2016 International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo
IAS-Sponsored Session

New Perspectives on Medieval Rome I

Fetzer 1010
Friday, May 13, 2016, 1:30-3:00pm

Organizers: Marius B. Hauknes, Johns Hopkins University, and Alison Locke Perchuk, California State University Channel Islands

Presider: Alison Locke Perchuk, California State University Channel Islands

Digital, environmental, material, Mediterranean, sensory, spatial: these are among the recent “turns” taken by the medieval humanities, including art history. The new perspectives on the past opened by these approaches, many of which are informed by interdisciplinary research and contemporary cultural interests in the natural and built world, are fundamentally reshaping how we conceive of and study medieval art and architecture. In the field of medieval art, the city of Rome has traditionally been a key site for the formulation of innovative avenues of approach, but what are its current status and its potential in relation to the discipline’s new discourses? These two linked sessions seek to assess the impact of recent methodological developments on the study of the art, architecture, and urban forms of Rome during the long middle ages, ca. 300–1500.


Catherine Carver, University of Michigan
“Bound By Nolli? Cartography and Mapping Medieval Rome”

Rome’s history has often been told through the maps of her external and internal boundaries. The Aurelian Wall has long defined the limits of the medieval city, and the erection of the Leonine Walls has represented the trials the city faced in the midst of the Middle Ages. While the city’s medieval history has been literally circumscribed by these mural moments, scholars have looked for clues to her internal development in the medieval period through her later cartographic history. The projects of Bufalini, Tempesta, and Du Pérac provide evidence of medieval structures now long erased off the map of Rome and suggestions of their relationship to the urban environment. Of all of the Early Modern cartographic projects of Rome, however, it is that of Giambatttista Nolli’s 1748 map that arguably has held pride of place as the essential resource for scholars of the city’s monuments, for Nolli’s product was the result of “modern” scientific surveying techniques and represents the first “accurate” map of the city, precisely delineating the external boundaries of each monument and the internal geographic boundaries that made up the city’s Rioni system. This paper examines the reliance on Early Modern cartographic practices as a means of understanding the urban development of medieval Rome. It calls into question the very notion of “boundary” as a means of development in the city, for in the medieval period, the boundaries of Rome were not established by streets and markers, but rather by points of association, physical and aural. It suggests that the very methodological premise by which we have approached the development of the medieval city needs to be reconsidered in light of a fluidity that defines the relationships of medieval monuments to their urban environment.

Hendrik Dey, Hunter College/CUNY
“Porticoes and Papal Ceremony at Rome: The Via Triumphalis in the Middle Ages”

The twelfth-century Ordo of Benedict and the Liber Censuum of Cencius indicate that liturgical processions led by the popes frequently traversed a street in the southern Campus Martius/Forum Holitorium that was lined on one or both sides by continuous porticoes. Remains of these porticoes still stand near the Church of San Nicola in Carcere, and remains of nearby sections of the same porticoes have been excavated near the Temple of Bellona. They are almost certainly the remains of the arcaded porticoes that lined the route followed by triumphal processions in the later republican and imperial periods. While medieval historians and liturgists know the texts, and Roman topographers and archaeologists know the material remains, nobody has done much to put these pieces together. The striking fact is that extensive sections of the porticoes lining the ancient Via Triumphalis were not only preserved into the high Middle Ages, but indeed continued to figure prominently in the ceremonial repertoire of the Roman church. This observation raises an number of important questions about the Christian cooptation of ‘pagan’ ceremonial space in general, and in particular about what exactly the members of the papal curia who processed along this route in the twelfth century thought they were doing, and why. It also speaks in a broader sense to the maintenance of monumental ceremonial corridors established in antiquity into the Middle Ages, an topic with profound implications for our understanding of medieval urbanism in general.

John Lansdowne, Princeton University
“Image in Fragments: The Mosaic Man of Sorrows at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome”

In a black-and-white photograph dated 1933, shattered images of bone, flesh, hair, and face rattle within the contoured physique of a well-known representation of Christ: a Byzantine micromosaic icon of the Man of Sorrows at the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. Crafted in fourteenth-century Byzantium and gifted to Rome ca. 1400, it was enshrined in an elaborate triptych reliquary cabinet and promoted as the original likeness of a vision of the dead Christ said to have been witnessed by Pope Gregory the Great. The photo preserves the icon in a bygone fractured state, having suffered a severe impact at an unknown point in the distant past. Such was how it was known from that moment on until 1960, when specialists reassembled the fragmented figure to fashion the object/image seen today. Cult traditions explain why, after being broken, the icon’s tesserae were never replaced and why the fragments were venerated in their own right: they equate the fabric of mosaic with the substance of sacred relics, an analogy reinforced by the icon’s reliquary, where a rectilinear grid of 212 niches—each with its own individual relic—envelops the image in its own Communion of Saints. In exhibiting the parted fragments of saints in juxtaposition with the united fragments that constitute Christ’s body, the Santa Croce icon showcases imperfect human bodily reality together with the promise of its redemption. The inbuilt tension between fragmentation and wholeness implicit in the mosaic Man of Sorrows and its significance for the papacy in post-Avignon Rome are the objects of investigation in this paper. Beginning with analysis of the icon’s material composition (drawn from firsthand study and unpublished conservation documents) and discussion of the distinctive materiality of mosaic (touching upon a Roman rhetorical tradition of equating it with relics), I examine two interconnected allegorical objectives embedded in the Santa Croce ensemble: to visualize Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and to emblematize the ecumenical union of East and West under one united Roman Church.

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