in 936, and henceforth the Holy Roman Empire would be the dominant political force in northern Europe
until its dissolution in 1806.
During the Ottonian period, Christianity was strengthened and many hostile tribes such as the Vikings and
Magyars were converted. The art of this period is strong and expressive. Ottonian churches are austere,
but experimental, and certain elements that became popular in the Romanesque period were first found
here. Among these are the gallery—a second story above the aisles where people could watch the
service—and alternate support system in which columns alternated with piers along the nave.
Otto III’s tutor, Bishop Bernward, was one on the great patrons of his time. A learned man (and, some say,
a bronze caster himself), he traveled to Rome where he was inspired by the great wood doors at the early
Christian church of Santa Sabina. The doors he commissioned for the church of St. Michael’s at Hildesheim
show the story of Adam and Eve from the Old Testament (read from top to bottom on the left), paired with
scenes from the life of Christ (read from bottom to top on the right). The arrangement pairs Old and New
Testament scenes in a meaningful way. For example, the amusing scene of God accusing Adam and Eve of
disobeying him, is paired with the more serious image of Christ being judged by Pilate. This sort of pairing
of Old and New Testament scenes is called typology, and it was often used in medieval sermons. The style
here is very different from Carolingian classicism. Gestures and poses are exaggerated, proportions are
scrawny, and plants interlace in fanciful patterns.
Doors of St. Michael’s at Hildesheim, 1015 Above: Adam and Eve Accused by God
Below: Christ brought before Pilate
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