PLAN OF A MONASTERY, ST. GALL.
The importance of monasteries and their close link with the imperial
court are vividly suggested by a unique document of the period, the
large drawing of a plan for a monastery preserved in the Chapter Library
at St. Gall in Switzerland (fig. 383). Its basic features seem to
have been determined at a council held near Aachen in 816-17. This copy
was then sent to the abbot of St. Gall for his guidance in rebuilding
the monastery. We may regard it, therefore, as a standard plan, intended
to be modified according to local needs.
383. Plan of a monastery. Original
in red ink on parchment.
820 ë.ï. 28 x
(71.1 x 112.1
Stiftsbibliothek, St. Gall, Switzerland
(inscriptions translated into English from Latin)
The monastery is a complex, self-contained unit, tilling a rectangle
about 500 by 700 feet (fig. 384). The main path of entrance, from
the west, passes between stables and a hostelry toward a gate which
admits the visitor to a colonnaded semicircular portico flanked by two
round towers, a sort of strung-out westwork that looms impressively
above the low outer buildings. It emphasizes the church as the center of
the monastic community. The church is a basilica, with a transept and
choir in the east but an apse and altar at either end. The nave and
aisles, containing numerous other altars, do not form a single
continuous space but are subdivided into compartments by screens. There
are numerous entrances: two beside the western apse, others on the north
and south flanks.
384. Reconstruction model, after the
ñ. 820 A.D. plan of a
monastery (Walter Horn, 1965)
This entire arrangement reflects the functions of a monastery church,
designed for the liturgical needs of the monks rather than for a lay
congregation. Adjoining the church to the south is an arcaded cloister,
around which are grouped the monks' dormitory (on the east side), a
refectory and kitchen (on the south side), and a cellar. The three large
buildings north of the church are a guesthouse, a school, and the
abbot's house. To the east are the infirmary, a chapel and quarters tor
novices, the cemetery (marked by a large cross), a garden, and coops for
chickens and geese. The south side is occupied by workshops, barns, and
other service buildings. There is, needless to say, no monastery exactly
like this anywhere—even in St. Gall the plan was not carried out as
drawn—yet its layout conveys an excellent notion of such establishments
throughout the Middle Ages.
385. Sta. Maria de Naranco, Oviedo.
Outside of Germany, the vast majority of early medieval churches were
small in size, simple in plan, and provincial in style. The best
examples, such as Sta. Maria de Naranco (fig. 385), are in Spain
and owe their survival to their remote locations. Built by Ramiro I
about 848 as part of his palace near Oviedo, it is, like Charlemagne's
Palace Chapel, an audience hall and chapel (it even included baths) but
on a much more modest scale. Remarkably, it features a tunnel vault
along the upper story and arcaded loggias at either end that were
clearly inspired by the interior of the Palace Chapel (fig. 379).
The construction, however, is far more rudimentary, built of crudely
carved, irregular blocks instead of the carefully dressed masonry
(called ashlar) found at Aachen. We need only glance at S. Apollinare in
Classe (fig. 303) to realize how much of the architectural past
had been lost in only 300 years.
Ground map of the church
Santa María del Naranco interior
Manuscripts and Book Covers
GOSPEL BOOK OF CHARLEMAGNE.
From the start, the fine arts played an
important role in Charlemagne's cultural program. We know from literary
sources that Carolingian churches contained murals, mosaics, and relief
sculpture, but these have disappeared almost entirely. Illuminated
manuscripts, ivories, and goldsmiths' work, on the other hand, have
survived in considerable numbers. They demonstrate the impact of the
Carolingian revival even more strikingly than the architectural remains
of the period. The former Imperial Treasury in Vienna contains a Gospel
Book said to have been found in the Tomb of Charlemagne and, in any
event, is closely linked with his court at Aachen. Looking at the
picture of St. Matthew from that manuscript (fig. 386), we can hardly
believe that such a work could have been executed in Northern Europe
about the year 800. Were it not for the large golden halo, the
evangelist Matthew might almost be mistaken for
a classical author's portrait like the one of Menander (fig. 387),
painted at Pompeii almost eight centuries earlier. Whoever the artist
was—Byzantine, Italian, or Prankish—he plainly was fully conversant with
the Roman tradition of painting, down to the acanthus ornament on the
wide frame, which emphasizes the "window" treatment of the picture.
