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Charlemagne as a Patron of Art

  • Henry Mayr-Harting (a1)

The lesson that people hold radically differing views about church art is the harder to learn when one comes to it from the iconodul-istic side. Looking back on my own Roman Catholic schooling, and the place of statues and holy pictures in the religious devotions of that milieu, I realize that once sacramental awareness develops, it is not always easily confined to the matter of the theological sacraments themselves. The beheading of the statues in the Lady Chapel at Ely, which I visited at the age of eleven, seemed a shocking circumstance whose motivation was totally incomprehensible, even allowing for the fact that it was the work of Protestants, and the Old Testament, which might have brought the dawn of understanding, was, of course, no part of an ordinary Catholic education at that time. In short, the author of Charlemagne’s Libri Carolini would have found much upon which to make adverse comment in me, my fellows, and the monks who taught us. With the first artistic love of my student days, which was Romanesque sculpture, came an awareness of the voices and practice of those great medieval Protestants, the Cistercians. But only in the later encounter with Charlemagne was I forced to listen seriously to the moral and theological arguments against the unbridled use of figurai art in the service of the Church.

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1 For instance, Florentine Mütherich, ‘Die Buchmalerei am Hofe Karls des Grossen’, in W. Braunfels, ed., Karl der Crosse, 3 (Dusseldorf, 1965), pp. 9–53; Wilhelm Köhler, Die Karolingischen Miniaturen, 2 (Betlin, 1958), 3 (Berlin, 1960); C. R. Dodwell, Painting in Europe, 800-1200 (Harmondsworth, 1972); J. Hubert, J. Porcher, and W. F. Volbach, Carolingian Art (London, 1970); John Beckwith, Early Medieval Art (London, 1964); Libri Carolini [hereafter L.C.], Caroli Magni Capitulare de lmagimbus, ed. H. Bastgen, MGH.Conc. Il, Supplementum (Hanover, 1924).

2 Kõhler, Karolingischen Miniaturai, 2, pp. 9-14.

3 Ibid., 3, esp. pp. 40-2.

4 See the fine study by Herbert Kessler, The Illustrated Bibles from Tours (Princeton, 1977).

5 Especially the Sinope Codex: A Grabar, Les Peintures de l’Evangéliaire de Sinope (Paris, 1948); the St Augustine’s Gospels; Francis Wormald, repr. in Collected Writings, 1 (London, 1984), pp. 13-35; Rabbula Gospels, ed. C. Cecchelli et al. (Olten and Lausanne, 1959); Rossano Gospels: Il Codice Purpureo di Rossano, ed. Ciro Santoro (Rome, 1975). See also Mütherich, ‘Die Buchmalerei’, esp. pp. 14-16, 28; D. A Bullough, ‘Roman books and Carolingian renouatio’, SCH, 14 (1977), pp. 23–50. As an example one may note the roundels used for the title-page of the Harleian Gospels, fol. 12v. Braunfels, ed., Karl der Grosse, 3, plate VI, and in the Rossano Gospels (sixth century), Tavola 9, p. 94.

6 See W. Hoffmann et ai, eds, Der Stuttgarter Bilderpsalter, 2 vols (Stuttgart, 1965), esp. Florentine Mütherich in the volume of Untersuchungen, 22, pp. 175-90, where the dependence of the Christological scenes on exegetical works is also stressed.

7 Utrecht Psalter: Christ and the Apostles as an army and its leader, illustration to Psalm 23 (24), fol. 13v, in Utrecht Psalter, ed. K. vander Hoerst and J. H. A. Engelbregt(Graz, 1984). For the Heliand, J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Frankish Church (Oxford, 1983), pp. 384-5.

8 Though not its only expression, e.g., The Dream of the Rood, in Richard Hamer, ed., A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse (London, 1970), pp. 159–71.

9 See in Beckwith, Early Medieval Art, p. 31, stylistic comparison with an icon of Mary made for the oratory of Pope John VII (705-7).

10 Lorsch Gospels, fol. 18v; St Médard Gospels, fol. 124r, Miitherich, ‘Die Buchmalerei’, colour plate XV, even here not full-page, but tucked into the ‘Q’ of the opening of St Luke.

