Re: Re: reordering and destruction of irish cathedrals – St Colmans Cathedral, Cobh

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The Lombard Kingdom

To return, once again, to the question of the artistic representation of the Majestas Domini, we have followed its development from the mosaic of 390 in Santa Pudentiana in Rome, to the Bizantine Imperial Exarchate in Ravenna and, thence, to the schools of manuscript illumination at Charlemagne’s imperial court at Aachen. In all these cultural contexts, the architpye of Christ enthroned in glory recurrs. The main elements of the Santa Pudentiana mosaic are reproduced in them: Christ seated with imperial poise (though not always sourrounded by the mandorla), the book in his hand, the long hair (though not always bearded), the Cross, the four evangelists and the tetramorphai. This representation of Chirst always emphasises his divinity and the power of the Cross. However, some attention has to be paid to the other great cultural topos of the early middle ages – the Lombard kingdom which had been established in the Po valley and Liguria, as well as in the duchies of Benevento and Spoleto, from the middle of the 6th century when these Longobard tribes came over the eastern Alps from Pannonia and defeated the Bizantine rulers of northern Italy. Their dominance was to continue until their defeat at the hands of Charlemagne. The art of the Lombards was a crucible for various influences: classical Roman, Celt, and Bizantine (evident in the figure of Christ in the Altar of Ratchis as he holds his hand in blessing in the eastern fashion).

The Altar of Ratchis c. 740

The altar of Ratchis is the most important monument of the Luitprand renaissance in Cividale. It demonstrates the hight degree of asimilation of Latin civilization by the Lombards. The linear sculpting of the figures is reminiscent of Longobard goldsmithing. The entire altar is the work of a goldsmith done in stone. The composition retains the major elements of the Santa Pudentiana mosaic: the Christ seated in majesty, halo, with the incorporated Cross, the book (this time a rotulus). It also has its own pecularities: Christ wears a stole indicating his priesthood, the hand of God at the top of the manorla, the hand held in the eastern style of blessing, four angels instead of the tetramorphai.

The golden Altar, Sant’Ambrogio in Milan

The Altare d’oro in Sant’Ambrogio was placed over the tomb of St. Ambrose and of Sts. Protasius and Gevasius by the will of Charlemange when Angilbertus was Bishop of Milan (824-859). The treatment of the figures is dynamic and lively. The composition strongly emphasizes the Cross which occupies the central panel of the altar frontal. The Majestas Domini is placed at the centre of the Cross. Instead of blessing, Christ holds the Cross or labrum (reminiscent of ancient Rome and of Moses). The extremities of the Cross contain the tetramorphai representing the Four Evangelists. In each corner is a group of three Apostles.

The victroy of Carlemagne over the Lombards in 774 signalled the end of the Lombard kingdom and the displacement of its artistic accomplishments north of the Alps, eventually to Aachen and the new imperial court.

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