Faculty » Conrad Rudolph


The spiritually striving monk--half rational, half irrational.
Initial to Book 23, Moralia in Job.  Dijon, Bib. mun. ms 173:56v
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Professor Conrad Rudolph
Department of the History of Art
University of California, Riverside
Riverside, CA  92521-0319
E-mail: conrad.rudolph@ucr.edu
Office phone: (951) 827-4240
Departmental fax: (951) 827-2331

 

Using the route and information in the twelfth-century Pilgrim's Guide of the Codex Calixtinus as his basis, Professor Rudolph undertook the grueling medieval pilgrimage on foot--a journey of two and a half months and a thousand miles--from Le Puy in south-central France to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, May to July, 1996.

 

Conrad Rudolph is Professor of Medieval Art History.

His approach to medieval art history is less one that focuses on individual paintings, sculptures, or buildings as such than one that takes into account the work of art as existing in a specifically medieval artistic culture, that is, as existing in the sub-culture of a particular social or religious group within a particular region at a particular time, in which various aspects of the work of art--such as expectations in material, craftsmanship, size, quantity, and type of subject matter--needed to be negotiated.

Toward this end, he works or has worked on such topics as medieval art as an investment, the use of art to attract donations, the equation between excessive art and holiness, art as seen in opposition to the care of the poor, art as a spiritual distraction, art as a spiritual aid, legislation on religious art, the sacred economy and art (the Cult of the Dead, which tends toward liturgical art and liturgically oriented architecture; and the Cult of Relics, which tends toward monumental art: painting, sculpture, and more publically oriented architecture), the aesthetics of holiness and the aesthetics of excess, praesentia (the sense of the presence of the holy) and the sensory saturation of the holy place, the localization of the holy, the necessity of pilgrimage art, reading and the internalization of literary analytical methods on the part of the artist, images of monstrous violence and daily life as projections of spiritual striving, building-miracles (miracles that were said to have taken place during the construction of particular churches), twelfth-century creation imagery in its political and scientific contexts, medieval maps as conveyors of a specific world-view, the use of the architectural metaphor in the medieval West, the implications of literacy in regard to art and social claims to elite status, the invention of the Gothic portal, the invention of the Gothic exegetical stained-glass window, the "Augustinian sign" (as opposed to the "Pseudo-Dionysian symbol") in the first Gothic stained-glass windows at Saint-Denis, literacy and claims to elite status in the social/spiritual hierarchy (and changes in this hierarchy caused by social changes in literacy), the historiography of Romanesque and Gothic art, and--more generally--the social theory of medieval art, the ideological use of art, monasticism and art, and art and social change.

In this, he has challenged a number of leading theories of medieval art history, including on Pseudo-Dionysian light mysticism, Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia, the Cîteaux Moralia in Job, and Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark.

He has been awarded a number of fellowships and grants, including from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Getty Research Institute, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities (repeat), the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Millard Meiss Publication Fund of the College Art Association.

Among many other activities, he is or has been a member of the board of editors of Speculum (Speculum is the journal of the Medieval Academy of America and the leading journal of medieval studies in the United States), caa.reviews (the College Art Association's online journal of reviews), and Comitatus; and was Field Editor for Medieval Art for caa.reviews. He has acted as an invited nominator for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program and as a reviewer for the John Simon Guggenheim and Getty Grant Foundations, as well as for the Getty/NEH Postdoctoral Fellowships. He has served as a member of the International Advisory Board of the journal Art History, of the Board of Advisors of Architectural Histories (the journal of EAHN, the European Architectural History Network), of the Advisory Board of the series Companions to Art History (Blackwell, Oxford), and of the Board of Directors of the International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA). He is an elected Fellow of the Center for the Arts, Religion, and Education, of the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and the recipient at UCR of both the University Distinguished Teaching Award (an award that recognizes exceptional teaching at the undergraduate level in general) and the University Honors Faculty Mentor of the Year award (which recognizes exceptional teaching and guidance at the level of the individual student). He has served as department chair twice.

He is currently PI and Project Director for FACES (Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems), a pioneering attempt to apply face recognition technology to works of art, specifically portraiture, 2012-2014 (funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities).

Work in Progress:

The Tour Guide in the Middle Ages: Guide Culture and the Public Exposition of Art

Submitted: "FACES: Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems--A Feasibility Study of the Application of Face Recognition Systems to Works of Portrait Art."

Submitted: "Social Change and the Assertion of Elite Status: The Parabolic Discourse Window in Canterbury Cathedral."

In progress: A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe, Blackwell Companions in Art History, 2nd ed. (Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, forthcoming 2015).

Invited: "In Its Extraordinary Arrangement': Hugh of Saint Victor, the History of Salvation, and the World Map of The Mystic Ark," Restoration Through Contemplation: New Approaches to the Victorines, ed. Torsten Edstam and Robert Porwoll (Brepols, Turnhout, forthcoming 2016).

Invited: "The Exegetical Mentality and the Ideological Use of Scripturally Based Imagery," ed. Thomas Dale (University of Wisconsin, publication being worked out).


Books:

The Mystic Ark: Hugh of Saint Victor, Art, and Thought in the Twelfth Century (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 2014).

"First, I Find the Center Point": Reading the Text of Hugh of Saint Victor's The Mystic Ark (American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 2004) (monograph publication date 2004; copyright and release 2006).

Pilgrimage to The End of the World: The Road to Santiago de Compostela (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2004; hardcover and paperback editions) (an application of my work on medieval artistic culture to the contemporary phenomenon of the pilgrimage to Santiago).

Violence and Daily Life: Reading, Art, and Polemics in the Cîteaux Moralia in Job (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1997).

Artistic Change at St-Denis: Abbot Suger's Program and the Early Twelfth-Century Controversy over Art (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1990) (press bestseller).

The "Things of Greater Importance": Bernard of Clairvaux's "Apologia" and the Medieval Attitude Toward Art (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1990) (Millard Meiss Publication Fund Grant of the College Art Association).

Edited Books:

A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe , Blackwell Companions to Art History (Blackwell, Oxford, hardcover 2006; paperback edition 2010) (a collection of thirty original essays from leading scholars in the field, each historiographically analyzing one of a wide range of subjects in the development of Romanesque and Gothic art history; this includes my introductory essay, "A Sense of Loss: An Overview of the Historiography of Romanesque and Gothic Art").

Articles:

In press: "Suger, Abbot of Saint-Denis" Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, ed. Michael Kelly, 2nd, rev. ed., 6 v. (Oxford University Press, Oxford, forthcoming 2014-2015) (4 typescript pages).

In press: "The Architectural Metaphor in Western Medieval Artistic Culture: From the Corner Stone to The Mystic Ark," The Cambridge History of Religious Architecture, ed. Stephen Murray (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, forthcoming 2014) (26 typescript pages).

In press: "The City of the Great King: Jerusalem in Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark," Visual Constructs of Jerusalem, ed. Bianca Kühnel, Galit Noga-Banai, and Hanna Vorholt (Brepols, Turnhout, forthcoming 2014) (22 typescript pages).

"Person, Time, and Place in the Construction of History in Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark," Romanesque and the Past: Retrospection in the Art and Architecture of Romanesque Europe, ed. John McNeill and Richard Plant (British Archaeological Association, Leeds, 2013) 265-282.

"Inventing the Exegetical Stained-Glass Window: Suger, Hugh, and a New Elite Art," Art Bulletin 93 (2011) 399-422.

"Inventing the Gothic Portal: Suger, Hugh of Saint Victor, and the Construction of a New Public Art at Saint-Denis," Art History 33 (2010) 568-595.

"Art and Architecture: Cistercian," The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010) (9 typescript pages; completed and in press since 2004).

"Monastic Aesthetics and the Rise of Gothic Art," in Michelle P. Brown, The Lion Companion to Christian Art (Lion Hudson, Oxford, 2008) 155-158.

"A Sense of Loss: An Overview of the Historiography of Romanesque and Gothic Art," A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe, ed. Conrad Rudolph (Blackwell, Oxford, 2006) 1-43.

"Communal Identity and the Earliest Christian Legislation on Art: Canon 36 of the Synod of Elvira," Perspectives for an Architecture of Solitude: Essays on Cistercians, Art and Architecture in Honour of Peter Fergusson, ed. Terryl Kinder (Brepols, Turnhout, 2004) 1-7.

"La resistenza all'arte nell'Occidente," Arti e storia nel Medioevo, ed. Enrico Castelnuovo and Giuseppe Sergi, 4 vol. (Giulio Einaudi Editore, Turin, 2002-2004) v.3, p. 49-84 (English version of my piece, "Resistance to Art in the West," available upon request).

"Isaac Laughing : Caravaggio, Non-traditional Imagery, and Traditional Identification," co-written with the Baroque scholar Steven Ostrow, Art History 24 (2001) 646-681.

"In the Beginning: Theories and Images of Creation in Northern Europe in the Twelfth Century," Art History 22 (1999) 3-55.

