Back in Medieval England, the church played a massive role in the daily lives of everyone in the country – far greater than any role it plays today. The church dominated the lives of everyone and people believed exclusively in the ideas of Heaven, Hell and God. Although modern day has brought about new practises and ideals, the strictly religious still operate under similar guidelines as what would have been assumed back in Medieval England.
In Medieval England, the church was mainly Roman Catholic, which is different to the church community I am focusing on which is based around Christian faith. However, the power of beliefs such as those of God and Jesus, are no less strong now than they were back in Medieval England. Religion is just not as prominently focused upon as it has been before in the past.
Paintings give us a good idea of what Churches looked like and how they were represented. In this era, painting and tapestries were the main means of capturing the essence of the moment as photography did not exist at this point. They give us an insight into the layouts of churches, and are essentially the earliest forms of composition and a means to convey a narrative or a message to an audience.
The National Gallery in London holds a wide variety of a selection of work produced in this era, including work by Rogier Van der Weyden.
Depicting the exhumation of St Hubert in 1437-40, the image gives a clear view of the altar and the front section of the church. It also portrays the idea of grandeur with the high ceilings and elaborate decoration and points out the type of religious décor that features around the church. As this is a catholic church, the depiction of grandeur is marginally different to where I am photographing, but the high ceilings are still a predominant feature, as is the location of the altar. The painting appears to have been painted as an individual standing directly in the middle of the aisle between either side of the congregation, but they have dropped their viewpoint slightly in order to capture the tall pillars and arches that support the structure of the church. Van der Weyden has captured the action taking place, another good point of something I want to convey within my imagery as photographs with nothing happening in them or no narrative to convey can become lost in translation and I do not think will be particularly strong, so I think this early influence of structure within the painting is actually key to how I would carry out my own practise using the photographic medium instead of painting.
This painting is again, not of a Christian Church but instead of a monastery and the monks that would sing there. However, I felt the painting was relevant because of the fact that to this day a big part of worship within any type of religious group is the act of singing hymns and psalms in a group to worship a particular God. It is this idea of worship that has struck an idea within me. I would quite like to photograph the members of the church community at Highbury all singing together. This may be difficult due to restrictions imposed upon me, but all the same it is something that has been readily depicted throughout history, including in this example and therefore I want to use my research to inform my practise. This particular composition is quite odd as its a sideways depiction, but this could be to capture all the action taking place within the image. The use of religious articles, such as clothing (e.g. in my example at Highbury might be Sunday best), bibles and other books, hymn books and scriptures as well as robes and the majestic location are all things that tie the theme to the location and the narrative we draw upon. All things to consider when pulling my research into my own work.
I think it is important to look at examples like these because I can then continue to capture my own representation of what religion is like in present day England and the developments on from what we may have seen depicted in medieval times. This is because I often feel religion is stigmatized back to this era where in reality it has moved forward a great deal in terms of its practise so in order to show the changes, I first need to identify what has already been documented so I can change or challenge current perspectives in the process.