In 870, about the time when the Lindau Gospels cover was made, the
remains of Charlemagne's empire were ruled by his two surviving
grandsons: Charles the Bald, the West Frankish king, and Louis the
German, the East Frankish king, whose domains corresponded roughly to
the France and Germany of today. Their power was so weak, however, that
Continental Europe once again lay exposed to attack. In the south, the
Moslems resumed their depredations; Slavs and Magyars advanced from the
east; and Vikings from Scandinavia ravaged the north and west.
These Norsemen (the ancestors of today's Danes and Norwegians) had been
raiding Ireland and Britain by sea from the late eighth century on. Now
they invaded northwestern France as well and occupied the area that ever
since has been called Normandy. Once established there, they soon
adopted Christianity and Carolingian civilization, and from 911 on their
leaders were recognized as dukes nominally subject to the authority
of the king of France. During the eleventh century, the Normans assumed
a role of major importance in shaping the political and cultural destiny
of Europe, with William the Conqueror becoming king of England, while
other Norman nobles expelled the Arabs Irom Sicily and the Byzantines
from southern Italy.
In Germany, meanwhile, after the death of the last Carolingian monarch
in 911, the center of political power had shifted north to Saxony. The
Saxon kings (919-1024) reestablished an effective central government,
and the greatest of them. Otto I. also revived the imperial ambitions of
(Charlemagne. After marrying the widow of a Lombard king, he extended
his rule over most ol Italy and had himself crowned emperor by the pope
in 962. From then on the Holy Roman Empire was to be a German
institution—or perhaps we ought to call it a German dream, for Otto's
successors never managed to consolidate their claim to sovereignty south
of the Alps. Yet this claim had momentous consequences, since it led the
German emperors into centuries of conflict with the papacy and local
Italian rulers, linking North and South in a love-hate relationship
whose echoes can be felt to the present day.
During the Ottoman period, from the mid-tenth century to the beginning
oi the eleventh, Germany was the leading nation of Europe, politically
as well as artistically. German achievements in both areas began as revivals of Carolingian traditions but soon
developed new and original traits.
The change of outlook is impressively brought home to us
if we compare the Christ on the cover of the Lindau Gospels (fig. 390)
with The Gero Crucifix (fig. 391) in the Cathedral at Cologne. The two
works are separated by little more than a hundred years' interval, but
the contrast between them suggests a far greater span. In The Gero
Crucifix we meet an image of the crucified Saviour new to Western art:
monumental in scale, carved in powerfully rounded forms, and filled with
a deep concern for the sufferings of the Lord, which are heightened by
the addition of color. Particularly striking is the forward bulge of the
heavy body, which makes the strain on His arms and shoulders seem almost
unbearably real. The face, with its deeply incised, angular features,
has turned into a mask of agony, from which all life has fled.
391. The Gero Crucifix,
ń. 975-1000 A.D. Wood,
height 6'2" (2 m).
How did the Ottonian sculptor arrive at this startlingly bold
conception? The Gem Crucifix clearly derives from Byzantine art of the
Second Golden Age, which, we will recall, had created the compassionate
view of Christ on the Cross (see fig. 342). Byzantine influence was
strong in Germany at the time, for Otto II had married a Byzantine
princess, establishing a
direct link between the two imperial courts. The source alone is not
sufficient to explain the results. It remained for the Ottonian artist
to translate the Byzantine image into large-scale sculptural terms and
to replace its gentle pathos with an expressive realism that has been
the main strength of German art ever since.
Cologne was closely connected with the imperial house through its
archbishop, Bruno, the brother of Otto I, who left a strong mark on the
city through the numerous churches he built or rebuilt. His favorite
among these, the Benedictine Abbey of St. Pantaleon, became his burial
place as well as that of the wife of Otto II. Only the monumental
westwork (fig. 392) has retained its original shape essentially
unchanged until modern times. We recognize it as a massive and
well-proportioned successor to Carolingian westworks, with the
characteristic tower over the crossing of the western transept and a
deep porch flanked by tall stair turrets (compare fig. 382).
392. Westwork, St. Pantaleon,
Cologne. Consecrated 980
ST. MICHAEL'S, HILDESHEIM.
Hildesheim Cathedral (St. Michael's)
Judged in terms of surviving works, however,
the most ambitious patron of architecture and art in the Ottonian age
was Bernward, who became bishop of Hildesheim after having been one of
the tutors of Otto III. His chief monument is another Benedictine abbey
church, St. Michael's (figs. 393-95). The plan, with its two choirs and
lateral entrances, recalls the monastery church of the St. Gall plan
(see fig. 383). But in St. Michael's the symmetry is carried much
further. Not only are there two identical transepts, with crossing
towers and stair turrets (see figs. 381 and 382), but the supports of
the nave arcade, instead of being uniform, consist of pairs of columns
separated by square piers. This alternate system divides the arcade into
three equal units of three openings each. Moreover, the first and third
units are correlated with the entrances, thus echoing the axis of the
transepts. And since the aisles and nave arc unusually wide in relation
to their length, Bernward's intention must have been to achieve a
harmonious balance between the longitudinal and transverse axes
throughout the structure.
The exterior as well as the choirs of Bernward's church have been
disfigured by rebuilding, but the interior of the nave (figs. 394
and 395), with its great expanse of wall space between arcade and clerestory, retains the majestic spatial feeling of the
original design following its recent restoration. (The capitals of the
columns date from the twelfth century, the painted wooden ceiling from
the thirteenth.) The Bernwardian western choir, as reconstructed in our
plan, is particularly interesting. Its floor was raised above the level
of the rest of the church, so as to accommodate a half-subterranean
basement chapel, or crypt, apparently a special sanctuary of St.