"Building-Miracles as Artistic Justification in the Early and Mid-Twelfth Century," Radical Art History: Internationale Anthologie, Subject: O.K. Werckmeister, ed. Wolfgang Kersten (Zip Verlag, Zurich, 1997) 398-410 (Festschrift for Karl Werckmeister).

"The Scholarship on Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia," Cîteaux: Commentarii Cistercienses 40 (1989) 69-111.

"Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia as a Description of Cluny and the Controversy Over Monastic Art," Gesta 27 (1988) 125-132.

"The 'Principal Founders' and the Early Artistic Legislation of Cîteaux," Studies in Cistercian Art and Architecture 3, Cistercian Studies Series 89 (Kalamazoo 1987) 1-45.

"Heterodoxy and the Twelve Great Feasts of the Eastern Church," Comitatus 12 (1981) 13-30 (received prize for best interdisciplinary essay).

"The Wu Family Shrines," Journal of Asian Culture 4 (1980) 21-47.

 

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Books Summaries:


The Mystic Ark: Hugh of Saint Victor, Art, and Thought in the Twelfth Century (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 2014).

http://mysticark.ucr.edu: Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark: Illustrations. This site presents a collection of images of The Mystic Ark that repeat in greater visual detail the same illustrations published in my study, The Mystic Ark: Hugh of Saint Victor, Art, and Thought in the Twelfth Century for those who would like to study the image of The Mystic Ark more closely than is possible with the printed illustrations.
The Mystic Ark
In the medieval sources, works of art are rarely referred to, let alone described in any detail. When they are mentioned, it is seldom with more than a word or a phrase, at the most a sentence. Almost completely ignored by art historians because of the immense difficulty of its text, Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark is a forty-two page description of the most complex individual work of figural art of the entire Middle Ages, a painting also known as The Mystic Ark, making both the text and the painting among the most unusual sources we have for an understanding of medieval visual culture and its polemical context.

The purpose of the painting was to serve as the basis of a series of brilliant lectures undertaken by Hugh--who was considered to be the leading theologian of Europe during his life--from around 1125 to 1130 at Saint Victor, a Parisian abbey of Augustinian canons, whose school acted as a predecessor of the University of Paris. The purpose of the text was to enable others outside of Saint Victor--teachers, students, scholars, monks, canons--to undertake similar weeks-long discussions themselves by providing the information necessary to produce the image, an image that was meant to be repeated again and again, each new construction in a sense being an "original" (Fig. x1, 39, 3, 4).  Given the unusually large number of surviving manuscript copies of The Mystic Ark--enough to make it the medieval equivalent of a best-seller--it seems that The Mystic Ark was very successful at addressing a widely and urgently felt need among a great part of the educated elite of Western Europe during a period of significant intellectual change.

The time was the renaissance of the twelfth century, a period of great theological inquiry in which, among other things, the very authority of divine revelation was challenged on the most fundamental level. One of the great struggles of the renaissance of the twelfth century was that between the "old theology," an experiential theology of blind faith that is best represented by Bernard of Clairvaux and traditional monasticism, and the "new theology," a theology of inquiry whose faith was based on logic that is best represented by Abelard and the neoplatonic circles. Among other things, these two parties argued over the questions of to what degree worldly knowledge (the liberal arts) was permissible in the search for spiritual knowledge, and whether the greatest proponents of worldly knowledge (the pagan philosophers) should be studied. One of the most pressing issues in this regard was the theory of initial creation and the continued provision for created things: is creation best explained according to a literal interpretation of Genesis or is the account in Genesis more or less an allegory for the principles described by Plato in his Timaeus, the leading authority on creation, aside from Genesis, at this time?
Put as briefly as possible, the "new theology" was perceived as shifting the focus of advanced thought on one of the major subjects in the education of society's intellectual elite from salvation to science, thus leading to a human-centered philosophy of creation--a world view--rather than a God-centered one. It was seen as undercutting the significance of the history of salvation as one of the most fundamental components of orthodox Christian thought, and downplaying the role of the Church in this construct. The "old theology" was violently opposed to this school of thought, which was based on the enormously prestigious neoplatonic precedent. However, at this particular moment, circumstances were such that neither the "old" nor the "new" theology could establish its position on creation as overwhelmingly persuasive enough to capture the main body of the educated public. In this period of both pronounced traditional spirituality and fundamental intellectual change, the most compelling argument concerning creation would be one that employed the most appealing concepts from both sides. Such a position, itself the result of a dialectical synthesis of the two extremes, would potentially have not only the ability to preserve the orthodox and experiential aspects of the "old theology" but also the power to appropriate the intellectual basis and prestige of the "new." Such a position was a middle-ground position, the position of Hugh and of The Mystic Ark.

The text of The Mystic Ark describes a painting so astonishingly complex that it would be literally impossible to give a description of even the principal figures and their interrelations here, let alone discuss the significance of the work (Fig. x5-6).  But very briefly put, the painting of The Mystic Ark portrays all time, all space, all matter, all human history, and all spiritual striving. It does this through an image of the Lord embracing the entire cosmos formed by the traditional cosmic zones of earth (shown as a mappa mundi or world map), air (an elemental harmony), and ether (the cycles of the zodiac and the twelve months). In other words, it does this through an image of the Lord embracing the most complex neo-platonic macro/microcosm to date.  But it is a neo-platonic macro/microcosm with a twist. In this highly visible element of the "new theology's" intellectual arsenal, the six days of creation are depicted as if coming from the mouth of the Majesty, while an image of the Ark of Noah overlies the world map (that is, the elemental component of earth portrayed as the stage for the history of salvation).  To the east, time begins, humankind is created, falls, and is propagated through one man, the First Adam. To the south, the Hebrews flee the spiritual desert of Egypt and wander to Jerusalem, in the center. To the north, the Jews are dragged off to exile in Babylon.  To the west, time ends when all humankind is judged. Down the center are inscribed the six ages of the history of humankind. At the center, one man, Christ, the Second Adam, in the form of the Lamb of God is the salvation of humankind and completes the typological relationship that began with fall of the First Adam indicated by the cubit-sized ADAM anagram. Ladders lead up each of the four corners, upon which sixty men and sixty women ascend this three-stage Ark, striving toward the image of the Lamb in the central cubit: the center of history, the center of the cosmos.

What is more, there are actually four different Arks that are to be read in this single image--each with its own relatively comprehensive understanding, and each approaching the image of The Mystic Ark in a completely different manner: the Ark of Noah (that is, the Ark according to the letter), the Ark of the Church (the Ark according to simple allegory), the Ark of Wisdom (the Ark according to anagogical allegory), and the Ark of Mother Grace (the Ark according to tropology). In each one these Arks, the same visual imagery is potentially interpreted in an entirely different way: sometimes literally, sometimes macrocosmically, sometimes microcosmically. This is made more complex by the fact that the two-dimensional image is meant to be understood three-dimensionally, operating both horizontally and vertically.

Most, though not all, of the previous scholarship on the image of The Mystic Ark has been largely descriptive, often little more than a paraphrasing of one or another of the Ark texts. The vast majority of the content of the Ark has been ignored, with the tendency being either to present the image in generalities or to focus on one or two out of scores of different themes and sub-themes. The four Arks--the essential characteristic of the Ark lectures--have never been central to any sustained analysis. The literary sources for The Mystic Ark have not been seriously investigated. The image--that is, The Mystic Ark, properly speaking--has never been satisfactorily studied as an image per se: how it works as an image, what its visual sources are (though a few iconographic forms have been noted), what logic went into the selection of its components, how they relate to each other, how they relate to the whole, and so on. There has been virtually no attempt to place the Ark in its historical context (as opposed to simply presenting the historical setting of the Ark). The polemical aspect has been almost entirely ignored. No one has actually ever attempted to suggest why, exactly, Hugh chose to answer the charge of the Ark lectures in the way that he did, why he chose the theme of the Ark of the Flood, why he placed this Ark in a cosmic schema, and how the various themes of this great undertaking of The Mystic Ark fit together. And there has never been an attempt at a more or less comprehensive interpretation of The Mystic Ark.

Fundamentally political, The Mystic Ark constitutes a major statement on the history of salvation phrased in a very specific way, one that addresses the contemporarily important issues of creation, systematic theology, neoplatonism, and the place of science in the education of society's intellectual elite.  It is an attempt to leave the rejection of secular learning and logic by the "old theology" behind while at the same time appropriating the intellectual basis of the "new theology," thus attempting to prevent the "new theology" from claiming this prestigious intellectual position exclusively as its own.  This study takes up for the first time in detail the most complex individual work of figural art of the entire Middle Ages, and establishes its connection with the origin of two of the most significant, public figural art forms of the Middle Ages, the Gothic portal and the exegetical stained-glass window.

In winter, 2008-2009, a full-scale digital construction of Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark (3.632 meters high by 4.623 meters wide; 11 feet 11 inches by 15 feet 2 inches), made under my direction, was exhibited at The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

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"First, I Find the Center Point": Reading the Text of Hugh of Saint Victor's The Mystic Ark
(American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 2004) (monograph publication date 2004; copyright and release 2006).

Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark is one of the most unusual sources we have for an understanding of medieval artistic culture and its polemical context.  It is known to have arisen from a series of brilliant lectures given by Hugh--considered to be the leading theologian of Europe during his life--sometime from 1125 to early 1130 at Saint Victor, a house of Augustinian canons in Paris whose school was a predecessor of the University of Paris.  Because of the immense difficulty of its text, The Mystic Ark has been almost completely ignored by art historians and often misunderstood by other scholars.  Generally speaking, it has been seen as a "step-by-step" set of instructions that were rarely or even never used to create an actual painting, the text being meant to be read strictly as a work of ekphrasis (the verbal evocation of an imaginary work of art) or as a memory aid in order to conjure up a purely mental image.
     "First, I Find the Center Point": Reading the Text of Hugh of Saint Victor's The Mystic Ark corrects this neglect and misunderstanding through a study of the nature of the text of The Mystic Ark as a necessary first step in a larger study.  It acts as a literal analysis for the non-literal conclusions of this larger study, The Mystic Ark: Hugh of Saint Victor, Art, and Thought in the Twelfth Century (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, forthcoming 2013), in which I analyze the context and meaning of the painting of The Mystic Ark.

My approach to the problem in Center Point is three pronged. First, through close study of the text, I show that The Mystic Ark is not a work of literature properly speaking but a reportatio (something similar to class notes) by one of Hugh's students, although Hugh himself very much remains its author. Recognition of this previously unrecognized aspect goes a long way in clarifying many difficulties of the text that previous authors were at pains to explain. Second, I refute a large and impossibly complex body of opinions that has arisen to explain the relation between the painting of The Mystic Ark, the different recensions of The Mystic Ark, and The Moral Ark (a related treatise by Hugh). In place of those tortuous arguments, I provide simple explanations for these relationships through analysis of the textual tradition and historical context of The Mystic Ark . And third, having established The Mystic Ark as a reportatio and explained the relation of the painting and the various texts, I address the nature and immediate function of the text of The Mystic Ark, clearly establishing that a painting of The Mystic Ark originally existed at Saint Victor, probably in the form of a wall painting, an image I believe was painted by Hugh himself. I show that, although the text of The Mystic Ark was not an actual "step-by-step" set of instructions, its purpose was to enable scholars outside of Saint Victor to undertake similar lectures and discussions based upon a reconstruction of the painting. Since the major themes of the painting were the subjects of contemporary controversies such as the history of salvation, creation, neoplatonism, and the place of science in the education of society's intellectual elite, my conclusions demonstrate that The Mystic Ark--of which enough manuscript copies survive to indicate that it was the medieval equivalent of a best seller--served as a major and novel statement in the current intellectual controversies of the mid-twelfth century, a time of great intellectual and cultural change.

In the end, Center Point clarifies generations of confusion surrounding The Mystic Ark . It reveals the striking role that a complex image could play in the spiritual and intellectual controversies of the day. And it sets the stage for my future book on this amazingly popular image and text that, together, form one of the most important sources we have for medieval art in its social context.

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Pilgrimage to the End of the World: The Road to Santiago de Compostela (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2004).

In an application outside the university of my interests in medieval culture, in the spring and summer of 1996 I undertook the grueling medieval pilgrimage on foot from Le Puy in south-central France to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain--and, as was done in the Middle Ages, three days beyond to Finisterre, The End of the World-- using the route and information presented in the twelfth-century Pilgrim's Guide of the Codex Calixtinus as my basis, a journey of two and a half months and a thousand miles. Pilgrimage to the End of the World: The Road to Santiago de Compostela, some reflections on this journey and on medieval pilgrimage in general, has been written up for the educated public and has been the impetus to the creation by the Press of an unusual new series, currently entitled Culture Trails.

 

 

 

Violence and Daily Life: Reading, Art, and Polemics in the Cîteaux Moralia in Job (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1997).

Violence and Daily Life: Reading , Art, and Polemics in the Cîteaux Moralia in Job (Princeton University Press, 1997) focuses on the Cîteaux Moralia, one of the best known but least understood illuminated manuscripts of the Romanesque period. It is so well-known because of its striking illuminations of violence and daily life, and is poorly understood because these illuminations have been taken largely at face value. This lack of understanding has come about because of an unawareness on the art-theoretical level of exactly how spirituality and politics operate in the artistic process in this particular manuscript, and how this specific form of spirituality legitimized a very intimate and at first glance undisciplined attitude on the part of the artist toward his subject.

The Cîteaux Moralia is illustrated copy of one of the most widespread and influential texts of medieval monastic culture, Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job. It has been used by such scholars as Meyer Schapiro as evidence for the claim that the monstrous imagery of the Middle Ages was an imagery of "unbridled, often irrational fantasy," entirely independent of the text and of any specific meaning. Unbridled and irrational its images may be. But they are not independent of either the text or specific meaning. The brilliance of these illuminations and an undercurrent of thematic consistency that may be detected in them cry out from hiding, as it were, that, like an obscure event from Scripture, there is potentially another level of meaning beyond what has so far met the eyes of modern viewers. The scenes of seemingly gratuitous violence and seemingly straightforward daily life are, in fact, the product of Gregory's demand that one "become" what one reads. Once the imagery of the Cîteaux Moralia is analyzed with regard to medieval theories of lectio divina, meditatio, and progressing levels of spiritual advancement, its theoretical framework becomes clear--as does its ultimate spiritual/political failure in the context of twelfth-century monastic polemics and artistic culture. No longer viewed as "irrational" and devoid of specific meaning, this iconographically virtually unique manuscript reveals, like a prism, a great deal about a number of art historical questions common to many other medieval artworks, shedding its refracted light on such issues as the supposed direct observation of nature for its own sake, the nature of monstrous and violent imagery, the seemingly ornamental character of some non-narrative imagery, the intrusion of the secular upon the sacred, and, inevitably, the role of the artist in all this.

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Artistic Change at St-Denis: Abbot Suger's Program and the Early Twelfth-Century Controversy over Art (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1990).

In Artistic Change at St-Denis: Abbot Suger's Program and the Early Twelfth-Century Controversy over Art (Princeton University Press, 1990), I test the practicality of my earlier study, The "Things of Greater Importance." In applying the issues of the early twelfth-century controversy over art to Suger's program, it has become clear that the situation at Saint-Denis was more complex than previously thought. For example, rather than being the artistic expression of centuries-old Pseudo-Dionysian light mysticism, as Erwin Panofsky and Otto von Simson believed, it can be shown that the artistic change initiated at Saint-Denis was a middle-ground reaction to the current controversy over art, especially to the criticism that art acted as a spiritual distraction to the monk. Far from being the product of the personal idiosyncrasies of Suger, as is often said, the well-known obscurity of the art of Saint-Denis was an intentional obscurity whose purpose was to provide an art so complex that it could be used as a justification of monastic art in its claim to function on the same level as scriptural study, which was unquestioned as a legitimate monastic pursuit. It was in this sense that Suger wrote that his art was "accessible only to the litterati"--and not to the visiting illiterate pilgrim--previous scholarship not realizing that, in the vocabulary of early twelfth-century monasticism, litteratus is a technical term referring to the literate choir monk. At the same time, however, I also show that Suger's claim can be fully understood only with recognition of the inherent contradiction that these same artworks were in fact fully accessible visually, if not intellectually, to the visiting illiterate lay pilgrim as well--a contradiction of which Suger was completely aware.

Suger himself, however, was unable to formulate the intellectual/spiritual basis of either such ideas or their projection in art, and so he had to get someone who could. In this study, I show that Hugh of Saint Victor, a canon of the renowned Parisian collegial house of Saint Victor and the leading living theologian of Europe, acted as a principal advisor to Suger on major intellectual/spiritual and iconographic aspects of the program. Indeed, it is only through Hugh's writings that the previously indecipherable tympanum of the west central portal of Saint-Denis--the centerpiece of perhaps the most pivotal monument of medieval art--can begin to be deciphered.


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"Things of Greater Importance": Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia and the Medieval Attitude Toward Art (University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1990).

Among my interests are the questions of how art was affected by society, how it affected society in turn, and how it was perceived by society. Some basic work along these lines is laid out in The "Things of Greater Importance": Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia and the Medieval Attitude toward Art (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990) in which I discuss a number of the more pressing artistic issues affecting frontline art of the early twelfth century as presented through Bernard's Apologia, the central document in the greatest artistic controversy to occur in the West prior to the Reformation and the most important source that we have for a social-theoretical understanding of medieval art. It was no coincidence that this monastic treatise should have taken up artistic issues, or that it should have been written at precisely this time. The early twelfth century was a time of explosive growth in the areas of monumental sculpture, painting, and architecture; it was the great period of pilgrimage art, High Romanesque, and the origins of Gothic. It was in connection with these developments, and the economic and social expansion that fueled them, that Bernard raised his criticisms of art (the "things of greater importance"), describing them as the most significant problem facing contemporary monasticism, which was at that time the intellectual and artistic fountainhead of Europe.

