The third Forum Kunst des Mittelalters took place this year in the episcopal city of Hildesheim from 16–19 September, and these four days were packed with scholarly talks and cultural events that brought together a truly international group of hundreds of medieval art historians.
The conference began in the afternoon of Wednesday, 16 September, with two sessions devoted to new research on episcopal cities and episcopal patronage, a session entitled “Object and Context”, which drew papers on reliquaries, metal casting, and questions of style, and a session dealing with liturgical textiles. MICHAEL BRANDT (Hildesheim), the outgoing Director of the Hildesheim Cathedral Museum (he retired in October 2015), held an evening keynote lecture at the Cathedral on Bernwardian art in this jubilee year of some of the most precious and most famous works in Hildesheim.
The Doors of Bishop Bernward were the focus of a more than four hour-long plenary session on Thursday, 17 September, the first full day of the conference. As one might expect, this series of talks drew an audience of hundreds of people. This spring, the Doors were newly installed in their own well-lit enclosed anteroom at the western end of Hildesheim Cathedral. Conserved and cleaned, they look as though they were just cast yesterday. Other works such as the monumental Column of Christ have been installed inside the cathedral, and smaller objects are on view in the beautifully renovated Cathedral Museum.
This plenary session drew papers from the leading European experts on the doors, including ISABELLE MARCHESIN (Paris), who has just completed a monograph on them, as well as a current Ph.D. student, HENRIETTE HOFMANN (Hamburg), who is writing a dissertation on the Doors. GERHARD LUTZ (Hildesheim) began the session with a careful analytical summary of the art historical and technical scholarship on the Doors. Technical analysis has shown, for example, that they were cast in numerous layers, and Lutz suggested that the left valve was perhaps cast first, since it displays more imperfections in the casting than its partner. After dealing with technical considerations, Lutz moved on to summarize the more recent scholarship, a summary that included Adam Cohen and Anne Derbes’s essay on the Doors in Gesta. The archeologist KARL BERNHARD KRUSE (Hildesheim), who has excavated at the Cathedral, spoke to the location of the Doors’ original installation, which he suspects was indeed at the western entrance to St. Mary. Kruse noted that he and his team located bronze remnants near the western entrance to the Cathedral and these date from Bernward’s era. Only further excavation will make clear whether these remains point to the location of the Bernwardian bronze workshop and can strengthen arguments as to the original location of the Doors on the Western entrance to Saint Mary’s Cathedral. SEBASTIAN RISTOW (Aachen), an archeologist who has excavated at the former Palace Chapel complex at Aachen, discussed the Carolingian bronze workshop at Aachen and the creation of mosaic tessellae there. BERNHARD GALLISTL (Hildesheim) spoke about the inscription on the Doors, focusing in particular on the reference to the “angel’s temple” in that short and enigmatic text. In Gallistl’s estimation, the term is of Byzantine derivation, and is chiefly found in reference to churches that are also devoted to Saint Michael. For Gallistl, this indicates that the Doors were made for Saint Michael’s and were originally installed there. WOLFGANG CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER (Hildesheim) also focused on the Doors’ inscription, and his analysis of the text indicates that it derives from Roman legal terminology. In contrast to Gallistl, Schneider believes that the Doors were made for the western entrance to the Cathedral of Saint Mary. Although he did not come out and say it in his talk, Schneider’s research suggests that the Doors could have been used in penitential rites. This question came up again in the discussion, but the entire panel of speakers was reluctant to examine this question in more categorical terms. Henriette Hofmann spoke about the relationship between the individual image and the frame and framing devices on the Doors, using Meyer Schapiro’s essay on frames and semiotics. Hofmann’s analysis suggests that the frames on the Doors emphasize the “fall” on the left valve and the “rise” on the right. Hofmann’s research also points to the use of the Doors in penitential rites already in the eleventh century. Isabelle Marchesin provided a close visual reading of the Doors’ imagery, and she suggested that the iconographic cycle provides a path to salvation. In this reading, we are not to see the final panel of Christ’s Ascension as the “end,” but rather as a “way out.” In the final talk of the session, CLAUDIA HÖHL (Hildesheim) looked at mariological aspects of the Doors, and spoke to the various ways in which Mary is likened to a door on the Doors. In the ensuing discussion, it became clear just how much about the Doors is still unclear (and will likely remain that way). In the end, this session raised more questions than it could answer, but it made clear that there will always be more to say about the Doors and the artistic workshops that Bernward created and supported.