11 Hubert Schrade, ‘Zum Kuppelmosaik der Pfalzkapelle und zum Theoderich-Denkmal in Aachen’, Aachener Kunstllàtter, 30 (1965), pp. 25-37, esp. p. 28.

12 The lack of a maiestas in the Codex Wittekindeus of Fulda, c.970, which gives apparently a quite precise picture of its lost Ada prototype, is highly suggestive, especially as the Gero Codex of about the same date, which follows the Lorsch Gospels, repeats the latter’s maiestas: Der Codex Wittekindeus, ed. A. Boeckler (Leipzig, 1938), pp. 15-17. For the lost Salzburg manuscript, see Miitherich, ‘Die Buchmalerei’, pp. 42–3.

13 Schrade, ‘Zum Kuppelmosaik’, p. 29, rather gives his own point away with his citation from the Synod of Frankfurt (794) concerning the Lamb of God; he does not give due weight to the appearance of the Worship of the Lamb in the St Médard of Soissons Gospels (nor to the Lamb with crossed nimbus in the initial T of St John’s Gospel in the Harleian Gospels: Kóhler, Karolingischen Miniaturen, 2, Tafeln 2, p. 61); and, considering that this was the subject of the facade mosaic of St Peter’s, Rome, he exaggerates both the unlikelihood of Charlemagne’s imitating it and the difficulties of adapting it to the Aachen dome, p. 30.

14 Ann Freeman, Theodulf of Orleans and the Libri Carolini’, Speculum, 32 (1957), pp. 663-705, and ‘Further studies in the Libri Carolini’, ibid., 40 (1965), pp. 203-89.

15 For images of Christ and the Emperor, A. Grabar, L’Empereur dans l’art Byzantin (Paris, 1936). For the effects of ‘Babylonic’ pride of the East, L.C., III, 15, p. 13s, and Robert Folz, The Coronation of Charlemagne, tr.J. E. Anderson (London, 1974), pp. 92-3.

16 Bullough, Donald, ‘Imagines regum and their significance in the early medieval West ’, in Henderson, Giles Robertson, eds, Studies in Memory of David Talbot Rice (Edinburgh, 1975), p. 224 .

17 See Miitherich, Florentine, ‘Ottoman Art: changing aspects’, Romanesque and Gothic Art: Acts of the 20th International Congress of the History of Art, 1 (Princeton, 1963). p. 29 ; Bullough, Donald, The Age of Charlemagne (London, 1965), 137 ; Wormald, Collected Writings, 1, p. 172, n. 40.

18 Mtitherich, Florentine and Gaehde, Joachim, Carolingian Painting (London, 1977), p. 45 and n. 7. This form of Christ illustration in the St Médard Gospels may have been suggested by something like the sixth-century Rabbuia Gospels, with Christ illustrations to the side of the canon tables: Kurt Weitzmann, Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination (London, 1977). plate 34. On the fragment from an otherwise lost pericopes book of the Ada group, representing Zachary and the Angel, in BL, MS Cotton Claudius B.V., see W. Koehler, ‘An illustrated Evangelistary of the Ada School’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 15 (1952), pp. 48-66. I do not now doubt the argument that there was a Late Antique pericopes book available to the Charlemagne Court School, as to the artists of the early Ottoman Christ cycles: see the Retractatio at the end of part ii of my Ottoman Book Illumination; an Historical Study (London, 1991), with illustrations incorporated into the relevant places in the texts. But I am sceptical of Kohler’s argument that the supposed comparative rarity of the Zachary subject indicates that the miniatures in the lost Carolingian book were fairly numerous (pp. 59-60). The subject is repeated in the Soissons book, where scenes of the life of Christ, besides being tiny, are hardly numerous, and it is the only New Testament subject to appear in the whole of the Harleian Gospels, conceivably for the very reason that it was not a Christ scene. If it had been the only illustration to the texts in the lost book, that might explain “why Sir Robert Cortón had cut it out of one book and stuck it into another. One could be tempted to think that the reason why it survived, however, was not because it was the only illustration in the book, but because it was the first, in a book whose liturgical readings one might imagine to have begun with Advent. But both types of capitulare, i.e., list of Gospel readings for the liturgical year, used at Charlemagne’s court started not with Advent but with Christmas, and in both, the Zachary story is the reading for the Vigil of St John the Baptist, which would come late in a pericopes book, and not for an Advent reading. See Klauser, T., Dos ramisene Capitulare Evangeliorum (Munster, 1972), p. 76. no. 157 ; p. 116, no. 156.