As presented in the study--which is securely anchored in both the monastic literary tradition and contemporary political, social, and economic concerns--the discussion of Bernard's "things of greater importance" follows a sequence from the economic base of monastic art production to the artistic means by which this was carried out, to the reception of excessive art on the part of the general public, to external social objections, and finally to the internal spiritual objections of monasticism. Central to this social theory of medieval art is the concept of the justification of art, the limits of acceptable art, and the question of just what actually constituted excessive art. This study shows that art, the absence of art, or the degree of art in the Middle Ages should no longer be seen simply as the result of the ability to acquire or the desire to avoid art. This book comprises the most thorough study available of the theoretical basis of medieval art as it actually functioned in society; and its implications for the art of both the Romanesque and Gothic periods, whose transition Bernard's life spans, are significant.

 

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Edited Books Summaries:

A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe, Blackwell Companions in Art History (Blackwell, Oxford, hardcover 2006; paperback edition 2010).

Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe comprises a collection of thirty original essays from leading scholars in the field, each historiographically analyzing one of a wide and systematically (editorially) determined range of subjects in the development of Romanesque and Gothic art history. This includes my introductory essay, "A Sense of Loss: An Overview of the Historiography of Romanesque and Gothic Art".

 

 

 

 

 

Articles Summares:

In press: "Suger, Abbot of Saint-Denis" Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, ed. Michael Kelly, 2nd, rev. ed., 6 v. (Oxford University Press, Oxford, forthcoming 2014-2015) (4 typescript pages)

This medium-length encyclopedia entry addresses the question of the aesthetics of Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis, asking how certain motivating forces shaped his aesthetic position and artistic conception, which in turn resulted in the origin of Gothic art, with significant ramifications for the aesthetics of lay spirituality in the art of the great Gothic cathedrals.

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Submitted: "FACES: Faces, Art, and Computerized Evaluation Systems--A Feasibility Study of the Application of Face Recognition Systems to Works of Portrait Art"

The FACES project is a collaboration of the humanities (art history) and the sciences (computer science). This article presents FACES from the point of view of the humanities, that is, how this technology generally works, what the parameters of its application to portrait art are at this time, what its advantages are, and so on. The computer science basis of the study will appear in a computer science journal. These two papers are meant to operate as a pair.

In the application of face recognition technology to photographed human faces, a number of difficulties are inherent in a real or perceived alteration of appearance of the face through variations in facial expression, age, angle of pose, and so on.  With works of portrait art, not only do all these problems pertain, but these works also have their own additional challenges.  Most notably, portrait art does not provide what might be called a photographic likeness but rather one that goes through a process of visual interpretation on the part of the artist.  In this article, we discuss how, after two years of National Endowment for the Humanities funded research, FACES has demonstrated proof of concept, begun work on the style of the individual artist, and tested the FACES algorithm with a few "identifications," in the process establishing the initial parameters of the application of face recognition technology to works of portrait art while at the same time retaining the human eye as the final arbiter.

Some identification tests:
- the posthumous bust of Battista Sforza by Laurana in the Bargello and death mask cast also by Laurana in the Louvre
- Botticelli's Portrait of a Lady at the Window and Verrocchio's Lady with Flowers
- possibly the earliest known portrait of Galileo
- Nicholas Hilliard's Young Man Among Roses, said to be "perhaps the most famous miniature ever painted"
- the body of portraits said by some to be of William Shakespeare (which still requires extensive testing)
- the portrait of a woman at the National Portrait Gallery thought by some to represent Mary Queen of Scots (part of the fairly recent NPG exhibition Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People)
- the portrait at the National Portrait Gallery thought by some to depict James Scott, duke of Monmouth, first duke of Buccleuch, lying in bed after his beheading for treason (also part of the NPG exhibition Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown People)

Submitted: "Social Change and the Assertion of Elite Status: The Parabolic Discourse Window in Canterbury Cathedral."

In this paper I see the five different stained-glass window series at Canterbury Cathedral as part of a larger single depiction of the history of salvation, into which the monks inserted themselves in a complex way, one that attempted to hold on to a past form of status, the elite spiritual status of a two-level spiritual hierarchy consisting of the initiate (the monk) and the uninitiate (the layperson), while claiming to participate in a new three-level form, one that accepted an intermediate level for the literate lay person.  At the same time, I show how these windows might actually have been read on the basis of a unique survival: the Canterbury Roll, a text I maintain was used by the monks' assistants to guide illiterate or "spiritually illiterate" pilgrims (those who might be able to read but who had not attained the monk's level of spiritual literacy) through the Latin inscriptions and so through the content of the windows.  However, I also maintain that the monks used the Canterbury Roll as a control device, through which this seeming access to the exclusive knowledge of the windows asserted rather than mitigated the old two-level spiritual hierarchy by intellectually processing, as it were, the information for the pilgrims in a way that upheld the monks' privileged social position.

In press: "The Architectural Metaphor in Western Medieval Artistic Culture: From the Corner Stone to The Mystic Ark," The Cambridge History of Religious Architecture, ed. Stephen Murray (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, forthcoming 2014) (26 typescript pages).

In "The Architectural Metaphor in Western Medieval Artistic Culture: From the Corner Stone to The Mystic Ark," I identify and analyze the source texts for the use of architectural metaphor in medieval culture, and trace their use up through the twelfth century to most ambitious use of architectural metaphor anywhere in the West up until that time: Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark. Despite the widespread use of architectural metaphor, no one has ever written on the subject before, to the best of my knowledge.

The earliest appearance of architectural metaphor in the Bible is a strictly literary one. That is, it is highly unlikely that it was part of any broader contemporary artistic culture, that it affected the conception, creation, use, or understanding of works of visual art and architecture of its time. It was only the Christian tendency toward sermonizing that brought about the ever-increasing elaboration of the architectural metaphor from the simple to the complex, from the corner stone to The Mystic Ark; and that allowed the architectural metaphor to permeate the boundaries of Scripture and scriptural writing to become a visual image itself; as, for example, in The Mystic Ark. This visual state of the architectural metaphor is, perhaps, more effective than the verbal state in exercising the intrinsic dynamic of the metaphor in that it goes beyond the literal reference or exegetical reading to engage the reader/listener/viewer and compel him or her to actively participate in the intellectual exchange of the artistic experience. This is because the mind of the participant must commit itself to a further level of engagement in the dynamic of the metaphor by the very necessity of identifying the metaphor as such in the first place. 

The paper concludes by asking if architectural metaphors were operative in such medieval works of art as the image of Francis holding up the church in The Dream of Innocent III in the church of San Francesco in Assisi, the piers of the cloister of the monastery of Moissac, the eighth canon table of the Ebbo Gospels, the House of Heaven and in the House of Hell of the tympanum of Sainte-Foi at Conques, certain scenes of the Tower of Babel, the façade of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, and the main east-west axis of the abbey church of Saint-Denis, from the Infancy Window to west central portal.

 

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In press: "The City of the Great King: Jerusalem in Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark," Visual Constructs of Jerusalem, ed. Bianca Kühnel, Galit Noga-Banai, and Hanna Vorholt (Brepols, Turnhout, forthcoming 2014) (22 typescript pages).

In his summa-like systematic theology De sacramentis (c. 1130-1137), Hugh of Saint Victor presents the Christian theological conception of the history of salvation on an epic scale.  It is also an account that conceives of its subject almost completely in terms of time.  However, in his image of The Mystic Ark (first painted at the abbey of Saint Victor, in Paris, 1125-1130), an image that is virtually the visual equivalent of the main themes of De sacramentis, the visual setting for the history of salvation--a world map--introduces the dimension of space into this comprehensive world view.  While Jerusalem plays no role whatsoever in Hugh's written conception of the history of salvation, "the city of the great king" plays a strikingly active role in its visual counterpart.  At the same time, Hugh chose to follow one medieval tradition that placed Jerusalem in the center of the world in world maps, the same place primarily occupied by Christ in his image, the result being one of the earliest examples--perhaps the earliest significant example--of Jerusalem, in however veiled a form, at the centre of a medieval world map.  In this lecture, I will investigate the role that Jerusalem, the city of the great king, plays in The Mystic Ark in regard to Hugh's own formal methodological categories of place, time, and person--a unique role that is not articulated, to the best of my knowledge, in Hugh's other writings or in the work of other Christian writers or images, but which is found only in The Mystic Ark, the most complex individual work of figural art of the Middle Ages.

"Person, Time, and Place in the Construction of History in Hugh of Saint Victor's Mystic Ark," Romanesque and the Past: Retrospection in the Art and Architecture of Romanesque Europe, ed. John McNeill and Richard Plant (British Archaeological Association, Leeds, 2013) 265-282.

Early and medieval Christianity always had a world-view of salvation. Yet, aside from Augustine's City of God, it was only in the early twelfth century, with Hugh of Saint Victor's great image, The Mystic Ark (1125-1131), that a statement on the history of salvation was put forth on a level of what might be called a truly comprehensive theory. This paper asks such questions as, why was it that this fundamental if only erratically articulated concept should be so fully worked out now? What was the relation of secular history to the history of salvation? How were they both conceptualized in the twelfth-century? And how was this all visualized--indeed, how was it that this came to receive its fullest expression not in writing but in a work of art?

