Cultural Interplay in the Eighth Century: The Trier Gospels and the Making of a Scriptorium at Echternachby Nancy Netzer (review)
- The Catholic Historical Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 82, Number 4, October 1996
- pp. 687-689
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS687 gical commentaries, and that these owe their popularity and diffusion to incorporation in canon law collections. In"Rites of Separation and ReconciUation Ui the Early Middle Ages" he beautifully Ulustrates the historical and Uturgical context of excommunications, anathemas, clamors, clerical degradation, interdicts, and exorcisms. In "Liturgical Scholarship at the Time of the Investiture Controversy : Past Research and Future Opportunities" Reynolds Usts some of the surprisingly many stUl unedited liturgical commentaries from this critical era of new interest in law and liturgy. Eleven of the essays contain first editions oftexts, ranging from a fragment of the Greek Uturgy of St. John Chrysostom Ln Beneventan script (Essay ??G) to a commentary on the meaning of Septuagésima Ui a Catalan codex (Essay XV), Peace and Truce of God formulae from southern Italy (Essay XI), and embeUishments of a pseudo-correspondence between Pope Damasus I and Jerome on the Mass (Essay XII). The volume concludes with an index ofmanuscripts cited, making accessible the lode of manuscript information Reynolds invariably includes in his articles, unattainable elsewhere. Susan A. Keefe Duke University Cultural Interplay in the Eighth Century: The Trier Gospels and the Making ofa Scriptorium at Echternach. By Nancy Netzer. [Cambridge Studies Ui Palaeography and Codicology, 3·] (NewYork: Cambridge University Press. 1994. Pp. xvi, 258. $64.95.) The Trier Gospels (Trier, Cathedral Treasury, Ms. 61) are fascinating but little known. TheU obscurity stems in part from their location, a Ubrary off the beaten track of most students of insular manuscripts. But the primary reason for the exclusion of the Trier Gospels from the scholarly canon is theU distinguishing artistic characteristic, the unusual juxtaposition and combination of Mediterranean and insular forms. Unappealing to eyes schooled on modernist purity, Trier 61 looks much better in the post-modernist era of bricolage. Given the manuscript's undeserved obscurity, we must be grateful to Nancy Netzer for her exceptionaUy thorough and generously Ulustrated study. Although codicology became weU known to art historians only when Délaiss é preached its appUcation to late medieval Uluminated manuscripts, its primary lesson, that medieval books should be studied as a whole, has long been known to historians of the early Middle Ages forced to eke every bit of information from meager sources. But Netzer's book goes far beyond the aUeady high levels established for such inquiry. Separate chapters of Cultural Interplay study Trier 6l's text, physical construction, script, and decoration (this last including initials, canon tables, and six fuU-page miniatures). Remarkably, Netzer appears equaUy at home in art history, paleography, textual criticism, and the study of the physical book. 688book reviews Because of her complete command of aU the relevant tools, Netzer provides the best answer we are likely to have to certain basic questions: where were the Trier Gospels made, when, and by whom? The answers are Echternach, c. 720740 , and by two men, both apparently artist-scribes. One of these, Thomas, is known by name from two inscriptions in the book; the second remains anonymous . Thomas was trained in an insular tradition closely related to that of the Lindisfarne scriptorium; the other scribe's schooling was continental and "Merovingian." The manuscript produced by these two artist-scribes of different backgrounds was made more complex by a third factor: Thomas's use of an artistic model with a strong Mediterranean character as the chief source for his miniatures. This amalgam, the "cultural interplay" of the book's title, makes the Trier Gospels unique and fascinating. Although Netzer's knowledge of the manuscript itself is unparaUeled, her attempts to put the book into a context are frustratUigly weak. Netzer presents the Trier Gospels as the product of WiUibrord's interest in tilings Roman exercised at a continental monastery. But, as she recognizes, this context is insufficiently nuanced since the same conditions (mutatis mutandis) existed at other insular foundations on the continent and even at Wearmouth-Jarrow and Lindisfarne . Netzer's further explanation for the unique appearance ofthe Trier Gospels is breathtakingly simple: it's a bad manuscript. According to her account, the scribe-artists, unable to deal with either then· classical or their insular models , feU between two stools. Here's a typical passage describing decorated initials painted...