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John Scottus Eriugena and the Upper Cover of the Lindau Gospels

Jeanne-Marie Musto
Gesta
Vol. 40, No. 1 (2001), pp. 1-18
DOI: 10.2307/767192
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767192
Page Count: 20
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John Scottus Eriugena and the Upper Cover of the Lindau Gospels
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Abstract

The unusual Crucifixion scene on the upper cover of the Lindau Gospels, produced during the reign of Charles the Bald (840-877), has long defied full explanation. Among contemporary works, a miniature in the Coronation Sacramentary offers particularly suggestive parallels in form and structure and aids in the analysis of the Lindau cover's reinterpretation of early Carolingian crucifixion imagery--especially as represented by a lost but well-documented ivory panel formerly in Berlin. Other aspects of the Lindau Crucifixion are unprecedented. These include the arrangement of the eight figures who seem to hover weightless as they approach Christ and the placement of the personified Sol and Luna who, as Albert M. Friend, Jr. first observed in 1923, together represent an eclipse of the sun. In explanation of this motif, Friend turned to the writings of the Neoplatonist theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, translated by Charles the Bald's court philosopher, John Scottus Eriugena; Johannes Reil subsequently drew upon Eriugena's poetry. But the most compelling connections between the Lindau Crucifixion and Eriugena's writings, it is here argued, are found in his magisterial Periphyseon, with its powerful metaphors for the return of creation to Christ. The Periphyseon provides compelling evidence that what motivated the otherwise mysterious iconography of the upper cover of the Lindau Gospels was Eriugena's singular eschatology.

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