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Step 3: Punctuation and Logic

Exercise 1: Put capitals, hyphens, full stops and commas as needed in the following passages; the number of sentences is indicated in brackets.

  1. The ecclesiastic, religious character of the culture of medieval society is reflected in both the style and the function of relics of art dating back to feudal times. (1)

  2. With the Edict of Milan in 313 the Emperor Constantine the Great (reigned 306-337) formally recognized Christianity. Although this was a critical turning point, the transition from classical to Christian art was not abrupt, since for several hundred years both cultures coexisted and competed with each other. (2)

  3. The Franks, who established the only lasting political power in Roman Gaul and converted to Christianity under Clovis I (reigned 481-511), ultimately founded the Carolingian Empire, which unified much of Europe. The essential qualities of barbaric art – its abstract, nonnarative, geometric elements – were inappropriate for expressing the revival of the western Roman Empire. A cultural revival was therefore begun by Charlemagne, who was crowned in 774, and continued by Otto the Great, who in the tenth century inaugurated the Christianization of central Europe. (3)

  4. Some writers consider Charlemagne’s coronation day to be the end of the “Dark Ages”. The Emperor was crowned not by his own people but rather by the Pope, the leader of the Christian religion, and he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. For the first time a political ruler had the sanction of the Church of Rome, and this opened a new chapter in European history. (3)

  5. Historians generally divide the art and architecture of the high Middle Ages into two periods: the Romanesque, from about 1050 to 1200, based on southern styles from the old Roman Empire; and the Gothic, from about 1200 into the 15th century, which has more of a northern flavor. (The term “Gothic” derives from the Goths, who were among the many nomadic tribes sweeping through Europe during the 4th and 5th centuries. It was applied to this style by later critics in the Renaissance, who considered the art and architecture of their immediate predecessors to be vulgar and “barbarian”.) (3)

Exercise 2: Arrange the sentences to make a logical piece of description.

  1. The Cathedral of St. Sernin is a splendid example of the Romanesque style. Although the interior of the nave soars upward to a breath-taking height, from the outside the church seems to hug the ground - solid, durable, Roman. The plan is absolutely symmetrical, with a single tower rising from the center. (The tower is of a later date and has some Gothic influence.) Arches around the windows are classic round Roman arches, and they are arranged in a regular, logical progression, with columns in between. Also, we see a minimum of decorative detail on the facade; most statuary is inside the building. This cathedral was meant to turn inward, to gather worshipers inside its core and shelter them there. St. Sernin gives us an impression of stability, of a church firmly rooted and dependable, representing a faith meant to endure forever.

  2. Chartres has two tall spires, notable for their very different designs and the consequent lack of symmetry. Its arches are not the round ones of a Romanesque building, but rather the pointed arches developed in the Gothic period. Another innovation of Gothic architecture was the flying buttress, an exterior support meant to control the outward thrust of thin masonry walls built very high. All in all, the Gothic cathedral, as interpreted at Chartres, reveals architecture of soaring ambitions, celebrating a faith that simultaneously reaches outward to the townspeople and up to the skies.

  3. The fourteenth century devotional images, painted on wooden panels in tempera, are notable for their bright colors and the abundance of gold. One such image, the work of an unknown fourteenth century artist, is The Madonna and Saints. The Madonna, seated on a throne, is represented as the heavenly queen; her face wears a majestic, austere expression, and around her head is a halo, the symbol of sanctity. The Madonna's position of supremacy is emphasized by the fact that she is placed in the center of the composition and considerably exceeds in size the figures of the saints standing beside her.

  4. A fine example of the painting of the period is the work of one of the foremost Italian artists of the fourteenth century, Simone Martini (1283-1344), who hailed from Siena. He depicts the Madonna in a scene from the Annunciation, when she humbly listens to the word of the angel. The lithe, elongated figure of the Madonna, smoothly wrapped in a blue cloak reaching down to the ground, stands out sharply against a gold background. Finely executed and beautiful in its colors, the painting has an unusual poetic quality.

STEP 5: Paragraphing

Exercise 1: Read over the text below and try to discover where each new paragraph begins (8 paragraphs).


In summer of the year 1098, in the German town of Bermersheim, a knight called Hildebert and his lady Mechthilde welcomed their tenth and last child, a daughter, whom they named Hildegard. The little girl was frail in health, but from early childhood she showed unusual spirituality. At about age five, as she would tell it much later, young Hildegard experienced a mystical vision of brilliant light, accompanied by images from Heaven. It was this combination of fragility and religious devotion, apparently, that caused her parents to place Hildegard in a convent at the age of seven or eight.

At the convent Hildegard was tutored in Latin, music, the scriptures, and religious studies. She took her vows as a nun when she was about eighteen. Little is known of her life for the next twenty years, until 1136. In that year Hildegard, at age thirty-eight, was elected abbess of the convent.

Perhaps her new status gave Hildegard the courage to confide in others, to reveal the secret she had kept for so long - that she was subject to visions of God, Christ, the cosmos, biblical events, and religious symbols. In any case, she did so, and she was taken seriously. Encouraged by her churchly mentors, Hildegard began to write.

Her first major work, started in 1142, was called Scivias, which translates from the Latin as Know the Ways (of the Lord). In this book, a ten-year project, Hildegard tells of her visions, describing them in exact detail and illustrating them with painted illuminations that are startlingly modern in their simplicity. Some believe she made the paintings herself, but it is more likely they were done by others under her close supervision.

For example, vision two is a portrait of Hildegard at the moment of her spiritual awakening. Seated in a small room, dressed in the robes of a courtly woman, Hildegard is struck by heavenly tongues of fire, which engulf her head. She is poised ready to record the event, as is her secretary, Volmar, standing awestruck at right. Symbolically, the spiritual flames will unloose Hildegard's own tongue, inspiring her to speak of God's ways.

Mystical thought she may have been, Hildegard was no stranger to worldly concerns. She seems to have been an exceptionally good administrator, strong-willed and skillful at getting her own way. For long years her nuns had occupied the tiny women's quarters of a monastery, forced to endure domination and crowding by the monks. When she proposed to leave and establish a separate convent, she met bitter opposition from the men, who would thus lose the considerable wealth the nuns had brought to the community. Hildegard was undeterred. Taking care to enlist the protection of highly placed clergy and nobility, she departed with her nuns, about 1150, for a new convent site at Rupertsberg, near the town of Bingen.

Hildegard's last decades were extremely productive. Several other books followed the Scivias, including a medical text and a nine-book tretise on botany, biology, geology, and astronomy. She wrote the music and text for some sixty-three hymns and also a miracle play, which was performed as an opera. All the while she maintained a vast correspondence, exchanging letters with monarchs and church leaders, scholars and ordinary people. In her last years she traveled rather widely, and she was called to preach in the great cathedrals. Her services were much in demand as an exorcist, capable of driving out evil spirits.

Many contemporary accounts about Hildegard report her recurring, serious illnesses, but we do not know how she died. We have only the date. The extraordinary life of Hildegard of Bingen, spanning eighty-one years, came to an end on September 17, 1179.