This paper explores the reception and reshaping of the theme of the Dormitio in homilies as well as in visual arts produced in early medieval Italy. Connected to other papers presented in the workshop as for the interaction between textual and mental images of Mary (Olkinuora), it also found a natural prosecution in another dealing with the development of the theme of the Dormitio in tenth and eleventh centuries Byzantine texts (Booth). The case-study chosen for this paper is an image of the Virgin Assunta depicted in the apse of the small ‘crypt’ of the abbot Epiphanius (824–42) in the monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno, in the former Langobardia Minor, preserving the most important painted cycle in the early medieval central-southern Italy. Mary sits on a throne, holding a book where a quotation from the Magnificat hymn is inscribed. The throne, the crown, and five archangels paraded in the lower section of the vault, make her appear as the Queen of Heaven ruling with her Son, who is depicted on another throne in the vault above. The painted cycle of the crypt has been analysed by generations of art historians, among whom Toesca (1904) and Belting (1968) traced a connection between its contents and the writings of the Gallic author Ambrosius Autpertus († 784). He was a monk, briefly abbot, and a renowned theologian active at San Vincenzo al Volturno in the second half of the eighth century. In his Sermo de adsumptione sanctae Mariae – the earliest original homily on the Dormitio attested in the Latin West ¬– Mary is presented as reigning above the Angels with her Son. Autpertus quotes the Magnificat in celebrating the humility of Mary, a virtue that made her the celestial ladder to Heaven from which God descended to Earth and humanity can ascend to salvation – thus adopting a new metaphor in the West for describing her role in the history of Salvation. This metaphor is instead to be found in the Byzantine Marian tradition from the sixth century, and revived by iconophile writers of the early eighth century. The latter already connected the Magnificat to the moment of Mary’s transitus in their homilies on the Dormitio. Although the modalities of transmission of iconophile homilies to the West have not been investigated, it remains the case that Autpertus declares that he could not find «apud Latinos» anything related to the Dormitio, and that he then adopts a phrasing, metaphors, epithets applied in the Byzantine tradition to describe Mary, her Assumption into Heaven, her role in the history of Salvation. Interestingly, the mural painting with the Assunta pre-dates of one century the earliest Byzantine depiction of the Dormitio of Mary, which instead present Mary on her deathbed surrounded by the Apostles. The Assunta at San Vincenzo should not be explained by mechanically comparing it to earlier theological writings, but by reconstructing the modalities of circulation of theological concepts between East and West in the period of the ‘image struggle’, their influence on the religious mentality, and their eventual ‘translation’ into visual imagery.
|Titolo:||Mary as ‘scala caelestis’ in Eighth and Ninth Century Italy, in The Reception of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Marian Narratives in Texts and Images, M. B. Cunningham, T. Arentzen (eds.), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 235–56.|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2019|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||2.1.2 Articolo su libro con ISBN|