San Leonardo Siponto Portal

Gesta – Fall 2015

Gesta presents original research on developments in the study of art and life of the Middle Ages.

Gesta vol 54 No 2, fall 2015 - CoverGesta Vol. 54, No. 2, Fall 2015

Encounter: A Statue-Column at the Glencairn Museum
Susan Leibacher Ward

Encountering the Glencairn queen exposes numerous layers. The queen is an example of mid-twelfth-century architectural sculpture, originally part of an exterior ensemble, a type of portal well known to all students of medieval art…

Encounter: Richard Krautheimer
By Charles B. McClendon

Richard Krautheimer was a force of nature who left an indelible impression of indefatigable energy and probing intellect on all who met him. His legacy has been long-lasting due to the strength of his numerous publications, his influence on students over decades of teaching, and his interaction with young scholars outside the classroom. My story, therefore, is only one of many, but my first encounter with Krautheimer remains unforgettable, and, if anything, its significance for my academic and personal life has only grown over time…

Parts and Words in Romanesque Architecture
By C. Edson Armi

This article focuses on the problem of using terms that define isolated elements in classical architecture to describe the continuous vertical surfaces and square edges—based on the shapes of stacked bricks—in early eleventh-century southern European churches. Masons trained in the brick tradition created a comprehensive system of architecture in which decoration, articulation, construction, and structure formed an inseparable whole. Studying these elements of architecture together reveals new information about the regional context of building and the background, intent, and contribution of workers in Romanesque churches.

Crouching Crossbowmen in Early Twelfth-Century Sculpture: A Nasty, Brutish, and Short(-Lived) Iconography
By Therese Martin

Around the turn of the twelfth century, a new iconography arose in northern Spanish and southern French lands. The sculpted image of a naked crossbowman, crouching to arm his weapon, flourished briefly and then vanished within a few decades. The crossbow was just coming into common usage at this time; with little training, it could be wielded by peasants or women to defeat mounted knights and thus had the potential to destabilize social structures. I analyze the display of the Romanesque crouching crossbowman to understand this heretofore unexamined iconography, investigating the reasons behind its initial conception, layered content, and rapid disappearance. Even more than the textual references to crossbows that have come down to us, I contend that visual analysis, together with an understanding of the specific historical context that encompassed the short life of this iconography, enables us to decipher the multiple meanings behind the image.

Between the Limousin and the Holy Land: Prisoners, Performance, and the Portal of San Leonardo at Siponto
ByJessica N. Richardson

This article discusses two little-studied reliefs on the north portal of San Leonardo at Siponto. Long noted as a site on the road to the important sanctuary of St. Michael on Monte Gargano, the north facade of the church contains some of the most celebrated sculpture of twelfth-century Apulia, which has traditionally been viewed in relation to pilgrimage. Through consideration of the cult of its titular saint, Leonard of Noblat—patron of prisoners, whose main shrine is located in the Limousin region of central France—I argue that the carved figures represent one of the saint’s principal miracles, first recorded at the beginning of the twelfth century. Additionally, they provide insight into a significant and overlooked aspect of Leonard’s cult and its gestation, explaining how a little-known saint purportedly born in sixth-century France became the focus of one of the most popular cults in twelfth-century Europe and the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The interpretation proposed here participates in current scholarly discussions of sacred topography and the potentially “global” dimensions of medieval saints’ cults, offering an understanding of the dynamics of the cult-body-image relationship. It demonstrates how the study of individuals’ mobility can enrich our understanding of the devotion to saints beyond the geographically bound locations of the shrines that housed their bodies, and it shows the critical role images play in recording and revealing these processes. I investigate the ways in which facade imagery might simultaneously address varied audiences and carry multivalent meanings, potentially shaping practice and moderating social behavior. Finally, I show how sculpture could form part of a dynamic and complex relationship among miracles, performance, and votive offerings….

Lofty Sculpture: Flying Buttress Decoration and Ecclesiastical Authority
By Maile Sophia Hutterer

The monumental standing figures on the outer side of the flying buttress piers at Chartres Cathedral ushered in a new form of buttress decoration. Subsequently, the majority of large Gothic churches constructed in northern France used this type of decoration on their buttresses, sometimes translating the figures to positions above or below the flyer head. Today most of this buttress sculpture is heavily damaged, making the identification of specific programs difficult or impossible. The comparison of several examples, however, allows us to identify general trends. The earliest examples at Chartres Cathedral, Reims Cathedral, and the basilica of Saint-Quentin emphasize episcopal and liturgical imagery, in which the figures suggest a procession. While the specific iconography of these programs differs, they consistently underscore the authority of the church and its bishop through the presentation of pastoral or administrative roles. After the initial development of flying buttress sculpture in the first half of the thirteenth century, it became a common feature of cathedrals and other major churches constructed during the Middle Ages in France….


Remembering and Forgetting Suger at Saint-Denis, 1151–1534: An Abbot’s Reputation between Memory and History
 Erik Inglis

A passage from the Grandes Chroniques de France claims that the rebuilding of the nave of Saint-Denis in the 1230s marked the first new construction there since Dagobert built the church in the seventh century. The text’s omission of Abbot Suger’s famous campaigns in the 1130s and 1140s, which the abbot himself did so much to commemorate, provides an opportunity to assess Suger’s reception, to see if and how his hope to be remembered was realized in the centuries after his death. Reviewing the evidence from Saint-Denis’ chronicles and inventories, we find that the years around 1300 marked a turning point in Suger’s posthumous reputation. Some of this is probably the inevitable result of the passage of time, as the living memory of Suger died; it also results from the desire to celebrate the ambitious construction at the abbey in the thirteenth century. The article concludes by comparing the memory of Suger with that of other celebrated patrons, including Bernward of Hildesheim, Louis IX, and Anquetil of Moissac….


San Leonardo in Siponto, Portal © Roberto Tomei