386. St. Matthew, from the
Book of Charlemagne,
ñ. 800-810 A.D. 13 x 10" (33 x 25.4 cm).
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
387. Portrait of Menander.
ñ. 70 A.D. Wall painting.
House of Menander,
GOSPEL BOOK OF ARCHBISHOP EBBO.
The St. Matthew represents the most
orthodox phase of the Carolingian revival. It is the visual counterpart
of copying the text of a classical work of literature. A miniature of
St. Mark, painted some three decades later for the Gospel Book of
Archbishop Ebbo of Reims (fig. 388), shows the classical model
translated into a Carolingian idiom. It must have been based on an
evangelist's portrait of the same style as the St. Matthew, but now the
entire picture is filled with a vibrant energy that sets everything into
motion. The drapery swirls about the figure, the hills heave upward, the
vegetation seems to be tossed about by a whirlwind, and even the
acanthus pattern on the frame assumes a strange, flamelike character.
The evangelist himself has been transformed from a Roman author setting
down his own thoughts into a man seized with the frenzy of divine
inspiration, an instrument for recording the Word of God. His gaze is
fixed not upon his book but upon his symbol (the winged lion with a
scroll), which acts as the transmitter of the sacred text. This
dependence on the will of the Word, so powerfully expressed here, marks
the contrast between classical and medieval images of humanity. But the
means of expression—the dynamism of line that distinguishes our
miniature from its predecessor—recalls the passionate movement in the
ornamentation of Irish manuscripts of the Dark Ages (figs. 373 and
388. St. Mark, from the
Gospel Book of Archbishop
Ebbo of Reims.
The Reims School also produced the most extraordinary
of all Carolingian manuscripts, the Utrecht Psalter (fig. 389), It
displays the style of the Ebbo Gospels in an even more energetic form,
since the entire book is illustrated with pen drawings. Here again the
artist has followed a much older model, as indicated by the
architectural and landscape settings of the scenes, which are strongly
reminiscent of those on the Arch of Titus (see fig. 275), and by the use
of Roman capital lettering, which had gone out of general use several
centuries before. The wonderfully rhythmic quality of his draftsmanship,
however, gives to these sketches a kind of emotional coherence that
could not have been present in the earlier pictures. Without it, the
drawings of the Utrecht Psalter would carry little conviction, for the
poetic language of the Psalms does not lend itself to illustration in
the same sense as the narrative portions of the Bible.
The Psalms can be illustrated only by taking each phrase literally and
then by visualizing it in some manner. Thus, toward the bottom of the
page, we see the Lord reclining on a bed, flanked by pleading angels, an
image based on the words, "Awake, why sleepest thou, Oh Lord?" On the
left, the faithful crouch before the Temple, "for . . . our belly
cleaveth unto the earth," and at the city gate in the foreground they
are killed "as sheep for the slaughter." In the hands of a pedestrian
artist, this procedure could well turn into a wearisome charade. Here it
has the force of a great drama.
LINDAU GOSPELS COVER.
The style of the Reims School can still be felt in
the reliefs of the jeweled front cover of the Lindau Gospels (fig. 390),
a work of the third quarter of the ninth century. This masterpiece of
the goldsmith's art shows how splendidly the Celtic-Germanic metalwork
tradition of the Dark Ages adapted itself to the Carolingian revival.
The clusters of semiprecious stones are not mounted directly on the gold
ground but raised on claw feet or arcaded turrets, so
that the light can penetrate beneath them to bring out their full
brilliance. Interestingly enough, the crucified Christ betrays no hint
of pain or death. He seems to stand rather than to hang, His arms spread
out in a solemn gesture. To endow Him with the signs of human suffering
was not yet conceivable, even though the means were at hand, as we can
see from the eloquent expressions of grief among the small figures in
the adjoining compartments.
389. Illustrations to Psalms
43 and 44,
from the Utrecht Psalter.
ñ. 820-32 A.D.
390. Upper cover of binding, the
870 A.D. Gold and jewels.
13 3/4 x 10 1/2"
(35 x 26.7
The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York