contributor.author: David A. Warner

title.none: Koerntgen, Koeningherrschaft und Gottes Gnade; Bertelli, The King's Body (David A. Warner)

identifier.other: baj9928.0309.002 03.09.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: David A. Warner, Rhode Island School of Design, dwarner@risd.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2003

identifier.citation: Koerntgen, Ludger. Koeningherrschaft und Gottes Gnade: Zu Kontext und Funktion sakraler Vorstellungen in Historiographie und Bildzeugnissen der ottonisch-fruehsalischen Zeit. Orbis mediaevalis: Vorstellungswelten des Mittelalters, Band 2. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001. Pp. 540. DM 126,74. ISBN: 3-05-003403-3. Bertelli, Sergio. Litchfield, R. Burr, trans. The King's Body: Sacred Rituals of Power in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001. Pp. xviii,302. $45.00. ISBN: 0-271-02102-0.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 03.09.02

Koerntgen, Ludger. Koeningherrschaft und Gottes Gnade: Zu Kontext und Funktion sakraler Vorstellungen in Historiographie und Bildzeugnissen der ottonisch-fruehsalischen Zeit. Orbis mediaevalis: Vorstellungswelten des Mittelalters, Band 2. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001. Pp. 540. DM 126,74. ISBN: 3-05-003403-3.

Bertelli, Sergio. Litchfield, R. Burr, trans. The King's Body: Sacred Rituals of Power in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001. Pp. xviii,302. $45.00. ISBN: 0-271-02102-0.

Reviewed by:

David A. Warner
Rhode Island School of Design
dwarner@risd.edu

The two books reviewed here share a common interest in representations of rulership. Koerntgen's study focuses on the era of the tenth and early eleventh centuries and specifically on the German kings of the Ottonian and Salian dynasties, territory familiar to Anglo-literate audiences from the work of Karl Leyser but also, and increasingly, through translations of studies by prominent German medievalists such as Stefan Weinfurter.[[1]] Art historians and historians interested in art will undoubtedly know Henry Mayr-Harting's two volume study of Ottonian manuscript illuminations.[[2]] Koerntgen examines an institution commonly viewed as the foundation of Ottonian and early Salian government, namely the sacral character of the kings themselves. Given royal sacrality's prominence in the modern historiography of the medieval Reich and, more specifically, the degree to which views regarding its impact have evolved, this choice of topics is not as limited as it may initially appear. Once, so Koerntgen observes, it was generally agreed that royal sacrality reinforced German emperors' superiority over their aristocracy, justified their intervention in ecclesiastical administration, and especially justified their right to invest bishops with their office. Along with the right to invest bishops, sacrality was also viewed as an aspect of kingship lost to German monarchs during the Investiture Struggle. Such views are no longer current, however, at least not in such a simplistic form. In the current state of scholarship, relations between emperors and aristocracy no longer seem so much at odds; royal intervention in the church appears less unilateral; and the Investiture Struggle appears to have less to do with investiture than previously believed. As the effects of royal sacrality no longer appear self-evident, so Koerntgen argues, we should now reexamine the whole concept. In particular, we should consider whether royal sacrality's importance for the Ottonian and Salian dynasties may have been exaggerated.

Koerntgen's thesis is provocative. Simply put, he argues that the prevailing, explicitly political interpretation of royal sacrality represents an anachronism having more to do with modern reverence for the state than with anything contemporaries of the Ottonians and early Salians would have recognized. Royal sacrality does not stand alone, "a primarily political phenomenon--apart from and without connection to the religious landscape."[[3]] Rather, it should be viewed as a fully integrated aspect of that landscape, and specifically as part of a more general process of "sacralization" that affected all areas of early medieval society.[[4]] Although there is little doubt that the Middle Ages witnessed such a process, Koerntgen maintains that we have yet to fully appreciate its significance. To support his thesis, Koerntgen examines a select group of literary and visual witnesses. The literary witnesses include the leading lights of Ottonian and early Salian historiography: Liutprand of Cremona, Hrotswitha of Gandersheim, Widukind of Corvey, the two anonymous biographers of Queen Mathilda, Thietmar of Merseburg, and Wipo. The visual witnesses include the portraits of Otto III in the "Liuthar Gospels," of Henry II in the "Regensburg Sacramentary" and "Bamberg Pericopes," and of Henry III in the "Speyer Gospels." These texts and portraits correspond to the body of evidence that is typically cited as evidence of the theory and reception of Ottonian-Salian royal sacrality. According to Koerntgen, if we set aside our anachronistic focus on the state and politics, as modern convention defines them, a different interpretation may be possible. For the compilers of the great Ottonian and Salian narrative histories, agendas of a more personal and pragmatic character may have weighed more heavily than any desire to comment on an emerging medieval Reich with (as we know, but they did not) a long and troubled history ahead of it. In the case of royal portraits, so Koerntgen argues, if one "suspends the assumption that statements regarding the ruler must always have the realm of political legitimation as their point of reference, and that divine salvation, as an aspect of the 'private' realm, must be of secondary importance, then iconographic elements previously assigned, without question, to the narrower political realm may be related instead to the ruler's salvation."[[5]] In particular, Koerntgen places these portraits within the realm of memoria, the reciprocal exchange of prayer and liturgy that united the living and the dead in a common pursuit of Christian salvation.

