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15.10.09, Schedl, Der Plan von St. Gallen

The Medieval Review

15.10.09, Schedl, Der Plan von St. Gallen

In this slim volume, Barbara Schedl cuts through a long and contentious historiography to provide a fresh and reader-friendly introduction to the Plan of St. Gall. Borne out of Schedl's involvement in the UCLA-based collaborative project, "Codex Sangallensis 1092. Content and Context"--with which readers will no doubt be familiar thanks to its website ( study gives a clear and helpfully-illustrated overview of the Plan's content and the issues which surround it. It further offers a state-of-the-art analysis of the way in which the Plan was constructed and the considerations which underlay it, in turn leading to nuanced conclusions about the Plan's intended purpose.

After an introduction and a chapter detailing the interconnected histories of the monasteries of Reichenau and St. Gall--where the Plan was composed and received, respectively--follows a discussion of the state of research. Here, Schedl condenses an extensive, 400-year-long historiographical tradition into a brief four pages (21-24), taking a light approach that is mirrored in the book's nine-page bibliography (135-143). Such summaries act as a useful counterpoint to more thorough treatments, not least the historiographical and bibliographical chapters in the 2002 volume edited by Peter Oschenbein and Karl Schmuki, Studien zum St. Galler Klosterplan II, or indeed the bibliographies available on the Codex Sangallensis website. Schedl breaks down existing research into two main questions: the first, regarding the origin of the Plan, which was long believed to be "exemplary" in character rather than specifically intended for St. Gall; the second, regarding the intended purpose of the Plan, which, thanks to its precise delineation and the inclusion of measurements, has been approached as a construction plan. In response to the first question, Schedl turns first to the work of Bernhard Bischoff, who localized the script of the Plan to Reichenau; then to Walter Horn, who famously argued that the Plan, as it exists today, is a copy of a lost, centrally-promulgated exemplar; and finally to the conclusions of Norbert Stachura and Werner Jacobsen, whose complementary investigations of underdrawing revealed the Plan to be an original document, thereby refuting Horn's earlier arguments and affirming the Plan's composition at Reichenau. On the latter question, Schedl is even more succinct, noting that the lack of specification on the Plan renders it impossible to regard it as a construction plan in the modern sense. The best path towards understanding its contemporary purpose, she suggests, is through examining the process by which it was created as well as its wider political and cultural context.

Schedl then turns, in chapter 4, to the content of the Plan, conducting the reader on a tour through the text and drawing, as her chapter title announces (25-50). She explains the functions of individual buildings and complexes and identifies them on the Plan with the aid of marginal drawings which highlight the area under discussion. These drawings can, in turn, be cross-referenced with a simplified and labeled version of the Plan in the fold-out front cover, or indeed with a double-sided A3 facsimile of the Plan in the book's back pocket. Throughout, Schedl footnotes the pertinent legends from the Plan both in the original Latin and in German translation; these legends are further collected in the back of the book as per Walter Berschin's edition and translation, albeit without his critical apparatus (123-134). Chapter 4 is, above all, functional: while those requiring introduction to the Plan will no doubt benefit vastly from its cogent presentation and useful visual aids, readers already familiar with Plan may pass over it in favor of later, more analytical chapters.

Thereafter follows a brief discussion on the conservation of the Plan and a technical description of the manuscript (51-56, with illustrations 97-104). Then, in chapter 6, comes the meat of Schedl's contribution: an intricate analysis of the process by which the Plan was composed (57-85). Schedl follows a roughly chronological structure, beginning with a description of the cultural context in which the Plan originated and the concrete preparations necessary for undertaking such an unusual project. She then proceeds, piece by piece, through the five individual pieces of parchment which came to form the Plan. Such a structure allows Schedl to reconstruct the various changes the Plan underwent as the scribes went about their work, most notably the successive drafts of the monastic church as revealed through ultraviolet imaging. Once again, these stages of drafting are helpfully illustrated (105-108). Throughout, Schedl discusses the various sources which may have influenced the Plan. In contrast to various previous works, Schedl avoids speculative architectural comparisons, emphasizing instead literary influences and parallels: the Regula Benedicti, Hildemar's commentary, the Aachen synods of 816/817, and the Capitulare de Villis. More weight is placed upon the Regula Benedicti itself as opposed to the Aachen reforms of 816/817: an important corrective from, among others, the work of Horn, who, in his efforts to connect his hypothesized "Urplan" to these synods, gave more weight to their decisions than to the Rule which they so actively promoted.

In chapter 7 (86-91), Schedl turns to the intended purpose of the Plan, dismissing, once again, the idea that it was intended as a construction plan due to the absence of topographical features, the contradictory measurements and proportions expressed on the Plan, and the lack of specification regarding building materials, foundations, and roofs, among other features. Instead, she follows previous arguments that the Plan was intended to reflect the Regula Benedicti in architectural form. Regarding the unified arrangement of building and functional units, she suggests that its authors adopted a similar approach to that taken by Vitruvius in his architectural manual, and argues that "In diesem Kontext könnte der Klosterplan dem frühmittelalterlichen Verständnis nach einem aus Buchwissen gewonnenen Planungsvorgang eines Architekten sehr nahekommen und in diesem Sinne als Architekturzeichnung bezeichnet werden. Die Disposition und die Wiedergabe der Bauwerke und deren Ausstattungsdetails erfüllen zudem mnemotechnische Aufgaben--sowohl für die Planhersteller als auch für den Adressaten" (91).

Finally, Schedl turns to the Plan's recipient, the monastery of St. Gall, and specifically to the building work undertaken there in the period 830-835 (92-95). Despite the similarities in the final measurements of the church constructed at St. Gall to those given on the Plan, she rightly points out the many differences, notably the complete separation of lay and monastic areas within the church as opposed to the less strictly differentiated approach taken by the Plan. She concludes that similarities between the Plan and the architectural design of other monasteries cannot be put down to direct influence, but rather, to the common influence of the Regula Benedicti--which not only decisively shaped the Plan, but also monastic architecture itself for centuries to come.

The volume is capped off by an essay by Karl Brunner which analyses the Vita sancti Martini subsequently entered on the back and bottom left-hand corner of the Plan (113-121, illustrated 109-112). Building on the work of Paul Lehmann, Brunner discusses the sources used in this twelfth-century compilation, notably Sulpicius Severus' Vita sancti Martini, Dialogues, and letters; Gregory of Tours' De obitu et translatione s. Martini; and a set of antiphons for vespers. The anonymous author adapted these sources freely, giving more attention to miraculous episodes while eliminating extraneous historical details, such as those concerning the military service of Martin and his father and the naming of persons otherwise forgotten. Brunner suggests that this Vita may have had a liturgical context, pointing out the altar to St. Martin designated on the Plan as well as other features, not least the inclusion of antiphons, included in the Vita itself.

All in all, this volume offers a refreshingly light-touch treatment of a source which bears such a weight of historiography. It is an excellent and elegantly-produced introduction for newcomers while still offering insights to those well acquainted with the Plan.