Today, it is hard to believe that a Catalan traveller in the high Middle Ages would have had no difficulty following Mass in a country church somewhere in Norway and understanding the images found there. Between 1100 and 1350, the liturgical rituals and the decorations of altars were practically the same throughout Western Europe. Europe’s cultural unity is reflected through religious art more than through anything else.
Surviving altar decorations from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries are distributed unevenly across the continent; it is only in the North and South that these early works of church art have survived in considerable numbers. Since no direct connection existed between Norway and Spanish Catalonia, we may assume that similar art forms with their associated vocabulary were also found in all the territories that lie in between.
This lavishly illustrated publication shows that all of Western Europe drew from a shared stock of religious images and convictions, expressions and symbols. The panel paintings, sculptures and liturgical vessels from North and South are testimonies to a common European culture that went hand in hand with the spread of Christianity across the continent.