19 Such cameos are already found in the canon tables of the St Médard Gospels, e.g., the Annunciation at fol. 7r, the Transfiguration at fol. 9r, and the victorious Christ as in the Douce 176 ivory at fol. 10v. Einhard’s Suetonian form and model is a commonplace; the idea of his Christian content may raise eyebrows, but see Wallace-Hadrill, Frankish Church, p. 203.

20 Freeman, ‘Theodulf of Orleans’, pp. 695-9; L.C., 1,29, p. 57, ‘Lord I have loved the beauty of thy house’, etc., not a material but a spiritual dwelling; L.C., 1,16, pp. 38,44, lack of mystical properties in art; L.C., p. 137, line 36, value of materials; L.C., III, 16, p. 138, lines 1–2, and IV, 29, quote Gregory; L.C., III, 16, p. 138, lines 3-4, ‘non ad adorandum sed ad memoriam rerum gestarum et venustatem parietum habere permittimus’—even so, there is a warning to those who cannot remember Christ without pictures, L.C., IV, 2, p. 176, lines 23-7.

21 L.C., II, 30, pp. 92–3, see David Ganz, ‘The preconditions for Caroline minuscule’, Viator, 18 (1987), esp. pp. 29–34, ‘in libris non in imaginibus doctrinae spiritalis erudirionem diximus’, L.C., ibid.; Psalm 26 is cited at L.C, 1,23, p. 51; furthermore, ‘lumen ergo vulrus Dei… non in materialibus imaginibus est accipiendum… sed in vexillo crucis’, 1,23, p. 5 r, lines 37-9.

22 Hans Liebeschiitz, ‘Western Christian thought from Boethius to Anselm’, in A H. Armstrong, ed., Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge, 1967), p. 566.

23 LC, rV, 2, p, 176, quoted by Celia Chazelle, ‘Matter, spirit and image in the Libri Carolini’, Recherches Augustmiennes, 21 (1986), p. 176 and n. 75. The phrase in virtutesensuum is used at II, 30, p. 97, line 34.

24 Wilhelm Heil, ‘Der Adoptianismus, Alcuin und Spanien’, in Bernhard Bischoff, ed., Karl der Grosse, 2 (Dusseldorf, 1965), discusses finely the principal opponents of the Adoprionists: in Spain Beams of Liebana, and in Charlemagne’s circle Paulinus of Aquileia and Alcuin. For Beams on Christ’s divinity, esp. pp. 128-9; for Paulinus’ distinction between adoption and assumption (redemptor noster perfectum hominem adsumpsitin Deum), pp. 131-2; for Alcuin’s use of conciliar and Roman teaching (which Heil perhaps overstates at the expense of his theological grasp), pp. 136–53. See also Donald Bullough, ‘Alcuin and the Kingdom of Heaven’, in Uta-Renate Blumenthal, ed., Carolingian Essays (Washington, DC, 1983), pp. 49-56.

