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Art and Artifice in Ottonian Trier

Thomas Head
Gesta
Vol. 36, No. 1 (1997), pp. 65-82
DOI: 10.2307/767279
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767279
Page Count: 18
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Art and Artifice in Ottonian Trier
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Abstract

During the early 980s Archbishop Egbert of Trier commissioned two shaped reliquaries: an episcopal staff encasing relics of an episcopal staff allegedly given to Trier's first archbishop by the apostle Peter, and a traveling altar containing relics of the apostle Andrew's sandal and of Peter's beard. Egbert had a particular knack for making use of the relics of saints, embellishing them with ritual and with art in order to bind his see not only to the court of heaven and its authority beyond time, but to the sacred past and its apostolic authority on earth. This article examines how Egbert used the reliquaries of Peter's staff and Andrew's sandal to forge this double bond of sacred authority. He emerges as a master of what we might, with Claude Lévi-Strauss, call sacred bricolage: able to spot utility in objects and traditions which had hitherto been overlooked and forgotten, he assembled from the old and seemingly outmoded something new and wholly remarkable. He staked out his claims through material objects. Only after he had crafted the objects was a more elaborate context provided through the creation of textual instruments in hagiography and privileges. The reliquaries of Peter's staff and Andrew's sandal celebrated a continuity between past and present that is usually believed to have existed first in texts. This article argues that--on the contrary--the texts elaborate the objects.

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