Leeds Report #5, or the one where Highly went to the wrong side of campus

Dr Who - universally recognised as a mature responsible adultHere are some things that happened to me on Wednesday morning at Leeds.
1. I overslept and missed breakfast.
2. I drank truly abysmal tea in Boddington. Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to have coffee and plain boiling water and hot chocolate all coming out of the same spout on the machine? I ended up with tea that tasted of hot chocolate!
3. I dashed onto the bus to Weetwood, running late.
4. I got to Weetwood and discovered that the session I wanted, ‘Royal, Patron and Civic Saints’, was actually back at Boddington.
5. I scanned the program, saw the words ‘pontificate’ and ‘Innocent’ and dashed off to Session 1127.

Of course, it turned out that Session 1127 was about Innocent II, not my buddy Innocent III. One presenter, Damian Smith, wasn’t present; and I missed enough of Anne J. Duggan’s paper on legal reform that it made very little sense to me.

But I learned interesting things from Dale Kinney’s paper ‘The Artistic Patronage of Pope Innocent II’.

What I liked best about Dale Kinney’s paper was that she said from the outset that she was correcting an assertion she’d made in her own PhD thesis, with which she now disagreed. I like a person who’s happy to argue with themselves in public!

The second thing I liked about this paper was her lovely slides – art historians are good at slides, I have noticed. The third fabulous thing was that she accidentally referred to scholar Herbert Black as ‘Herbert the Black’. More scholars should have fearsome monikers, I feel.

Also, there were some arguments in this paper. Basically, in her PhD thesis, Dale Kinney had asserted that Innocent II was ‘not a building pope’. This, she now realises, rested on a strange assumption that there was such a thing as a ‘building pope’ in the 12th century; and that Innocent II’s well-attested rebuilding projects (described by Cardinal Boso; mostly it was falling rooves. Apparently rooves were falling in on churches all over Rome) had no particular project.

Now, she thinks otherwise. She discussed three facets of Innocent II’s building programs:

  • Gifts (possibly re-gifts?) to various churches, including a big shiny silver cross to St Peter’s, which may be a deliberate parallel with a similar gift of Constantine’s. Such gifts seem to point to a high value placed on churches in general and church decoration in particular.
  • Technologically demanding rebuilding projects – for example, the Cathedral of St John Lateran had collapsed in the 9th century, been rebuilt in the early 10th, but struck by lightning in 1115, after which it began to collapse again. Innocent II seems to have been the first to attempt a complete reconstruction. Many of these reconstructions involved deviating significantly from the original plan – at St Pauls, for example, Innocent II’s architects halved the span of the columns, with shorter arches and windows placed above, for lack of the technology to replicate the originals. At St Stephanus Rotunda, which had originally had several (2? 3? I’m not sure and didn’t write down) concentric colonnades, they had to fill in the second colonnade in entirely and cut the outer one out entirely, making the whole church dramatically smaller.
  • Innocent II was also a great spoliast, removing and re-using a number of features from Roman monuments. This is by no means the lazy option – as Dale Kinney pointed out, much of Rome was actively hostile to the Papacy at the time; dragging great big columns and whatnot across the city is no mean feat.

Perhaps most interesting of all, she told us the story of Innocent II’s own sarcophagus. It was found ‘in media giro’ (in the middle circuit) of the Mausoleum of Hadrian, which was at the time a heavily-used fortress.

First of all, the Mausoleum of Hadrian doesn’t have circuits, so no one’s quite sure what that meant. The passage from the entrance to the two central chambers was a sort of spiral, so it could mean in the middle of that; or perhaps in one of the two central chambers.

Secondly, Innocent II laboured under the delusion that the sarcophagus was Hadrian’s; but Hadrian was cremated and buried in an urn. So it must be someone else’s sarcophagus. But whose?  Everyone else buried there – the last person was a woman named Julia Domina – would also have been cremated. So the sarcophagus must have been *moved in there* from another tomb at some point.

At any rate, Innocent II took it out and got it across Rome, through largely hostile territory – Dale Kinney suggested a route, involving floating the sarcophagus upriver as far as possible. This probably saved it from destruction in an assault on the  Mausoleum. In fact, it ought to have been perfectly safe forever – except the church it was placed in burned down on top of it in the 14th century. Ooops.

This post needs more pictures, but, unlike Dale Kinney, I don’t have access to a lot of educational and illustrative pictures of medieval reconstructions of various Roman churches. I can’t even find a picture of St Stephanus Rotunda.


[NB: Dear person who’s sending me compliments via google search strings – <3. Dear person who’s googling ‘stairway fantasy’, I got nuffin’ for you.]


2 Responses to “Leeds Report #5, or the one where Highly went to the wrong side of campus”

  1. [c] Says:

    Actually, if you do a google image search, you’ll find plenty of pictures (including plans and reconstructions) of the church on the web – the trick, in this case, is to use the church’s *Italian* name, Santo Stefano Rotondo, as your search term…

    • highlyeccentric Says:

      …. That would be the obvious thing to do, wouldn’t it. *sigh* my google-fu is not, apparently, invincible!

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