25 Angilbert’s inscription for the west apse of St Ricquier, beginning, ‘Almighty God who rulest the heights and the depths’, J. von Schlosser, Schrift quellen zur Geschichte der karolingischen Kunst (Vienna, 1892) [hereafter Schlosser], no. 783, pp. 257-9, is an example, ai is Alcuin’s grace, in which to Christ are attributed deeds of the Father in the Old Testament as well as of himself in the New, ibid., p. 318, and also several of Alcuin’s inscriptions for churches, e.g., for Trier, St Amand, and Gorze, ibid., pp. 12,180. There are, it is true, a number of hymns and inscriptions in which Christ is addressed directly, e.g., Alcuin’s Cologne inscription, beginning, Mitissime Christe (ibid., no. 155, p. 45), and Hrabanus Maurus continued this feamre at Fulda, ibid., nos. 147, 148, 211, but even Christ-centred poems tend to remember or even emphasize the Divinity, e.g., the poems referring to Christ seated as the species hominis, the image of man, ibid., nos. 801-5. The emphasis on the Trinity in Carolingian religious culture is noteworthy, as in the arrangement of the three churches at St Ricquier (Quia igitur omnis plebs fidelium sanctissimam ataue inseparabilem Trinitatem confiten, veneran el mente colere firmiter credere debet, etc., ibid., no. 782, p. 254). Alcuin’s treatise on the Triniry may be considered as the culmination of his writing on Adoptionism, Heil, ‘Der Adoptianismus’, pp. 147-8. For Alcuin’s use of Augustine’s Commentary on St John rather than his De Trinitate in order to give proper stress to the divinity of Christ, see Bullough, ‘Alcuin’, pp. 52, 59.

26 Chazelle, ‘Matter, spirit and image’, pp. 176-7.

27 Mango, Cyril, The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312-1433 (New Jersey, 1972), p. 166, and n. 69 .

28 L.C., III, 15, p. 13 5, lines 2-4.

29 LC, II, 27, p. 88, lines 19-23; and Mango, Art of the Byzantine Empire, p. 166.

30 Miitherich, ‘Die Buchmalerei’, pp. 14-18. Such panels of interlace, still in the Harleian Gospels, have disappeared in the Lorsch Gospels.

31 Ibid., p. 28. For the early development of canon tables and the various branches of their development, see the monograph of Nordenfalk, Carl, Die spâtantiken Kanontafeln, Textband und Tafelband (Goteborg, 1938).

32 Elizabeth Rosenbaum, ‘The Evangelist Portraits of the Ada School and their models’, Art Bulletin, 38 (1956), pp. 81-90.

33 For example, Braunfels, ed., Karlier Grosse, 3, colour plate X (Harleian Gospels).

34 Kõhler, Karolingischen Miniaturen, 3, p. 50.

35 For example, St Matthew in the Gospel Book of Otto HI, MS Clm 4453, illustrated in Hanns Swarzenski, Early Medieval Illumination (London, 1951), plate X.

36 Mücherícb and Gaehde, Carolingian Painting, plate 14, p. 60.

37 See with regard to the parallel case of Charlemagne as a collector of books, Bernhard Bischoff, ‘Die Hofbibliothek Karls des Grossen’, in Bischoff, ed., Karl der Grosse, 2, p. 46.

38 For example, Karlsruhe, MS Aug. XCVIII (Reichenau); Wolfenbiittel, MS Weissenburg 30; E. Lesne, Histoire de la propriété ecclésiastique en France, 4 (Lille, 1938), pp. 433-4 (Lyon).

39 Schrade, ‘Zum Kuppelmosaik’, p. 27; Raphael Loewe, “The Medieval History of the Latin Vulgate’, in Cambridge History of the Bible, 2, ed. G. W. H. Lampe (Cambridge, 1969), p. 127; Bonifatius Fischer, ‘Bibelausgaben des friihen Mittelalters’, Settimane di Studio, 10 (1063), pp. 593-6.

40 Fischer, ‘Bibelausgaben’, pp. 586-97; Loewe, ‘Latin Vulgate’, pp. 126-40.

41 For example, Bischoff, ‘Hofbibliothek’, p. 44; Einhard, , Vita Karoli, ed. Halphen, L. (Paris, 1947), C.26, pp. 768 ; Schlosser, no. 782, p. 256, for Charlemagne’s generosity to St Ricquier.

42 For Charles the Bald’s manuscripts, Kessler, Illustrated Bibles, ch. 9; Der Codex Aureus der hayerischen Staatsbibliothek in Munchen, 3 vols (Munich, 1921), Textband, pp. 20-2. A liturgical example is provided by Nithard’ from as early as 841, see Nelson, Janet, ‘Public History and Private Histories in the work of Nithard’, in her Politics and Ritual in Early Medieval Europe (London, 1986), pp. 2056 .