Bertelli's book, The King's Body, is based on a translation of the second Italian edition of his Il Corpo del Re, but with significant modifications and additions. Readers would be justified in treating it as a third edition. Adopting a more wide ranging viewpoint than Koerntgen, Bertelli considers the "cult of kingship" in a variety of geographical settings, in a time period extending from the early Middle Ages through the eighteenth century. Like Koerntgen, Bertelli is convinced of the gap separating the time period at the center of his study from the modern era and, more specifically, of the danger of exporting modern conceptions of power and propaganda to the medieval and early modern past. Along with the scientific revolution, the "secular experience and the political thought of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" separate us from the world with which Bertelli is concerned.[[6]] Apparently, this same historical divide also affected the character of ritual, at least as it relates to manifestations of power. Although power in the contemporary world is still wrapped in sacred rituals, so Bertelli maintains, in the period prior to "the execution of kings in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the sacred was closely tied to the religious sphere, and one can speak truly of a religio regis."[[7]] By Bertelli's reckoning, this religio regis or cult of kingship came to an end during the French Revolution, "in the three minutes that it took Louis Capet [[i.e. Louis XVI]] to descend the steps of his carriage on his way to the guillotine."[[8]] Even apart from these generous chronological parameters, Bertelli's study is almost breathtakingly expansive.in its vision. Although the title suggests that kings will provide Bertelli's chief focal point, the study actually discusses other sorts of rulers as well--popes, bishops, and aristocratic lords of all sorts and conditions. Bertelli's vision also extends beyond the borders of Europe. The reader will encounter references to Japan and Africa, for example. There is even an extended discussion of the practice of lynching in the United States.[[9]] Insofar as it is applied within the context of medieval and early modern Europe, Bertelli's expansive approach to the subject of ritual supports a more specific thesis, namely that Europe's rituals of kingship are the product of a unitary process of development, descending from ancient Rome via the intermediary of Byzantium. In Bertelli's view, Byzantium was the "inexaustible font, the great model, that through Rome inspired successive courts."[[10]]

In spite of their obvious differences, Koerntgen's and Bertelli's studies have a common antecedent in the work of Ernst H. Kantorowicz (1895-1963), and especially in his classic exposition of medieval and early modern representations of kingship, The King's Two Bodies. It would be appropriate to examine this mutual debt in somewhat greater detail. In his introduction to The King's Two Bodies, Kantorowicz commented on the alterity of medieval and early modern political thought, a quality he defined as a kind of "mysticism," and advised strongly against taking it on anything other than its own terms.[[11]] To remove political mysticism from "its native surroundings, its time and its space," was to expose it to the danger of "losing its spell or becoming quite meaningless." As with mysticism of all types, its "baffling metaphors and highflown images" were better left within their "own magic or mystic circle" rather than subjected to the "cold searchlight of fact and reason." Instead of demystifying the mystic fiction of a two-bodied king, Kantorowicz devoted the remainder of his study to an examination of its antecedents and development across an expansive chronological terrain, and with reference to a variety of disciplines.[[12]] He also provided compelling evidence of his fundamental assumption regarding the history of rulership, namely that the latter "lies in the interchange and exchange of attributes by which God becomes royal or priestly, a monarch becomes divine or priestly, a priest becomes divine or royal."[[13]] Kantorowicz explored the implications of this assumption throughout his career, most notably in a study of the royal laudes, hymns and chants of praise offered to medieval kings, but also to other persons possessing power and authority.[[14]]

Kantorowicz was not the first to assume that pre-modern rulership must be approached in fundamentally different ways than its modern counterpart. Fritz Kern (1884-1950), "one of the most influential of modern commentators on medieval political thought," had already explored the unique qualities of medieval kingship in his study, Gottesgnadentum und Widerstandsrecht.[[15]] In his study of thaumaturgic kingship in England and France, Marc Bloch (1886-1944) had offered readers a compelling reminder "that our ancestors in the Middle Ages and even into more recent times had a picture of royalty very different from our own."[[16]] Among his contemporaries, Kantorowicz figured within a group of scholars who shared an interest in "the same intruments of transpersonalizing personal rulers, in forms, manifestations and meanings of rites and ceremonies of rulership and the sources disclosing them," as well as, and more specifically, the history of political theories, political iconography, and symbols of rulership and the state.[[17]] This group included Percy Ernst Schramm (1894-1970) whose extensive body of work remains the starting point for any study of the signs, images, and rituals of rulership. One might also include Walter Ullmann (1910-1983) whose work, like that of Kantorowicz and Schramm, assumed that medieval rulership could best be understood through the study of its underlying ideals.[[18]] Although Ullmann's interests chiefly lay in the area of law and the institutional history of the church, he appreciated that evidence relevant to those topics could be found in medieval rituals such as coronations.[[19]]

Representations of medieval rulership remain an object of scholarly interest, yielding new studies of texts and images as well as new editions of primary sources, such as the French coronation ordines edited by Richard A. Jackson.[[20]] Indeed, the iconographic approach and interests of Kantorowicz and Schramm have by no means lost their attraction. The influence of Schramm's ideas regarding the Renovatio imperii Romanorum are clearly discernible, for example, in a recent study by Ildar Garipzanov, which examines the use of Roman imperial imagery on Carolingian coinage.[[21]] Continuity in subject matter and, in some cases, methodology should not suggest that the study of rulership has remained static. With respect to ritual, for example, many recent studies tend to rest on assumptions that differ substantially from those of Kantorowicz and an earlier generation of scholars. Rather than view rituals as an adjunct to or reflection of the power of medieval rulership, newer studies tend to view them as the very essence of rulership.[[22]] As this reviewer has remarked elsewhere, the prevailing assumption is that the effect of rituals was active rather than passive, formative as well as descriptive.[[23]]

Some studies have also employed an interdisciplinary approach combining an historical outlook with methods of inquiry and interpretive strategies derived from the social sciences, especially anthropology.[[24]] The common resort to anthropological models has not been without its critics, however. Dissenting voices have criticized the anecdotal character of anthropological history, for example.[[25]] They have also cautioned that our medieval informants had agendas, which influenced and potentially distorted their accounts of the rituals they witnessed. Rather then view their accounts of rituals as ancillary to those agendas, our informants appear to have treated them as an integral part of their supporting arguments.[[26]] Philippe Buc has emphasized not only the partisan character of our informants, but also the degree to which modern interpretations of ritual rest on what is essentially an historical construct with roots in the Middle Ages itself. He concludes that, "there can be no anthropological readings of rituals depicted in medieval texts...only anthropological readings of medieval textual practices."[[27]] Buc's views have not gone unchallenged, however. Critics have suggested, for example, that he has simply replaced the models created by social scientists with an equally questionable model of his own and, indeed, that some of his own statements seem to borrow from social scientific theory.[[28]]

