In the fifth century C.E., people from tribes called Angles, Saxons and Jutes left their homelands in northern Europe to look for a new home. They knew that the Romans had recently left the green land of Britain unguarded, so they sailed across the channel in small wooden boats. The Britons did not give in without a fight, but after many years the invaders managed to overcome them and were to rule for over 500 years.
Charlemagne, King of the Franks and later Holy Roman Emperor, instigated a cultural revival known as the Carolingian Renaissance that continues to impact the way European languages are written, the structure of modern law and the very notion of Europe itself.
Otto I (who became emperor in 962) lends his name to the “Ottonian” period. He forged an important alliance with the Pope, which allowed him to be crowned the first official Holy Roman Emperor since 924.
Visogoths, Ostrogoths, and Vikings, oh my! Western Europe was not a peaceful place during the 600 years after the fall of the Roman Empire. Western Europe (what is now Italy, France, Spain, England, etc.) had been repeatedly invaded. The result was a fractured feudal society with little stability and less economic growth. It was only in the 11th century that everything began to change. Peace and prosperity allow for travel and for the widespread construction of large buildings. The faithful set out on pilgrimages in great numbers to visit holy relics in churches across Europe. This meant that ideas and styles also traveled, towns grew and churches were built and enlarged. These were, with rare exceptions, the first large structures to be built in the west since the fall of the Romans so many centuries before. We call the period Romanesque (Roman-like) because the masons of this period looked back to the architecture of ancient Rome.
No, we’re not talking about the dark subculture we know as Goth! We’re talking about the style of art and architecture In Europe from the 1100s to the beginnings of the Renaissance at about 1400. Hopefully by the end of this tutorial when someone says Gothic, you’ll think of enormous stained-glass windows in churches whose vaulted ceilings reach toward heaven and not black clothing and dark eyeliner!