Michael, which could be entered both from the transept and from the
west. The crypt was roofed by groined vaults resting on two rows of
columns, and its walls were pierced by arched openings that linked it
with the U-shaped corridor, or ambulatory, wrapped around it. This
ambulatory must have been visible above ground, enriching the exterior
of the western choir, since there were windows in its outer wall. Such
crypts with ambulatories, usually housing the venerated tomb of a saint,
had been introduced into the repertory of Western church architecture
during Carolingian times. But the Bern-wardian design stands out for its
large scale and its carefully planned integration with the rest of the
393. Reconstructed plan. Hildesheim
Cathedral (St. Michael's). 1001-33
394. Reconstructed longitudinal
section, Hildesheim Cathedral (alter Beseler)
395. Interior (view toward the
apse), Hildesheim Cathedral
396. Bronze Doors
of Bishop Bernward. 1015.
Heiaht ń. 161 (4.8 m). Hildesheim Cathedral
BRONZE DOORS OF BISHOP BERNWARD.
How much importance Bernward himself
attached to the crypt at St. Michael's can be gathered from the fact
that he commissioned a pair of richly sculptured bronze doors that were
probably meant for the two entrances leading from the transept to the
ambulatory (fig. 396). They were finished in 1015, the year the crypt
was consecrated. The idea may have come to him as a result of his visit
to Rome, where he could have seen ancient Roman (and perhaps Byzantine)
bronze doors. The Bernwardian doors, however, differ from their
predecessors. They are divided into broad horizontal fields rather than
vertical panels, and each field contains a biblical scene in high
relief. The subjects, taken from Genesis (left door) and the Life of
Christ (right door), depict the origin and redemption of sin.
Our detail (fig. 397) shows Adam and Eve after the Fall. Below it, in
inlaid letters remarkable for their classical Roman character, is part
of the dedicatory inscription, with the date and Bernward's name. In
these figures we find nothing of the monumental spirit of The Gero
Crucifix. They seem far smaller than they actually are, so that one
might easily mistake them for a piece of goldsmith's work such as the Lindau Gospels cover (compare
fig. 390). The entire composition must
have been derived from an illuminated manuscript. Even the oddly
stylized bits of vegetation have a good deal of the twisting, turning
movement we recall from Irish miniatures. Yet the story is conveyed with
splendid directness and expressive force. The accusing finger of the
Lord, seen against a great void of blank surface, is the focal point of
the drama. It points to a cringing Adam, who passes the blame to his
mate, while Eve, in turn, passes it to the serpent at her feet.
397. Adam and Eve Reproached by
from the Bronze Doors of Bishop Bernward.
of Bishop Bernward (detail)
of Bishop Bernward (detail)
of Bishop Bernward (detail)
of Bishop Bernward (detail)
GOSPEL BOOK OF OTTO III.
The same intensity of glance and of gesture
characterizes Ottoman manuscript painting, which blends Carolingian and
Byzantine elements into a new style of extraordinary scope and power.
The most important center of manuscript illumination at that time was
the Reichenau Monastery, on an island in Lake Constance. Perhaps its
finest achievement—and one of the great masterpieces of medieval art—is
the Gospel Book of Otto III, from which we reproduce two full-page
miniatures (figs. 398 and 399).
The scene of Christ washing the feet of St. Peter contains notable
echoes of ancient painting, transmitted through Byzantine art. The soft
pastel hues of the background recall the illusionism of Graeco-Roman
landscapes (see figs. 290 and 291), and the architectural frame around
Christ is a late descendant of the kind of architectural perspectives we
saw in the mural from Boscoreale (see fig. 289). That these elements
have been misunderstood by the Ottoman artist is obvious enough. But he
has also put them to a new use, so that what was once an architectural
vista now becomes the Heavenly City, the House of the Lord filled with
golden celestial space as against the atmospheric earthly space without.
The figures have undergone a similar transformation. In ancient art,
this composition had been used to represent a doctor treating a patient.
Now St. Peter takes the place of the sufferer, and Christ that of the
physician. (Note that He is still the beardless young philosopher type
here.) As a consequence, the emphasis has shifted from physical to
spiritual action, and this new kind of action is not only conveyed
through glances and gestures, it also governs the scale of things.
Christ and St.
Peter, the most active figures, are larger than the rest; Christ's
"active" arm is longer than His "passive" one; and the eight disciples,
who merely watch, have been compressed into a tiny space, so that we see
little more than their eyes and hands. Even the fanlike Early Christian
crowd from which this derives (see fig. 311) is not so literally
The other miniature, the painting of St. Luke, is a symbolic image of
overwhelming grandeur. Unlike his Carolingian predecessors (see figs.
386 and 388), the evangelist is no longer shown writing. Instead, his
Gospel lies completed on his lap. Enthroned on two rainbows, he holds
aloft an awesome cluster of clouds from which tongues of light radiate
in every direction. Within it we see his symbol, the ox, surrounded by
five Old Testament prophets and an outer circle of angels. At the
bottom, two lambs drink the life-giving waters that spring from beneath
the evangelist's feet. The key to the entire design is in the
inscription: Fonte patrum ductas bos agnis elicit undas— "From the
source of the fathers the ox brings forth a flow of water for the
lambs"—that is, St. Luke makes the prophets' message of salvation
explicit for the faithful. The Ottoman artist has truly "illuminated"
the meaning of this terse and enigmatic phrase by translating it into
such compelling visual terms.
398. Christ Washing the Feet of Peter, from
the Gospel Book of Otto III. ń. 1000. 13 x
9 3/8" (33 x 23.8 cm).
399. St. Luke, from the Gospel Book of Otto
1000. 13 x 9
(33 x 23.8 cm). Staatsbibliothek, Munich