From this reviewer's point of view, at least, one might argue that the study of ritual and, more generally, of the symbolic element in medieval politics has entered a state of flux, perhaps even a crisis. Without question, anthropological methods and strategies have proven their worth as a vehicle for interpreting medieval rituals. One can probably agree that medieval rituals, as Leyser observed of the Ottonian variety, "performed all the functions postulated by [[anthropologists]]: they were a means of communicating and affirming status differences; they attended, summed up and dramatized rites of passage; and occasionally they expressed abstractions, and were thus a form of political thought."[[29]] It does appear that the tide has turned, however. In the work of Philippe Buc and other critics of the anthropological school of ritual studies, one might argue that we are witnessing a return to a traditional tool of the medievalist's trade, Quellenkritik. Anthropological models, so critics appear to argue, are only as reliable as the testimony upon which they are based. For the Middle Ages, that testimony has been provided by men and women whose propensity for manipulation, partisanship, and outright fabrication has long been recognized. It makes a difference, as Timothy Reuter observed, whether or not a ritual "really happened or was confined to the pages of Thietmar of Merseburg or Dudo of Saint Quentin."[[30]] One might argue, therefore, that medieval accounts of rituals cannot be taken out of context and employed in a more general theory of ritual unless the specific viewpoint of the informant is also taken into account.

Both the scholarly tradition represented by Kantorowicz and the current "crisis" in the study of medieval ritual should be kept in mind by readers of the Koerntgen's and Bertelli's works. Koerntgen identifies The King's Two Bodies as one of two works (along with Kern's Gottesgnadentum) that have defined the dominant scholarly view of medieval sacral kingship.[[31]] Bertelli acknowledges Kantorowicz's influence implicitly in the title of his own work, and also in his embrace of that assumption of "continuity between ancient and modern worlds that defined all of Kantorowicz's work."[[32]] Both Koerntgen and Bertelli are heirs of Kantorowicz, as well, in their concern that "political mysticism" be examined within an appropriate context. Their conclusions regarding that context and their methods for reaching them differ profoundly, however. Koerntgen's study is founded on a close analysis of texts and images, the same method of inquiry employed by Kantorowicz in The King's Two Bodies, but his conclusions constitute a radical challenge not only to Kantorowicz's viewpoint, but also to that of most other modern assessments. Koerntgen takes issue with many of these assessments throughout his text and virtually every page includes a response to arguments presented in the mostly German secondary literature. In effect, Koerntgen has followed Kantorowicz's warnings about the importance of context, but in a contrary direction, arguing that modern scholarship, by insisting on the political character of royal sacrality, has removed it from its natural surroundings and demystified it.

In contrast to Koerntgen, Bertelli shows little if any evidence of the closely analytical approach employed by Kantorowicz. Indeed, one can scarcely imagine that such an approach would have been feasible, given the broad parameters of his pool of evidence. Instead, Bertelli relies heavily on methods derived from the discipline of anthropology. References to Geertz, van Gennep, Turner and other stalwarts of the field are abundantly evident throughout the text. At one point, he even cites James Frazer (1854-1941), as a source for the behavior of the Japanese Mikado.[[33]] Indeed, readers familiar with The Golden Bough may share this reviewer's impression of a remarkable similarity in thinking and method between that work and Bertelli's. Both present the reader with a rich accumulation of anecdotal material, derived from disparate cultural and historical contexts, but tied together by the assumption, based on an associationist model of human development, that similar phenomena must grow from a similar root.[[34]] One should add that this approach is not current in anthropological circles, and was already out of date when Malinowski and his contemporaries established the modern foundations of the profession.

Although Bertelli does not specifically take issue with the work of historians, a negative comment regarding studies that lack a comparative perspective and "any socioanthropological perspective" suggest that, in effect, Bertelli's methodology is part of his argument.[[35]] Ironically, his conclusions seem not only to reaffirm Kantorowicz's view of kingship but even to expand it. Bertelli has no doubt that kings possessed a sacral character and, indeed, that this characteristic was ubiquitous in the premodern world. "Since the world began," so he observes, "no community has failed to recognize a leader, a mediator between the community itself and heaven."[[36]] In support of this conclusion, a variety of examples are cited, ranging from the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to Emperor Frederick II. Bertelli's point seems to be that the divinity of kingship, wherever it appears, reflects the same essential phenomenon. Again, Bertelli's assessment would certainly bear comparison with some of Frazer's more sweeping statements regarding the origins and evolution of "priestly kingship."[[37]] Like Koerntgen, Bertelli also maintains that pre-modern politics cannot be separated from religion. Almost invariably, however, he assigns greater weight to the political aspect of religious acts. Throughout Bertelli's study, there is never any question that the political impact of royal sacrality was paramount. Let us examine each work in greater detail.

