Iconography in the tiles of the Middle Ages as a source of folk culture
Source document: . Středověké a novověké zdroje tradiční kultury : sborník příspěvků ze semináře konaného 30. listopadu 2005 v Ústavu evropské etnologie. Editor: Křížová, Alena. Vyd. 1. Brno: Ústav evropské etnologie Masarykovy univerzity, 2006, pp. -120
In the course of the 15th century the decorative-tiled stove became a common household feature in town and village alike. These stoves were made by artisans from the local community; as such we can state plainly that their iconography has its source in folk culture. The relief decoration of tiles was an inspiration for and simultaneously was inspired by a large proportion of populations of diverse social ranks. Throughout the Middle Ages and in early modern times, the greatest influence in terms of theme was brought to bear by Roman Catholicism, the most powerful religion in the Europe of the Middle Ages. On the frontal heating walls of early chamber tiles for the most part we see Christian motifs; later these are accompanied by motifs on more secular themes. The relief decoration of these tiles reflects the great importance of spirituality for a great many people across social divides. From within this dominant area of spirituality, symbolic depictions range from the more enigmatic (figures from fable or in animal form) to the more immediately understood (the human form as a basis for the depiction of angels and saints). Stoves from the Middle Ages strike a cautionary note for the believer with their portrayal of acts of vice. The 15th century sees the emergence of heraldry, which includes that of guilds. The most valuable witness, however, is present in tiles whose iconography does not depict scenes indicative of Christian morality of a generalised nature. Scenes of the hunt or tournament were especially popular. A look at samples of tile production from either side of a period of more than one hundred years will show us that the content of the message remained unchanged, though the form did not. At this time, for depiction of the interplay between Good and Evil, the symbolic figures of fable were replaced with more clearly understood counterparts in human form, while the growing number of decorative motifs comes to magnify details of day-today life. The iconological exposition of these motifs brings us closer to the thinking of the time and hence an understanding of our surroundings.
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