Conference paper

Utz, Sabine:

Mapping monastic manuscripts around 900: The Bern Prudentius and the Artistic Production of the Lake Constance Area

Our understanding of Carolingian and Ottonian art still largely relies on imperial figures and their direct patronage of monastic and court “schools”. In the troubled years between Charles the Bald and Otto I, the lack of strong monarchs has given a particular importance to monastic scriptoria. For the lake Constance area, the famous monasteries of Saint-Gall and Reichenau have been the main focus of research and the obvious alternative for illuminated books. Most of the scholarly attention the Bern Prudentius (Burgerbibliothek, codex 264) has received so far has thus been devoted to defining in which of these “schools” its production should be placed. However, the codex includes a plurality of scripts, ornamented initials and of stylistically diverse illuminated cycles, and this lack of unity has made such a univocal attribution difficult. Rather than trying to ignore this phenomenon, the aim of this conference will be to interrogate it: could the lack of unity of the codex not rather be a meaningful diversity? What does this tell us about the artists and scribes around 900, and about their patrons? Instead of looking at monastic scriptoria as closed entities, can the networks of abbots and bishops of the lake Constance area help us get another understanding of the artistic production? In the last decades of the 9th century, two figures stand out: Hatto I. abbot of the Reichenau from 888 on and archbishop of Mainz (891-915), and Salomon III, abbot of Saint-Gall and bishop of Constance (890-920). Ekkehard IV, in the Casus Sancti Galli (c. 1035-1056) acknowledges both their close contacts and their proximity to the imperial court. If it is often difficult to trace specific travels for specific persons, I would like to draw on the concept of a geography of art, such as developed by Enrico Castelnuovo for the Alps, and question the vectors that can induce movement to the objects themselves, their creators and their patrons. By proposing another mapping of monastic manuscripts, this approach could help us shed a different light on the artistic production of the Bern Prudentius and the lake Constance area.

Sabine Utz studied at the universities of Lausanne and York. She is now a teaching assistant in medieval art history and a doctoral student at the University of Geneva. Her dissertation focuses on the Bern Prudentius (Burgerbibliothek, codex 264) (Prof. Dr. Frédéric Elsig, dir. ), with the aim of giving the manuscript a new comprehensive study. Her publications include a paper on this manuscript, as well as several contributions to exhibition catalogues. She is also involved in Swiss cultural heritage, among others the journal Kunst + Architektur in der Schweiz.
Main areas of interest: early medieval book illumination, geography of art, swiss heritage and historic preservation, relationships between text and image, Carolingian perception of antique manuscripts.