HEIDELBERG (GERMANY) – After centuries of separation, one of the most valuable collections of manuscripts from the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age – the Bibliotheca Palatina – has been virtually reunited. Heidelberg University Library digitised not only the German manuscripts in its own holdings but also the Latin codices of this “mother of all libraries”, housed in Rome for nearly 400 years within the walls of the Vatican Library, the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation provided the long-term financing that made possible this landmark project in scholarly research. A ceremony has been held on 15 February 2018 at Heidelberg University to commemorate the completion of the digitisation. Project is sponsored by Honorary Senator of Ruperto Carola, Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger.
The technical capabilities of digitisation and the Internet gave the University Library the opportunity to reunite this “treasure of Western culture”, now split between Rome and Heidelberg, into a single virtual library. To this end, Heidelberg University and the Vatican established a cooperation extending over several years. “We are extremely grateful to our Honorary Senator for funding this ambitious idea,” says Heidelberg University President Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel. The Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation supported not only the digitisation of the German-language manuscripts in Heidelberg. Thanks to the Foundation’s financial support, a University Library digitisation studio was set up in the Vatican to capture the Latin codices. “For us, the virtual reunification of the German and Latin Palatina manuscripts is a dream come true,” emphasises Dr Veit Probst, Director of the Heidelberg University Library.
The Bibliotheca Palatina had a long history even before Pope Gregory XV confiscated it in the Thirty Years’ War and transferred it to the Vatican in 1623. For nearly 250 years, it had grown from two sources – the royal collections of the Heidelberg Castle and the libraries of Heidelberg University founded in 1386. With the exception of the German-language codices, which were permitted to return to Heidelberg in 1816, the Palatina remains a foundation of the Vatican Library in Rome. At the beginning of the 17th century, it was known as “the greatest treasure of Germany’s learned”. As a universal library, it contains not only theological, philological, philosophical, and historical works but also medical, natural history, and astronomical texts. It therefore remains of great interest for a number of academic disciplines. The digitised core inventory of approximately 3,000 manuscripts is now available to everyone over the Internet.
(via RTE) Archaeologists in Scotland believe they have located the site of a monastery where a renowned manuscript may have been written in the 10th century. The manuscript known as the Book of Deer, or Leabhar Dhèir, contains the oldest examples of written Gaelic in Scotland. The manuscript belongs to the same Irish monastic tradition as the Book of Kells. It contains the Gospel of St John in full, as well as extracts from the other gospels.
It is written primarily in Latin with notes in Gaelic in the margins. The Gaelic notes are believed to have been written in the 12th century.
The remains of the monastery are located 45km to the northeast of Aberdeen. Artefacts found at the site include a stone hearth, charcoal and pottery fragments.
Máirín Ní Dhonnchadha, Professor of Old and Middle Irish in NUI Galway, said the Gaelic notes contain information on land grants made to the religious community. She added that the discovery of the site of monastery will lead to a greater understanding of its founding, possibly by St Columba, centuries before the manuscript was written.
LOS ANGELES – Medieval manuscripts preserve stories of faith, romance, and knowledge, but their luxurious illuminations can sometimes reveal hidden prejudices as well. Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World, on view January 30—April 8, 2018 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, presents individual case studies that examine the way art, like language, was used to articulate a rhetoric of exclusion. Whether for reasons of race, class, gender, religious identity or sexual difference, medieval society was far more diverse than is commonly understood, but diversity did not necessarily ensure tolerance. Drawn from the Getty’s permanent collection of illuminated manuscripts, this exhibition explores the obstacles faced by those who were perceived as “others.” For today’s viewer, the vivid images and pervasive subtexts in illuminated manuscripts can serve as stark reminders of the power of rhetoric and the danger of prejudice.
“With their focus on religious subjects and tales of chivalry, it’s easy to forget that the pages of illuminated manuscripts frequently depicted social biases,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Frequently, these works were a reflection of social norms and reinforced prejudices that were prevalent in society. In some cases these references may be subtle, in other cases not. In either case it is important to understand these works of art as also being social and historical documents that illuminate both the medieval past and the biases and prejudices that we still grapple with today.”
