There is seemingly nothing more unfamiliar to the people of the 21st century than the art of southern Europe, the Byzantine East and Persian-Islamic civilization in the Early Medieval period. The visual culture of these worlds surpasses the categories of post avant-garde aesthetics and the meaning of images, buildings and reliefs, 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 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 evolution of the major civilizations that came into being within the territory of the defunct Roman Empire. Consequently, the subject of the Center’s studies is the development of the identity of Western Europe, Byzantium and Islam as autonomous yet mutually dependent phenomena. This transcultural approach is essential for understanding the dialogue and conflicts between these civilizations, and, at the same time, is necessary for the comprehension of the global phenomena that independently emerged in these cultures.
This method is based on the tradition of the historiography of art history in Bohemia and Moravia, and on the legacy of The Vienna School of Art History, which also influenced the Department of Art History in Brno. After the First World War, a significant international institution resided in Czechoslovakia - Institutum Kondakovianum, founded in honour of Nikodim Pavlovič Kondakov, who had passed away in Prague in 1925. Furthermore, international periodicals with focused on Byzantium and the East were published during the interwar period in Czechoslovakia: Byzantinoslavica and Seminarium Kondakovianum. We need to emphasize the fact that the required studies at The Vienna School of Art History were created as a result of the research on the Early Middle Ages and Byzantium. We have to mention especially the classic works by Franz Wickhoff, Römische Kunst (Die Wiener Genesis) (Wien, 1895) and Alois Riegl, Die Spätrömische Kunst-Industrie nach den Funden in Östereichen-Ungarn (Wien, 1901). The Center for Early Medieval Studies aims to base its activities on both of these above-mentioned traditions.
The activities of the Center are to a large 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, “Středověc Jinax”. These lectures are not targeted only at the academic audience, but also at the general public.