The Abbatial Effigies at Quedlinburg: A Convent's Identity Reconfigured (Article)
Title: The Abbatial Effigies at Quedlinburg: A Convent's Identity Reconfigured
Author: Karen Blough
Abstract: In the crypt of the former convent church of St. Servatius at Quedlinburg is a group of nearly identical effigial tomb-slabs commemorating the three eleventh-century abbesses of Quedlinburg, each an Ottonian or Salian princess: Adelheid I (r. 999-1044), Beatrix I (r. 1044-1061), and Adelheid II (r. 1061-1095). The patron responsible for this triple tomb configuration has never been conclusively determined, and dates ranging from the late eleventh through the middle of the twelfth century have been suggested for the effigies. Recent scholars have cautiously adduced the patronage of Abbess Agnes I (r. 1110-1125), the last Salian princess to serve as abbess of St. Servatius. In this paper, I situate the tomb-slabs within the context of anti-Salian partisanship and monastic reform. I discuss the Quedlinburg effigies' iconography, which, in contrast to other epigraphic, numismatic, and sigillographic evidence from St. Servatius, fails to characterize the deceased with unequivocal markers of secular or religious status. Only a seal implemented by Abbess Gerburg of Cappenberg (r. 1126-1137) resembles the effigies, and a similar figure appears on a tomb-slab from St. Mary's Uberwasser near Munster, where Gerburg previously served as abbess. All evidence suggests, furthermore, that Gerburg's sympathies lay with aristocratic resistance to Salian rule and with the forces of monastic reform, concepts inherent in the early history of the effigy. I conclude that the triple tomb monument principally represents Gerburg's interpretation of Quedlinburg's conventual identity in conformity with the post-Salian, reform-oriented spirit she herself embodied.
Periodical Title: Gesta
Publisher: International Center of Medieval Art
A Double-Edged Blade: The Reality and Symbolism of the Lance of St. Maurice (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: A Double-Edged Blade: The Reality and Symbolism of the Lance of St. Maurice
Author: Karen Blough
Abstract: The lance of St. Maurice was a real weapon; it was also an imperial insigne visible in coin, seal, and miniature portraits of the Saxon emperors. This spear, in whose blade was embedded a nail from Christ's Crucifixion, was believed to have been carried by the third-century martyr particularly venerated in the Middle Ages for his stand against paganism; legend also associated it with Constantine. Otto I (r. 936-973) defended an internal assault on his authority while bearing the lance at the Battle of Birten in 939, and scholarship to date has emphasized the role of the lance in the assertion of legitimate kingship. However, Otto also carried the spear during his rout of the pagan Hungarians at the Battle of the Lech in 955. In this paper, I place the lance and representations of it in the context of the Ottonian campaign to subjugate and convert to Christianity the Slavs and Hungarians whose agitative presence along the Elbe River had long been a concern for western rulers. I view the lance and related images as one facet of a military-missionary strategy, developed initially by Otto I and carried forward by his successors, that employed visual and symbolic means in addition to strong-arm tactics to prosecute its cause. The importance to Otto of the lance and the soldier-saint who first carried it was evident by 937, when the newly crowned German king founded and dedicated to St. Maurice a monastery at Magdeburg on the Elbe. Magdeburg, elevated in 968 to an archbishopric, was conceived by Otto as the primary locus of representation of Holy Roman Imperial authority, with its intertwined secular and sacred dimensions. I thus place the lance in the Magdeburg context, discussing surviving elements from the Ottonian cathedral that likewise suggest a visual strategy in the proselytizing expansionism of the Ottonian rulers.
Conference Name: Forty-Second Annual International Conference on Medieval Studies,
Fit for a King: Carolingian and Ottonian Display Strategies (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Fit for a King: Carolingian and Ottonian Display Strategies
Author: Karen Blough
Abstract: Among the endeavors whereby the first Saxon emperor, Otto I, emulated Charlemagne were his campaigns into the pagan territories along the eastern frontier of the German kingdom. Here, Otto sought to convert Slavs and Hungarians to Roman Christianity and thus to subjugate them. Charlemagne had proceeded in a similar fashion against the very Saxons whose descendant Otto was. One weapon within Otto's missionary arsenal was the eastern archbishopric of Magdeburg. Here, the fabric of the cathedral incorporated spolia Otto acquired in Ravenna in emulation of Charlemagne's spoliation of ancient Italian sites on behalf of his palatine complex at Aachen. Among Otto's Ravennate loot were several porphyry columns now in the choir at Magdeburg. One such column, however, was culled from the larger group and presented to the community of canonesses resident in Essen, where it stands in the apse of the former convent church, testament, like several Egyptian rock crystal vessels in the treasury, of Otto's intentions for the convent--from 971/973, Essen was ruled by a succession of Ottonian princess-abbesses and served as a prominent locus of Ottonian authority. In this paper, the example of Essen serves as a platform from which to explore Otto's exploitation of porphyry and rock crystal to construct, visibly and tangibly, such loci. In bestowing these gifts on Essen, furthermore, Otto was relying on a Carolingian strategy rooted within traditions of Greco-Roman kingship display. The selective placement of spoliated porphyry slabs around Charlemagne's throne in the Palatine Chapel at Aachen and the presentation by Charles the Bald of the so-called Cup of Solomon, with its rock crystal portrait of a Persian king, to the monastery of St.-Denis represent two Carolingian instances of the calculated exploitation of these materials, a strategy adopted by Otto I to establish, enhance, and propagate Ottonian imperial authority.
Conference Name: Forty-Third Annual International Conference on Medieval Studies
Playing to the Crowd: Imperial Donations and Their Audiences in Medieval Essen (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Playing to the Crowd: Imperial Donations and Their Audiences in Medieval Essen
Author: Karen Blough
Abstract: Over the course of several years spent studying the valuable gifts presented by the Ottonian rulers to the monasteries and convents they favored, it has become increasingly clear to me that the lines of inquiry I have followed have produced a rather one-sided understanding of these donations. I have demonstrated that the intent of the royal donors in presenting many of these gifts was to mark the recipient house as a locus of Ottonian imperial authority, and that the beneficiaries' responses indicate a consonant understanding of the gift. For example, the early art patronage of Abbess Mathilde of Essen, including the first of her two processional crosses as well as the so-called Golden Virgin, is clearly in keeping with the message intended by Otto I when he presented a porphyry column--unequivocal symbol of imperial status--to Essen just a few years before. The fact that the small diadem with which, it is believed, the child Otto III was crowned was subsequently presented to Essen, where it rested on the head of the Golden Virgin on particularly important feast-days, visually reiterated the relationship between Mathilde's convent and the Ottonian dynasty in a strikingly vivid fashion. But how were these visual symbols received and interpreted by their broader audience, the secular community of Essen whose spiritual life was the responsibility of the convent? This paper is a prolegomenon on the topic, establishing basic facts: who saw the imperial gifts, where, and on what occasions; who enabled access to them; and what display rituals and texts were employed. The survival of an ordinale from medieval Essen, rich in details concerning the quotidian spiritual activities of the convent and its neighbors, offers solid ground from which to proceed. I conclude by offering some suggestions concerning the signification that accrued to the imperial gifts, through display and ritual, in the eyes and minds of the mundane audience.
Conference Name: Forty-Fourth Annual International Conference on Medieval Studies