To fully grasp the impact of Koerntgen's thesis, we must first examine, more closely, the status quo it seeks to undermine. That medieval kings possessed a sacral character which set them apart from their subjects and legitimized them has long been accepted by the scholarly mainstream. There has been general agreement, as well, that this royal sacrality found one of its most characteristic manifestations in the ecclesiastical rite of royal unction, a feature of royal inaugural rites at least since the eighth century when the first representatives of the Carolingian royal house adopted its use. According to an older view, the anointment of the first Carolingian king, Pepin III, had results that were nothing short of a revolution. Thus Fritz Kern describe this event as an innovation that "endowed the young dynasty [[of the Carolingians]] with a supernatural credibility,..the ancient heathen symbol [[i.e. the long hair of the Merovingians]] gave way to the modern theocratic symbol of anointment."[[38]] Walter Ullmann declared that "[[with the King Pepin III's anointment]] kingship ceased to be a matter of blood and became a matter of divine intervention: the blood charisma gave way to a charisma sustained by grace."[[39]] Among medievalists, such crisply dichotomous formulations no longer attract much credibility.[[40]] More recent assessments tend to emphasize continuity rather than innovation, that Pepin's anointment reconfirmed the gentile basis of Frankish kingship, linking a people chosen by God with a similarly chosen king and dynasty.[[41]] Under the Ottonians and early Salians, according to the common wisdom, the implications of royal sacrality were perceived with much greater intensity than had been the case under their Carolingian predecessors. Furthermore, unlike the Carolingians, Ottonian and early Salian rulers did not have to deal with the implication that royal unction somehow made them subject to the supervision of the episcopate. The transformative effect of unction, comparable to that of the anointments at Baptism and Confirmation (Angenendt), assimilated Ottonian and Salian kings to the type of Christ (Weinfurter) and ensured that they "felt the nearness of God more than ordinary men (Leyser)."[[42]] Apparently, the key role played by Ottonian bishops in bestowing this rite did not inspire them to take a more aggressive and critical stance towards their anointed kings.

In assessing the impact of royal sacrality on Ottonian and Salian kingship, researchers have commonly turned to a select group of historical narratives that seem to place particular emphasis on the guiding influence of God in the ruler's actions and the prerogatives of the christus Domini. Thus, Liudprand of Cremona attributes Otto I's victory at the battle of Birten to divine intervention, invoked by monarch himself as he prayed before a holy lance containing nails employed at the crucifixion.[[43]] Widukind of Corvey provides an account of the coronation of Otto I at Aachen (936) so detailed that it is commonly treated as a piece of reportage.[[44]] Similar passages have been found in the works of Hrothswitha of Gandersheim, the anonymous biographers of Queen Mathilda, Thietmar of Merseburg, and Wipo. The impact of royal sacrality has also been detected in portraits of Ottonian and Salian rulers, which typically place the ruler in close proximity to God and, in some cases, appear to imitate contemporary images of the crowned Christ (Christ maiestas).[[45]] In the portrait of Otto III preserved in the Liuthar Gospels, for example, the viewer encounters an image of the enthroned ruler, crowned by the hand of God, with arms outstretched in a cruciform pattern, and surrounded by a mandorla, a space commonly reserved for Christ. Figures representing the evangelists hold a ribbon or scroll across the emperor's chest and shoulders while crowned figures, perhaps representing kings, gaze upwards in an attitude of reverence. Modern interpreters have asserted that the emperor here resembles "the King of Glory himself--truly the Christomimetes, the impersonator and actor of Christ (Kantorowicz)," providing an "extraordinary depiction of the Christ-image of rule (Mayr-Harting)."[[46]] Such impressions have been reinforced by the recognition that portraits of Ottonian and Salian rulers are found almost exclusively in books employed in the celebration of the liturgy.[[47]]

Key to the interpretation of both visual and literary evidence is the assumption that it was consciously political and reflected commonly held views. According this viewpoint, one should not only assume that writers of history desired to intervene in political life, but also that "the intellectual impulses" evident in their works had a more general and concrete effect, that they "not only influenced the author's pen but also the course of events themselves."[[48]] In medieval Germany, so Sverre Bagge suggests, the compilers of histories were "high-ranking and important men with connections and influence in leading circles" and their connection with "the contemporary political elite" should allows us "to draw conclusions from their works to more widespread attitudes within this elite."[[49]] Similarly, royal portraits "were not merely objects for an art market," but rather vehicles for the representation of contemporary ideas of rulership (Weinfurter) and for the artists who made these portraits "what mattered..was not so much the membership of or connection with a particular community as their familiaritas with the king or emperor (Mayr-Harting)."[[50]] Some interpretations go so far as to associate royal portraits with specific policies or programs. Johannes Fried has argued, for example, that the crowned figures in Otto III's portrait in the "Liuthar Gospels" represent Boleslaw Chrobry of Poland and Stephen of Hungary, dukes newly raised to the rank of king as part of the Ottonian emperor's program of a renovatio imperii Romanorum. "In this miniature," so Fried concludes, "there has been preserved a unique and incomparable witness to the incorporation of Poland and Hungary...into the imperial idea of Otto III, [[a witness]] that falls chronologically between the period of the highest development of the Rome-idea and its collapse."[[51]]

Without exaggerating too much, one might characterize royal sacrality as the common foundation for most modern treatments of Ottonian-Salian government and a general point of reference for the study of early medieval kingship. One should add that this foundation has not been free of criticism. We have been warned, for example, about the dangers of assuming a false impression of continuity from royal unction's long history among the trappings of European kingship. To impose ideas of divine right monarchy derived from the seventeenth century upon the kings and clerics of the early Middle Ages would clearly represent an anachronism.[[52]] Ivo Engles argues that anthropologists and historians have simply employed the term sacrality as a catch-all for any aspect of archaic kingship that is no longer evident in the modern world and seemingly inexplicable in rational terms.[[53]] He concludes that a less ambitious, but more precise term would be more appropriate. The question of audience remains an issue as well. If we can assume that clerics would have agreed with ideas of rulership conveyed by the art and literature produced in their churches and monastic communities, can we assume a similar response on the part of other elements within a medieval society? How did the rarefied image of the "unctus Domini walking under the crown" affect Ottonian nobles or lesser men?[[54]] If a German monarch's status as rex et sacerdos did not help him to ride any faster than kings who lacked this status, what practical benefits did it bring?[[55]]

