Codex Aureus of Lorsch, 778-820. St John the Evangelist, Vatican Library, Rome. Web Gallery of Art.


Carolingian Art and the Carolingian Renovatio

  • Begins: Wednesday 25 January 2023
    Until: Wednesday 1 March 2023
    (11am-1pm NB: There is no session on 15 February)
  • Lettsom House, First Floor, 11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB (NB: There is no lift in this building)
  • Lecturer: Dr Sally Dormer

Charlemagne, King of the Franks, was crowned Emperor of the Romans, on Christmas Day 800, in the church of Old St Peter’s, Rome, thereby founding an imperial dynasty, referred to from the tenth century, as Carolingian. Until Charlemagne’s death in 814 and thereafter, during the reigns of his son Louis the Pious (d. 840), and grandson, Charles the Bald (d. 877), the Carolingian Emperors strove to revive the cultural glory of the Roman Empire in Western Europe, giving rise to what some modern art historians have termed the Carolingian Renaissance. The emperors oversaw the construction of buildings inspired by Roman models, resurrected the arts of bronze casting and ivory carving, commissioned copies of antique texts and patronised exquisitely illuminated liturgical manuscripts, thereby promoting a sense of the continuity of imperial power as well as civilising, and, by extension, more effectively controlling, their vast empire. This five-week course will focus on the wealth of Carolingian art that has survived from the ninth century.

Week 1
Emperors Charlemagne, Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald: An Introduction to the Carolingian Renaissance

Week 2
Illuminated Manuscripts and their Luxury Covers
Case Study: The Utrecht Psalter

Week 3
Bronze Casting and Goldsmiths’ work
Case Study: The Paliotto, San Ambrogio, Milan

Week 4
Ivory carving
Rock crystal reverse intaglios

Week 5
Carolingian Theologians and the Crucifixion
Carolingian Art and Iconoclasm


 Dr Sally Dormer is a specialist medieval art historian, with an MA in Medieval Art History and PhD on Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the Courtauld Institute, London University. Sally founded the ongoing V&A Late Medieval Europe and Early Renaissance Year Course 1250-1500 in 1993, and in 2009 devised the V&A Early Medieval Year Course 300-800, for which she is now Course Director. She has lectured for Gresham College and The Arts Society. She was, until recently, Dean of European Studies, a study abroad semester, for two universities in Tennessee, USA.

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