2014 International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI,
IAS-Sponsored Session

Medieval Art and Architecture in Southern Italy I: Mobility and Materiality

Bernhard 209
Friday, May 9, 2014, 10:00-11:30am

Organizers: Nicola Camerlenghi, Dartmouth College, and Nino Zchomelidse, Johns Hopkins University

Presider: Dorothy F. Glass, University at Buffalo


Chiara Croci, University of Lausanne / University of Münster
"The Cult of Saints and Artistic Patronage in Early Christian Campania: Some Observations on the Funerary Areas of Nola, Capua, and Naples"

Early Christian Campania offers, we argue, an insight into the initial development of medieval art and architecture in southern Italy. During Late Antiquity the region emerges, especially due to being at the crossroad of exchange routes, as the major intermediary between East and West. During that period the artistic production of Campania was part of a Mediterranean koiné while, at the same time, continued Roman practices. This complex cultural situation influenced the historiography, the main monuments of the region being traditionally interpreted as the result of a mixture between eastern, north African, and Roman models. The study of cultic complexes associated with funerary contexts allows for a nuancing of this view of the artistic development in Late Antique Campania. The complex founded by Paulinus at the place where the martyr Felix was buried in the cemetery of Cimitile, outside the walls of Nola, betrays a more diversified artistic horizon than traditionally held. The main church of the site (the basilica Nova) for example, a three-aisled basilica with a raised threefoiled apse, was seen as derived from north African models. Nevertheless, recent studies on the building and its decoration indicate that the basilica reflects the wider cultural horizon of its patron. The complex crystallized near Capua around the grave of the martyr Prisco poses similar problems. The sole surviving part of the early christian complex, the chapel of Santa Matrona, was initially attached to a church whose apsis and dome mosaics are known from 17th century engravings. Neglected by modern historiography, the architecture and the decoration of this church are worth to be further analyzed. They offer also offer also interesting clues for the study of the development of domed churches in southern Italy. A third funerary complex that provides questions of considerable interest is the catacomb of Capodimonte (Naples), in particular the area in which the martyr Gennaro was placed during the second decade of the 5th century. In the mentioned area a “bishops’ crypt” developed, presenting an interesting architectural and artistic reference. Since its discovery in 1971, due to the identification of a funerary portrait as Quodvultdeus of Carthage, the crypt has been associated with the funerary art of north Africa. Nevertheless, despite the use of decorating tombs with mosaic, that was actually widespread in the north African funerary art, the origins of this crypta are more problematic. The intensity of some of the portraits and the virtuosity of the artists indicate an uninterrupted connection with Roman art. The complexity of the area’s architectural and artistic production, addressed here through the study of the three funerary sites, indicates that Late Antique Campania drew its inspiration from a much more diversified field than traditionally held.

Danijela Zutic, McGill University
"Between Divine and Human: Veneration of Saints in the Cripta Santa Margherita in Melfi"

In his letter no. 290, Alcuin writes that saints are best obtained and preserved with an application of senses to the matter in which the saints are presented. No sense of saint or scripture lives on more sustainably than when it is inscribed on one’s body. Alcuin explains further that the images imprint themselves on the heart and the scripture inhabits the mind. Yet, various representations of saints proliferate across the medieval western terrain in vast numbers, along with miracles initiated by the sacred matter. Nevertheless, what is deemed sacred matter has been broadly interpreted, often privileging relics, reliquaries and icons. The aim of this paper is to explore, even rethink, how medieval crypt fresco paintings participated in the formation of sacred matter. This paper will address specifically the crypt Santa Margherita in Melfi, Basilicata, Italy where a series of saints’ representations coexist in harmony, crafting a jeweled-like sanctuary where the viewing practice is structured in no particular sequence. Here, the impact is solely visual since there are no relics to speak of, and subject to temporal and spatial tension, formulated exclusively by the viewer. While the medieval crypt is generally understood as a site where death and life coexisted and the elaborate pictorial programs lining the walls of crypts were central to the formulation and dissemination of the understandings of death, renewal, physical and spiritual healing, the spectators’ mobility and reciprocity vis-à-vis representations challenges easy understanding of the affective power of images

Elisabetta Scirocco, University of Naples Federico II / Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte
"A Syncretic Model and its Success: The Liturgical Installations at Salerno"

Scholarly interest in Romanesque sculpture in Campania has been dominated for a few decades by the issue of stylistic influence among supposed regional schools, resulting in a lively debate about the precedence of Campania or Sicily. This historiographical scheme, based on the juxtaposition of regional areas, can be dated back to the seminal study of Émile Bertaux, L’art dans l’Italie méridionale (1903-1905); it has finally been abandoned in favour of a wider perspective that embraces the Mediterranean dimension in which both the coastal areas of medieval Campania and northern Sicily participated after the Norman unification of Southern Italy. On the other hand, however, the study of artistic phenomena still needs to take into account the local historic, cultural and artistic heritage, which conditioned the specific solutions. The aim of my paper is to consider contacts and mobility between these two poles of Southern Italy through an analysis of the liturgical installations that formed the architectural contexts for the sculptures at the center of the aforementioned scholarly debate. The liturgical setting created in the Cathedral at Salerno in the second half of the 12th century leaves no doubt about the role played by the royal churches of Sicily (Cefalù, Palermo, and Monreale) as crucial models, both political and cultural. Salerno’s liturgical installations became, in turn, the reference on a local and regional scale. More specifically, the model of the pulpits created at Salerno spread widely – with the adjustments requested by local religious and cultural environments – thanks to the circulation of workshops throughout medieval Campania. My analysis will be devoted to the genesis and transmission of models within the specific realm of artistic production in the service of the liturgy, with regard to the two regions that frame the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (1130-1266). In doing so, I will focus on three main points: (1) The birth of a new typology, that is, the sources of the form and decoration of the liturgical installations elaborated in Norman Sicily’s multiethnic environment and multi-religious background; (2) Migration of a syncretic model: the historical background and the circumstances engendering the mobility the mobility of a specific Sicilian model, and of masons and materials, to the other side of the Tyrrhenian Sea; (3) Cultural translation: the way in which this new model was received in Campania, through the mediation of Salerno, in a new environment with its own cultural and religious tradition, and how it conditioned the subsequent production of liturgical furnishings. Through case-studies (Capua, Amalfi, Ravello, Caserta Vecchia, Sessa Aurunca), I aim to show how the desire of emulation among the dioceses and the will of powerful patrons to impress their name into the liturgical space led to the adoption of a synchretic model out of its original context, giving birth to a new successful typology of liturgical installations in Campania.

Jill Caskey, University of Toronto
"Gifts for St. Nick: Charles II and San Nicola in Bari"

This paper focuses on Charles II’s foundation of the Capella Regis at the shrine of St Nicholas. It examines the king’s donation of 1296 and subsequent inventories in order to probe his conceptualizations of the capella as a treasury and the implications of his institutional, material, and liturgical “reforms” on the famous pilgrimage site. In a previous article (“The Look of Liturgy”), I argued that the key vestments, reliquaries, and liturgical books given by Charles to the capella constituted an emphatic attempt to bring the shrine and its liturgical performances into the French fold. But what about the other objects, including candlesticks from Venice and a papal ring? This paper looks at the donation, inventories, and surviving works in order to assess the ways in which disparate objects from around the Mediterranean basin were assembled in Bari, characterized, and used. It also considers how the highly institutionalized capella inflected the meanings of the objects and, ultimately, the meaning of the pilgrimage site.

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