The paper concludes that, in The Mystic Ark, history is conceptualized and visualized exegetically, with great concern for methodology, theory, polemics, comprehensiveness, inclusiveness, the diagrammatic, and both historical narrative and the sacramental (and visually iconic) aspect of history. Combining universal history, "historical demographics," rudimentary forms of ethnohistory and geohistory, a kind of intellectual history, biographical history (or history as a succession of individuals), and what could even be called diachronic and synchronic histories, no one else came close to Hugh in his conceptualization and visualization of history at the time. In the immediate sense, this happened at this specific moment because of a request from the brethren of Saint Victor regarding the source of "the restless heart." But, in the strategic sense, it happened because Hugh seized upon this request as an opportunity to articulate and project an aggressive, polemical world view in the face of the particular challenges of the "new theology," using systematic theology as a formative device. In the end, we see that The Mystic Ark was not just a pedagogical image intended for the spiritual edification of only a few students. Rather, it was, in part, an epic conceptualization and visualization of history phrased in a very specific way--history, that essential shaper of self-conception--one whose discourse was meant to be (and was) repeated again and again throughout the culture wars of the twelfth century. As such, it was an active agent both in the formation of the new intellectual elite and in the polemical discourses of one of the great transitional periods of Western history.

"Inventing the Gothic Portal: Suger, Hugh of Saint Victor, and the Construction of a New Public Art at Saint-Denis," Art History 33 (2010) 568-595.

The art program of Abbot Suger at the monastery of Saint-Denis in the mid-twelfth century has long been credited with the reintroduction of "allegory" into Western European visual art after centuries of disuse.  While such sweeping claims can no longer be considered to be the case in regard to the exegetical level of allegory per se, Suger's program does very much seem to be the principal initial source of a new elite art--at first in the very public claims of an exegetically based monumental art "accessible only to the litterati," that is, understandable only to the spiritually literate choir monk, and then, later, in the widespread use of a more or less similar art by a segment of the newly emerging urban class on the basis of a certain participation in religious literary culture.

In this study, I show how Suger invented a new exegetical art that, in its complexity, claimed to function on the same level as scriptural study and so claimed to be acceptable in the context of the current controversy over monastic art spearheaded by Bernard of Clairvaux, in which art was seen by some as a spiritual distraction to the monk.  I show how Suger's claims were based on the traditional dichotomy of the uninitiate (the layperson) and the initiate (the monk), but how this two-level spiritual hierarchy was contradicted by new thought on the use of art and the senses in the form of a three-level spiritual hierarchy that excluded the users of such art from the highest level.  I consider what this can tell us not only about the works of art at Saint-Denis but also about the nature of visual art in this crucible of intellectual and artistic activity--monasticism--during a remarkable period of artistic change by relating differing understandings of this three-level hierarchy to a representative spectrum of contemporary monastic images.  I demonstrate the presence of Hugh of Saint Victor or his thought in the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit panel of the so-called Allegorical Window and so, to whatever degree, in the window program in general.  And I argue that this new systematized and fully exegetical art appeared first not at Saint-Denis around fifteen to twenty years before the consecration of the east end of Suger's new church in the highly successful large-scale image of The Mystic Ark, painted at Saint Victor in Paris around 1125 to 1130, although Saint-Denis remains the principal source for its eventual widespread employment in Western European artistic culture.

Unintended by Suger, however, the special potential of his particular conception of a fully exegetical, monumental, publicly accessible, and systematically deployed work of art in the medium of the stained glass window gradually became apparent beyond the highly circumscribed confines of monastic culture in the emergence of a new elite art for the literate lay user--as seen, for example, in the Good Samaritan Window of Chartres Cathedral.  These new exegetical stained glass windows acted as both vehicles and even sites of "textual communities," that is, a voluntary association based not upon the ability to read, although some members were literate, but upon the ability to interpret a text recognized as authoritative that forms the basis of a shared belief.  The social dynamics of twelfth-century France were changing dramatically and the increasingly better educated public, no longer content to remain at the lowest level of the spiritual hierarchy, wanted to participate more actively in the acquisition of elite spiritual knowledge.  In borrowing this strongly literarily and exegetically based art for religious exercises, this aspect of lay spirituality grew out of monastic spirituality, and both Suger and Hugh took part--however indirectly--in the construction of a new elite art for the properly literate and the spiritually literate lay person, an essentially new form of visual art that would become a fundamental part of artistic culture in the West for centuries to come.

I investigate what the consequences of this particular reintroduction of exegesis were at this time of great demographic transformation.  I suggest that, in the early and mid twelfth century, the relatively restricted elite images such as the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit panel were beyond the intellectual understanding of the uninitiate in the two-level hierarchy of the initiate and the uninitiate and so tended to affirm the social distinction between the two groups and thus reinforce the social structure because the uninitiate would have recognized that the monks knew the meaning of these images even if they did not. However, with the increasing lay literacy of the later twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, the case with the new elite public art of the same time--even if it were seen as operating in the three-level spiritual hierarchy--seems to be quite different.  For the relatively public, new elite images such as the Good Samaritan Window of Chartres with their textual communities would seem to have contributed to the social transformation of medieval society in that, at least in the beginning, they would have challenged the centuries-old monopoly on literacy of the various wings of the Church and so played a part, however small, in the visible emergence of the literate new urban elite, broadly understood. At the same time, they would have intensified the distinction between this literate new urban elite and what might be called the illiterate lower class--both of them formerly conceived of as forming the same social group.  In this way, far from reinforcing the current social structure, works of art like these would seem to have contributed to the dynamic of change that pervaded contemporary society.

Finally, I ask what the invention of the exegetical stained glass window at Saint-Denis, one of the most original art programs of Western culture, reveals about the nature of originality in the twelfth century. And I reconsider the roles of Suger and, now, Hugh in the invention of the exegetical stained glass window and in the construction of a new elite art more broadly speaking.

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"Inventing the Gothic Portal: Suger, Hugh of Saint Victor, and the Construction of a New Public Art at Saint-Denis," Art History 33 (September 2010) 569-595.

Scholars have always recognized the central importance of the Gothic portal, perhaps the most imposing form of public, visual media in the Middle Ages.  Yet any reasons for its sudden appearance at Saint-Denis under Abbot Suger in the mid-twelfth century have been almost entirely overlooked.  This study theorizes the origins of the Gothic portal, arguing that two contending forces acted upon Suger in his creation of the most ambitious portal program at that time in all of Europe.  The first was the unprecedented artistic expansion of the early twelfth century and attendant rising expectations of what the limits of an art program might be in a material sense.  The second was the great controversy over the use of monastic art, a controversy whose criticisms he was forced to address, though not necessarily accept, if he wished to appear contemporary.  Together, these two dialectically opposing forces would push him in a new direction, beyond current artistic and conceptual models.

As with the components of Gothic architecture itself, most of the various components of the Gothic portal (sculpted lintel, tympanum, archivolts, and statue-columns, which are believed to have originated at Saint-Denis itself and which had their predecessor in low-relief embrasure sculpture) existed previously to their integration at Saint-Denis.  But they existed independently from each other, without an ordered, coherent system that brought them all together, and so were limited in regard to both form and content.  The bringing together of the pre-existing elements of the Gothic portal into a single work of art at Saint-Denis allowed for a new complexity of message in the use of large-scale public art, and in the way that permitted a higher rhetorical level of address between those responsible for an art program and those to whom it was directed.  Yet it was not with the portals of Saint-Denis themselves that this new systematization of visual information first came about.  Instead, it seems that, in the same way that Hugh contributed to the content of the west central portal (see Rudolph, Artistic Change at St-Denis), he also contributed to the form of the new, systematized portal program of Saint-Denis.  And the actual means through which this was effected--whether directly through discussions with Suger or indirectly through the use of his thought--was by means of the application of the schematic structure of The Mystic Ark to the portals of Saint-Denis.

The Mystic Ark was a work of enormous popularity and, in some ways, is a visual summary of the core concepts of De sacramentis, a systematic theology and Hugh's most important work, written 1133 to 1137, during the very years that Suger was finalizing the content of the portal program. The underlying structure of both of these endeavors is nothing other than the history of salvation articulated in the specifically Hugonian terms of the works of creation and of restoration.  He has already drawn attention to the role of the works of creation and of restoration in the central tympanum at Saint-Denis.  This same, crucial theme is also the basis of the underlying structure of the entire portal program, including of the statue-columns, perhaps the most original and most controversial aspect of the program.

The schematic structure of The Mystic Ark is one whose basis lies in literary--as opposed to artistic--culture, being transformed, then, by Hugh into a work of art.  The complex schemata of integrated rotae or wheels of the Signs of the Zodiac, the Months of the Year, the Twelve Winds, the quaternary harmony, the macro/microcosm in general, the world map, and, generally speaking, the basic structure of the cosmos--all of these are figurae (in this case, diagrams) which are meant to accompany and make clearer verbal discussions found in texts by writers such as Isidore of Seville, Macrobius, Pliny, Bede, the writers of computus texts, and others. These were all very important texts in the School and monastic cultures of the twelfth century, and the schemata that are an integral part of them were central in the education of medieval society's intellectual elite and would have been highly recognizable to the educated audience of the time.  Just as the Gothic portal was to result from a multiplication and systematization of a number of pre-existent art forms, so Hugh took the various cosmological schemata that had previously existed independently and integrated them into a coherent system. The art historical significance of this--of The Mystic Ark--lies in its bridging the gap between literature's potential for complex expression and such expression in large-scale public art.