Following a short break, the author devoted the rest of the afternoon of 17 September to a session sponsored by the International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA) entitled “Carolingian Art and the Quest for Authenticity,” which ADAM COHEN (Toronto) and GENEVRA KORNBLUTH (Glenn Dale) organized, and which Genevra Kornbluth and HEATHER PULLIAM (Edinburgh) also moderated. This nearly four-hour session brought together German and Anglophone scholars from Switzerland, Scotland, and the United States for a series of six talks that each presented a different angle on authenticity in the Carolingian period. While there were many audience members from institutions in the U.K. and North America, the majority of those in attendance were from continental Europe.
Genevra Kornbluth’s presentation on a double-sided Carolingian jet intaglio from Sens started things off. Kornbluth presented a focused and clear analysis of this small object and ultimately asked us to question (or at least to be explicit about) the criteria we use to assign a particular work to one period or another. JULIA SMITH (Glasgow), the sole historian in the session, spoke about the role of authentics in Carolingian relic collections, and reminded us of the indexical function that they were expected to perform. Where authenticity is culturally and historically variable, relics in the Middle Ages remained curiously unaffected by changes to these attitudes. SIGRID DANIELSON’s (Allendale) talk was devoted to the “discovery” of Carolingian art in the late nineteenth century, and how the story of Carolingian art was made to conform to notions of historical progress. At this early point in the history of our own discipline, art historians tended to isolate individual artists and authors – Tuotilo, Wolvinus, Einhard – as a way to narrate this history and to reinforce the authenticity of specific artworks and early “masterpieces” of Carolingian art. ANNA BÜCHELER’s (Zürich) paper offered a close analysis of the Flabellum that was made for the monks of Saint Philibert in Tournus in 875. The six ivories depicting scenes from Virgil’s Eclogues, Bücheler argued, were adapted to suit the story of the monks’ flight from Norman invasion. RACHEL DANFORD’s (Baltimore) talk examined the Westwerk at Corvey in relation to that monastic community’s attitudes toward its own recent past. She argued that the classicizing stucco figures on the Westwerk’s interior refer to the paganism of Antiquity as a way of commenting on the recent conversion of the Saxons to Christianity. In the final talk of the session, Adam Cohen posed the question of what Ottonian art and architecture can tell us about their relationship to the Carolingians. Indeed, Cohen’s talk reminded the audience of the problematic nature of the terms we use to talk about Carolingian and Ottonian period styles, and encouraged us to be more circumspect about how we employ those terms.
Later that evening, it appeared that nearly every conference attendee was present at the ICMA-sponsored keynote lecture by CHRISTIAN FREIGANG (Berlin) entitled “Glockenklang und Glockenträger. Zur Interdependenz von Musik und Architektur im Mittelalter.” Freigang presented his paper from the eastern choir of Saint Michael, with the audience of hundreds of fellow art historians in the nave of the church. As the title of the talk suggests, Freigang considered how sound enhanced church architecture, and how each was designed with the other in mind. Two lovely events, also held in the church of Saint Michael, followed this talk. First, the ensemble Gli Scarlattisti took the stage for a moving performance of selections from Händel’s Israel in Egypt. After a standing ovation, the ICMA hosted a reception in the church. In spite of the late hour, nearly all of those who had come for the talk and the concert also stayed for the reception. It was a festive and collegial way to end a long day of talks and other events.
Friday’s program was equally as rich as Thursday’s, with sessions on Italian architecture, the role of Hildesheim in a “European globalization,” sacred topographies, epigraphy, as well as a massive session on Bamberg cathedral between the 11th and 13th centuries, which the author attended. This session drew papers on numerous subjects: SYBILLE RUß (Bamberg) looked at textiles form the grave of Clement II; HOLGER KEMPKENS (Bamberg) presented a close analysis of the fragmentary ivory corpus of christ donated by Henry II; MARCUS PILZ (München) spoke about the “Fatimid” crystal reliquaries in the Bamberg treasury; DOROTHEA DIEMER (Augsburg) offered an interpretation of the original appearance of the Western choir screen that integrated the Bamberg Rider; CLAUDIA RÜCKERT’s (Berlin) paper offered new ways of thinking about and explaining both the classicism and the range of influence of the so-called “first” sculptural workshop at Bamberg; finally, GERHARD WEILANDT (Greifswald) looked at the iconographic program of the 13th century cathedral sculpture.
