“see what else is on…”
For most of our existence, we have lived in a world without images.
We are today so inundated by them, from TV to movies to magazines to billboards that we forget that all this happened only yesterday.
In the medieval world people might spend a lifetime without seeing a visual image. For the average person, books were a rarity they never encountered. Newspapers or course, advertising, paper in general were pretty much non existant. And, of course, the population was illiterate. Everyone was illiterate – including the king.
So when the Church wanted to communicate important information, and to educate people, they did it through art. Pictures.
These ‘pictures’, paintings, frescos, stained glass windows, told, over and over again, the stories of Jesus and Mary – the same stories that the priests were telling in Church sermons. It was the ‘Sopranos’ of its day. Everyone knew what ‘had happened’. It was the universal ‘shared experience’.
For the lucky few, there might be a pilgrimage to a religious shrine, perhaps once in a lifetime. As transportation was pretty much on par with information, walking was the best way to get to a religious shrine – and that took time. Great medieval literature is often based around these pilgrimages. It took weeks, sometimes months to make the trip.
But at the end of the road was a place of great religious importance – like The Cathedral of Chartres, in France.
And almost all of these shrines were dominated by a gigantic if not overwhelming (and extremely expensive) work of art.
Like the stained glass windows at Chartres (see above).
Even today, they are impressive pieces of work.
But imagine what they looked like to 13th Century pilgrims. Starved of any kind of visual stimulation in their lives, walking for weeks or months to arrive there, the windows must have been mind blowing.
One can imagine the peasants and serfs (and nobles for that matter) standing before them, jaws agape, staring in wonder.
They were the Youtube of their day. An overwhelming feast of visual information and colors.
There was nothing else like it.
Today we are pretty sanguine about Chartres. Been there.. seen that.. let’s move on. “The Colosseum? 20 minutes and I’m bored” says one person I know.
We are jaded.
And attention spans grow shorter.
As video moves to the web, everyone agrees nothings should be longer than 90 seconds. Perhaps less.
This is tough because you can’t even begin to explain complicated matters in 90 seconds….
And we are just at the beginning.
What will happen in a decade?
Do we reach a point where you can no longer communicate information at all?
Give us 8 seconds, we’ll give you the world?