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 II: To the Boundaries

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

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


Cheryl L Kaufman, Independent Scholar
Local Reform Ideals and the Sculpture in the Cloister of Saint Ursus in Aosta (Italy)

Ecclesiastical “Gregorian” reform in the eleventh and twelfth centuries was conceptualized differently in different locations. One local example of the establishment of Augustinian reform occurred in Aosta, Italy in 1132. A new Augustinian bishop was not able to reform the clergy at the cathedral, as was the typical pattern, instead he transformed the secular canons at the local church of Saint Ursus into Augustinian canons. To accommodate the communal life of the new regular canons, a cloister was built next to the church of Saint Ursus and an extensive sculptural program was created on the surrounding marble capitals. Approximately forty of the sculpted capitals remain in situ providing an opportunity to examine their relationship to the local implementation of reform ideals in the twelfth-century.

The cloister sculpture at the Church of Saint Ursus contains many unique images and inscriptions that reflect local issues related to reform, rather than a universal interpretation of a reform agenda. The sculpture of Saint Peter and Saint Augustine joining local figures to initiate the Aosta reform was created for a local audience of Augustinian canons who were undergoing a significant change to a new way of life. The material presence of Saint Peter and Saint Augustine reinforced their new identity. And a unique, extensive sculptural narrative of the lives of Jacob and Esau reflect and reveal the local reality of the conflict between the secular cathedral canons and their brothers, the regular canons of Saint Ursus. However, enigmatic sculptures of feathered figures complicate the claim that the entire sculptural program is related to reform. This paper will examine the sculptural program in the Aosta cloister to demonstrate the complex local reality of the implementation of reform that complicates the understanding of a universal representation of religious reform in the twelfth century.

Carlos Sánchez Márquez, Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona
Catalonia and the Gregorian Reform: The Shaping of Devotional Images through Romanesque Altar Frontals

Catalonia preserves the largest and oldest collection of painting in wood in Europe. It consists of altar frontals, canopies, beams and crosses painted during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

During the 12th century catalan altar frontals became a mass-media whereby narrative and devotional images were shown to the faithful. They were located in a privileged and highly visible place (the main altar), and the images were generally accompanied by inscriptions that facilitated the viewers’ understanding.

Altar frontals were used as a visual display by means of disseminating the ideals of the Gregorian reform. Through these antependia through bishops and abbots of the late 11th century promoted the cults of Early Christian saints and papal martyrs as a means of demonstrating their own legitimacy and sanctified authority. However, beyond the narrative sense of images, it is necessary to find out how many of these liturgical objects which we call “art”, were perceived by contemporaries.

This raises a number of questions about the function of Catalan altar frontals. Can we therefore consider them as a kind of liturgical art and a medium of showing images, stories and devotions? or the altar frontals were really considered sacred objects?

Krzysztof Ratajczak, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland
Reception of the Idea of Gregorian Reform in Polish Medieval Culture (Writing, Art, Architecture). The State and Prospects of Research

The essence of the Gregorian reform was to enforce the statutes and norms that existed in the Church, often for centuries. Its basic slogans were related to the idea of returning to apostolic times, and they meant the liberation of the Church from the influence of the state and lay people. The reform of the Church was also connected with the reform of education and intellectual culture. The result of the reform was the creation of new religious orders, including primarily Cistercians, and the power of the Church was emphasized by monumental buildings and the development of art and writing.

The reception of the Gregorian reform in Poland was initially associated with the renewal of the Archdiocese of Gniezno and the efforts of Prince Bolesław II the Generous for the royal crown. Papal legates arrived in Polish in 1075 and brought legal texts, e.g., Collectio Trium Partium of Ivon of Chartres. Increasingly, clergy from Polish came to Rome, who took up education in the best cathedral schools and later at universities. During this period, many educated clergies from European countries came to Polish.

The paper aims to present the state of research on the reception of Gregorian ideas in Poland of the Piasts, taking into account the achievements of both historiography and the results of a study by art historians, musicologists, and legal and educational historians.

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