European visions of Babylon (Chapter 3)

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Issue Date
2019
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Authors
Thelle, Rannfrid I.
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Thelle, R. (2019). Chapter 3 -- European visions of Babylon. In: Discovering Babylon. London: Routledge, pp 26-39

Abstract

Depictions of the Tower of Babel open a window on how custodians of the biblical heritage visualized Babylon, in cathedral art and manuscript illustrations. Through hundreds of years of Western culture, Babylon lived on as image, myth, and symbol, spinning a story of its own. These images give us more insight into the contemporary time of these renderings than about the actual subject it is depicting. Conventions and uses of art placed strictures on medieval art; however, the changes over time illustrate a development from reflecting contemporary building techniques and allegorical readings of the Bible, toward an early modern understanding of history. This journey illustrates, literally, the gradual discovery of the past as existing somewhere else, so to speak, as well as to a rising awareness of a larger world “out there”. The many appropriations of Babylon highlight ways in which Western culture expressed its understanding of its own time and place.

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