Questions have also been raised with regard to the character of our sources. In a study of the two extant biographies of Queen Mathilda, for example, Gerd Althoff has argued that the pragmatic goals of individual writers and communities may have weighed more heavily in compiling such texts than any desire to legitimize or otherwise support the ruling dynasty. He concludes, in essence, that we cannot judge the degree to which a piece of historical writing represents the self-consciousness of any individual or group, much less the dynastic tradition of a ruling house, until we have established the motive upon which the author's causa scribendi rests.[[56]] Ottonian and Salian royal portraits have been the focal point for similar concerns. In spite of some noteworthy efforts to define more precisely the relationship between rulers and the books in which their portraits appear, that relationship remains far from clear. In the absence of corroborating evidence of the ruler's involvement, we have had to be satisfied with (and frustrated by) a kind of circular reasoning whereby the subject matter itself is taken proof of a royal/imperial connection.[[57]] In a pioneering article, Joachim Wollasch argued that the liturgical books in which portraits of rulers chiefly appear should be viewed as manifestations of the monarch's desire for incorporation within monastic communities (i.e. Verbrüderung).[[58]] Monarchs gave books to monks, and monks gave books to monarchs to emphasize the bonds of fraternal love that bound them together. Presumably, the ruler portraits included in these books would have conveyed a similar message. Still, it remains far from clear who the intended audience for royal portraits would have been, although it is generally recognized that it could not have been very large. Perhaps it consisted chiefly of the ruler himself. In a recent study of Otto III's portrait in the "Liuthar Gospels," Steffen Patzold argues that "the monks of Reichenau wished to place before the emperor's eyes both the divine order and the limitations of earthly power; they called upon Otto himself to recall the virtues that appeared essential for him if he wished to act as the representative of Christ on earth."[[59]]

With the highly selective survey presented in the preceding paragraphs, I hope to have suggested that Koerntgen's study, however provocative, is not altogether without antecedents. In essence, what Koerntgen has done is to subject the prevailing definition of royal sacrality to a radically skeptical analysis that exploits its ambiguity and highlights the (in his view) questionable assumptions upon which it rests. Koerntgen notes the depth of our ignorance regarding the circumstances in which the relevant historical narratives were produced, for example. We have no evidence that Ottonian rulers actively commissioned works of history. Even when a work includes a dedication to a member of the royal family, there is no reason to view this as anything more than a topos. Similarly, our ignorance regarding the structure and activities of the court should prevent us from imagining that it functioned as a kind of literary society, in which the writings of Ottonian literati were read and discussed. Finally, Koerntgen questions whether the kings even needed the services these writers of histories are thought to have provided. Given the long tradition of viewing rulers and their deeds as an aspect of the divine plan, what benefit would Ottonian and Salian kings have derived from the further propagation of this notion? Koerntgen concludes that we must simply abandon the idea that the works of Liudprand and the others were intended to support the legitimacy of Ottonian rulers.

Following Althoff, Koerntgen assumes that the major historical narratives of the Ottonian and early Salian periods were written with pragmatic goals in mind. The pragmatic moment defined the context, which is to say that each work must be taken on its own terms and with the specific aims of its author in mind. In particular, we must ask what purpose references to the king's sacral character fulfilled within each narrative, and what the author hoped thereby to gain. In the case of Liudprand's description of Otto I's victory at the battle of Birten, for example, Koerntgen argues that what appears to be an overtly political text actually serves as a vehicle for the author's theological viewpoint. The battle should be understood as a single event in the larger struggle between God and the Devil. Otto does not act the part of a political figure, strictly speaking, but rather provides a model for all Christians. The victory, secured through the monarch's prayers, does not demonstrate the special proximity of the king to God, but rather the recompense that all Christians might expect as the reward of their piety. With Widukind, it is the pragmatic interests of the monastery of Corvey that come to the fore. In his account of Otto I's coronation, Widukind did not intend to comment on the constitutional foundations of Ottonian kingship, but rather to elevate the status of his own monastery. Here, and elsewhere in the text, incidents that contribute to the luster of the Ottonian house must be placed within the context of the author's efforts to link the dynasty's success to his monastery and its patron saint, Vitus.

Koerntgen takes a similarly critical stance with regard to Ottonian and Salian ruler portraits, arguing that we really know very little about the relationship between the commissioners of these works and the artists who actually produced them. High-ranking clerics, such as Bernward of Hildesheim, may have instituted their own workshops that drew artists from various places, but there is no reason to assume that highly skilled artisans would have simply followed a plan in executing their tasks or even that they would have been given one. Koerntgen argues for a much looser relationship based on the assumption that artists based their work on existing models. The commissioner of a book may (or may not) have stipulated a particular model, but left it to the artist to determine how that model would be realized in any particular illumination. There is no reason to assume that portraits of rulers were produced under conditions that differed from those of other illuminations. As Koerntgen puts it, "a book-painter placed before a new task did not need constant unhindered and informal entry at court, or familiar dialogues with the emperor, but rather common work with colleagues, inspiration through the work of others, and above all access to the resources of an atelier."[[60]] A highly ranked cleric, such as Bernward of Hildesheim, who presided over his own workshop, may have been more deeply involved in the work of the skilled artisans that he collected around him, but rulers did not have such workshops. Rather, they ordered their books from a few monastic centers, such as Reichenau and Echternach. Koerntgen contends that active involvment on the part of the ruler cannot simply be assumed, but rather must be proven in each instance. Indeed, elements that appear to reflect the ruler's intentions may actually reflect the initiative of the artist or workshop.