In the multiplication of imagery at Saint-Denis, it is remarkable how much of it Saint-Denis holds in common with The Mystic Ark. But far more important is the systematization of this same imagery, something that has come about through the adoption and adaptation of the structural and conceptual dynamics of The Mystic Ark. The arrangement of the famous statue-columns of Saint-Denis, generally believed to be the first of medieval art, compositionally came about through an adoption of the dynamic of the three periods of the history of salvation from the plank system of the Ark of Hugh's image.  As part of my discussion of this component of the portal program at Saint-Denis, I suggest (only) identifications for most of the statue-columns with the understanding that such specific identifications are conjectural, insisting only that, within the context of Hugh's understanding of the three periods of the history of salvation, the identities of the statue-columns would probably have operated in this or a similar way.

As a form of visual vocabulary, the minimal imagery of some earlier portal programs might be said to have the impact of a single word (e.g., Arles-sur-Tech; Saint-Savin, Lavedan), however profound, while those with a multiplication of imagery but as yet no truly successful systematization at times give the impression of a body of barely related sentences, or, in more extreme cases, even of a visual jumble of words from a person who is speaking erratically (e.g., Angoulême Cathedral, Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes, Notre-Dame-du-Port). At Saint-Denis, in contrast, the multiplication and systematization of imagery operates like an orderly essay directed toward a coherent end.  The multiplication provides more information and so a potentially more complex message, while the systematization allows for a more organized and so a potentially more articulate statement; together, they offer the possibility of a dramatically more effective visual presentation.

In this process of artistic change at Saint-Denis, the first identifiable step is the literarily based image of The Mystic Ark.  Its significance lies in its successful adaptation of literature's ability to express complex ideas to large-scale pedagogical art, something that was essentially done through the transformation of the diverse elements of the literary basis of the image (often already in the form of figural and non-figural schemata) into a coherent but equally complex artistic image.  The resultant image is one in which form and meaning are inseparable, and so one in which form is all important.

The second identifiable step is the translation of the schematic structure of the pedagogical painting of The Mystic Ark to the large-scale public art of the sculpted portals of Saint-Denis.  This process is not the same broad cultural dynamic proposed by Erwin Panofsky and others who see Gothic architecture as the result of the general application of certain (different) thought processes to monumental building and design in general; or by others still who see the origin of Gothic at Saint-Denis as having come about through the impetus of various very general "Victorine" tendencies.  Rather, this dynamic is concerned with the Gothic portal alone, and is not the application of a culture-wide thought process to an entire artistic medium but the adoption and adaptation of the conceptual structure of one specific pre-existent work of art--The Mystic Ark, itself the result of an individual thought process--at one specific time and at one specific place to a portal program with a largely similar theme, Saint-Denis, much of which was borrowed from that same work of art.  Hugh, himself a theologian, was the artist who visualized his own intellectual system in the image of The Mystic Ark; that is, there was no transference of ideas or thought processes from the purely intellectual world to the artistic profession per se.  And the evidence is specific to Hugh, to Suger, and to Saint-Denis, rather than being the general application to this very particular historical situation of sources and other material pulled indiscriminately from wherever such material can be found.

In the growing confrontation between traditional authority on the one hand and the newly emerging urban class on the other, the Gothic portal was to become one of the principal forms of public media, the major form of visual communication of the time, one that was conceived of by Suger as addressing the full spectrum of the public with its increasing level of education and higher expectations of participation.  As an art form, it was to become the most significant, fully indigenous expression of Northern European, public figural art of the Middle Ages, and would constitute one of the most important breaks with Mediterranean artistic dominance in more than a thousand years.  And the vehicle that provided the initial basis for this new ability to address the public in increasingly complex and articulate ways, that bridged the gap between literature's potential for complex expression and such expression in large-scale public art, was The Mystic Ark.

"Art and Architecture: Cistercian," The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010) (9 typescript pages; completed and in press since 2004).

This medium-length encyclopedia entry looks at the art and architecture of the Cistercian Order in the Middle Ages in regard to the first, second, and third generations of Cistercians.

 

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"Monastic Aesthetics and the Rise of Gothic Art," in Michelle P. Brown, The Lion Companion to Christian Art (Lion Hudson, Oxford, 2008) 155-158.

The aesthetics of the visual arts within monasticism in the Middle Ages was far from monolithic.  Using the writings of Suger of Saint-Denis and Bernard of Clairvaux as my primary vehicles, this short article gives a brief overview of some of the issues involved in monastic aesthetics, such as materialism, monastic social entanglement, the Cult of the Dead and the Cult of Relics, the pilgrimage and the new money economy, the localization of the holy, the necessity of pilgrimage art, and monasticism's "crisis of prosperity."  I take up Bernard's critique of the monastic investment in art, the sensory saturation of the holy place (particularly through excess in material and craftsmanship), the manipulation through art of the equation between excessive art and holiness in the popular conception, expenditure on art rather than on the care of the poor, and art as a spiritual distraction to the monk.  And I briefly discuss Cistercian artistic aestheticism, the aesthetics of excess, the claim that art could act as a spiritual aid similar to scriptural study, and the role that all of this had in the shaping of what is known to us as Romanesque and Gothic art.

 

"A Sense of Loss: An Overview of the Historiography of Romanesque and Gothic Art," A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe, ed. Conrad Rudolph (Blackwell, Oxford, 2006) 1-43.

"A Sense of Loss" is an overview of the historiography of Romanesque and Gothic art that began with the initial sense of loss of medieval culture brought about from the great destruction wrought by the Reformation. However, because the view of medieval art has been so intimately related to classicism, this overview takes as its starting point the "pre-history" of medieval art historiography in the early Greek and Roman historians of art, continuing through the early modern writers of the Renaissance, on to the vast changes of the post-World War II period.

 

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"Communal Identity and the Earliest Christian Legislation on Art: Canon 36 of the Synod of Elvira," Perspectives for an Architecture of Solitude: Essays on Cistercians, Art and Architecture in Honour of Peter Fergusson, ed. Terryl Kinder, 1-7.

This short Festschrift piece takes up Canon Thirty-six of the Synod of Elvira (c. 306), the first official statement on art by the Christian Church and so of special interest in the history of Early Christian and medieval art, even if it represents Church policy only within the limits of the synod's jurisdiction of Spain. Rather than read the canon as a simple prohibition against the use of Christian art as idolatrous as has traditionally been done, I conclude that its purpose was to counter a disturbing culture of apostasy and loss of communal identity that had arisen in the Spanish Church through the strong integration of the Christian subculture within the dominant pagan culture (the result of a peaceful period of social integration followed by an unusually bloody persecution). I also show that Canon Thirty-six was a compromise solution in its silence on the subject of private Christian art. Never adopted outside of Spain (although many other canons of the Synod of Elvira were), Canon Thirty-six is tacit evidence of a significant point of transition in the development of a distinctly Christian artistic culture, one that was leaving the venerable Judaic precedent of the Second Commandment behind as the Church cautiously accepted its increasingly mainstream status and the powerful socio-political dynamic that was a part of this.


"La resistenza all'arte nell'Occidente," Arti e storia nel Medioevo, ed. Enrico Castelnuovo and Giuseppe Sergi, 4 vol. (Giulio Einaudi Editore, Turin, 2002-2004) v.3, p. 49-84 (English version of my piece, "Resistance to Art in the West," available upon request).

In this survey of the leading primary sources on the medieval attitude toward art, I argue that resistance to art in the West from the Early Christian period up to around 1200 was largely posed on social or intellectual/spiritual grounds. Within certain limits, it was primarily only in the Early Christian period, a time when the Eastern and Western cultural spheres were more closely united than would later be the case, that theological concerns seem to have played any significant role in what might be called the Western cultural sphere. The rare iconoclasts and heretics of later times were essentially aberrations.

Beyond this, normative or even luxurious art was rarely an issue (by "luxurious art" I mean that art which goes beyond the common, minimal expectations in material and craftsmanship of a particular social or religious group within a particular region at a particular time). Far more important to resistance to art in the West were the social and intellectual/spiritual issues raised by the mainstream of culture, especially monastic culture, following a tradition that gradually became a venerable one--and one that had to be reckoned with. Typically, this was directed at excessive art (by "excessive art" I mean that art which exceeds the norm of luxurious art of a particular social or religious group in the emphasis put on material, craftsmanship, size, and quantity, as well as in type of subject matter). Ultimately, art was not something that was either simply accepted or rejected: its use and limits could vary from social group to social group (the artwork's public), it was subject to certain limits within those social groups, and it had to be justified when it went beyond those limits. And in this process, decisions were primarily guided not by some near-doctrine, but by the traditions that pertained to the group in question.

