Pre-Romanesque Art

Pre-Romanesque art refers to the art that was produced in Europe from the early 6th century until the 11th century.

During this period, different Germanic tribes firmly established themselves in different parts of Europe and created kingdoms of their own.

Anglo Saxon Settlements Map

Anglo Saxon settlements in England in an early period of 400-500

Pre Romanesque Art Medieval Art codex Aureus Sankt Emmeram

One overarching common feature of most of the art styles of this period is that they were influenced by Christianity which was becoming the dominant religion of Europe at the time.

Pre-Romanesque Carolingian Art

The Carolingian Empire, forged by the ruling dynasty of Franks in the 8th century, was the most significant political entity of Western Europe since the end of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century.


Under great rulers such as Charlemagne, the Carolingian Empire ushered in a brief period of cultural renaissance in Western Europe.

During the peak of Carolingian might between 780 and 900, a unique style of Carolingian art developed. Major mediums of Carolingian art included illuminated manuscripts, metalwork, and sculptures featuring gilded adornments, and frescoes.

Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Times

Carolingian art essentially combined classic features of Mediterranean art with the features of Northern European art.

Medieval illuminated manuscripts

Pre-Romanesque Ottonian Art

The second major flowering of culture and art in Western Europe since the Roman Empire took place under the Saxon Ottonian dynasty. The dynasty ruled most of Western Europe as Holy Roman Emperors from 936 to 1056.

Flags of The Holy Roman Empire

Flags of The Holy Roman Empire ruled by King Frederick Barbarossa

Like the Carolingian art, most of the Ottonian art was produced at the notable monasteries within the Empire. Major mediums of Ottonian art include metalwork, illuminated manuscripts, ivory carvings, sculptures, and painting.

Most of the Ottonian art is religious in nature and was commissioned either by the imperial court or the leading Church figures of the period.

This style of art is influenced by its predecessor, the Carolingian art style, as well as elements of Byzantine art.

Ottonian art was characterized by the use of bright, flowing colors in paintings and stress on the ideal and the spiritual in depiction. A notable feature of the style was a grand, though unrefined, style which came about with the establishment of the Empire.

Pre-Romanesque Anglo-Saxon Art

Anglo-Saxon art style flourished in England from the 9th century until the early 12th century. Although Anglo-Saxon culture produced a vast body of art preceding this period, it is usually considered a part of the hybrid Insular art style.

True Anglo-Saxon art emerged once England became united under King Alfred in the 9th century and a unified Anglo-Saxon identity took shape.

Notable mediums of Anglo-Saxon art included illuminated manuscripts and metalwork. Unlike Insular art, Anglo-Saxon art diminished the use of interlace in favor of plant scrolls in adorning the illuminated manuscripts.

These changes also took place in the mediums of ivory carving and sculpting. Anglo-Saxon metalwork also flourished in 10th century England and was in demand in all of Europe. Few pieces of Anglo-Saxon art are extant today mostly because of the 11th century Norman invasion of England.