Clark explains that he is in Holland because he thinks the Dutch Republic is the first country to profit from a civilisational shift: “the revolution that replaced Divine Authority by experience, experiment and observation.” His characterisation of this revolution as the changing of the question ‘is it God’s will?’ into ‘does it work?’ or even ‘does it pay?’, is at least easy to remember.
We are faced with a large minority from an Islamic background, a significant amount of whom cherish beliefs and conduct themselves in ways that threaten the foundations of European civilisation. Not simply because they oppose our values, but that the simplest, most radical solution that comes to mind, is even more of a threat to us and our values. We appear stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. If Europe fights, it loses as a culture, it will die; if we try to swim away, we drown. But perhaps there is a third option.
Clark returns to the grandeur of early 16th century Rome. The Reformation and subsequent Wars of Religion, whose devastating effect on Western Europe Clark describes in passing naturally had their impact on Rome. Part 7 is dedicated to the extraordinary resilience and ability shown by Catholicism to bounce back from a seemingly desperate position. And the situation was bad. As Clark describes it, Rome had been humiliated: “The city had been sacked and burnt, the people of Northern Europe were heretics, the Turks were threatening Vienna.”
One might assert that his view of Germany is a 20th-century sentiment speaking through a man who has lived through both World Wars, and is maybe somewhat inappropriate for a discussion of the late 15th century. When Clark talks about “these destructive national characteristics,” he uses 19th-century concepts that barely fit the political or cultural constellation around 1500.
Clark describes Medieval Rome, maybe too harshly, as a time when the Romans lived in their city, essentially as people without a past. Pressed down by the weight of the giants of Antiquity, which they no longer understood, they treated the city as if it was a natural phenomenon. This is, according to Clark, what changed with the Renaissance, when Antiquity no longer oppressed, but was taken as a challenge. Concentrating on art, as always, Clark describes three “heroes” of the Renaissance: Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci.
In the Pazzi Chapel, Clark says, the beginnings of the Renaissance are visible. Though often considered small, Clark claims that this is actually because of a new perspective, so to speak, in culture in which “everything is adjusted to the scale of reasonable human necessity.” This whole change in outlook he catches in one phrase, coined by Protagoras:”Man, the measure of all things.”
“It does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces action, but it constantly opposes your acting; it does not destroy, it prevents birth; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, it represses, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to being nothing more than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
This leads into a discussion of the ideal of Courtly Love. This, Clark says, is an invention of the Middle Ages – unknown to Antiquity. He offers three possible theories for its invention: Firstly, that Courtly Love as an idea was derived from Persian literature that Crusaders encountered in the Middle East. Secondly, Clark puts forward that it might have been the social position of noble women that inspired a sort of admiration that had to remain distant. Thirdly, he mentions the link between Courtly Love and the veneration of the Virgin Mary.
In part II of this 1969 thirteen part series, art historian Kenneth Clark (1903 – 1983) discusses what he calls the “great acceleration of development” around 1100, which took place worldwide, but was “strongest and most needed in Western Europe.” He describes the profound changes in Europe at the time as an outpouring of energy in all branches of life, but will, for the most part, be concentrating on art, particularly architecture. He uses the monumental buildings of the age as his evidence for the “heroic energy, this confidence, this strength of will and intellect” with which they were built.
In part one of this thirteen part series, art historian Kenneth Clark (1903 – 1983) discusses a great range of topics. The disappearance of the Mediterranean centred Graeco-Roman Civilisation through exhaustion. The Celtic Church and it’s unique development, focused on the pictoral element, on the edge of the world, culminating in the Book of Kells. The Carolingian Renaissance and its rediscovery of the Mediterranean world and the written word.
In the video Ferguson strong arms his emphasis on the divisive element of social media a little too much, to hammer home his analogy to the conflicts following the Reformation, but he does have a point. Keeping it real though, he’s not in favor of censorship policies, and says he’d rather be offended or potentially misled than having Silicon Valley control our news flows.