2023 International Congress on Medieval Studies, HYBRID, Kalamazoo, MI and online
IAS-Sponsored Session

Questioning “Gregorian Reform Art” (Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries): Challenges, Strategies, and New Approaches I: Rome and Northern Italy


Co-Chair: Barbara Franzé, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland,

Co-Chair: Dr. Gillian B. Elliott, George Washington University


Manuel Antonio Castiñeiras González, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Which Saint George, and why? Ceri and the Holy Warrior in the Context of the Gregorian Reform

The depiction of an equestrian St George spearing the dragon in the pictorial cycle of the church of Santa Maria Immacolata in Ceri (Latium) has been seen by many scholars as an allegory of the triumph of the Church over its enemies in the context of the Gregorian reform. However, the image of George riding as dragon slayer appears at a late date in Western figurative cycles, in the 1120s and 1130s. This occurs in places as far away as Ceri, the cathedral of Ferrara, and the Anglo-Norman parish churches in Hardham (West Sussex) and Fordington (Dorset). In these last three examples, the holy rider, which is depicted as a crusader warrior, takes a center stage to be read in terms of patronage, collective identity -especially by the Normans in England- and claim to crusade.

Conversely, in Ceri St George is wearing Byzantine (i. e. Roman) garments and his depiction is placed just in the lower register, under the biblical story of the Isaac’s choice between his two sons. By doing that, the commissioner tried to highlight the “Roman” character of the warrior -instead of a suspicious Crusader (Norman) identity-, as well as his ecclesiological and political content. Thus, the saint’s image evoked the cult of his relics at the basilica of S. Giorgio in Velabro (Rome) since Pope Zacharias’ time (741-752). Moreover, the depiction of Jacob and Esau entailed its exegetical reading as the chosen and rejected people, which is also implied in the holy rider in the context of the fights of the papacy in the 1120s.

Claudia S. Quattrocchi, Ministry of Culture, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma
From Sanctus Habitat to Loci Picti: An Ecocritical Interpretation of the Saint Magnus Monumental Complex at Fondi (IV-XII)

The paper has two purposes. The first one consists in illustrating the perspective of eco-criticism according to the most recent directions (Maillard 2013). Going beyond the classical paradigm of ‘landscape’(Thunø 2021), I’m going to apply the category of eco-criticism to Gregorian monumental art. This is assuming the premise of monuments as a “human act” in the interrelation with a “non-human,” natural ecological system. What relations and connections do patrons have with a certain natural context that they elect as a site of life, cult, and art? How does the building operation qualify with regard an eco-systemic site’s nature? How does this nature (original or artistically ‘manipulated’) find itself integrated into the buildings? How are these ‘natural places’ then narrated in images? To answer these questions, a concrete case will be presented. This is one of the most important monumental complexes in southern Lazio: the monastery of Saint Magnus near Fondi (Latina). Late ancient and medieval hagiographic sources (Passio Sancti Magni et Sancti Paterni), the results of excavations (Fiocchi Nicolai-Cassieri 2006-2009) and of the most recent art-historical studies on the subject (Bordi 2013, 2017; Gandolfo 2018) will be reinterpreted from a multidisciplinary and eco-aesthetic perspective.

This study could be inspiring in applying an eco-critical interpretation to many Gregorian-period monumental environments. This would make it possible to reclaim a dimension of integration to nature in its most mystical and at the same time ethical aspects, so relevant, so needed by the contemporary world.

Rei Ito, Tokyo Zokei University, Japan
The Frescoes of the Basilica of San Pietro in Tuscania and Its Decoration Program

The eleventh-century Basilica of San Pietro in Tuscania in northern Lazio, is an important example of Romanesque art in Italy. It’s known for its well-preserved mural paintings decorated circa 1093 and covering its central apse, triumphal arch, southern and northern absidioles, western wall in the absidiole, northern wall in the presbytery and apse of the crypt. Scholarship has focused on the style and dating of its frescoes and on the iconography as an example of the “Gregorian Reform Art”.

This paper examines the frescoes in Tuscania, especially its unnoticed details such as the globe that Christ holds, the inscriptions in the central apse, the figure of Simon Magus in the cycle of Saint Peter in the presbytery, and a possible decoration program.

The central apse was considered a variation of the Ascension. Analyzing Christ, the globe, and the inscriptions, the scene can be explained in the context of the Theophany and inspired by the traditional apse decorations in the vicinity of Rome as the Traditio legis. With the globe representing the Creation in Genesis, Christ is depicted as the Creator of the Universe.

The Theophany-Ascension in the apse, the Baptism of Christ in the southern absidiole, and Christ between two holy archbishops in the northern absidiole can be considered three phases of the Theophany.   *The cycle of Saint Peter in the presbytery was thought to be one of the traditional cycles of Saint Peter in Italy. Several topographical details indicate Peter’s movements from Jerusalem to Rome to build a foundation for Roman Church with Saint Paul and their victory over Simon Magus in Rome. In conclusion, analyzing the frescoes and the documents, the possible decoration program is considered to be Salvation History within the context of the historical situation in Tuscania.

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