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Abstract

The painted stucco parapets at San Pietro al Monte in Civate (late 11th c.) were carved with zoomorphic motifs that were liminal symbols designed to alert medieval viewers to the boundaries of sacred space on earth. This essay considers the ways in which medieval viewing of the Romanesque plutei (parapets) initiated the transformation of the terrestrial space of the church into the heavenly garden of paradise. This garden appears at Civate as a fresco scene in the narthex vault nearest to the entrance: Christ is flanked by two trees at the center of a walled garden, a medieval reference to Christ as the Tree of Life (lignum vitae) in the Garden of Eden on earth and in heaven. This symbolism also pertains to the vine scrolls portrayed on the plutei at Civate, for Christ referred to himself as the true vine (Jn 15:1). Viewing the three-dimensional stucco reliefs on the ground level activated the two-dimensional fresco program on the walls above, so that the church interior momentarily became a liminal space between the physical realm of earth and the imagined space of the paradise garden.

In: Art, Architecture, and the Moving Viewer, c. 300-1500 CE
In: Art, Architecture, and the Moving Viewer, c. 300-1500 CE
In: Art, Architecture, and the Moving Viewer, c. 300-1500 CE
Volume Editors: Gillian B. Elliott and Anne Heath
Premodern architecture and built environments were fluid spaces whose configurations and meanings were constantly adapting and changing. The production of transitory meaning transpired whenever a body or object moved through these dynamic spaces. Whether spanning the short duration of a procession or the centuries of a building’s longue durée, a body or object in motion created in-the-moment narratives that unfolded through time and space. The authors in this volume forge new approaches to architectural studies by focusing on the interaction between monuments, artworks, and their viewers at different points in space and time.

Contributors are Christopher A. Born, Elizabeth Carson Pastan, Nicole Corrigan, Gillian B. Elliott, Barbara Franzé, Anne Heath, Philip Jacks, Divya Kumar-Dumas, Brigitte Kurmann-Schwarz, Ashley J. Laverock, Susan Leibacher Ward, Elodie Leschot, Meghan Mattsson McGinnis, Michael Sizer, Kelly Thor, and Laura J. Whatley.