14.02.17, Bolgia, McKitterick, and Osborne, eds., Rome Across Time and Space

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Thomas F.X. Noble

The Medieval Review 14.02.17

Bolgia, Claudia, Rosamond McKitterick, and John Osborne. Rome Across Time and Space: Cultural Transmission and the Exchange of Ideas, c. 500-1400. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. 351. ISBN: 978-0-521-19217-0.

Reviewed by:
Thomas F.X. Noble
University of Notre Dame

The eighteen essays in this volume were originally presented as papers at a conference in Cambridge in 2008. The emphasis of the conference was on the broad theme of cultural transmission. The editors say that three themes were central to the conference, and to the book: 1) Chronological and geographical range; 2) Interdisciplinary interaction among art and architectural historians, archaeologists, liturgical and music scholars, historians, literary scholars, linguists, and numismatists; 3) General issues of cultural transmission and exchange coupled with the specific theme of the "appropriation, assimilation and transformation of both the idea and the history of Rome." Rather than adopting a center and periphery model, the conference and book stress that Rome was a node in exchange networks. The quality of the individual contributions is uniformly high and each one does actually respond in some fashion to one or more of the stated themes. As a result, the volume is somewhat more coherent than collections of conference papers usually tend to be. The volume is studded with black and white illustrations most of which are reproduced very clearly.

The book is divided into six sections. The first "Roman Texts and Roman History" has three contributions. Rosamond McKitterick seeks, successfully I think, to uncouple the earliest recensions of the Liber Pontificalis from the Laurentian schism and to view the work within a broader context of historical writing and mindedness, as "the textual reflection of an architectural and liturgical revolution in Rome." Maurizio Campanelli springs forward to the high Middle Ages with his discussion of the Mirabilia which he sees as a work about an eternal Rome, not a catalogue of the city's decadence. But the work is about sacred, not secular, space and creates an image of a Rome that is beyond human understanding. The author notes the deep influence of the work down to the fifteenth century. Michael Reeve studies the oldest surviving Roman book inventory, from 1295, and observed that neither classical not patristic texts were prominent. One wonders about book culture in Rome but Reeves's very short piece does not tell us much.

Part two is headed "The Translation of the 'Roman' Liturgy North of the Alps" and has a further three contributions. Eamonn Ó Carragain leads off with a further iteration of his famous thesis about the Ruthwell Cross and its connection to the Roman liturgy, or better, to the many northern adaptations of various authentic bits or Roman liturgy that circulated north of the Alps. I am largely persuaded by the author's arguments but many are not. Jesse Billett looks closely at the Divine Office to ask what 'Roman' liturgy came to England with the conversion. He suspects that at its core the Office was the one developed by the monasteries that served St. Peter's. And yet, there was a "flexible" sense of Romanness whereby the aspiration was to praise God in accord with the Roman church even if the specific forms of praise were not strictly Roman. Yitzhak Hen returns to a, for him, familiar theme: the alleged Romanization of the Carolingian liturgy. To my mind he persuasively argues that the Carolingian "Rhetoric of Reform" has too often been read to mean that Charlemagne, in particular, sought both Romanness and uniformity. In fact, the Carolingians sought no more than doctrinal harmony and a broad concord in liturgical practices. Hen will not persuade everyone. The papers by Billett and Hen converge in some interesting ways.

Section three is entitled "Architectural Inspirations and Sculptural Models within and without Rome" and has four contributions. Judson Emerick revisits Richard Krautheimer's 1942 thesis that St.-Denis was a deliberate evocation of Old St. Peter's and an ideological articulation of the Imperium Christianum. In an exceptionally nuanced study Emerick strips away the Roman ideological dimension of Saint-Denis while arguing that insofar as it was built (and the actual stages in its construction are hard to pin down) more romano it did seek to emulate St. Peter's, but aimed to create for the Franks a pastoral church and to provide a place for the staging of a Christianized kingdom. Sible de Blaauw explores the significant renovations to Rome's five patriarchal basilicas in the period 1050-1300. Generally, he argues, the renovations were conservative and yet much of the work actually accomplished was designed to make the building look more like "authentic" late antique basilicas. Four of the basilicas got new mosaics that were created to look old. John Mitchell argues that renovations at San Lorenzo in Damaso in Rome, and San Vincenzo in Vulturno were also aimed at evoking Christian late antiquity. Along the way, he cautions against the tendency to see Monte Cassino as a dominant influence. His discussion brings in architecture and also sculpture and painting. Dale Kinney teaches us to pay attention to the difference between columns and piers. The former were explicitly Roman: "To treat the discourse of columns is therefore to confront, in nuce, the medieval discourse of Romanitas." In a nice piece of irony, she goes on to probe the exegetical features of that medieval discourse of "Romanness."

