About us

There is seemingly nothing more unfamiliar to people of the 21st century than the Early Medieval art of Southern Europe, the Byzantine East and Persian-Islamic civilization. The visual cultures of these worlds surpass the categories of post avant-garde aesthetics and the meaning of images, buildings and sculptures, deeply rooted in the religious tradition of the Mediterranean, rarely resonates in postmodern culture. In spite of this, Brno is home to the Center for Early Medieval Studies, which is devoted, not only in the educational field, but also in research and in the contact with a non-academic audience, to the study and presentation of the figurative art created around the Mediterranean between the 4th and the 10th centuries. The aim of the Center’s activities is to analyse the major civilizations founded within the territory of the defunct Roman Empire, through the study of their objects. Consequently, the focus of the Center’s research is the development of the identities of Western Europe, Byzantium and Islamic world as an autonomous, yet mutually dependent phenomena. This transcultural approach is essential for understanding the dialogue and conflicts between these civilizations, as well as for the comprehension of the global phenomena that have independently emerged within these cultures.

Our method is based, on one hand, on the legacy of the Vienna School of Art History, which had a strong impact on the formation of the Department of Art History in Brno. On the other hand, we pursue the historiographical tradition of art history in Bohemia and Moravia. Indeed, after the First World War, a significant international institution resided in Czechoslovakia - the Institutum Kondakovianum, founded in honour of the famous Russian sholar Nikodim Pavlovič Kondakov, who had passed away in Prague in 1925. Furthermore, two international periodicals with focus on Byzantium and the East were published during the interwar period in Czechoslovakia: Byzantinoslavica and Seminarium Kondakovianum. One should also remember that essential publications of the Vienna School of Art History were created as a result of the research of the Early Middle Ages and Byzantium. We must mention especially the seminal works by Franz Wickhoff, Römische Kunst (Die Wiener Genesis) (Wien, 1895) and Alois Riegl, Die Spätrömische Kunst-Industrie nach den Funden in Österreich-Ungarn (Wien, 1901). The Center for Early Medieval Studies aims to base its activities on both of these above-mentioned traditions.

Since its foundation, the Center has organized five international conferences (Face of the Dead, Objects of Memory, Memory of Objects and Circulation as a Factor of Cultural Aggregation: Relics, Ideas and Cities in the Middle Ages, Ritualizing the City and Re-thinking, Re-making, Re-living Christian Origins), a number of workshops and a Summer School. It has also arranged block teachings and individual lectures with leading figures in art history. To date, invitations have been accepted, for example, by Hans Belting, Herbert Kessler, Serena Romano, Nicolas Bock, Valentina Cantone, Jean-Michel Spieser, Klára Benešovská, Elisabetta Scirocco, Michelle Bacci, Alessandro Taddei, Éric Palazzo and Bissera Pentcheva. The activities of the Center are to some extent dependent on the volunteer work of students from the Department of Art History in Brno who, since November 2011, have also been organising regular public lectures undet the title “Středověc Jinax” (Middle Ages, differently). These lectures are not aimed only at an academic audience, but also to the general public.