43 See Weis, Adolf, ‘Die spãtandke Lekrionar-Illustrarion im Skriptorium der Reichenau’, in Maurer, Helmut, ed., Die Abtei Reichenau (Sigmaringen, 1974), pp. 3267 .

44 The exception is the lost pericopes book of the Ada group reconstructed by Kõhler, ‘An illustrated Evangelistary’, but he shows at pp. 49-50 that this must again have been early in the series, at latest contemporary with the Harleian Gospels. The four pericopes books of the Charlemagne period known to Kóhler are listed at p. 59, n. 1. It is interesting to note that he sees Rome and Ravenna as two sides of the same coin where stylistic influences on the Court School are concerned, pp. 61-6.

45 Translation of P. D. King, in Charlemagne: Translated Sources (Kendal, 1987), p. 233.

46 Adolph Goldschmidt, Die Elfenbeinskulpturen aus der Zeit der Karolingischen und Sãchsischen Kaiser, repr. 2 vols (Oxford, 1960), 1, p. 10 [hereafter Goldschmidt].

47 Ibid., p. 11.

48 Ibid., p. 13. For the Orosian dieme, see my Ottoman Book Illumination, parti, p. 159, using the work of Konrad Hoffmann.

49 Goldschmidt, pp. 14-17.

50 Ibid., p. 10; Peter Lasko, Ars Sacra 800-1200 (Harmondsworth, 1972), p. 27.

51 Freeman, ‘Theodulf of Orleans’, p. 667; ‘Libri Carolini’, p. 221.

52 Godman, Peter, Poetry of the Carolingian Renaissance (London, 1985), pp. 415 .

53 Schrade, ‘Zum Kuppelmosaik’, pp. 31–5.

54 For example, Alcuin’s letter to Charlemagne (796) urging him not to commit the same wrong of forcible conversion to Christianity in the case of the Avars as he had committed with the Saxons, MGH.Ep. 4, ii, ed. E. Dümmler, no. 1 io.

55 Cited (in his own translation) by Paul Meyvaert, ‘Bede and the church paintings of Wearmouth-Jarrow’, Anglo-Saxon England, 8 (1979), pp. 68-9.

56 For example, Nordenfalk, Carl, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Painting (London, 1980), plates 4,9,14, 24,25; R. L. S. Bruce-Mitford, ‘The art of the Codex Amiatinus’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, ser. 3, 32 (1969), pp. 1–25.

57 Laistner, M. L. W., A Hand-Lbt of Bede Manuscripts (Ithaca, NY, 1943), pp. 757 . The fact that most manuscripts listed there are later, i.e., twelfth to thirteenth century, should not make one conclude that the work was little known in the Carolingian period, for as Lesne, Histoire de la propriété ecclésiastique, 4, p. 57, observed, Carolingian manuscripts of Bede were so well used that they were heavily replaced. Hrabanus Maurus used this work heavily for his Com mentary on Chronicles: see Mayr-Harting, Ottoman Book Illumination, part ii, ch. 4.

58 Goldschmidt, p. 10.

59 For the drawing see Eberhard Galley, ‘Das karolingische Evangeliarfragment aus der Landes-und Stadtbibliothek Dusseldorf’, Düssellorfer Jahrbuch, 52 (1966), pp. 120-7.

60 See Freeman, Theodulf of Orleans’, pp. 696-9, and L.C., III, 16, p. 137, lines 40-2.

61 See Mayr-Harting, Henry, The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (London, 1972), p. 221 .

62 See Mary-Harting, Ottoman Book Illumination, part i, pp. 48-9.

63 Schlosser, no. 26, p. 262; no. 981, p. 355. For approval of silver and comments on its allegor ical significance, L.C., I, p. 39.

64 Mayr-Harting, Ottoman Book Illumination, part i, p. 49.

65 L.C., III, p. 138, lines 3-4. Excellent discussion of this point and comparison with Byzantium in McKitterick, Rosamond, ‘Text and image in the Carolingian world’, in McKittcrick, Rosamond, ed., The Uses of Literacy in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 298300 .

