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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  June 2012

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Subject:

Fwd: TMR 12.06.03 Gerstel and Nelson, Approaching the Holy Mountain (Holloway)

From:

Christopher Crockett <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 5 Jun 2012 10:35:44 -0400

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multipart/mixed

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text/plain (200 lines) , message-footer.txt (19 lines)

medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

somewhat Far Afield, but perhaps of interest, somewhere.

c

------ Original Message ------
Received: Tue, 05 Jun 2012 09:40:44 AM EDT
From: The Medieval Review <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: TMR 12.06.03 Gerstel and Nelson, Approaching the Holy Mountain
(Holloway)

Gerstel, Sharon E.J., and Robert S. Nelson, eds. <i>Approaching the
Holy Mountain: Art and Liturgy at St Catherine's Monastery in the
Sinai</i>.  Cursor Mundi 11. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2011.
Pp. xxx, 608. Euros 130,00. ISBN-13: 9782503531274.

   Reviewed by Julia Bolton Holloway
        University of Colorado, Boulder/Mediatheca 'Fioetta
        Mazzei', Florence
        [log in to unmask]


Usually essays in collections are as if written in self-contained
boxes. Instead this collection has benefitted first from an
exhibition and a conference in which each has learned from the
others and where now each essay is presented as linking to the
next. The Exhibition, <i>Holy Image: Hallowed Ground: Icons from
Sinai</i>, was held at the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Conference
in 2006-2007, <i>Icons of Sinai</i>, likewise held there in January
2007 are the matrix for this book. <Approaching the Holy Mountain:
Art and Liturgy at St Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai> reflects
its subject matter exceedingly well. Mount Sinai is one of the
nodal places of this world that palimpsests meaning upon meaning.
It is perceived simultaneously as the Sinai of Moses, the Horeb of
Elijah and the Tabor of the Transfiguration, these blending as well
with the iconography of Mary as the Burning Bush, with the burial
place of St Catherine of Alexandria, and with John of Climacus'
<i>Vision of the Ladder</i>.

Following an overview of previous studies, particularly the work of
Constantin von Tischendorf, Giorgios and Maria Soteriou, and Kurt
Weitzmann, the book organizes into categories of Place, Liturgy,
Manuscript, Icon, Space in essays dense with footnotes in multiple
languages, including Greek and Russian, essays that are not so much
linear as arabesquing upon themselves, ending where they began, as
a quincunx, a windrose.

Sinai's St Catherine's Monastery is especially important for
escaping the first Byzantine period of Iconoclasm between 730 and
787 and the second one between 814 and 842, some of its three
thousand icons surviving from the fifth and sixth centuries, while
its great bronze cross, mosaics and frescoes date back to
Justinian's sixth-century Byzantine architect, and its Codex
Sinaiticus (first taken by the Tsar, then by the British Library)
to the fourth century, amongst its three thousand three hundred
manuscripts. Jas Elsner and Gerhard Wolf discuss these rich
transfigurations in sequence, Moses, Elijah, the Burning Bush and
Mary, and St Catherine of Alexandria. Sophia Kalopissi-Verti and
Maria Panayotidi discuss the archeological excavations of the
Justinianic basilica (between 560 and 565), faced with imported
marble and with a gold-leafed apse mosaic built around the fourth-
century chapel on top of the grey-brown and red granite Mount
Sinai, and its contemporary pilgrim's path of three thousand steps
with two arched gates. Petros Koufopoulos and Marina Myriantheos
Koufopoulos next hypothetically reconstruct the destroyed
Justianian basilica, perhaps not by the Byzantine architect
Stefanos Ailisios who built the church at St Catherine's Monastery.
Elizabeth S. Bolman's essay discusses the rich use of color in
these buildings, demonstrating her argument with photographs of the
"Jeweled Style" of Egypt's sixth-century Red Monastery church and
with excerpts from Byzantine texts.

Robert F. Taft S.J. and Alexander Lingas discuss St Catherine's
liturgy in general and in particular, the latter essay focusing on
the Children in the Furnace. Taft notes the early fourth-century
liturgy of Sinai, from Egeria's account, to be that of Palestine,
of James, brother of Jesus, Bishop of Jerusalem, held in the koine
of Greek, while hermits typically separated for the Hours into
their own language groups, Georgian, Armenian, Slavonian, Syrian,
etc. He differentiates liturgical practices as monastic, based on
the recitation of psalms, or cathedral ones, Sinai coming to adapt
to the cathedral mode of chant by the fifth century with its rich
hymnological poetry after an initial resistance. Alexander Lingas
performed music found at Sinai for the Exhibition  <i>Holy Image:
Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai</i>, and his essay chooses one
piece from that concert, the Ordo or <i>The Service of the
Furnace</i>, from the Book of Daniel, the liturgical cathedral
office, in which three children sang and danced with an icon of an
angel amidst candles and lanterns to represent the fiery furnace,
that arrived in Sinai and in Russia by way of Crete from
Constantinople and Jerusalem. (Interestingly, the western <i>Ludus
Danielis</i> dates from the 1220s, the eastern <i>Service of the
Furnace</i> to the Byzantine <i>ars nova</i>.)
Two essays, by Nancy P. Sevcenko and Hieromonk Justin Sinaites,
discuss manuscripts now at Sinai, Sevcenko noting how few are
actually produced at Sinai, in Georgian, Syrian, Arabic, Greek, but
that under Abbot Arsenius series of manuscripts came to be copied
in multiple languages, while Hieromonk Justin discusses one tenth-
century Greek manuscript of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and its six
centuries of multiple commentaries, some Antiochene, some
Alexandrian, that can elucidate the typology of hymns and icons
(the parallel arks of Noah/Moses, Moses/Jesus' parallel journeyings
into the wilderness, the parallels of Moses/Jesus as good
shepherds, Jesus as the Word of God within the Burning Bush,
paralleled to Mary, she likewise being paralleled to Gideon's
Fleece).

