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  • Disegni dei tempi. Il "Liber Figurarum" e la teologia figurativa di Gioacchino da Fiore
  • Bernard McGinn
Disegni dei tempi. Il "Liber Figurarum" e la teologia figurativa di Gioacchino da Fiore. By Marco Rainini. [Opere di Gioacchino da Fiore, Testi e strumenti, 18.] (Rome:Viella. 2006. Pp. xvi, 333. €35 paperback.)

In 1936 Monsignor Leone Tondelli discovered a peculiar book of illuminations in a closet in the seminary at Reggio Emilia, and in 1942, Fritz Saxl drew attention to a similar manuscript in Corpus Christi College, Oxford. These two [End Page 334] manuscripts, as well as a third discovered in Dresden,were identified with the Liber Figurarum (LF) attributed to Joachim of Fiore in some thirteenth-century sources. In 1953 Tondelli and two Oxford medievalists, Marjorie Reeves and Beatrice Hirsch-Reich, collaborated on a facsimile edition, transcription, and study of the LF, and in 1972 the latter two produced an impressive monograph on The Figurae of Joachim of Fiore. As Reeves said, "It is not too much to say that the discovery of the Liber Figurarum has initiated a new phase in Joachimist studies" (p. vi).

Unlike Reeves and Hirsch-Reich, Rainini does not study all twenty-four figurae, but concentrates on the development of several of the most important throughout the course of Joachim's works: the trees of generations; the various concords of persecutions, culminating in the draco magnus et rufus of the LF; and two versions of the abbot's adoption of the well-known maiestas domini motif—the wheels within wheels of Ezekiel 1 and the novus ordo of the harmony of the differing styles of religious life in the coming era of the Church. The author's careful and on the whole convincing presentation of the evolution of these figurae enables him to claim that the use of these diagrams was integral to Joachim throughout his teaching career, and that Reeves's view of three groups of figures, as well as of the formation of the LF, needs to be rethought. The LF is not a book with a single overarching order, as Reeves suggested, [End Page 335] but rather a diachronic compilation of various figurae representing different stages in the evolution of the abbot's theology. Apparently put together not long after his death in 1202, there was probably never an original bound volume, but only a collection of sheets of pictures whose order was up to the user. Rainini's book is a major addition to the growing literature on the ever-fascinating Calabrian abbot. [End Page 336]

Bernard McGinn
University of Chicago


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