Intro to Renaissance Cadavers to Columbus

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Authors and their themes/cadavers to Columbus

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Mr. Maltese

Stacy was my first student teacher.  We were introducing  Shakespeare, and I shared my notes below with her as a starting point.  I discovered early in my teaching career that lectures made students snooze unless I packaged them in stories.  Even so, I had only about 10 or 12 good forty-five minutes stories in me…lots of shorter stories, but few full period stuff.  This one worked.

From Cadavers to Columbus

An Introductory Lecture on the Renaissance

Stacy--Perhaps we can present a collaborative lecture with the theme--the Arts and Sciences Usher in the Renaissance or some such thing.  You would take the Arts and I the Sciences or visa versa.  If you take the arts, here are some points you may want to touch upon:

Tell a story.  The buckaroos love stories rather than the cold imparting of information.  Tell them you will use as your central focus of the story, medieval architecture (the cathedrals) and painting to illustrate the change from the medieval period to the Renaissance.

“Does anyone know how Leonardo da Vinci learned about  musculature for his paintings?  He studied cadavers in his studio.”

  1. Show them an example of Romanesque architecture--the term Romanesque was actually a negative adjective applied to the style that featured big heavy walls, dim light and cubby hole style alcoves.  The light was dim because windows weaken a heavy wall, and the walls were heavy because, to be tall, the churches need thick walls.  Walking into a Romanesque style church one is inclined to look straight ahead and down--this fitted the medieval temperament just fine.  God is omnipotent and, somewhat oppressive.  We humble our eyes and ourselves before the Great One.  This is a god to be feared.  Dark church, dark god.  People went to medieval churches to learn their religion through iconography and symbolism.  The sculptures and friezes in the church taught them the birth of Christ, the Sermon on the Mount, the Crucifixion, etc.  These people could not read.  The Romanesque churches (and their descendants) are often called “storybooks in stone.”
  2. Cathedrals also epitomized man’s devotion to God.  It would take many years to build a cathedral, and most people who started the building knew they would not live to see its completion.  Cathedrals also burned down with unpleasant regularity and a number of cathedrals crumpled and crashed as builders worked in a frenzy to build the tallest structures as a matter of civic pride.
  3. Along comes the flying buttress.  The support from flying buttresses enabled the walls to be thinner, the windows bigger--hark!!  Stained Glass windows!!  Now the church is infused with light, colorful light.  People now go to church not only for the education but for the entertainment.  Medieval and early renaissance life was basically brown--brown earth, brown clothing, brown huts, brown horses, brown dung.  But the stained glass windows!!  No wonder that churches became centers not only for religious reflection but mercantile foci as well.  The high steeples and tall walls force you, when you first walk into a gothic church to look upward.  Your eyes naturally go toward the ceiling.  Try it!!  This is the essence of agape love.  You look up to God and God looks down to you.  Your heart is uplifted to Him!  Quite a change from the Storm and Strife Omnipotent One of the medieval period.  This is an example of how art mirrors people’s change in their relationships with the universe and how those social changes are reflected in the art.  As the Renaissance deepened and expanded, the energies of the populace became increasingly devoted to building not cathedrals (cathedrals were built in church capitals--county seats.  Regular old towns had mere churches.)  but town halls.  City Hall became the center of civic pride reflecting the emphasis on man’s relationship not with God but with fellow man.  In Salt Lake City, Utah, (this is many moons later) the tallest first building was the church.  Later it was City Hall.  Now it is a corporate building.  What does this mean?
  4. Columbus decided to go west to find the Far East because of a map by Ptolemy.  The map was retrieved (stolen) from Arab libraries during the Crusades, and it showed the circumference of the earth to be smaller than it really was.  So Columbus thought he could make it.
  5. Ask them to look at the architecture of the buildings in their area.  What conclusions can they draw about the their society based on the buildings?  If they were aliens from Alpha Dufusses Star System, what observations would they make about our culture based on the structures that exist?  (First there are things called cities where the majority of structures exist--thus centralized populations.  Second, stadia and other sport structures along with corporate buildings dominate the skyline.  Architecture is basically about the use of space.  How do we use space?

 

 

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