Rather then representing a moment in which the ruler communicated his self-image to the realm, Koerntgen argues that portraits of Ottonian and Salian rulers may represent a moment in which the community or even the individual artist that produced them addressed the emperor. In the case of Otto III's portrait in the "Liuthar Gospels," for example, Koerntgen argues that what the viewer confronts is not a monologue emanating from the ruler, but rather a dialogue between the donor of the book, that is Liuthar, and the ruler. The point of this dialogue was not to demonstrate the Christomimetic character of the ruler, but rather to explicate Liuthar's hope that God might cloth the king's heart with the Gospels. The scroll held against the king's chest represents the Gospels. The hand of God that crowns the king simply indicates the divine force from which the action emanates. The cruciform placement of Otto's arms suggest nothing more than his openness to the effect of this act. The crowned figures who gaze up in what appears a gesture of deference are acknowledging the effect of the gospels, not the ruler per se. Finally, the placement of the emperor in the mandorla, surely the most provocative element, suggests not the ruler's Christomimetic character, but rather Christ's presence in the Gospels.

Koerntgen proposes similar interpretations for the other portraits examined in this study. Thus, the portrait of Henry II in the "Regensburg Sacramentary" should not be viewed as a comment on that monarch's coronation, but rather as a tribute to Henry's family and the favor that God had bestowed upon it. According to Koerntgen the royal portrait in the "Bamberg Pericopes" expresses the same message in even stronger terms in that it apparently depicts Henry and Empress Kunigunde's presentation to Christ, in his capacity as "eschatologisher Richter."[[61]] Finally, by juxtaposing images of Henry III with his wife donating a book to the Virgin Mary, and of the monarch's father, Conrad II kneeling with Queen Gisela before Christ, the "Speyer Gospels" demonstrates the principle of memoria by locating the Salian house as a whole within the community of the living and the dead. In each of the portraits he considers, Koerntgen argues that the artist did not to wish to comment specifically on the unique qualities of German rulers, but rather on the goal of eternal salvation that rulers shared with all Christians, everywhere. In short, the Christomimetic character of the ruler is only revealed if the observer has already assumed its presence. Readers may well ask why, if these portraits had little or nothing to do with politics, they ceased to be produced so suddenly, apparently in conjunction with the Investiture Struggle. Koerntgen argues that the disappearance of royal portraits should be viewed as part of a more general decline in the production of deluxe manuscripts. He also notes the absence of any real impetus to produce them, given that the later Salians did not found large scale religious establishments comparable to Bamberg or go on patronage binges as the earlier Salians did in the case of Speyer.

To move from Koerntgen's vision of kingship to Bertelli's is to move from a narrowly focused analysis to a more general one. That kings possessed a sacral character and that this character promoted the unity of the communities they rule is never in question. An analysis of Otto III's portrait in the "Liuthar Gospels" (here, the Aix la Chapelle Gospels) follows the scholarly mainstream in emphasizing its Christomimetic references. Anointment is characterized, according to its traditional interpretation, as an act that transformed a ruler "into a sacred person" and made him similar to a priest. "Like priests," so he observes, "the king was both advocate of his people and the sacrificial hostage of heaven among his people."[[62]] References to the monarch's obligation to pray, attend mass, and engage in pious activities are cited in support of this principle. For Bertelli, sacral kingship also includes associations with the veneration of the sun, imitation of the priesthood, and a public state of immobility resembling that of an idol. Bertelli's vision of kingship also has a threatening side. Subjects did not look their ruler full in the face in order "to avoid the danger of the evil eye."[[63]]

Bertelli further develops his image of sacral kingship in an extensive discussion of the ritualized violence that accompanied the deaths of rulers. Such acts should be viewed as the effect of the ruler's status as the incarnation of the law. The ruler's death introduced a state of lawlessness. As Bertelli notes, however, similar acts occurred on the occasion of other changes in status. When a cardinal was elevated to the papacy, his property was customarily plundered. The status of the king as lex animata also emerges in a discussion of ceremonial entries, a ritual that Bertelli traces directly from the triumphs of ancient Rome through the early modern era. Bertelli returns to the theme of ritualized violence in a discussion of coronations. These were often accompanied by efforts on the part of participants to claim or plunder the ruler's horse, clothing, and items such as the baldachino associated with the ritual itself. Bertelli compares such acts with the treatment of saints whose bodies and clothing were also plundered. For Bertelli, the examples he cites of pillaging saints are "enough to explain the sacred meaning of the similar acts directed at monarchs and to prove that these are not just acts of spoliation, but something more directly connected o the sacredness of the king's body."[[64]] But kings could also engender violence on their own part. Bertelli notes the riots caused by the practice of distributing coins at coronations and by the roast bulls and piles of oats that onlookers customarily sacked. All of these were "rituals of wastage, destruction, and violence," provoked by the monarch himself.

Bertelli also explores a series of topics relating specifically to the ruler's physical body. A chapter examines the papal bestowal of the agnus Dei, a wax effigy of a lamb, originally signifying the distribution of "the body of the pope/lamb" but which gradually acquired the meaning of a talisman.[[65]] Bertelli draws analogies with the royal touch and the royal distribution of cramp rings. Subsequent chapters examine rituals associated with the ruler's rising in the morning and retiring at night, and the ostentatio genitalium, a motif suggesting to Bertelli that "the body of the sovereign was a fetish" and the male member a kind of "scepter" symbolizing "the ability to reign."[[66]] Another chapter explores the significance of the ostentatio genitalium within the ceremonial of the papacy and specifically with regard to a special throne employed during papal coronations. After a long discussion that includes considerations of the legend of St Joan (Bertelli appears to believe it) and of the Virgin Mary's association with various pagan goddesses, Bertelli concludes that the the throne in question represented a kind of birthing chair, in which "the pope performed none other than a dramatic representation of his own birth: a royal birth."[[67]] The third and final section includes two chapters devoted to the burials of kings and, respectively, of tyrants and other undesirables. A concluding chapter argues that European cult of sacral kingship came to end with the Puritan revolution in England and the French revolution in France.