66 Augustine of Hippo, De Trinitate, XIV, n, 14, PL 42, col. 1048: ‘Quapropter sicut in rebus praeteritis ea memoria dicitur qua fit ut valeant recoli et rccordari, sic in re praesenti quod sibi est mens memoria sine absurditate dicenda est, etc.’: quoted by G. B. Ladner, The Idea of Reform (Cambridge, Mass., 1069), p. 201, n. 51. See also Henry Chadwick, Augustine (Oxford, 1986), p. 70, commenting on the Confessions, and André Crépin, ‘Bede and the Vernacular’, in Gerald Bonner, ed., Famulus Christi (London, 1976), esp. p. 172.

67 Schlosser, no. 979, p. 354. See also Conant, K. J., Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture, 800-1200 (Harmondsworth, 1959), p. 12 ; J. Hubert, in Hubert, Porcher, and Volbach, Carolingian Art, p. 3.

68 Bishop, Edmund, ‘Angilbert’s Ritual Order for Saint-Ricquier’, Liturgica Histórica (Oxford, 1918), pp. 322, 3278 .

69 Kohler, Karolingtschen Miniaturen, 2, pp. 9-11; and for the closeness of the Abbeville revision of the court text to that of the Vienna Gospels, ibid., pp. 50-1. Angilbert was a son-in-law of Charlemagne, and for his closeness to Alcuin, see Godman, Poetry of the Carolingian Renais sance, p. 10; Wallace-Hadrill, Frankish Church, p. 347.

70 Lewis, C. S., Studies in Words (Cambridge, 1960), p. 6 .

71 L.C., I, 19, p. 44, lines 37–8; Paul Meyvaert, ‘The authorship of the Libri Carolini’, RBen, 89 (1979). pp. 53-4.

72 Weitzmann, Book Illumination, plates 29, 32.

73 Hoffmann el al, eds, Stuttgarter Biläerpsaller: see n. 6 above.

74 Goldschmidt, no. 22, Tafel XII, and p. 17. Gertrud Schiller, Ikonographie Jerchrisllichen Kunst, 3 (Gutersloh, 1971), p. 89, and fig. 331a, b, calls it unique, at the same time presuming that an early (fifth to sixth century) North Italian cycle lies behind it. She points to a single leaf (London, V. and A., MS 661) similar to the Aachen scene of Jesus teaching the Apostles, English twelfth century, St Al ban’s school, ibid., pp. 106-8. E Kirschbaum, ed., Lexikon dcrchrisllichen Ikonographie (Freiburg, 1968), 1, p. 671, on post-Resurrection appearances of Christ to the Apostles, mentions the Aachen ivories, but gives no other examples of the scene from Luke 24. 27 and 44-5.

75 West Berlin, MS Hamilton 132; see Zimelien: Abendlänäische Handschriflen des Mittelalters aus den Sammlungen der Sliflung Preussischer Kullurbesitz, Berlin (Wiesbaden, 1976), p. 18, illustration at p. 27.

76 Bernard Teyssèdre, Le Sacramenlaire de Gellone el la figure humaine dam les manuscrits francs du Ville siècle (Paris, 1930), esp. p. 47.

77 Schrade, ‘Zum Kuppelmosaik’, pp. 28-9, L.C., 1,23. A Carolingian manuscript of Paterius at Cologne, MS 97, fol. 198V, has a Trinitarian initial, an ‘O’, with a trefoil of Celtic design inside.

78 Hartmut Hoffmann, Buchkunsl und Konigtum in ollonischen und frühsalischen Reich (Stuttgart, 1986), Textband, p. 334.

79 Trierer Apokalypse, ed. R. Laufner and P. F. Klein (Graz, 1975), Textband, pp. 81-6.

80 Ibid., p. 98, fig. 44, 45, 47.

81 Ibid., pp. 85-6.

82 King, tr., Charlemagne, p. 234.

83 Ganz, ‘The preconditions’, esp. pp. 29-34; McKitterick, Rosamond, The Frankish Church and the Carolingian Reforms, 789-895 (London, 1977), and The Carolingians and the Written Word (Cambridge, 1989). I am grateful to Richard Gamcson for some helpful comments in the preparation of this paper, which has been the occasion of my studying more deeply some matters which arose in my work on Ottoman Book Illumination.

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