The exhibition begins with an illumination of the Crucifixion in the Getty’s Stammheim Missal, a masterpiece of Romanesque painting. The image is usually understood as a celebration of Christian belief, in which the sacrifice of Christ paved the way for the salvation of humanity, but this exhibition highlights the institutionalized anti-Semitism underlying Christian rhetoric about the old law and the new. Ecclesia, the personification of the Christian Church, is seen at Christ’s right, while the Jewish Synagoga appears on his left. Synagoga points at Christ, glaring, while holding a banderole (representing Old Testament law) that proclaims “cursed be he who hangs on the tree.” Below, two personifications echo and amplify the antithetical positions of these figures. In a roundel below Ecclesia, the fair-skinned Life gazes calmly across the composition at Death, who resembles contemporary (twelfth-century) caricatures of Jews with hooked noses and swarthy complexions.
“As repositories of history and memory, museums reveal much about our shared past, but all too often the stories told from luxury art objects focus on the elite,” explains Kristen Collins, curator of manuscripts and co-curator of the exhibition. “Typically created for the privileged classes, manuscripts can nevertheless provide glimpses of the marginalized and powerless and reflect their tenuous places in society.”
Some medieval writers and artists altered historical content to align with the prevailing morals of the day. Among Alexander the Great’s lovers was the young man Hephaiston and the eunuch Bagoas, but in one medieval manuscript Bagoas was recast as a beautiful woman called Bagoe in order (as the text says) to “avoid a bad example.” Even as a woman, however, Bagoe is still transgressive. In a fifteenth-century Flemish illumination, Bagoe wears luxurious flowing garments like those of the spear-carrying Amazon women in the background, who were renowned for their military prowess and heightened sexual drive. The literary and artistic interpretation of Bagoas/ Bagoe reveals the predominant prejudice against same-sex attraction and, by aligning her with the Amazons, the pervasive wariness toward powerful women.
Cis-gender women and Muslims often fared no better in the medieval world. The Merovingian queen Brunhilde, a powerful heroic figure who led armies and ruled over kingdoms, fell victim to the misogyny of later medieval authors who cast her as the archetypal “nasty woman.” In Giovanni Boccaccio’s story of The Death of Brunhilde, Queen of France (1413-15) he described Brunhilde as ruthless and vengeful, characterizations that were also applied to Saracens, a pejorative medieval term for Muslims. This parallel may explain the turbaned figures in the margins of this manuscript. In medieval art, the “Saracen” became a catch-all category of people to be feared.
Color conveyed a range of meanings in medieval art. Blackness not only signified race and ethnicity, but also symbolized the absence of light, and thus, God. Demons were often rendered in shades of black or dark browns and grays. In Initial Q: David Before Saul (after 1205), color appears to have been used in both ways. In a jealous rage, King Saul draws a sword on the young David. King Saul’s melancholic temperament is conveyed not only through his actions but also by the dark-skinned demon who resembles caricatured representations of Africans, Jews, and Muslims found elsewhere in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, a period of extreme intolerance and violence.
According to Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator of manuscripts and co-curator of the exhibition, “This exhibition strives to make connections between the Middle Ages and the contemporary world, specifically in the way rhetoric is used to construct society’s ‘out groups.’ Attitudes toward Jews and Muslims, the poor, those perceived as sexual or gender deviants, and the foreign peoples beyond European borders can be discerned through caricature and polemical imagery, as well as through marks of erasure and censorship.”
In an attempt to respond to possible concerns from audiences, the exhibition curators also reached out through the Getty blog and Tumblr, inviting members of the public to comment on the exhibition text as it was being drafted. That ongoing conversation can be found on the Getty Iris.
Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World is curated by Kristen Collins, curator in the Manuscripts Department and Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator in the Manuscripts Department. The exhibition is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center from January 30 –April 8, 2018. Related programming includes “Sexuality, Sanctity, and Censorship: A Conversation with Artist Ron Athey,” a discussion about sexuality, gender identity, and censorship in relation to the exhibition and, “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the Middle Ages and Today” a panel discussion featuring Sara Lipton, Hussein Fancy, and Jihad Turk.
