Art depicting mediaval urban life

Historical, Fantasy, and Horror Art

Art depicting mediaval urban life

Postby Galloglaich » Sat Feb 20, 2016 9:11 pm

This is the Sienna Town hall, known as the Palazzo Pubblico ("public palace") built in 1297 AD.

Image

The tower, completed in the 14th Century, was over 300 feet high

Image

This type of town hall was fairly typical of the town halls in most City States and Free Cities of that period. Contrary to the sticks and mud look of most towns in medieval and quasi-medieval genre films, European architecture was already quite sophisticated by then.

The Palazzo Pubblico was the seat of government for the Sienna Republic, which lasted about four centuries. The elected council of 9 patricians (often described in English texts as nobles but actually rich merchants) ruled over the city from within the council chamber of the town hall.

In the 14th Century, at the peak of the power of the city, the town hired a local artist Ambrogio Lorenzetti to paint fresco's depicting good and bad government inside the council chamber. These now famous frescoes are called the "Allegory of Good and Bad Government".

Image

The Frescoes give us an idea of what urban life in Senna looked like in the late 13th Century (in somewhat idealized form). This panel depicts the effects of Good Government in the city.

Image

Image

Click here for a high-res image

This shows citizens voting in an election and being judged in court, in the depiction of "Good Government". At this time, most town governments in Italy, Germany, and much of Slavic and Scandinavian Central Europe were elected. Most of the larger towns were City States or Free Cities.

Image

The panel also depicts the nine councilors reflecting the idealized civic values of "peace, faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude and magnanimity"

For a higher res image click here

This panel shows the city alongside the sea, viewed from above

Image

This panel shows the effects of "Good Government" in the countryside

Image

This panel shows a view of the rule of "Bad Government", with the council presided over by a diabolical tyrant, and ruled by a series of vices, and a city in disrepair and suffering from famine, strife and plague. Windows are broken, the only person working is the armorer.

Image

Click here for a higher res image

The vices include Cruelty, Deceit, Fraud, Fury, Division, Avarice, Pride, and Vainglory

Image

Here is a closeup of The Tyrant

Image

The bad government scenes show a countryside ravaged and swarming with soldiers on the warpath as two armies grimly approach each other.

Image

This detail shows two soldiers robbing or about to rape a woman

Image

The Repubblica di Siena, founded in 1115, thrived from the 13th Century through the mid-14th. Though the Republic technically lasted into the 16th Century, unlike some other towns in the region (notably Milan and Venice) Sienna failed to contain the outbreak of the Black Death in 1348 and the town never recovered from the catastrophic devastation of the plague. The town went into a rapid decline in the second half of the 14th Century and was gradually taken over by the nobility toward the end of the 15th.

Still they had a good run, and the ironic, and humorous art in the city council chamber is still (mostly) intact today, remaining a popular tourist destination and providing historians an interesting window into urban life in the middle ages.
Galloglaich
 
Posts: 1987
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 5:30 pm

Re: Art depicting mediaval urban life

Postby Arkon » Sat Feb 20, 2016 11:00 pm

Interesting. Thanks for sharing!

I didn't know that democracy has such a long tradition in Europe.
...
Arkon
 
Posts: 225
Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2010 3:09 am

Re: Art depicting mediaval urban life

Postby Galloglaich » Sun Feb 21, 2016 12:27 am

It definitely did, though Sienna probably isn't the greatest example, their Republic was more of an oligarchy, though people would still vote on a lot of things that we don't vote on today like declarations of war and tax raises.

Some other towns Republics were pretty democratic though.
Galloglaich
 
Posts: 1987
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 5:30 pm

Re: Art depicting mediaval urban life

Postby Galloglaich » Sun Feb 21, 2016 12:42 am

There were also rural peasant republics which were more or less democratic, like in Frisia (notably the Dithmarschen) and in Switzerland, where they still use the medieval system to vote (Everyone still has to bring a sidearm to vote as well, just like in the 13th Century, though today they bring a pistol rather than a sword). The generic Slavic term for this same thing was 'Veche' but there were a lot of different versions of a Veche (including urban versions). There is also Sejmik in Poland and another term I forget, something starting with an M.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landsgemeinde

Image
Galloglaich
 
Posts: 1987
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 5:30 pm


Return to Art

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron