Illustration from the Roda Bible, c.1050-1100AD

Biblia Sancti Petri Rodensis. Ms Latin 6 (2) folio 129v


Click for a detail of the upper register: Gezer taken.

Click for a detail of the lower register: The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon.

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Monasteries of Santa Maria de Ripoll and Sant Pere de Rodes (Girona), mid- to late 11th century
Tempera on parchment
18⅞ x 12¾ in. (48 x 32.5 cm)
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (MS. lat. 6; 4 vols.; 110, 179, 164, and 113 folios)

This Bible comes from the monastery library at Sant Pere de Rodes (San Pedro de Roda), where it is documented beginning in the middle of the twelfth century 1 It remains a matter of debate whether it was created in Rodes or, like the Ripoll Bible (cat. 157), in Ripoll. Most recent investigation has determined that the painter of the first two volumes of the Roda Bible was closely associated with the chief painter of the Ripoll Bible and certainly came from the same workshop in Ripoll.2 Yet the painters of the last two volumes of the Roda Bible reveal stylistic parallels not only with manuscripts from Ripoll3 but even more clearly with works from other Catalonian scriptoria, such as a Moralia codex from Vic, a homiliary in Girona, and a Gospel from Cuxa.4 Still more striking is in fact that the last volume of the Roda Bible, containing the text of the New Testament, borrows from pictorial precedents different from those called upon for the Ripoll Bible. The Gospel illustrations of the Ripoll Bible are altogether lacking, replaced in the Roda Bible by an Apocalypse cycle not included in the Ripoll Bible. Moreover, in contrast to all the other illustrations in both Bibles, this Apocalypse cycle does nor appear before the text but is interpolated between the relevant sections.5
    All of this is best explained if we assume that the Roda Bible was written and illustrated for the most part in Ripoll and was from the very beginning destined for the library at Rodes—there would have been no reason to produce two so elaborately illustrated Bibles at the same time for Ripoll's own library.6 Still unfinished, the Bible must then have gone to Rodes sometime in the second half of the eleventh century, where toward the end of that century the text was completed and the illustrations to the Apocalypse were interpolated. These paintings were based on patterns apparently unavailable in Ripoll, otherwise the Ripoll Bible should also have contained them. Although the Roda Bible was largely created in Ripoll, there is no point searching for it in the inventories of the Ripoll library; it would not have been one of the three complete Bibles included in the Ripoll inventory of 1047 for it was both incomplete as well as destined for another monastery.
    The Roda Bible, like the Ripoll Bible, includes extensive pictorial cycles for the Old Testament, with especially rich illustrations for the books of the prophets. In the New Testament however, there is only the one Apocalypse cycle, which remains unfinished. And, again like the Ripoll Bible, the Roda Bible contains picture cycles based on a variety of iconographic sources. Although some of these reflect native Spanish traditions, it is likely that central European iconography was also becoming increasingly influential. One senses it in the Genesis scenes, yet it becomes especially apparent in the illustrations for the books of the prophets and for the Apocalypse. The latter, for example, reveal particular parallels to Romanesque Apocalypse cycles in Italian wall painting, such as those at Castel Sant’Elia (Viterbo) and Anagni (Frosinone), and ultimately derive from an Italian archetype of the fifth or sixth century.7 The uncommonly extensive Daniel cycle in the Roda Bible may also come from a late antique Italian archetype, other variants of which are preserved in the Spanish Daniel illustrations (in the Beatus manuscripts and Pamplona Bibles), in the English Lambeth Bible, and in an Ottonian Daniel commentary in Bamberg.8 It has also been pointed out that there are Jewish elements in the Roda Bible's prophet cycles.9 Originally in a single volume, the Roda Bible was executed by at least five scribes, one of whom is close to the chief scribe of the Ripoll Bible.10 The illustrations were essentially the work of two painters. The first of these illustrated the initial two volumes with brightly colored pictures comparable in style to those of the primary illustrator of the Ripoll Bible (cat. 157). The painter of the third volume contented himself with uncolored pen drawings and was already wholly Romanesque in style. The same is true of the various painters of the fourth volume, the illustrations of which were probably not produced until near the end of the century.
    The earlier chief painter of the Roda Bible also produced the frontispiece to the Psalms, which happens to contain a Solomon cycle for the First Book of Kings and the two books of Chronicles.11 The narrative begins at the top of the left-hand column with David's last exhortation to his son Solomon to build a temple for the Lord (I Chronicles 28:9-21)12 Below follows the transport of materials for the construction of the temple (I Kings 5:8; 2 Chronicles 2:16-17). At the bottom is the gathering of the elders before Solomon preceding the transfer of the ark of the covenant (I Kings 8:1-2, 2 Chronicles 5:2-3). In the center of the illustration's main section we see Solomon's temple with the ark of the covenant and the two cherubim inside (I Kings 8:6-7; 2 Chronicles 5:7-8). Below this is the consecration of the temple, with animal sacrifices and Solomon extending his arms toward heaven in prayer, just as in the text (I Kings 8:54-64; 2 Chronicles 7:4-7). The bottom scene depicts the arrival before Solomon's throne of the queen of Sheba and her entourage (I Kings 10-1-2; 2 Chronicles 9:1);13 interestingly, the queen places one her hands in Solomon's hand in a gesture suggestive of the immixtio manuum (joining of hands) in the feudal rite of homage, probably meant to show her subordinate rank.14 While there are textual and pictorial precedents-from the Dittochaeum of the early Christian theologian Prudentius to a Romanesque fresco in the cathedral at Puy15—for combining the consecration of the temple with the visit from the queen of Sheba, the inclusion of the siege in the upper section of the picture remains unclear. Surely this is not meant to depict Solomon's building of the city and its fortifications (I Kings 9:17-19; 2 Chronicles 8: 2-6),16 for there are no signs of construction. It does appear to be the siege and ultimate capture of a city, even though the attacking knights are illogically placed inside the walls, doubtless for lack of space. Perhaps this is meant to be the capture of Geser by the Egyptian king, who then bestowed it on his daughter, Solomon's wife, as a wedding gift (I Kings 9:16-17).17

Peter K. Klein, Professor, Kunstgeschichtliches
Institut der Philipps-Universität, Marburg

1. See the privilege of Pope Innocent II from December 5, 1130, on fol. 39r (Neuss 1922, p. 13). The Bible later found its way to France by way of the duke of Noailles, a marshal of Louis XIV (1693), and subsequently into the Bibliothèque Royale (1740), which was absorbed into the present-day Bibliothèque Nationale.
2. Contrary to the almost unanimous opinion of most recent scholarship (Yolanda Zaluska, in Paris 1932, p. 37; Dalmases and José 1986, pp. 157-58), I do not believe that these two painters of the Ripoll and Roda Bibles are one and the same person.
3. Especially to the figural initials in the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, Barcelona, MS. Riv. 52. See Neuss 1922, p. 27; Bohigas 1960, pp. 46-47; and Klein 1972, pp. 96-97.
4. Now in the Museu Episcopal, Vic, MS. 26; Museo Diocesano, Girona, MS. 44; and, for the Cuxa manuscript, Bibliotheque Municipale, Perpignan, MS. 1. See Klein 1972, pp. 97-99. Also see Neuss 1922, pp. 18, 27; Bohigas 1960, pp. 47, 80. For the Cuxa manuscript, see Gudiol 1955, pp. 122-26 and figs. 110-21, and Dominguez 1962, p. 93 and figs. 100, 101.
5. See Klein 1972-74, pp. 267-72, 298-301; Cahn1982, pp. 70-72.
6. Regarding the latter, see Yolanda Zaluska, in Paris 1982, p. 42.
7. Klein 1972-74, pp. 290-96. See also Hoegger 1975, pp. 72-82.
8. For the Daniel illustrations of the Roda Bible, see Neuss 1922, pp. 89-94. A thorough investigation of the iconographic traditions and sources of medieval Daniel cycles has yet to be undertaken.
9. Nordström1965, pp. 196-205. See also Nordström 1955-57, pp. 506-7
10. Yolanda Zaluska, in Paris 1982, p. 31. See also Bohigas 1960, pp. 68-69.
11. For this illustration, see Neuss 1922, p. 79; Gudiol 1955, p. 90; Ferber 1976, pp. 21-43 (with many mistaken interpretations!); Moralejo 1981, pp. 79-88; Cahn 1982, pp. 72-74; Yolanda Zaluska, in Paris 1982, pp. 36-37; Dalmases and José 1986, p. 265.
12. Ferber (1976, p. 26), Yolanda Zaluska (Paris 1982, p. 36) and Dalmases and José (1986, pp. 261, 265) want to identify this image with the scene of Solomon sending a messenger to King Hiram of Tyre (1 Kings 5: 16; 2 Chronicles 2:2), which is unlikely, since in contrast to the other figures of Solomon on this side of the picture the king does not wear a beard.
13. For this scene in the Roda Bible, see Ostoia 1972, pp. 93-94.; Moralejo1981, pp. 80-88.
14. According to Moralejo 1981, pp. 85-86. It does appear that this is a misunderstood formulation of the gesture of the immixtio manuum, for Solomon appears to be lifting the queen by her hand (see Ostoia 1972, p. 93) instead of clasping the hand of his subordinate as in the feudal rite. Moreover, the queen is not depicted kneeling or even curtsying, as one would expect, but standing, although there are various pictorial precedents for the latter in the Catalonian manuscripts of the Liber Feudorum Maior and the Liber Feudorum Ceritaniae (see Gudiol 1955, fig. 169). For the ritual gesture of the immixtio manuum, see Le Goff 1976, pp. 687ff).
15. See Moralejo1981, p. 81.
16. As Neuss 1922, p. 79, and Cahn 1982, p. 74., suspect.
17. According to Yolanda Zaluska, in Paris 1982, p. 37.

Text Source: The Art of Medieval Spain AD 500-1200, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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