Figural Art of Central and North-West Europe c. 550–700 AD: Pagan or Christian?
AbstractThe binary of paganism and Christianity is frequently invoked as a basic category constituting our understanding of early medieval visual culture. This dissertation challenges this account, scrutinising figural imagery of central and north-west Europe from c. 550 to 700 AD—a period commonly perceived as being transitional: ‘in between’ pre-Christian and Christian belief systems. The interpretation of figural imagery of this particular time is generally permeated by Old Norse literature, placing it within ‘Germanic’ frames of reference also interrogated by this study. This being the case, the dissertation aims to identify the pattern informing the interpretation oscillating between ‘pagan’ and Christian, just as between ‘Germanic’ and Roman. However, a detailed examination of all figural imagery lies beyond its scope; being a qualitative analysis, it will therefore focus on key pieces commonly referred to in scholarship (such as the Vendel helmets). Also exploring alternative approaches towards early medieval visual culture beyond the mere binary, this dissertation sets out to apply the concept of ‘agency’ associated with ‘invented traditions’ to the imagery under consideration here.
Friedrich, Matthias (2016) Figural Art of Central and North-West Europe c. 550–700 AD: Pagan or Christian? MA by research thesis, University of York.