16.01.16, Lusanna, ed., Umbria e Marche in età Romanica

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Kathryn L. Jasper

The Medieval Review 16.01.16

Lusanna, Enrica Neri, ed. Umbria e Marche in età Romanica: Arti e tecniche a confronto tra XI e XIII secolo. Todi: Ediart, 2013. pp. 320. ISBN: 978-8-885-31177-0 (paperback).

Reviewed by:
Kathryn L. Jasper
Illinois State University

It is never easy to review a collection of essays. Invariably you fail to satisfy your audience either because of insufficient or excessive comments. In this case I attempt to communicate the strengths of Umbria e Marche in età Romanica by showing, in several examples, how the essays in this volume from historians and art historians successfully complement one another. The authors place documents, monuments, architecture, and the historiography of church reform in conversation; in so doing they offer a valuable perspective of "reform on the ground" in two important yet understudied regions of Italy. The essays in this volume were first presented at a conference held in June 2012 at the University of Perugia. This meeting, "Testi e contesti. Arte e techniche a confronto in Umbria e nelle Marche in età romanica," brought together historians and art historians to examine the connections between ecclesiastical change and Romanesque art and architecture in the Italian Marches and Umbria during the contentious Age of Reform and into the fourteenth century.

In the introduction, editor Enrica Neri Lusanna states that the goal of the book is to place the context of art and architecture in the foreground and to explain the function of each piece in the liturgical space for which it was created. The term Romanesque in this context remains problematic because its definition varies depending on the geography. From the eleventh through the thirteenth century, cultural disunity existed in the Marches and Umbria due to competing influences (classical, Lombard, Byzantine). Because this was a region with roads that connected Rome to the Adriatic, over the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the area had a more fluid cultural profile with respect to other Romanesque contexts in the peninsula. At the same time art and architecture recalled the classical tradition, in particular through use of spolia. The Marches and Umbria have received negative attention because the use of spolia appears as mere imitation of ancient forms. However, as this book makes clear, the two regions show remarkable changes in ecclesiastical building that correspond to social and political transformations. Internally the region possessed a limited number of important small to medium-sized cities that developed into communes after the year 1000. These often became the seat of the bishop and their diocesan boundaries crossed regional markers. In addition to the presence of monastic building, these bishops sponsored the building of churches in the cities and along routes of communication. Ecclesiastical building only increased after Innocent III incorporated the region into the Patrimony of St. Peter. For all these reasons, a study of the two regions' cultural expression during the Romanesque period is warranted.

The authors do consider to what extent figures, architecture, and objects reflect loyalty to the Roman Church or to the distant imperial court, but they collectively agree that this dichotomy fails to accommodate the complex dynamics of the region. While the historians study the civic and ecclesiastical institutions that shaped Umbria and the Marches, art historians investigate new styles, alongside appropriation, reuse, and imitation of forms from antiquity within this milieu.

In his essay entitled "Preliminari sulle instituzioni nell’Umbria dell’età romanica," Nicolangelo D'Acunto identifies the political-ecclesiastical institutional structures in the region of Umbria during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. He contextualizes recent research on eleventh-century reform specifically in this region. What interests D'Acunto is the political-ecclesiastical landscape; that is, how were the papal and imperial lines drawn in the region? What did the episcopal class look like? D'Acunto argues that recent historiography reveals fluidity between these papal and imperial loyalties before the Investiture Conflict and he shows that in Umbria specifically, as in most of north-central Italy, the appearance of the "so-called Reichskirchensystem" persisted even after the pontificate of Leo IX (15). Bishops remained plugged into aristocratic networks in sub-alpine Italy with ties to the emperor. But during Gregory VII's pontificate party lines became more rigid, and imperial bishops in Umbria far outnumbered the "Gregorian" bishops.

According to D'Acunto, the political consequences stemming from ties between the imperial court and bishops in Umbria were a shared set of ideals and practices among the imperial episcopate. Antique models reinforced episcopal culture expressed through both text and art, in particular emphasizing the Romanitas of bishop-martyrs and therefore being directed against Gregorian polemic. As papal authority increased its presence in the region during the twelfth century, the Holy See did not undermine the development because locally elected bishops were already loyal to the distant emperor. D'Acunto notes the failure of reformed monasticism to flourish in the region (with the exception of the Vallombrosian and the Camaldolese monks). However, the underwhelming presence of reformed monasticism did not mean that monasticism itself failed; rather, the rise of local, indigenous monastic networks and the influence of existing houses represented a sufficient recompense for the absence of reformed orders from outside the region.

D'Acunto's essay provides the context for subsequent contributions on the art and architecture of Umbria and the Marches. For example, Maria Teresa Gigliozzi focuses on architecture in her essay entitled "Rapporti e dinamiche nell’architettura romanica di Umbria e Marche: XI Secolo." Gigliozzi shows the cultural connectivity of the regions of Umbria and the Marches through a survey of shared architecture. Although these regions rarely appear in discussions of Romanesque architecture in Italy and Europe, Umbria and the Marches represent an important area of study, not least of all because these regions offer an ideal setting to study the impact of patronage on art forms. Gigliozzi argues that the political dynamics between bishops, reforming monasteries, and aristocratic families in these regions created a distinct cultural identity. She focuses on eleventh-century buildings during the period in which major reformers such as Romuald, Peter Damian, Bishop Ugone of Assisi, and Bishop Udalric of Fermo were active. The region possessed some unique structures even though the ecclesiastical architecture of Umbria and the Marches drew upon external examples from across Europe. For example, the monastery of San Pietro in Valle a Ferentillo (built in the early eleventh century) has no contemporary analogue in the area. Its vaulted and apsed transept and the polygonal design of the cupola (tiburio) follows an Ottonian model common in the Veneto (San Salvatore di Montecchia di Crosara) and also found in Tuscany at San Salvatore sul Monte Amiata (a monastery with ties to the imperial court).

