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

Medieval Art and Architecture in Southern Italy III: Learning, Production and Exchange in Schools, Monasteries, and Courts

Bernhard 209
Friday, May 9, 2014, 3:30-5:00pm

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

Presider: Cathleen Fleck, Saint Louis University


Francesca Dell’Acqua, Università di Salerno [speaker unable to attend]
"The Salerno School of Medicine, the Heritage of Archbishop Alphanus and the Narrative Program of the Salerno Ivories"

The Salerno ivories – the largest ivory ensemble preserved form the Middle Ages – have been in recent years the object of an exhibition and a series of conferences. Though, they still offer many puzzling aspects to scholars. Not only the original object that they made remains conjectural, but also their chronology is disputed, as it is polarized between 1084 ca., i.e. when pope Gregory VII consecrated the Salerno cathedral built by the Norman duke Robert Guiscard with the local archbishop Alphanus, and the time of the archbishop William of Ravenna (1137-52), a protégé of the Norman king Roger II, who promoted significative embellishments to the cathedral. The Old and New Testament scenes have rightly been interpreted in a typological perspective, although their sequence could be reassessed on the basis of technical as well as intellectual grounds. In the Old Testament cycle, carved on horizontal plaques, the lack of clearly recognizable iconographies for the Patriarchs has lead not only to different interpretations of the scenes, but also to hypothesize the loss of a variable number of plaques. The question could be approached differently, by taking into account the scanty – and therefore neglected – material evidence of their original assemblage. In the New Testament, clearly recognizable episodes are carved in pairs on vertical plaques, one above the other, and the narrative is meant to be followed from left to right as if reading the lines of a page. In this way, the paired episodes on the one plaque belong to different moments of the story. Nevertheless, by analyzing the contents of the paired episodes, it becomes clear that each plaque has also a theological coherence, that appears carefully planned and perhaps intended to offer the possibility of a multiple reading of the cycle, according to the varying degrees of literacy of the faithful. So the programme appears as a visual rendering of Christian exegesis, that read and interpreted the Holy Scriptures with four methods: literal (historical), allegorical (doctrinal), tropological (moral), anagogical (eschatological). The identification of theological focuses in the New Testament cycle could also shed light on the original assessment of the plaques. That the Salerno ivories were not simply based on the mechanical reproduction of long-attested iconographies transmitted in workshops, but also on an updated intellectual discourse, could be suggested by the emphasis that some episodes put on the perception of the Incarnated God. Although this paper is not aimed at defending a late-eleventh c. chronology, it wishes to remark the role of the archbishop Alphanus of Salerno (†1085) in shaping the local cultural environment, and perhaps the mentality of those – secular clerics, monks, laymen? – who conceived the Salerno cycle. A former benedictine monk at Santa Sofia in Benevento and at Montecassino, then abbot of San Benedetto in Salerno, in 1058 Alphanus became archbishop. Associated with the Salerno school of medicine, the most renowned in the West, Alphanus was a most refined and appreciated composer of poetry in the classical tradition, and a translator from Greek of medical and scientific treatises. Alphanus’ translation of the late antique treatise «On human nature» by Nemesius bishop of Emesa attests to the archbishop’s acquaintance with the main classical philosophers, as well as to his sensitivity to themes like the relation between body, soul, senses, perception and knowledge. The intellectual heritage of Alphanus on the human senses as vehicle for knowledge should be further explored. This notwithstanding, it appears a remarkable coincidence that an enhanced attention to the involvement of the five senses in the knowledge of God is revealed by eminent authors of the early twelfth c., and it appears also reflected in the Salerno ivories.

Reinhard Rupert Metzner, Independent Scholar
"Two Abbeys between Frontiers. Casamari and Fossanova and their Key Function in Theology, Politics and Architecture in the Times of Henry VI of Hohenstaufen"

The paper at hand focuses on the narrow time span from 1186 to 1197 when Henry VI of Hohenstaufen, first as king and then as emperor, gradually gained complete power over the Kingdom of Sicily. The cistercian monasteries of Fossanova and Casamari are commonly known for their denotative church buildings whose architectural forms, according to prevalent scholarship, mark the first inflow of the gothic in principle on the Italian peninsula. Furthermore they are generally regarded as visualizations of the Papal will and self-­concept in contrast to the Holy Roman Emperors. However, it is often overseen that the abbeys, partly due to their geographical location directly on the borders between the Papal States and the Kingdom of Sicily, played a very complex political and thus theological role. During the last quarter of the 12th century Casamari and Fossanova hosted an illustrious cluster of internationally educated theological scholars of divergent beliefs: At Casamari Joachim of Fiore presumably materialized his first exegetical essays during the 1180s, with friendly support by abbot Geraldus. Among his companions were moreover Joachim’s biographer Luca Campano, who in 1193 would become abbot of the Calabrian monastery of Sambucina and ten years later archbishop of Cosenza. At the same time, Fossanova was under the strong impact of Gaufrid of Auxerre’s severe antagonism towards Joachim of Fiore’s theories. This fertile friction between the two monastic spheres was foremost expressed in the question of how to react towards the aggressions of the Hohenstaufen. Whereas Fossanova supposedly remained close to papal influence, Casamari’s confraternity played an ambiguous role. Abbot Geraldus acted as a travelling diplomat between the Pope and the Emperor and apparently also Joachim arranged himself with the change of power in the Kingdom of Sicily. Both even received privilege by Henry VI: Geraldus for Casamari and Joachim for his new monastic foundation in Fiore. Even Sambucina, Luca Campano’s new domain, gained support by the Hohenstaufen emperor. Soon after the sudden death of Henry VI in 1197 all these abbeys would ornate themselves with new or respectively rebuilt churches. The paper therefore not only sets out to analyze the architectonical forms and principles that were laid out first at Fossanova and then at Casamari in order to trace their transfer in Fiore, Sambucina, Cosenza and other places. With the aim to reveal the source of these artistic emanations the paper also attempts to discuss the specific intellectual and spiritual atmospheres of the two confraternities in the political conditionality of the time.

