, proprietor of Atlanta-based Rhodes Furniture. The Romanesque Revival house occupies a prominent location on Peachtree Street, the main street of Atlanta, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is open to the public and has been the home of The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation since 1983.Richard Utz
Richard Utz (born 1961) is a German-born medievalist who has spent much of his career in North America. He specializes in medieval studies, and is President of the International Society for the Study of Medievalism.Romantic poetry
Romantic poetry is the poetry of the Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. It involved a reaction against prevailing Enlightenment ideas of the 18th century, and lasted from 1800 to 1850, approximately.The Anarchical Society
The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics is a 1977 book by Hedley Bull and a founding text of the English School of international relations theory. The title refers to the assumption of anarchy in the international system (posited primarily by realists) and argues for the existence of an international society.
The book also outlines Bull's theory of new medievalism.Tom Shippey
Thomas Alan Shippey (born 9 September 1943) is a British scholar and retired professor of Middle and Old English literature, as well as medievalism and modern fantasy and science fiction. In particular he is widely considered one of the world's leading academic scholars on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien about whom he has written several books and many scholarly papers.William Calin
William Compaine Calin (born April 4, 1936 in Newington, Connecticut, died May 20, 2018 in Lake City, Florida) was a senior scholar of Medieval French literature and French Poetry at the University of Florida. His work has focused on Occitan Studies and on Franco-British literary relations.