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Power, Legitimacy, and their Rituals and Imagery: Early Medieval Southern Italy in a cross-cultural Mediterranean Perspective

Iannace, Arturo (2024) Power, Legitimacy, and their Rituals and Imagery: Early Medieval Southern Italy in a cross-cultural Mediterranean Perspective. Advisor: Bertolacci, Prof. Amos. Coadvisor: Longo, Dr. Ruggero . pp. 593. [IMT PhD Thesis]

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At the end of the X century, in the city of Benevento appeared a liturgical medium that would soon become a peculiarity of the religious life of Southern Italy for the centuries to come: the illustrated scroll, containing the texts of the so-called Exultet prayer and the blessing of the Paschal candle, a ceremony to be held in the Easter Vigil. The liturgy underlining such a ceremony in Southern Italy changed over time, in particular when the original so-called Beneventan liturgy (the traditional rite originating in the city of Benevento after the arrival of the Lombards, as an evolution of the more ancient Ambrosian liturgy) gave way to the imposition of the Franco-Roman one, a result of the spread of the reformist movement that characterized the life of the Church during the XI century. Notwithstanding these changes, the illuminated scroll kept its role and importance, evolving and adapting itself to the new circumstances until at least the XIII century. Religious changes, however, did not come alone: during the whole period from the X to the XII century, Southern Italy as a whole underwent some drastic changes in its political setting. From the second half of the IX century, and precisely from 849, the year of the peace treaty that marked the end of a long civil war, the old duchy of Benevento (a principality since 774, when Arichis II started styling himself as princeps) was divided into two distinct entities: the principality of Benevento, and that of Salerno. Later on, the latter lost its northernmost part, which became an independent county centred around the town of Capua, whose rulers subsequently managed to reunite with Benevento and, under Pandulf Ironhead (943-981) even Salerno, in 978. The (temporary) reunification of the three principalities in one single polity would mark the last moment of unity for the Lombard people before the advent of new political actors, who would radically change the landscape of Southern Italy: the Normans. This is not the place for a detailed narrative of the Norman conquest of Southern Italy, and of the following birth of a unified Regnum under Roger II in 1130. What is important to note here is that the anarchic situation that reigned in continental Southern Italy between the second half of the XI century and the beginning of the XII, and then the birth of a strong monarchy immediately after, both influenced developments in the liturgical sphere and in the organization of the Church. Moreover, Roger II’s new political construction brought under a single rule the four different, often conflicting, cultural worlds that for centuries had interacted with each other in the southern Italian arena: the Lombard, Frankish, Byzantine, and Arab worlds. Alongside the three Lombard principalities, indeed, Southern Italy always saw the presence of lands under Byzantine rule: at the beginning limited, after the first Lombard invasion of the VI century, to the southernmost part of modern day Puglia and to Calabria, the Eastern Roman Empire managed to strengthen its presence and recover some of the lost territories between the IX and X century, and again at the beginning of the XI century, restoring its rule over much Apulia, Lucania, Calabria, and even (briefly) in the very core of the Lombard principalities, Benevento itself.1 On the Tyrrhenian coast, also, a number of cities thrived as political entities nominally still subject to the emperors in Constantinople, but de facto increasingly independent: Naples, Amalfi, Gaeta, among them. A more in-depth look at the political developments that took place in Southern Italy during the period under consideration here will be given in the course of Chapter 2 (and, for what concerns the Byzantine presence, in the Conclusions as well). What is to be said now is that this peculiar political and cultural landscape, as it took its shape from the VIII century onwards, also resulted in the birth of a civilization with characteristics and peculiarities of its own; a civilization that found its expression in the development of an artistic language that ranged from the first exemplars of Lombard ‘royal’ architecture (such as the palatine church of S. Sofia in Benevento, or the reconstruction of Salerno as a new princely capital undertaken by Arichis II), to the most remarkable forms of Romanesque art that developed under the patronage of the first Norman rulers. During all this time, the Exultet rolls stood firmly in their place, were kept in use, and evolved in both iconography and text. As a result, we currently see Exultet rolls spread from Pisa (two at the Museo Diocesano, and one at the archive of the Capitolo metropolitano, dating from the XI to the XIII century), to Velletri, Salerno, Troia, Bari, Gaeta, Paris, London, for a total of twenty-eight scrolls. A rich, though not homogeneous, corpus, with differences in both original composition (some, such as the Exultet from Avezzano, were made without images) and state of preservation. But to consider the scrolls as purely an expression of religion or liturgy would be a mistake: both the chant and its iconography, once this was introduced, contained clear references to the secular authorities in the form of a commemoration, made at the end of the prayer. As a result, starting with the very first scroll in our possession, the Vat. lat. 9820, most of the surviving exemplars show us representations of the ruler (or rulers), representations that changed over time and that represent, by themselves,valuable sources of information about the evolution in the iconography of power in medieval Southern Italy.2

Item Type: IMT PhD Thesis
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
PhD Course: Analysis and Management of Cultural Heritage
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.13118/imtlucca/e-theses/403
NBN Number: urn:nbn:it:imtlucca-29854
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2024 11:45
URI: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/403

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