At this point, having attempted to explain the thesis and methodology respectively of Koerntgen's and Bertelli's studies, it would be appropriate to offer a few comments regarding their overall value. These are provocative works and, one might argue, reflect weaknesses and strengths typical of provocative works. Koerntgen successfully points out the weaknesses and ambiguities in current views regarding Ottonian and Salian royal sacrality. One might argue, however, that his own interpretation introduces no new evidence and basically substitutes one set of assumptions for another. His conclusions are certainly plausible, but they certainly will not conclude the debate. In Bertelli's case, the reader is promised the benefits of a "socioanthropological perspective," but mostly encounters a list-like compilation of anecdotes with little or no attempt at analysis or even a recognition of the differing contexts involved. In sections focusing on the Middle Ages, this reviewer was struck by the sometimes embarrassingly outdated works cited in the apparatus and the puzzling omissions. It is surprising to encounter a new study concerned with rituals that does not cite any of the works of Gerd Althoff, even in the bibliography. There were also factual errors. Most art historians would agree that the hand descending from above to bless Otto III in the "Liuthar Gospels" (i.e. Aix la Chapelle Gospels) is the hand of God, not of Christ. And, the crowned figures gazing up at Otto in that image are clearly holding lances with banners attached to them, not scepters. One could easily continue in this vein, but from this reviewer's perspective it would be more productive to point out the obvious strengths of these works. Bold books like these force us to think more carefully about our subject matter. Even if we do not accept Koerntgen's analysis in its entirety, for example, it will be difficult to view royal portraits and works of historiography without taking that analysis into account. Similarly, even if the results of Bertelli's "socioanthropolgical perspective" fail to convince, the expansive vision of his study challenges us to reexamine and perhaps extend the conceptual boundaries within which rituals of rulership have hitherto been studied. Finally, if the two works are considered in tendem, one might argue that the contrast in their respective methodologies and viewpoints provides a valuable insight into the current state of ritual studies, poised as it is between tradition and innovation.

1. Stefan Weinfurter, The Salian Century: Main Currents in an Age of Transition, tr. B. Bowlus. (Philadelphia, 1999).

2. Henry Mayr-Harting, Ottonian Book Illumination: An Historical Study 2 vols. (London, 1991)

3. Koerntgen p.27.

4. Koerntgen p.27.

5. Koerntgen p.278.

6. Bertelli p.1.

7. Bertelli p.xviii.

8. Bertelli p.269.

9. Bertelli p.232.

10. Bertelli p.3.

11. Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology (Princeton, 1957) p.3.

12. Cf. Carl Landauer, "The King's Two Bodies and Kantorowicz's Constitutional Narrative," in Ernst Kantorowicz: Ertraege der Doppeltagung Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitaet, Frankfurt Frankfurter Historische Abhandlungen, 39. (Stuttgart, 1997) pp.211-23, at 213.

13. Robert L. Benson, "Kantorowicz on Continuity and Change in the History of Medieval Rulership," in Ernst Kantorowicz pp.202-19, at 202

14. Ernst H. Kantorowicz, Laudes Regiae: A Study in Liturgical Acclamations and Mediaeval Ruler Worship (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1946).

15. Although the first edition of Gottesgnadentum appeared in 1914, Kern's classic study is more familiar from the second edition, edited by Rudolf Buchner and published postumously in 1954. Fritz Kern, Gottesgnadentum und Widerstandsrecht im früheren Mittelalter. Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Monarchie, 2nd ed. ed. R. Buchner. (Cologne, 1954). The quotation is from Janet L. Nelson, "Kingship and Empire," in The Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought, c.350-c.1450, ed. J. H. Burns. ((Cambridge, 1988) pp. 211-51, at 214.

16. March Bloch, Les rois thaumaturges; étude sur le caractére surnaturael attribué à la puissance royale particulièrement en France et en Angleterre (Strasbourg, 1924). The quotation is from the English translation, The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Scofula in England and France. tr. J.E. Anderson. (London, 1973) p.2.

17. Johannes Fried, "Ernst H. Kantorowicz and Postwar Historiography. German and European Perspectives," in Ernst Kantorowicz pp.180-201, at 183.

18. Felice Lifschitz, "Ullmann, Walter," in Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing ed. K. Boyd. 2.vols. (London, 1999) 2: 1212-13.

19. See, for example, the chapter "Symbolism in Coronation Ceremonies of the Ninth Century" and the discussion of imperial coronation ordo "C" in Walter Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages: A Study in the Ideological Relation of Clerical to Lay Power (London, 1955) pp.143-66, 253-61.

20. Ordines coronationis Franciae 2.vols. ed. R. A. Jackson. (Philadelphia, 1995-2000).

21. Ildar H. Garipzanov, "The Image of Authority in Carolingian Coinage: The Image of a Ruler and Roman Imperial Tradition," Early Medieval Europe 8 (1999) pp.197-218.

22. In general see, Hans-Werner Goetz, Moderne Mediaevistik: Stand und Perspektiven der Mittelalterforschung (Darmstadt, 1999) pp.212-18.

23. David A. Warner, "Ritual and Memory in the Ottonian Reich: The Ceremony of Adventus," Speculum 76 (2001) 255-83, at 255.

24. For an overview consult, Elizabeth A. Ten Dyke, "Anthropology, Historical," Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing 1: 37-40.

25. Above n.24.

26. See e.g. David A. Warner, "Thietmar of Merseburg on Rituals of Kingship," Viator 26 (1995) 53-76.

27. Philippe Buc, The Dangers of Ritual: Between Early Medieval Texts and Social Scientific Theory (Princeton, 2001) p.4.

28. See Joelle Rollo-Koster's review in this journal (TMR 02.12.01. pp.4-5.)

29. Karl Leyser, "Ritual, Ceremony and Gesture: Ottonian Germany," in idem, Communications and Power: The Carolingian and Ottonian Centuries (London, 1994) p.212.

