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Thirteenth Century

history, ages, sculpture, arts, time and john

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THIRTEENTH CENTURY. John Fiske in 'The Beginnings of New England' terms this period "The glorious thirteenth century° . . . "a wonderful time, but after all less memorable as the culmination of mediaeval empire and medimval church than as the dawn ing of the new era in which we live to-day." John Morley said, "I want to know what men thought and did in the thirteenth century—be cause the thirteenth century is at the root of what men do in the nineteenth century.° Free man (The Norman Conquest' calls it °The age of wonders . . which wrought the body politic of England. into a shape which left future ages nothing to do but to improve in detail.° Frederick Harrison in

The century has been hailed by many as the greatest in the history of humanity. Nothing shows more clearly the recent change in estima tion of the Middle Ages than this. No phase of human achievement in the intellectual and artistic side of man is lac1cing in this age; many are represented by products that surpass all others. In painting and sculpture, in archi tecture, in the minor arts and crafts, in litera ture, in philosophy, in education, in social work, even in the building of hospitals and the care of the ailing, and most surprising of all in medical education and surgery‘ there was a wonderful accomplishment at this time, the history of which was concealed from us until compara tively recent years by an exaggeration of in terest in classical antiquity and in the Renais sance. Just in proportion as we have become

deeply interested once more in art, architecture, the arts and crafts, in sculpture and handsome public buildings, in the home and the city beautiful, we have learned to realize how many of the ideals we are striving for now were accomplished marvelously in this late medimval century. Generations which themselves had lost or impaired these higher interests, affected to condemn this old time. It was grouped among the "Dark Ages,° though we now lcnow it to have been in John Fiske s expression one of the "Bright Ages.° ' The central interest of the century and its greatest triumph was the Gothic cathedrals. In England and France particularly, but also in Germany and Italy there arose in the early part of the century some of the most beautiful edifices ever built by man. The generations solved the architectural engineering problems of these huge constructions with absolute suc cess. The decoration of them made a universal appeal and for sheer beauty and suitability has never been excelled. The sculpture on the facade of many of these Gothic cathedrals as at Amiens, Chartres Rheims, is among the greatest plastic work in the history of art. The figure of Christ over the main door at Amiens has been declared the most beautiful presenta tion of the human form divine ever made. Every phase of cathedral decoration took on the perfection of its sculpture. The carved stone work, the hammered iron of the gates and grilles, the very hinges and latches of the doors, the brass and bronze work in connection with the altar, the bells, the stained glass, all approached perfection so closely that they have been objects of deep admiration ever since whenever men have been profoundly interested in the arts and crafts. The stained glass has never been excelled and is still an object of al most reverential respect, some of it unapproach able in its beauty.

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