The fourth section is entitled, somewhat opaquely, "Cultural Exchanges" and has three contributions. Jane Hawkes investigates the Roman impact on Anglo-Saxon sculpture. Rome, she says, has been understood as meaning naturalism, the church, and the papacy. Each idea can be contested. Even if Anglo-Saxons took the figural to be Roman, great variety of interpretation was possible in style, subject, and the rendering of space. Visual riddling and interlace may actually have been responses to and reinterpretations of late antique Christian art. John Osborne argues forcefully that ninth-century Roman art was Byzantine art. He carefully charts the renewed contacts between Rome and Constantinople and builds his thesis, surely to be controversial in the best sense, by looking at buildings such as the Zeno chapel, San Clemente, and Santa Maria de Secundicerio (=The Temple of Fortuna Virilis) and at books such as the Sacra Parellela and Job. William Day moves later in time to study Giovani Villani who saw Rome as the mother of Florence as a way of praising republican values. He also looks at numismatic epigraphy as a way to emulate Rome and, again, to broadcast republican values. Then, in a twist, Rome itself emulated Florentine coins when the Avignon popes did so.

Section five bears the title "Patrons, Artists, and Ideas on the Move" and has three papers. Julian Gardner starts with the fact that between 1261 and 1294, 40% of all cardinals were French. Many of them died in Orvieto, Perugia, and Viterbo. They often built tombs that created a kind of mixed style blending French and Roman elements. Paul Binski speculates engagingly on whether certain discernible Roman influences in northern art might have derived from an attempt by Philip IV of France to recruit Roman artists after the 1297 fall of the Colonna who had been his allies. Louise Bordua tackles another of Krautheimer's well-known arguments, namely that after the Black Death there was little interest in antiquity in northern Italy. She discusses Altichiero's frescoes in Padua and argues that they suggest familiarity with Roman models. Her evidence is thin but suggestive.

The sixth and final section is entitled "Roman and Papal Jurisdiction" and has the volume's last two chapters. Brenda Bolton looks at how Innocent III's summer itineration began to focus on Viterbo. Gradually the curia took up residence there instead of following the pope around and introduced a number of distinctively Roman and papal ceremonies. This process created "A New Rome in a Small Place" (her title, in short form) and was made possible by Innocent's uncoupling of Petrine ideology from Rome itself. George Dameron discusses how canon law sheds light on ecclesiastical patronage, local churches, and papal power. He does this by looking at ecclesiastical disputes in Tuscany and by emphasizing how the often lengthy appeals process tended to both extend and contest authority, and to both localize and universalize claims.

So, in the end, a rich collection that stimulates much thought on a wide array of topics. One might have wished for a paper on the cults of Roman saints. One might have wished for more on the impact in both style and substance of Roman/Christian/papal art, particularly frescoes and mosaics. Liturgy appears several time but not music. Imperial ideology pops up frequently but is never the prime focus and it is a shame that only one paper, and it obliquely, tackled republican ideology. It would have been nice if a Latinist had looked at, say, Hildebert's Rome elegies or the Ligurinus. Still, I must be fair. Neither a conference or its literary progeny can do everything. In closing it is remarkable to note that this book is the fourth in a sequence of major collections on Rome and its influences: Kate Cooper and Julia Hillner (2007), Eamonn Ó Carragain and Carol Neumann de Vegvar (2007), Louis Hamilton and Stefano Riccioni (2011). Ever old and ever new, Rome never ceases to attract our attention and to fire our imagination.

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Thomas F.X. Noble

University of Notre Dame