Gigliozzi reminds us that Romuald traveled from Venice to Cuxa in Catalonia and back to Italy. During his travels he would have seen a variety of distinct architectural forms, which subsequently made their way over the Alps and into northern Italy. Especially prominent examples include external features such as articulation of walls with pilasters and blind arcades, but also design elements such as double chapels (e.g., San Claudia al Chienti) and crypts that covered the entire expanse of the upper building (e.g., the cathedral of Assisi; also in this volume see the essay by Francesco Montesanti, "Il Duomo di Assisi: La chiesa ugoniana"). Beyond the initiatives of bishops and monasteries, local aristocratic families heavily influenced the style and appearance of ecclesiastical structures through the foundation of ecclesiae propriae and substantial patronage (23). Romuald, for instance, founded the monastery of Santa Maria di Sitria in which an eleventh-century cripta ad oratorium, signaling Ottonian-Salian influence, survives. Romuald’s relationship with Otto III seems to have affected the founder in more ways than one.

In the first half of the eleventh century so-called imperial bishops, like the bishops of Fermo, built novel structures with respect to local models (see the essay in this volume by Guido Tigler, "Il Duomo di Fermo"). These edifices emulated the "German traditions" with double chapels (Doppelkapelle) and double (contrapposte) apses (24). Gigliozzi cautions that we not dismiss Byzantine influence as well. New architectural forms appeared, but Byzantine style remained important and never competed with the German traditions; several elements characteristic of the latter derived from Byzantine models, such as the episcopal double chapel.

The real strength of this volume is the dialogue between contributions. The essay by Donatella Scortecci, entitled "Rimpiego, conservazione, imitazione dell’antico in Umbria tra alto e basso medioevo," addresses the ornamentation of churches and nicely complements Gigliozzi's chapter. Scortecci investigates the various and significant uses of spolia and the imitation of ancient models in Umbrian sculpture and architecture, which provides insight into the medieval perceptions of sacred space. The reuse of spolia reached its maximum expression during the eleventh and twelfth centuries when churches and monasteries repurposed ancient sarcophagi and sculpture to represent auctoritas antiquitatis (37). It appears a phenomenon not exclusive to papal or imperial parties, but exercised by both. Bernardino Sperandio's chapter, "Le pietre ornamentali e da construzione nelle chiese romaniche dell’Umbria e il loro impiego nei restauri moderni" likewise examines spoliated materials and their reuse in Romanesque churches in Umbria, but concentrates his analysis on masonry and ornamental stonework of the period. He also discusses efforts to restore these structures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which affects how they are studied today.

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri and Giulia Giulianelli offer an essay entitled "Clero, ceti dirigenti e committenza degli edifici sacri nelle Marche tra XI e XIV secolo" in which the authors set longer chronological parameters, examining the relationship between sacred art and architecture and monastic movements from the eleventh through fourteenth centuries. The essay limits its focus to the Marches, and the sub-region of Montefeltro in particular (the modern provinces of Pesaro-Urbino and Rimini, the territory of the Republic of San Marino, and extending into parts of Forlì-Cesena and Arezzo) to include perspectives from medieval history and art history together in one contribution. The first section discusses connections between monks and the ruling classes during the Age of Reform (eleventh and twelfth centuries). Like most of the chapters in the volume, this essay adopts the premise of multi-genesis in reform movements over a uniform, papal-directed program. The term "Gregorian reform" really simplifies the situation in this region, which saw overlapping interests between monasteries (even reformed monasteries) and local lords, because both ultimately occupied the same economic role. The monastery of Farfa, for example, had an approach to land tenure that hardly deviated from that of its more "reformed" neighbors.

The appearance of the mendicant orders in the region caused a significant rupture, because seigniorial lords could hardly maintain "mendicant lordship." The arrival of the mendicants ushered in a concomitant shift in art and architecture as well, as the desire to communicate power in the region continued to manifest in the patronage of churches and monasteries. The preferred style of the Franciscans and Augustinians, not surprisingly, embraced simplicity, and the only Gothic structures in the region belonged to the mendicant orders. In terms of sculpture, mendicant churches displayed ornamentation mainly around the main entrance. These relatively simple sculptures conformed to specific decorative typologies, divided into three distinct categories: recessed geometric patterns, floral and vegetal motifs, and anthropomorphic or Christological motifs. Fulvio Cervini's essay, which immediately follows, concentrates on façades and doors of churches in the Marches ("Alternative ai portali nel Romanico marchigiano") and builds on the contribution of Carpegna Falconieri and Giulianelli.

This volume represents a significant contribution to our understanding of localized efforts to address monastic abuses and the exercise and communication of episcopal authority. As scholars have demonstrated in different contexts, the dissemination and interpretation of papal and imperial directives varied enormously on the ground. Local reform more often worked independently of wider initiatives, which appears to be the case in the Marches and Umbria as well. The large black-and-white images throughout the volume show the tangible effects of ecclesiastical change. The book will be of interest to historians and art historians alike, and especially scholars of eleventh-century reform.

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