Far from only limiting art in the narrow sense, resistance to art worked in a dialectical manner, contributing to an artistic culture that was vibrant, acting as one of its most stimulating influences--even, at times, as a conscience that kept it focused. Though often changing in emphasis from period to period, both the justifications of art and the issues raised in resistance to it were constants. Indeed, not only could they be constants, but--like everything else--they could be manipulated.

 

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Isaac Laughing : Caravaggio, Non-traditional Imagery, and Traditional Identification," co-written with the Baroque scholar Steven Ostrow, Art History 24 (2001) 646-681.

In "Isaac Laughing : Caravaggio, Non-traditional Imagery, and Traditional Identification," co-written with the Baroque scholar Steven Ostrow, he has stepped outside of the Middle Ages to collaborate on a complex reinterpretation one of the most enigmatic paintings of the great early-seventeenth century Italian painter, Caravaggio, now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. Rather than accept traditional interpretations of this enigmatic painting as John the Baptist or some idyllic shepherd, we argue that this very unusual image depicts the Sacrifice of Isaac, with Isaac joyfully embracing his savior in the form of the ram that God sent to be offered in his place, rising up from the altar on which he was to be sacrificed by his father, Abraham, whose place is taken by the viewer in one of the most creative object-viewer dynamics of the early modern period.

Largely as the direct result of "Isaac Laughing," the title The Sacrifice of Isaac is now given alongside the traditional title (John the Baptist) in the Capitoline.

 

In the Beginning: Theories and Images of Creation in Northern Europe in the Twelfth Century," Art History 22 (1999) 3-55.

Taking up the role of artistic argumentation in the process of intellectual consensus, "In the Beginning: Theories and Images of Creation in Northern Europe in the Twelfth Century" investigates the phenomenal explosion of interest in creation theory in the twelfth century, an interest that was accompanied by an equally phenomenal increase in creation imagery of almost 900% over the previous century. Because of the absolute fundamentality of the concept of creation, any given culture's view of creation is crucial to that culture's intellectual self-identity, and, as such, can act as a microcosm of sorts of its essential character, whether creation is looked at in its orthodox aspect or, even better, as a point of contention, as in the United States even today. This study shows how seemingly minor changes in creation imagery--which is commonly ignored as the literal illustration of the biblical text it accompanies and nothing more--instead reveal that these illustrations were often active factors in the process of forming elite opinion on one of the major subjects in the education of medieval society's intellectual leaders as a prelude to conditioning public opinion on a broader, lower level.

 

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"Building-Miracles as Artistic Justification in the Early and Mid-Twelfth Century," Radical Art History: Internationale Anthologie, Subject: O.K. Werckmeister, ed. Wolfgang Kersten (Zip Verlag, Zurich, 1997) 398-410 (Festschrift for Karl Werckmeister).

In his famous article on the aesthetic attitude in Romanesque art, Meyer Schapiro refers to Arnold of Bonneval's description of the construction of Clairvaux II, seeing it as a straightforward account of "technical enterprise." In fact, it seems that the account of the rebuilding of Clairvaux II by Arnold--while historically probable, perhaps even true--is far from being a straightforward description of this contemporarily important architectural undertaking.

In this paper, I analyze the miraculous stories of building that have traditionally been treated as little more than pious legends, and certain seemingly factual presentations that have been seen as straightforward accounts. In this effort he has found that not only could the complete spectrum of the building process be presented in terms of miraculous incidents that were intended to justify an architectural outcome that was in some way excessive, but the tradition of the building-miracle as a literary topos was so strong that it permeates even the seemingly factual presentations, whether positively or negatively.

Without going into detail let me say that as the individual cases demand, this study takes up building accounts of such leading institutions as Cluny, St-Denis, and Clairvaux in light of the controversy over art of the early and mid-twelfth century, the overall social situation, local historical conditions, liturgical reform, the introduction of foreign artistic styles, the disintegration of the international economy of the Roman Empire, the change from a natural economy to a money economy, changing power structures, internal and external community response, and the re-urbanization of Western Europe. In the end, I show how these accounts typically follow very precise literary topoi of authoritative origin and how their messages were expressed not through claimed historical veracity, but rather through claimed association with venerable and widely recognized precedent. That is, these miracle stories, while acting as pious stories on the popular level, acted on the polemical level to justify architectural undertakings which for one reason or another the author felt it necessary to defend.

 

"The Scholarship on Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia," Cîteaux: Commentarii Cistercienses 40 (1989) 69-111.

The essential problem for the study of Bernard's Apologia ad Guillelmum (1125), the most important document pertaining to the medieval attitude toward art, has been that scholars have felt it does not specifically name one monastery or monastic order as a subject of the criticisms contained in it. Although Bernard--one of the most influential men of his time--quite clearly and repeatedly addressed his admonitions to William of Saint-Thierry's "order," scholars have known that William was a friend of Bernard and therefore have believed that this address must have been a front for an indirect attack upon someone else. At the same time they have assumed that the Apologia was aimed at Cluny in particular. Undoubtedly from the earliest times a major factor in this conception has been the similarity of Bernard's Letter 1 and the Apologia. Yet crucial distinctions between the two have not been noticed. These are that Bernard never hesitated to repeatedly mention Cluny by name in Letter 1, and that there is no criticism of the art of Cluny in the same letter. The problem of clarity of address was solved by prefixing to the Apologia, on inconclusive evidence, a certain letter of Bernard's. This letter, in recounting an earlier one of William's, did mention the Cluniacs. However, when the text proper was quoted either extensively or without the aid of the spurious preface, later scholars felt that it was necessary to interpolate the word "Cluniac," as Bernard did not sufficiently use that word to accommodate their conception of the treatise. As a result, attention focused on Cluny as the major, or even sole, recipient of the Apologia.

Many scholars have thought that if it were Cluny that Bernard had complained about in his treatise, it must also be Cluny that he had described in his chapters on art. Therefore the Apologia was substituted for historical evidence in their reconstruction of the art program of that abbey. The use of Bernard's denunciation of the worst aspects of excessive art as a catalogue of the artworks as they were believed to have existed at Cluny in 1125 has led to an image of Cluny as bent on a program of excessive art. This image was compounded by a somewhat misleading comparison with Cîteaux when Cîteaux was at its financially most impoverished level. Such a polarization of the two most visible representatives of contemporary monasticism has contributed to a rather limited understanding of the monastic controversy in the early twelfth century. The inflexibility of this view has also had as a consequence the impression that excessive ornamentation was somehow distinctively Cluniac, and to be consistently found throughout the Cluniac Congregation.

As to an analysis of what Bernard actually said about art, scholars have tended to concentrate their attention on two main aspects of Apologia 28-29: Bernard's censure of art as a spiritual distraction and his recognition of the utility of a secular religious art. The first point has, in the most thorough work, received a certain amount of recognition. But although Bernard's comments on secular religious art were only made in passing, they have been dealt with by some as a major tenet of the Apologia. In short, these authors have fixed on to what may be termed the artistically positive aspects of the Apologia, rather than on to the more prominent negative criticisms of art.

The same inclination is seen in efforts to explain the impetus behind Apologia 28-29. The premium set on medieval religious art by nineteenth-century Church enthusiasts compelled them to denounce Bernard's criticism of art as personally motivated, rather than on monastic or social grounds. The approaches to Bernard's personal attitude toward art have been varied and contradictory, with some authors suggesting that Bernard's rejection of art indicated a revulsion, and to others a very strong attraction. In the end, this has detracted from seeing any more historically or politically based impetus to Bernard's actions, which scholarship has only just begun to look at. Possibly because of the emphasis on personal stimulus, no direct connection has been made between the Apologia and the discontinuation of heavily ornamented manuscripts within the Cistercian Order. In any event, Bernard's relation to Cistercian art and legislation on art has not been put into proper perspective. While a very few authors have noted similarities between his views and those of earlier Church fathers, Bernard's position within a non-iconoclastic movement against religious art in his own time has been largely neglected.

Ultimately, there has been no thorough analysis of the Apologia with the exception of Vacandard's ground breaking effort. The tendency has been to isolate various passages of Apologia 28-29, rather than to coherently analyze the whole, especially in relation to the rest of the Apologia, Bernard's other writings, the artistic evidence of Cluny and Cîteaux, and the political conditions of both Cîteaux and monasticism in general. The literature has established a rather inflexible and restricted view of the Apologia. But at the same time, questions have at least been raised on most major issues which, when developed, will lead to a more significant understanding of the part played by Bernard's treatise in the controversy over monastic art in the twelfth century.

 

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"Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia as a Description of Cluny and the Controversy Over Monastic Art," Gesta 27 (1988) 125-132.