[via Classics at Oxford] The Gospels of Abba Garima have remained hidden for centuries in the Ethiopian highlands in the Abba Garima Monastery – which no woman may enter. According to tradition, God miraculously stopped the sun in the sky to allow Saint Abba Garima to complete them in a single day. Translated from Greek into Ethiopic, their production has remained an enigma. They are the earliest testament of the lost art of the Christian Aksumite kingdom of Ethiopia, which flourished around AD 350–650. Their vivid, finely painted illuminations are at once familiar but also entirely exotic, combining Ethiopian features with those seen elsewhere in Christendom. For the first time, a photo-exhibition in Oxfordpresents to the public all of the illuminated pages of these remarkable books, which are amongst the earliest and most important of the rare illustrated gospels books to have survived from Antiquity.
The three Garima Gospels, as the earliest surviving Ethiopian gospel books, are the earliest record of the translations of the Greek text of the four gospels into Ge‘ez, the language of the Ethiopian Church. They include the oldest extant set of portraits of the evangelists as frontispieces to their respective gospels, which became the norm in later illuminated gospel books. Like most gospel manuscripts, the Garima Gospels have ornately decorated “canon tables” which function as concordances of the different versions of the same material in the gospels. They also contain a unique image of the Jerusalem Temple, while an Alexandrian circular pavilion provides a missing link between pagan Hellenistic and Roman versions of the motif and later Christian ones. The Garima Gospels provide glimpses of lost late antique luxury gospel books and art in Ethiopia, as well as in the Christian East. Their artwork is closely related to Syriac, Armenian, Greek, and Georgian gospel books and to the art of late antique (“Coptic”) Egypt, Nubia, and Himyar (Yemen). The Garima texts and decoration demonstrate how a distinctive Christian culture developed in Aksumite Ethiopia, while also belonging to the mainstream late antique Mediterranean world.
The exhibition – extended to April 12 – accompanies the publication of The Garima Gospels: Early Illuminated Gospel Books from Ethiopia, by Judith McKenzie, Francis Watson, Michael Gervers, et al., which places the Garima Gospels firmly within the historical and artistic contexts of the late antique Mediterranean world.
Organised by Judith McKenzie, Miranda Williams, and Foteini Spingou, with Michael Gervers’ photographs.
Sponsored by the Classics Faculty, the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, and the ERC Advanced Project, Monumental Art of the Christian and Early Islamic East, directed by Judith McKenzie.
The first 100 manuscripts in the “Polonsky Foundation England and France Project” are now available for online viewing. A full list of the digitised manuscripts with links to the viewer can be found on the British Library’s Manuscripts blog here: 100 MSS Online.
The project is a joint effort between the British Library and the Bibliothèque nationale de France to make available over 800 manuscripts decorated before the year 1200. These manuscripts cover a wide variety of topics and images from the Project’s focus of AD 700–1200 (you can read more about the Project or listen to the French interview of Matthieu Bonicel, Head of Innovation at the BnF). Some of the highlights include lavishly illuminated Gospels, like the Préaux Gospels from early 12th-century Normandy, with its amazing miniatures of the Evangelists and luxurious canon tables.
LOS ANGELES – The arts and culture of the Middle Ages were the inheritors of a rich classical tradition. For more than a millennium following the fall of Rome, antiquity was evoked and preserved through visual arts, ceremony, and manuscript culture. Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes, on view January 24 through May 28 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, explores the constant and varied engagement of medieval people with the classical past.
“After the fall of the Roman Empire and the Christianization of Europe, many of the great works of Greek and Latin literature were copied by scribes in monasteries of centers of learning, preserving them for posterity and forming the foundation of medieval scholarship,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “While the rediscovery of Greco-Roman art and literature has come to be associated with the Renaissance in Italy from about 1400 through the 1500s, antiquity was in fact studied and commemorated throughout the preceding Middle Ages. In many ways the classical world never really died, but just receded under layers of subsequent culture. For authors and artists alike, the process of historical remembering in the centuries before the Renaissance often involved embellishment or invention, as stories of ancient rulers and mythological heroes were frequently employed and adapted for inclusion in Christian texts.”
