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8-08-2015, 16:25

The Medieval Revival

A study of chivalry and its ideals led some people to see the Middle Ages as superior, morally, to their own times. They identified with the past, a past that they invented as an ethical ideal. The study of the medieval past, they believed, would provide examples—and inspiration— for their own times. They preserved crumbling walls as romantic ruins, and they built new medieval castles on the foundations of the past. To be sure, many eighteenth century intellectuals looked to a golden age of Greece and Rome, but in the nineteenth century with the growth of na tionalism, people in England, France, Germany, and Scandinavia sought inspiration in their own national past. The gentleman of the nineteenth century identified with the ideals of the medieval knights, exemplified by the court of King Arthur, where all men were noble and brave and all ladies were chaste and beautiful (Document 1). In this imaginary middle ages, everyone had a place in society: the aristocrats were virtuous and chivalrous; the peasants were loyal and hard working; the clergy, pious; the judges, fair. They came together in the castle’s courtyard and hall. Surely, the idealists thought, the ideals of chivalry controlled passions and enforced virtue, self-sacrifice, and self-control. They saw the Middle Ages as wholesome and natural, a patriarchal society in which every person had privileges and responsibilities. How far from reality was their dream of times gone by. The romantic revival of medieval styles in architecture and decoration led to splendid and original forms in castles and castle decoration, and also to the appreciation and preservation of real castle architecture. The Tower of London’s White Tower was surrounded by functional modern buildings. Windsor castle took on the magnificent form we see today designed for King George IV and Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In the south, the Duke of Norfolk built a magnificent neo-Gothic home at Arundel, which nearly dwarfs the ancient mound and tower. Modern castle building reached its height in William Burgess’ Cardiff Castle built for the third Marquis of Bute beside a fine twelfth-century tower. And in north Wales, Thomas Hopper, the architect for the immensely wealthy George Pennant’s Penrhyn Castle, began work in 1827 and finished the “Norman” castle fourteen years later. Since Pennant’s wealth came from slate, that material was used extensively in the castle.