Friday afternoon sessions were also wide-ranging, and they dealt with themes of trade and mobility, wall painting, mobility, transfer, and exchange, and patronage and memoria. In lieu of sessions on Saturday, attendees had the option to take part in excursions to visit medieval sites such as Braunschweig and Königslutter, Loccum and Idensen, Wienhausen, Goslar, Bad Gandersheim, and to the Landesmuseum in Hannover.
The Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft is to be commended for supporting this conference, and its organizers are to be praised in the strongest possible terms for putting together an intense and lively four days devoted entirely to medieval art history. As is the case with all good academic conferences, one left with a renewed commitment to the work we do and with a new appreciation for the many ways in which we approach that work.
Abendveranstaltung im Hildesheimer Dom
Michael Brandt (Hildesheim), ‘mentem et oculos pascere’ – Bernwards Kunst
Sektion: HOC VALVAS FVSILES – 1000 Jahre Bernwardstür
Leitung: Michael Brandt, Claudia Höhl und Gerhard Lutz, Hildesheim
Gerhard Lutz (Hildesheim), Die Bernwardstüren – Zum Stand der kunsthistorischen und technologischen Untersuchungen
Karl Bernhard Kruse (Hildesheim), Der neu ergrabene Westbau als möglicher Aufhängungsort der Bronzetüren Bischof Bernwards
Sebastian Ristow (Aachen), Archäometrie und Archäologie an der Aachener Pfalz – Bronzetüren und Tessellae
Bernhard Gallistl (Hildesheim), ANGELICI TEMPLI. Kultgeschichtlicher Kontext und Verortung der Hildesheimer Bronzetür
Wolfgang Christian Schneider (Hildesheim), Zur Inschrift auf den Bernwardstüren
Henriette Hofmann (Hamburg), Sinnpotenzialität und Prozess. Erprobung eines dynamischen Verhältnisses von Bild und Rahmen im Bildsystem der Hildesheimer Bronzetür
Claudia Höhl (Hildesheim), Mariologische Aspekte auf dem Bilderzyklus der Bernwardtür
Isabelle Marchesin (Paris), The bronze of Bernward‘s Door as iconic material
Sektion: Karolingische Kunst und die Suche nach Authentizität / Carolingian Art and the Quest for Authenticity
Organisation: International Center of Medieval Art, New York
Leitung: Adam Cohen (Toronto and Genevra Kornbluth (Glenn Dale)
Moderation: Heather Pulliam (University of Edinburgh) and Genevra Kornbluth (Glenn Dale)
Genevra Kornbluth (Glenn Dale), An authenticating seal? On the function of the double sided jet intaglio in Sens
Julia Smith (Glasgow), Reliability and Authenticity: Accumulating relics in the early Middle Ages
Sigrid Danielson (Allendale), Authoritative Origins: Writing the Carolingian Artist
Anna Bücheler (Zürich), The Making of a Story: Virgil’s Eclogues in the Flabellum of Tournus
Rachel Danford (Baltimore), Reimagining the Carolingian Past in the Westwerk at Corvey
Adam S. Cohen (Toronto), Ottonian and Carolingian Art: Modern and Medieval Perspectives
Abendveranstaltung in St. Michael
Begrüßung - Pastor Dirk Woltmann
Grußwort des Oberbürgermeisters der Stadt Hildesheim Ingo Meyer
Abendvortrag: ICMA Lecture
Christian Freigang (Berlin), Glockenklang und Glockenträger. Zur Interdependenz von Musik und Architektur im Mittelalter
Gli Scarlattisti, Leitung: Jochen Arnold
Sektion: Neue Forschungen zum Bamberger Dom und seiner Ausstattung vom 11. bis zum 13. Jahrhundert
Leitung: Matthias Exner (München) und Gerhard Weilandt (Greifswald)
Sibylle Ruß (Bamberg), Der Papstes letzte Kleider? Überlegungen zur Datierung der Textilien aus dem Grab Papst Clemens II. im Bamberger Dom
Holger Kempkens (Bamberg), Beobachtungen und Überlegungen zum romanischen Elfenbein Kruzifix des Bamberger Domes
Marcus Pilz (München), Neue Forschungen zu den mittelalterlichen Bergkristallarbeiten des Bamberger Domschatzes
Dorothea Diemer (Augsburg), Überlegungen zur skulpturalen Rekonstruktion des Bamberger Ostlettners
Claudia Rückert (Berlin), Antike als Movens. Die sogenannte jüngere Bildhauerwerkstatt des Bamberger Doms und die Folgen
Gerhard Weilandt (Greifswald), Auf der Schwelle – Zum Bildprogramm der Bamberger Domskulpturen