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Winchester Art Style

Anglo-Saxon art experienced a golden age in the century preceding the Norman Conquest of 1066. Its origins lie in the late ninth century, when King Alfred devised a program of religious revival and learning to compensate for what he saw as a loss of religious spirit in his people. The Viking invasions were seen as God's punishment for the sins of the English people and their neglect of learning. The support of Alfred and his successors created a climate in which people of power and wealth were willing to act as patrons of the arts, allowing artisans and artists to flourish.

The Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England, which grew out of Alfred's Wessex, was centered in Winchester. A reflection of this is the elaborate and perfect illumination of manuscripts made in England between 966 and 1066, known as belonging to the Winchester School or Winchester Art Style. Old Minster, New Minster, and Nunnaminster, the three great religious houses of Winchester, served as the home of its practitioners.

The Winchester style of art is characterized by a number of features: the use of acanthus leaves and tendrils, curly draperies, and leaves encircling birds and animals. In addition to manuscripts, the influence of the Winchester art style can be seen in the decoration of objects made of other materials, ivory, bone, stone and metal. Many of these objects were discovered during excavations in and around Winchester. Acanthus motifs and birds, somewhat crudely carved on simple bone spoons excavated in the city, show how the high artistic style of this period seeped into everyday household objects as well.