A Tainted Mantle: Hercules and the Classical Tradition at the Carolingian Court (Hardback)Lawrence Nees (author)
Hardback Published: 01/02/1991
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"A Tainted Mantle" focuses on two works of Carolingian literature and art, Theodulf of Orleans' poem "Contra Iudices", and the ivory throne identified as the Cathedra Petri (the Throne of St Peter). Both works feature the pagan hero Hercules, showing him not as a positive model for Carolingian rulers, as has often been suggested, but in fact as an embodiment of traditions of ancient paganism that were antithetical to early medieval Christianity. "Contra Iudices", written in AD 799-800 for Charlemagne and members of his court circle, includes a famous passage describing a silver vessel decorated with scenes from the life of Hercules. This passage is not an innocent literal description of an actual work of ancient art, but an invention by Theodulf that draws on classical sources, particularly Augustine's City of God. The Cathedra Petri, a throne made for Charlemagne's grandson Charles the Bald, includes a cycle of inlaid and gilded ivories depicting the 12 Labours of Hercules and six monstrous creatures. This unparalleled cycle has caused perplexity and controversy among scholars, who have offered a range of conflicting views on the origin, meaning and occasion of the work. Lawrence Nees argues that the Hercules ivories were added to the throne at the instigation of Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, the leading Frankish churchman of his day, and were inspired in large part by Hincmar's reading of "Contra Iudices" and of Augustine. The occasion for this gift was a moment, in AD 875, when Charles the Bald, like Charlemagne in AD 800, was adopting the Roman imperial mantle, despite warnings that his primary duty as a Christian king made different demands on him.
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
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