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Styles & Periods
Ottonian Art

Upon the death of the Carolingian dynasty the center of power was located in the hands of a Saxon king, whose power extended into Rome. King Otto I was the most powerful of all the Ottonian leaders, artistically and politically. The church of Saint Michael’s at Hildesheim, built in the first part of the 11th century, is one of the most important accomplishments of the Ottonian empire. This structure shows the delicate and refined aesthetics achieved by the structural changes of alternating internal light and heavy wall supports. The interior was divided, for the first time, into modules. The dramatic interior suggests the influence of the Near East. Saint Michael’s became the center of learning and politics, and, despite its distance from Rome, its leaders were aware of the artistic activities of the southern city. Bronze doors were added to the church, with sculptural figures cast into a single piece. Up until that time Carolingian sculpture had consisted of small pieces, so this innovation was remarkable, and anticipated the Romanesque use of large-scale sculpture.

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