Conferences & Lectures - Kress

Nino Zchomelidse

“Scena Sacra – Tribuna Civica: Il ruolo dell’ambone nella Campania medievale”

Location: Naples, Italy

Nino Zchomelidse, “Scena Sacra – Tribuna Civica: Il ruolo dell’ambone nella Campania medievale.”

The sixth annual IAS/Kress Italian Lecture series took place on 20 May 2015 at 4 p.m in the Aula Piovanniof the Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici at the complex of San Pietro Martire, part of the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II. Professor Nino Zchomelidse (Johns Hopkins University) presented a lecture in Italian titled “Scena Sacra – Tribuna Civica: Il ruolo dell’ambone nella Campania medievale.” Prof. Zchomdelidse is a specialist in the arts of medieval Italy and their connections with the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, and her recent work has focused especially on liturgical furnishings, manuscripts, and pulpits.

IAS Secretary (now Executive Vice President) Sean Roberts introduced the speaker, whose lecture built upon research first presented in her recent book Art, Ritual, and Civic Identity in Medieval Southern Italy (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014).  Approximately 35 people were in attendance, split roughly 50/50 between English speaking scholars and Italians. These included professors and students at the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, several current Fellows from the Villa I Tatti in Florence, and graduate students from American universities.

In her lecture, Prof. Zchomdelidse sharpened the broad geographic scope of her previous project to focus on mutable conceptions of ecclesiastical space, and their relationship to a changing tradition of liturgy, aptly within the environs of eleventh through thirteenth-century Naples and especially its environs in Campania.  In particular, through readings of both extant examples and illustrations in period manuscript illumination, she explored the evolving function of the ambo, or pulpit, in the churches of medieval Campania. Through a fine-grained analysis of the use of these pulpits for staging readings of Scripture, as well as the iconography of their decoration, she presented a compelling case for the ways in which liturgy was celebrated as a distinctive and highly localized practice that varied widely from region to region. The early twelfth-century pulpit at the cathedral of Ravello, for instance, employed the motif of Jonah being swallowed by and subsequently emerging from the whale both to emphasize a typological relationship to the liturgy and simultaneously as a galvanizing image for the local congregation as the story played a particularly prominent role in the Easter Mass in Campania. In this way, Prof. Zchomelidse convincingly demonstrated the ways in which pulpits served the dual purpose of re-staging scriptural, and especially Christological, spaces and events for believers while helping to craft a civic identity specific to medieval Campania. A lively question and answer session followed the talk.

The IAS is deeply grateful to Vinni Lucherini, Professoressa di Storia dell’arte medievale in the Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Naples, who organized the lecture as well as to Dr. Alessandra Rullo who provided invaluable assistance in Naples and to Professore Francesco Aceto of the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II who welcomed attendees. We are also grateful to Dr. Stefano D’Ovidio, who assisted Events Coordinator Gilbert Jones with the lovely reception held in the cortile outside the Aula.

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