Cross and Book: Late-Carolingian Breton Gospel Illumination and the Instrumental Cross

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Cross and Book: Late-Carolingian Breton Gospel Illumination and the Instrumental Cross

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Title: Cross and Book: Late-Carolingian Breton Gospel Illumination and the Instrumental Cross
Author: Kitzinger, Beatrice
Citation: Kitzinger, Beatrice. 2012. Cross and Book: Late-Carolingian Breton Gospel Illumination and the Instrumental Cross. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Crosses made in metal, paint, or stone stand at a singular intersection of past, present and future in the early medieval period. The historical cross of Golgotha is the source of such manufactured crosses’ form and power. Most also represent the theology of the Cross through their form and decoration, describing the soteriology of the crucifixion and anticipating its consummation at the end of time. As manufactured crosses recount the past and look forward to the eschaton, they concurrently function in the age of the Church, offering specific, contemporary points of access to all the larger cross-sign represents. In its multivalent identity, the cross’ status as the Church’s central sign reflects the Church’s own temporal position, simultaneously commemorating sacred history, functioning in the present day, and preparing for the Second Coming. Although rarely recognized, the Church-time form of the cross—which I term the “instrumental” cross—is often a discernable component of early medieval cross-objects and images. I argue that we can recognize the instrumental cross among the commemorative and proleptic aspects of the sign because a formal and conceptual language developed to articulate it. In its instrumental form, the cross becomes the sign of the Church in its role as mediator between Christians, Christ and the eschaton, affirming the indispensable place of man-made artwork in that project. The instrumental cross, in turn, signals the instrumentality of the many artworks into which it is incorporated. It plays a particularly important role in manuscripts. In the first half of the dissertation I define a class of visual strategies that communicate the instrumental identity of the cross. I treat works in many media in Chapter 1 and focus on manuscripts in Chapters 2–3. The second half of the dissertation concentrates upon the case studies of four complex, hitherto neglected gospel codices from ninth–tenth century western France. In each, the deep relationship between Church-time cross and gospel book drives a pictorial program that is crafted to define a specific codex as an manufactured instrument, made to integrate its community with the larger project of the Church for which the cross-sign stands.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10304417
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