Four essays next discuss Sinai icons while two further ones discuss
the interactions of Sinai with places elsewhere. Kathleen Corrigan
discusses the Sinaitic epiphany or theophany icons (Moses and
Elijah witnessing God and Jesus' Transfiguration), centering on the
seventh-century icon of Christ as "Ancient of Days" (Daniel 7.9)/
"Emmanuel" (Isaiah 1.23). Charles Barber relates a narrative icon
of John the Precursor in the Wilderness, celebrating his feast
days, with the prayer given on a purple scroll he holds, as in a
speech act, that the saint save those who reverence this icon.
Paroma Chatterjee further discusses narrative icons prevalent at
Sinai, centering on those of St George and St Nicholas as "icons in
icons," exploding the Utopian myth of the reconciliation at Sinai
of a multicultural atelier at the time of the Crusades and seeing
its hoard instead as archive--using Michel Foucault's concept from
<i>The Archeology of Knowledge</i>--where succeeding icons do not
copy but rework their models, adapting them in some instances to
Sinai. George R. Parpulov next discusses thirteenth-century mural
and icon paintings at Sinai, roughly identifying the various
"masters," and in an Appendix cataloguing the eleventh through
fourteenth-century icons, differentiating those produced by
Crusaders, Copts, at Sinai, the "Soldier Saints" Workshop, at Acre,
etc. Rebecca W. Corrie studies the icons from elsewhere that came
to Sinai, for instance, from Acre, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, or Pisa
along the Melkite, Maronite or Crusader axes as gifts or for safe-
keeping, as connected with Sinai's satellite houses or through
Levantine trading. Finally, in this section on icons, Annemarie
Weyl Carr examines the influence of Sinai on Cyprus, more strongly
borne out in the figure of the Virgin in the Burning Bush than in
that of St Catherine of Alexandria.

The fifth section returns us to the first on geographic location,
now expanded outwards rather than inwards. George R. Parpulov
translates three Slavic pilgrim accounts while Veronica Della Dora
compares Mount Athos and Mount Sion through John of Climacus'
<i>Vision of the Ladder</i>, presenting woodblocks and engravings
which force the comparison. Finally, Cristina Stancioiu presents El
Greco's two depictions of Mount Sinai and Mount St Catherine, one
of these the Modena Triptych.

Two lacunae in the book are the failure to mention the Empress
Helena's dream of the location of Mount Sinai in A.D. 325, causing
her to have the Chapel (dedicated to the Virgin) of the Burning
Bush built there, and that Jews do not consider the Mount Sinai of
Christians and Muslims to be the correct mountain. In my own
research, following that of John Demaray on the conflation of Mount
Sinai and Fiesole's Monte Ceceri in Dante's <i>Commedia</i>, I
found the pilgrims' forty-two Stations of the Exodus (from their
crystallizing in Numbers 33 and its commentaries), to be precursors
to the Gregorian pilgrimage Stations of Rome, and last, by the
Franciscans, to the Via Dolorosa of Jerusalem, Dante using these,
for instance, for his forty-two chapters of the <i>Vita Nuova</i>
in which he has Beatrice parallel Mount Sinai. I retraced Egeria's
A.D. 381 pilgrimage on the mountain to find little changed, our
companions in the dark being a bevy of Greek Orthodox women led by
a spry elderly Dionysia, a Spanish bishop, Italian pilgrims, a
Muslim family from Cairo in their sacred blue green, including the
adolescent sons, Australians, but no Jews as they know we have the
wrong mountain.

Sadly page 536 is missing from the printing. I would recommend the
Getty Museum expanding their website for the Exhibition to include
color images of the black and white photographs in this book and to
give as MP3 recordings its notated music. This is a most handsome
and illuminating book, too heavy to take on pilgrimage but splendid
to read in <i>lectio divina</i> in Lent. Above all it gathers up
many scholarly interdisciplinary strands concerning eastern
monasticism, liturgical music, iconography and architecture that
both converge upon and diverge from Sinai. The series, Cursor
Mundi, related to the journal <i>Viator</i>, is interdisciplinary
and multidisciplinary, and focuses on processes such as cultural
exchange, of which this volume 11 is a fine exemplar.







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