30. Timothy Reuter, "Pre-Gregorian Mentalities," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 45 (1994) 465-74, at 472.

31. Koerntgen p.18.

32. Bertelli p.7.

33. Bertelli p.16.

34. Cf. Ernst Gellner, "James Frazer and Cambridge Anthropology," in Cambridge Minds ed. R. Mason. (Cambridge, 1994) pp.204-17, at 206-211.

35. Bertelli p.7.

36. Bertelli p.10.

37. See, e.g. the discussion that begins with the confident assertion that the "combination of priestly functions with royal authority is familiar to every one." James Frazer, The Golden Bough 2.vols. 2.ed. (London, 1926) p.47.

38. Kern, Gottesgnadentum p.67.

39. Walter Ullmann, The Carolingian Renaissance and the Idea of Kingship (London 1969) p.54.

40. See e.g. Lifshitz's comments regarding Walter Ullmann, above n.18.

41. See e.g. Nelson, "Kingship and Empire," pp.214-15.

42. Arnold Angenendt, "Rex et sacerdos. Zur Genese der Koenigssalbung," in Tradition als historische Kraft. Interdiziplinaere Forschungen zur Geschichte der frueheren Mittelalters eds. N. Kamp and J. Wollasch. (Berlin, 1982) pp.100-18, at 117-18; Stefan Weinfurter, "Idee und Funktion des 'Sakralkoenigtums' bei den ottonischen und salischen Herrschern (10. und 11. Jahrhundert)," in Legitimation und Funktion des Herrschers. Vom Aegyptischen Pharao zum neuzeitlichen Diktator eds. R. Gundlach and H. Weber. (Stuttgart, 1992) pp.99-127, at 101; Karl Leyser, Rule and Conflict p.85.

43. Liudprand, Antapodosis 4. 24., ed. P. Chiesa. Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis, vol. 156. (Turnhout, 1998) p.110-13.

44. Widukind, Rerum gestarum Saxonicarum libri tres eds. H-. E. Lohmann and P. Hirsch. Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores rerum Germanicarum, 60, 5th ed. (Hannover, 1935) 2. 1-2., pp.63-67.

45. Robert Deshman, "Christus rex et magi reges: Kingship and Christology in Ottonian and Anglo-Saxon Art," Fruehmittelalterliche Studien 10 (1976) 367-405.

46. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies, p.65, Mayr-Harting, Ottonian Book Illuminations, vol. 2. p.61.

47. Hagen Keller, "Herrscherbild und Herrschaftslegitimation. Zur Deutung der ottonischen Denkmaeler," Fruehmittelalterliche Studien 19 (1985) 290-311.

48. Helmut Beumann, "Die Historiographie des Mittelalters als Quelle für die Ideengeschichte des Königtums," Historische Zeitschrift 180 (1955) 449-88, at 453.

49. Sverre Bagge, Kings, Politics, and the Right Order of the World in German Historiography, c.950-1150. Studies in the History of Christian Thought, vol.103. (Leiden, 2002) p.22.

50. Stefan Weinfurter, "Sakralkoenigtum und Herrschaftsbegruendung um die Jahrhundertwende. Dies Kaiser Otto III.und Heinrich II. in ihren Bildern," in Bilder erzaehlen Geschichte ed. H. Altricher. Rombach Historiae, 6. (Freiburg, 1995) pp.47-103, at 48; Mayr-Harting, Ottonian Book Illumination 2: p.43.

51. Johannes Fried, OttoIII. und Boleslaw Chrobry. Das Widmungsbild des Aachener Evangeliars, der "Akt von Gnesen" und das fruehe polnische und ungarische Koenigtum 2nd expanded edition (Stuttgart, 2001) p.151.

52. Heinrich Fichtenau, "Dei gratia und Koenigssalbung," in Geschichte und ihre Quellen. Festschrift für Friedrich Hausmann zum 70. Geburtstag ed. R. Härtel. (Graz, 1987) pp.25-35, at 32-33.

53. Ivo Engels, "Das 'Wesen' der Monarchie? Kritische anmerkungen zum 'Sakralkoenigtum' in der Geschichtswissenschaft," Maiestas 7 (1999) 3-39, at 13.

54. Karl Leyser, Rule and Conflict: Ottonian Saxony (London, 1979) p.82.

55. John Gillingham, The Kingdom of Germany in the High Middle Ages (London, 1971) p.30.

56. Gerd Althoff, "Causa scribendi und Darstellungsabsicht: Die Lebensbeschreibungen der Koenigin Mathilde und andere Beispiele," in Litterae Medii Aevi. Festschrift für Johanne Autenrieth zu ihrem 65. Geburtstag eds. M. Borgolte and H. Spilling. (Sigmaringen, 1988) pp.117-33, at 33.

57. See e.g. John Lowden, "The Royal/Imperial Book and the Image or Self-Image of the Medieval Ruler," in Kings and Kingship in Medieval Europe ed. A. J. Duggan. (London, 1993) pp.213-240, at p.239.

58. Joachim Wollasch, "Kaiser und Koenige als Brueder der Moenche. Zum Herrscherbild in liturgischen Handschriften des 9. bis 11. Jahrhunderts," Deutsches Archiv 40 (1984) 1-20.

59. Steffen Patzold "Omnis anima potestatibus sublimioribus subdita sit. Zum Herrscherbild im Aachener Otto-Evangeliar," Fruehmittelalterliche Studien 35 (2001) 243-272, at p.272

60. Koerntgen p.353.

61. Koerntgen p.237.

62. Bertelli p.22.

63. Bertelli p.29.

64. Bertelli p.105.

65. Bertelli p.138

66. Bertelli p.165.

67. Bertelli p.190.