Maria Rosaria Rinaldi, La Sapienza Rome
"Thirteenth-Century Angevin Lighthouses in Puglia"

This paper aims to present the results of a study on Angevin architecture in Puglia (South Italy) during the second half of the 13th century. After the fall of the last two heirs of emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen (1194-1250), Manfredi (1266) and Conrad (1268), Charles I of Anjou (1226-1285) became the new king of the Sicilian kingdom. In 1274 he started the construction of the majestic bell tower of Monte Sant’Angelo (Puglia) and undertook a work of fortification of the castles of Frederick II. In Puglia, more than in other parts of the Sicilian kingdom, Charles I promoted operations of reinforcement and renovation of the ports and coastal sites and built new cities, such as Villanova. In the same time the sovereign began a systematic plan of construction of light towers located at the entrance of the main ports, from the north to the south of Puglia, in order to protect the newly acquired territories from the attacks of piracy and extend his ambitions in the Balkans. After these interventions, the military geography of the region changed and the already powerful castles’ system of the age of Frederick II was reinforced. This study is based on the recognition of literary and historical sources – with a focus on the Angevin registers of Naples – and archeological remains, to identify peculiar characteristics of these buildings and clarify the reasons of their distribution in the Apulian region. Infact, starting from the above mentioned tower of Monte Sant’Angelo (1274), which is a bell tower used as a ligth tower, the king inaugurated the architectural renovation of his kingdom, building the light towers of Brindisi (1275), Manfredonia (1277), Barletta (1278), these last two then annexed to the castles, and Otranto (1280). Some of the carachters of these lighthouses, such as the preference of circular rather than square plans, preferred by Frederick II, shed new light on the French architecture in Puglia. This survey constitutes an useful case study to clarify the contribution of the Angevin architecture in Southern Italy. Moreover, given the amount of details and accuracy with which the royal administration noted every single expense, from the purchase of the material to the payment of labor, this paper also aims at showing the dynamics of Angevin construction sites, where specialized workers, each with a specific task, were employed to renew the architecture in Puglia.

Rebecca Corrie, Bates College
"Apulia: Patrons, Panels and Frinta’s ‘Adriatic’ Workshop"

Over the last decade in a series of conference papers and exhibition catalogue entries, I began an effort to explain the distinctive, indeed brilliant, style of a group of works by the so-called Sterbini Master and his associates many of which had been identified by Mojmir Frinta in his seminal article published in 1987. Among the leading works in the group are the triptych now at Polesden Lacey House in Surrey, the Sterbini Diptych at the Palazzo Venezia, Rome, and the highly revered Cambrai Madonna. Clearly produced by a painter or painters intimately familiar with the work of Sienese masters including Duccio, the Lorenzetti, and Simone Martini, the works combine their own distinctive iconography with aspects of Byzantine iconography and style. Although at times the images have been attributed to Venice, I have argued, as Frinta did, that iconography, style and occasional provenance point to Southern Italy for their production. And although particularly close to Sienese painters such as the so-called Città di Castello Master, some of the painters are likely to have been Apulian or even Dalmatian or Greek. Indeed, although Frinta’s core group still holds firm as Italian, it is important to note that the group identified by Frinta can be extended to some works produced on the Dalmatian coast. His group includes some works now in Spain and I have added others which recently appeared on the art market. I have also argued as have some Croatian scholars that Angevin patronage lies behind the iconography of the images as well as the formation of the style through the gathering of painters from such diverse centers to the South. This paper brings to this investigation my most recent research in Apulia, where certain types belonging to the group, typified by the Cambrai Madonna, abound, identifying the Cambrai Madonna as the best known among many versions of a regionally venerated image. Comparison of images from the group with fourteenth-century frescoes, particularly those at Santa Maria del Casale at Brindisi confirms my earlier association of the Polesden Lacey Triptych and the Sterbini Diptych with Philip of Taranto, son and brother of Angevin kings of Naples, and his powerful wife, Catherine of Valois, titular Empress of Constantinople, for they and their adherents and allies were its builders and patrons for the decoration of this church closely identified with the crusading history of the city and the region. Frinta, of course, speculated further that the lead painter might have been Barisino del Barisini, father of Tommaso da Modena, presumably originally from Bari. Whether we can follow him there or not, Bari of course remains a strong candidate for a center from which this group of painters worked, although other cities such as Brindisi and Taranto, given the presence of one of their images at Messina, are possible. At the very least, integrating the work of these panel painters into the larger history of Apulian painting and patronage not only allows us to understand their work but also underlines our growing understanding of south Italian painting in the fourteenth century. In the process we begin to envisage a re-mapped Mediterranean under the impact of Angevin and Aragonese economic and dynastic interests.

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