Art, Ritual, and Civic Identity in Medieval Southern Italy

By (author) Nino Zchomelidse

Hardback - £67.95

Publication date:

14 April 2014

Length of book:

308 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271059730

In Art, Ritual, and Civic Identity in Medieval Southern Italy, Nino Zchomelidse examines the complex and dynamic roles played by the monumental ambo, the Easter candlestick, and the liturgical scroll in southern Italy and Sicily from the second half of the tenth century, when the first such liturgical scrolls emerged, until the first decades of the fourteenth century, when the last monumental Easter candlestick was made. Through the use of these objects, the interior of the church was transformed into the place of the story of salvation, making the events of the Bible manifest. By linking rites and setting, liturgical furnishings could be used to stage a variety of biblical events, in accordance with specific feast days. Examining the interaction of liturgical performance and the ecclesiastical stage, this book explores the creation, function, and evolution of church furnishings and manuscripts.

“This remarkable book transforms our understanding of the meaning and function of the liturgical art of Italy: the pulpits and ambos, monumental sculpted candlesticks, pavements, and chancel screens that are among the greatest masterpieces of medieval sculpture. Nino Zchomelidse’s volume is the first coherent explanation of how these liturgical objects articulated the dynamic role of liturgical theater to further the goals of the Gregorian reform. Indeed, this ecclesiastical furniture reconfigured religious ritual in both horizontal and vertical space within the medieval church, enhancing vision, drama, and the visual experience of the laity. Created by some of the greatest sculptors of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, these liturgical objects were initially commissioned by bishops and the upper clergy, who were often buried adjacent to them; by the mid-thirteenth century, however, they were appropriated by members of the patrician elite as affirmations of local pride and multigenerational family commemoration.

Zchomelidse is the first scholar to fully utilize the visual and textual evidence of the Exultet rolls to explicate medieval ritual within church interiors prior to the Council of Trent. Her deeply learned and insightful interpretation is a milestone for scholarship on the dynamic roles of art, ritual, theatrical presentation, and patronage in central and south Italy.”

—Caroline Bruzelius, Duke University