The current conception of the art of the abbey of Cluny and of what is generally known as the Cluniac Order has been formed to an inordinate degree on the basis of one historical document, Bernard of Clairvaux's Apologia ad Guillelmum. Indeed, many scholars have seen the treatise's passage on art (Apol. 28-29) as a description of art as it existed at Cluny at the time of the writing of the Apologia (probably 1125). In confronting the question, this article briefly takes up a number of issues, including the belief that the Apologia was specifically addressed to the abbey of Cluny , that Bernard was either strongly repulsed by or strongly attracted to art, and that Apol. 29 is a description of actual cloister sculpture, most notably that of the cloister of Pons at Cluny . Instead, the passage which has been seen as a description of the cloister of Pons is explained as a critique of certain elements of art as a spiritual distraction--the implication being that a reformulation of our artistic conception of Cluny is long overdue, and that the criticism of art contained in the Apologia played a larger role than that of merely acting as a censure of artworks as they existed at Cluny.

 

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"The 'Principal Founders' and the Early Artistic Legislation of Cîteaux," Studies in Cistercian Art and Architecture 3, Cistercian Studies Series 89 (Kalamazoo 1987) 1-45.

It has been said that the early Cistercians were not as distinctive as their successors had wished them to be. And at least as far as art was concerned, this was very much the case in the earliest years. In fact, Cîteaux may even have been more lax in this regard than a number of the other new ascetic movements such as that of Odo of Tournai or the Carthusians. Yet, by 1125 William of Malmesbury could point to the artistic asceticism of the Cistercians as one of their most distinguishing features. The legal basis of this artistic asceticism consisted of statutes 10, 20, and 80. Far from being the expression of explicit ideals of the primitive founders of Cîteaux, we know that statutes 10 and 20 were not a part of the original principles upon which the Order was established in 1098 under Robert or of those codified under Alberic before 1109, and that statute 80 was for some reason not a part of this first body of artistic legislation.

While their exact dating is uncertain, statutes 10 and 20 were legislated sometime from 1115 to 1119. All in all, they approach the subject of art in the monastery in a rather comprehensive manner: statute 10 having covered liturgical art, statute 20 regulates monumental sculpture and painting; both apply to inside as well as outside the church. The ideal was the virtual elimination of all excessive vestments, gold, silver, jewels, sculpture, and painting from the monastery. Yet, as activist reformers following a minimal line, the Cistercians of c.1119 were careful to make plain their orthodoxy in their desire to define, legislate, and achieve the minimum. By limiting the use of luxurious materials, color, and art forms the Cistercians of c.1119 attempted to institutionalize a particularly austere interpretation of simplicity, the avoidance of distraction, and voluntary poverty as they relate to art, and in so doing to establish a specific form of regular life with a specific relation to society. There is no reason to doubt that the degree of voluntary poverty as practiced at Cîteaux was anything other than extreme, but modest material excess in regard to divine worship--especially when coupled with architecture of a humble nature--could easily be divorced from the principle of a voluntary, individual poverty. While "the institutes of the Cistercian monks who came from Molesme" were rigorous but dealt with traditional themes as regards monastic legislation, those of simply "the Cistercians" which took up the subject of art were very non-traditional statutes indeed. The evidence suggests that not only was this artistic legislation not seen as desirable under the undiluted first generation, but that it brought about the removal of existing artworks and that it may even have been resisted to a degree. But these statutes of which Bernard was the moral author were accepted, and were seen as the culmination of the foundation of the Cistercian community. This was not for reasons of simplicity, the avoidance of distraction, and voluntary poverty alone, but as EP 17 implies also because of their role in the disengagement and prevention of social entanglement. In social terms, statute 10 flatly rejected the aesthetics of the economic basis of traditional monasticism, the opus Dei; statute 20 the use of art to encourage a pilgrimage economy. This is why one of the most venerable of all Cistercian documents devoted so much attention to the enactment of statutes 10 and 20. This is why capitula 25 and 26 conclude the Capitula. This is why Bernard is described as one of the principal founders of the Cistercian community. And this is why the Exordium Parvum, following a continuous theme, culminates with the arrival of Bernard and the institution of his restrictive art legislation as the amplification and completion of the Cistercian way of life. The enactment and enforcement of statutes 10 and 20 amounted to no less than an artistic overturn at Cîteaux, and its account in Exordium Parvum 17 a proto-Apologia.

Whereas statutes 10 and 20 addressed themselves to broad social and economic questions, questions which had profound implications for the Order, statute 80 seems to have been legislated in response to a very particular situation probably around the years 1149-1150. Composed of two clauses which are distinct in their application but related in their concern over excessive color and imagery, the first clause legislates artistic asceticism in the area of the illuminated manuscript--something which seems to have been left up to individual abbatial interpretation of statute 20 previously--and so instituted the final segment of a comprehensive, restrictive art policy begun with statutes 10 and 20. Far from introducing any new element into the contemporary Cistercian policy toward art, the second clause in its restrictions concerning windows amounts to no more than the first of a long succession of reiterative statutes whose primary purpose was to enforce the artistic ideals of the second generation--and this even before the death of Bernard. Just as Bernard's policy of expansion was about to be legislatively reversed in the last months of his life, so on a more popular level were the tenets of the artistic overturn of this principal founder being openly defied. With wealth and power also came the stultification of spontaneous asceticism, especially artistic asceticism, something so many of the charismatic founders of the new ascetic orders had hoped to avoid by not writing down their customs, and something whose form of life the second generation had hoped to institutionalize in part by statutes 10 and 20. Thus it seems that the best explanation for the late date of stat 80 is that flagrant examples of excessive artworks demanded a restatement of the tenets of the early artistic asceticism, the asceticism of an earlier generation; this in turn suggested specific restrictions based on the distractive potential of color and imagery; the great amount of building in stone was the impetus, but the subject itself provided the opportunity to explicitly restrict the long neglected area of manuscript illumination, an area whose importance is indicated by the priority it is given over stained glass; finally, Bernard's failing health and the rumblings of change forced the issue. This legalistic circumvention and even open defiance speak eloquently to us of the fact that the views of Bernard were by no means necessarily those of the entire Order, and that the applied artistic asceticism of the second generation was slipping. Indeed, if the great distinction of the Cistercians in William of Malmesbury's view was in part the appearance of overcoming the perpetua lex of inevitable decline through the promise of unchanging artistic asceticism legislated by the statutes of 1115-1119, and if the first clause of statute 80 marked the completion of that policy in 1149-1150, it was the compromise legislation of the second clause that signaled the decline of the artistic ideals of the second generation in practice and confirmed the perpetua lex of William--as the allowance of gold and silver plated crucifixes four years after the death of Bernard shows.

 

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"Heterodoxy and the Twelve Great Feasts of the Eastern Church," Comitatus 12 (1981) 13-30.

Historians have never properly dealt with the Twelve Great Feasts (the Dodekaortion) of the Eastern Orthodox Church. While some feasts have received much attention, others have been almost totally ignored, making an understanding of these feasts as a group difficult. More importantly, scholars have largely disregarded the historical causes behind the feasts' existence. When the feasts are studied as a group, it becomes clear that their original purpose was not to commemorate events in Christ's life, as has been claimed (Dix), but rather to put forth theological and ultimately political propositions in an accessible and convincing form.

The early Church observed only three feasts as independent celebrations (what I call the Core Group: the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and Pentecost). It was not until centuries later, after the Council of Constantinople, that the other feasts were observed throughout the East. These post-Nicene feasts followed a similar pattern of institution for the most part. A feast usually originated at one specific Church as the popular manifestation of opposition to a particular heresy or schismatic doctrine. Observance of the feasts was at first strictly local. The rest of the Eastern Church usually adopted them for the same reasons that the local Churches had; but, occasionally, because of the Orthodox character of the feasts, their doctrinal potential was redirected toward other controversies.

Like so much of Christian theology, whose original simplicity became more and more complicated, the post-Nicene feasts were formed in reaction to the various heresies. The Core Group corresponds to the early stage of Christian theology, commemorating from the beginning the essential tenets of salvation. The Cyrillian Group (the Raising of Lazarus, Palm Sunday, and the Ascension) comprises the first feasts formed in conscious reaction to a heresy--Arianism. Before Cyril, there were no universal feasts apart from the Core Group; with him, the feast as an anti-heretical device became established. The Epiphany and the Nativity were likewise directed against Arianism, but they derived from pre-existing feasts of local significance that probably had no original connection with heresy. The Marian Group (the Presentation, the Dormition, and the Annunciation) arose in opposition to the next great threat to Orthodoxy, Nestorianism. In this group, the first documentary evidence of institution by imperial decree appears, testimony to the importance of festal practice. The last feast to be adopted, the Transfiguration, seems to have been a statement of the ultimate sanction of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy as the official government position at the end of a long period of Christological argument.

The Twelve Great Feasts took on the superficial character of a life cycle of Christ for two reasons. First, by presenting their theology in the form of feasts commemorating events in the life of Christ they became more accessible to the faithful and more likely to make an impression on them. Second, as appeals in theological controversies, they called upon the ultimate theological authority--Christ himself.

The canon of the Twelve Great Feasts began to take shape as the great Christological controversies began. By the time those controversies reached their indecisive conclusion, all the feasts had been instituted. Thus, the post-Nicene feasts arose during the period of the great controversies, but the feasts themselves were more than the mere results of these arguments, they played an active, and at times even crucial, part in their outcome.

Written when I was a graduate student, this article is cited as the leading authority on the subject in the 3rd ed. rev. of the highly authoritative Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

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