About

What is the subject of this website? It’s something I’ve struggled to explain, to myself as much as anyone else.

My own personal curiosity has dictated the direction this enterprise has taken and I suppose I must justify why I would choose to present it online, accessible to others and hoping that they will be as fascinated as I am.

I realise that not everyone will find the same things interesting and I sometimes fear that my area of interest is nothing more than a cul-de-sac of arcane and esoteric knowledge attracting only committed specialists to this remote niche.

I hope not. What am I talking about here? A medieval pilgrimage, ancient sculpture, relic cults, obsolete legends which were important once but no longer, and I suppose in some way, the matter of Christian belief.

I hold no such faith but I have asked myself what is the strange power I feel is exerted by those stone carved reliefs on those twelfth century churches along the pilgrimage roads?

I’ve never been satisfied with the notion that those images were for naive and credulous peoples of a bygone age.

I am reassured that they were appreciated by the modernist painters of the twentieth century in the same way that African masks affected Picasso and others.

I felt compelled to uncover the mysteries of those silent stones with faces whose eyes seemed to stare at something I couldn’t see.

What was the explanation for those strangely contorted figures at Moissac? Why would a twelfth century copy of a hunt scene from a fourth century sarcophagus at Arles appear on the portal sculpture of an abbey in Bourges, hundreds of miles away? What was the connection between Saint Stephen’s martyrdom and Christ’s Ascension that the sculpture at Cahors seems to find so potent.

And what of the journey itself? Was there any significance in the fact that the pilgrimage was directed to a point that was, at the time, considered the end of the earth and that it formed a frontier between Christendom and Islam and why it was claimed that Charlemagne and his armies had fought military campaigns against the Saracens to liberate the road and the shrine at Compostela?

And if religious belief might be considered an emanation of the human subconscious, then might any authentic religious image be similarly regarded as originating in the unconscious mind? And if so, might that be of interest to more than a small clique of medievalists?

That is my hope anyway, that these pages might welcome readers from a broad range of differing perspectives.

I came to this subject from a filmmaking background with little more than curiosity. Having spent most of my career working in documentary film editing, the skills I learnt there are the ones I’ve tried to bring to this project.

My research has been undertaken in the realm of respected peer-reviewed academic journals and supplemented by courses at the Courtauld Institute, Victoria and Albert Museum, Morley College and the Highgate Scientific and Literary Institute, all in London. artsymbol.

All images, videos and text, apart from noted exceptions by Georges Meisner

All content is copyright of artsymbol, Georges Meisner 2020

Music is copyright of Martin A Smith 2020

 

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