Bringing together objects from the Getty Museum’s antiquities collection with works from the manuscripts collection, the exhibition is divided into three sections. Section one explores the fluidity of artistic forms across antiquity and the Middle Ages. The second focuses on the classical knowledge base that was preserved by and transmitted through the work of medieval scribes and artisans. The last section explores medieval understanding of, and approaches to, the past.
The Language of Forms
“Whether through quotation, emulation, transformation, or invention, the medieval world drew upon the classical, exploiting its expressive visual language,” explains Kristen Collins, co-curator of the exhibition. The styles and motifs of classical art provided a rich vocabulary for medieval artists and patrons. The formal characteristics of ancient Latin script were often employed to imbue religious texts with the authority of imperial Rome. Winged victories, as shown in Earrings with Nike (225-175 BC), were supernatural beings in ancient art. The personification of victory—known as Nike to the Greeks, Victoria to the Romans—was among the most frequently depicted, appearing in a variety of media and contexts. With the transition of the pagan world to the Christian, the goddess was adapted and transformed, into both an angel and a pagan idol. At times both depictions appear together in the same object.
Transmission of Knowledge
The study of medicine, drawn largely from classical sources, flourished in medieval universities. Latin translations of Greek and Arabic commentaries on other ancient medical texts shaped the discipline throughout the Middle Ages. Medieval physicians saw the body as a microcosm of the physical universe. Their practice sought to counteract imbalances in the four “humors” caused by natural phenomena such as the position of celestial bodies, the earth’s climate, and the ocean’s tides.
History and Invention
“During the Middle Ages, history was seen as the unfolding of God’s will over time, and great effort was made to align ancient historical accounts with the Bible,” says Kenneth Lapatin, co-curator of the exhibition. “Medieval authors mined classical texts, which were seen not only as essential documents of the past but also as ideal tools for learning the grammar and rhetoric of Latin.”
In their compendia of classical lore, medieval illuminators often updated the appearances and settings of ancient figures, representing them in contemporary costumes and architectural contexts. Such artistic devices blurred the lines between antiquity and the medieval present, demonstrating how people in the Middle Ages viewed their culture as an outgrowth of the Greco-Roman past. Within a single illuminated letter “P” (about 1300), Alexander the Great holds baited sticks as he is lifted heavenward by two griffins – ferocious composite creatures, part eagle and part lion. While the author of the accompanying text omitted this fantastical episode from the Alexander legend, the artist drew upon an established visual tradition.
Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes will be on view January 24 –May 21, 2017, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Kristen Collins, curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Kenneth Lapatin, curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and former curatorial assistant in Manuscripts, Rheagan Martin. Related programming will include gallery talks and more. Additional information can be found at getty.edu/360.
### The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.
The J. Paul Getty Museum collects Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts to 1900, as well as photographs from around the world to the present day. The Museum’s mission is to display and interpret its collections, and present important loan exhibitions and publications for the enjoyment and education of visitors locally and internationally. This is supported by an active program of research, conservation, and public programs that seek to deepen our knowledge of and connection to works of art.
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A powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake striked central Italy on Sunday morning, the strongest tremor to hit the country since 1980. Numerous buildings have collapsed, among them the ancient basilica of San Benedetto in Norcia, Umbria.
The current monastery was physically located above the 5th century ruins of the house of St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica, and has been the location of monastic communities since the tenth century AD.
The façade, the side portal and the lower bell tower dated from the late 14th century, and is the only part of the church that survived collapse. In 1570 a portico (Portico delle Misure) was added to the right side, by will of the commune and the ecclesiastical authorities, to act as covered cereals market, this also collapsed. On the side, near the transept, was a spur with a niche housing a Madonna with Child from a local, late-Gothic painter.
The basilica had a Latin cross plan, with a single nave. The apse and the internal dome at the transept dated from the 18th century reconstruction only the 14th-century triumphal arch, restored in the 1950s, remained from the original Gothic nave.
Below are some dramatic images of the church as it was before the quake and now, after collapse. (further updates coming up)