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Medieval Abraham: between fleshly patriarch and divine father.

Abraham, patriarch of Old Testament, was to have a distinctive destiny in medieval Christian images. It often fell to him to represent heaven, the place of celestial reward, the ultimate aim of Christian life. Small children in the Bosom of Abraham symbolise future glory and eternal rest. This image is used symptomatically by E. Male in his introduction to The Gothic Image to illustrate the conventional workings of medieval art. E. Male, puzzled by the strange image, soon qualified it as "une figure archaique et naive" or "une sorte de hieroglyphe."(1) While I hope to show that the Bosom of Abraham is in fact a lot more, I must stress that the research I'm presenting here in outline falls within a problematic framework which concerns both history of art and history generally.(2)

This research focuses on medieval representations of divine kinship. It postulates the idea that the network of kinship plays a major, structuring role in the medieval world, in the organisation of society as well as in its representations.(3) I must therefore illustrate succinctly three important points before turning to the Bosom of Abraham.

Firstly, the institution of divine fatherhood. All Christians are the children of God. They have a father in heaven.(4) This is the meaning of the Pater Noster, one of the principal Christian prayers, spoken by Christ in Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 to 13. Two consequences mentioned in the Gospel itself follow on from divine fatherhood: the first is the belittling of blood ties, or fleshly kinship, as when Christ refuses to recognise his mother and brethren (Matthew 12, 46-50); the second, on the other hand, is that the disciples, all being the sons of God, are linked by brotherly ties. This is what may be termed as the general-germane ties of all Christians. These characteristics occur throughout ecclesiastical thought and within the organisation of Christian society itself. Through baptism, a fundamental rite which constitutes a symbolic and social birth, the individual, who is the fruit of the flesh and therefore of sin, is reborn as a child of God. Baptism is an act of adoption on God's behalf.(5) It may also be described as spiritual fertilisation, the seed of the Holy Spirit coming to fertilise the water in the baptismal fonts, as in the "uterus matris ecclesiae."(6)

Secondly, the importance of spiritual kinship in medieval society. J. Goody and G. Duby in particular have shown that the effort made by the Church to impose its social superiority consisted largely of vigorous intervention where ties of kinship were concerned, especially during two particularly conflictual phases in the fourth and fifth centuries and again in the eleventh and twelfth.(7) Apart from asserting that marriage be monogamous, indissoluble and strongly exogamic, the most original aspect of the Christian order is the development of different types of spiritual kinship, especially the ties of patronage (godparents and godchildren) and those of confraternities.(8) In this type of social system, the celibacy of the clergy is the ideological condition for its superiority. The cleric has to distance himself from the ties of fleshly kinship in order to gain the ability to engender spiritually, through speech and sacrament. Baptism is the embodiment of a system that establishes the superiority of spiritual over fleshly kinship, and therefore of the clergy over the laity. While biological parents stand aside, baptism brings about a dual spiritual filiation with regard to the godparents and the priest, as well as a dual divine filiation, with regard to the Church and God.(9)

Thirdly, kinship plays an equally structuring role within the divine sphere. The extremely delicate question of the Trinity resides entirely in the definition of the relationship between the Father and his Son. Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity places an original and perfectly paradoxical model of filiation right at the heart of Christian dogma.(10) Mention should also be made of the equally paradoxical status of the Virgin, of whom Christ is the son, the father and the spouse all at the same time.(11) This is to show to what extent the rules governing divine kinship deviate from those of fleshly kinship.(12)

At this point I should specify exactly what I mean by these different terms. By "fleshly kinship," I mean ties of consanguinity and union, that is to say the socially recognised links of the flesh. By "spiritual kinship," I mean the different forms of relationships between people, defined in terms of kinship but which claim the total absence of any carnal ties. (For example, we say "Father" to a priest although he is not our biological father). "Divine kinship" is similar, but brings in the divine aspect; it is thus the ties which link man to heavenly figures, or indeed heavenly figures to each other.

I would like to put forward the following hypothesis: the Bosom of Abraham, in so far as it shows heavenly reward in terms of a reunion with the father, should be considered, not in isolation, but as a part of the medieval system of kinship. More specifically, I'll try to illustrate how Abraham fills a strategic position, by showing in turn the way in which he is involved in each of the three domains mentioned above: fleshly, spiritual and divine kinship. It will then be possible to examine the specific role of the Bosom of Abraham and the way in which it may contribute to the linking of the three levels amongst themselves.

Before doing this, I would like to give several preliminary explanations. First of all, we should clarify the significance of the Bosom of Abraham in medieval conceptions of the hereafter.(13) The fate of the righteous after death shown as a reunion with Abraham--or with the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--appears in the Jewish Apocrypha, in the IV Book of Maccabees, and in three passages of the Gospel, of which the most important is the Parable of Lazarus (Luke 16, 19-31).(14) While the rich man is sent to the flames of hell, Lazarus is carried by angels to the Bosom of Abraham, "in sinum Abrahad'. The Bosom of Abraham was one of the ways in medieval Christianity of illustrating the fate of the righteous in the hereafter. The concept is given great importance in the liturgy for the dead in which prayers were said for the soul of the deceased to be received in the Bosom of Abraham, or in that of the three patriarchs.

I cannot enter here into the discussions of theologians concerning the exact nature of the Bosom of Abraham and its relationship with the other places in the hereafter. I can simply underline the fact that the Bosom of Abraham cannot be linked generally to a neutral place like the Jewish Sheol, but that it may be the place of veritable heavenly beatitude.(15) On the other hand, even though it is more often mentioned in a context concerning the fate of souls before the Last Judgment, it is not necessarily a temporary or second-class heaven. It may also--and St Thomas says so clearly--be the highest heaven, the Regnum coelorum in which the elect live eternally after the Last Judgment.(16)

For the purpose of this research, I have based my study on an as exhaustive a group of works as possible, of about two hundred images of the Bosom of Abraham, from the western Christian world.(17) These representations begin to appear in the year 1000, develop considerably until the thirteenth century then decline in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, without, however, disappearing completely. They appear in manuscripts, in painted or carved monumental ornamentation, in stained glass, on plaques on tombs and on liturgical items. There are three distinctive themes: the Parable of Lazarus, the Last Judgment and independent images of heaven.(18) Obviously, each image can only be analysed on the condition that the general and particular aspects of the work in which it features be taken into account--this is relevant in so far as I am dealing here with the subject on a general level. Lastly, a more detailed analysis would take into account a dense network of iconographical themes that mirror the Bosom of Abraham, sometimes in a very striking way, at least from a formal point of view: for instance the Virgin and Child or, even more so, the Trinitarian version of Divine Fatherhood.

Abraham, the Supreme Form of Fleshly Father

Abraham is the common Ancestor of the three Mediterranean monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.(19) In the Old Testament, Abraham is the ancestor of all the Jews; he is the founder from whom the chosen people spring. He is the patriarch, the highest form of the father. Yahweh seals his covenant with Abraham on three occasions (Genesis 15; 17; 22). Through this covenant, Abraham, who though a hundred years old has no descendants, becomes fertile. Through Ishmael and then Isaac, Yahweh promises the old man a multitude of descendants: "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven" (Genesis 22, 17). He even changes his name from Abram to Abraham to show that he has made him the "father of many nations" ("pater multarum gentium," Genesis 17, 5). Finally, Yahweh guarantees that his covenant and the election that is to follow will be passed on from generation to generation, to all Abraham's descendants, through Isaac and Jacob. A correlation is thus established between divine election and filiation with regard to Abraham. Belonging to the chosen people means being a child of Abraham, a member of semen Abrahae.

The covenant is put to the test and eventually confirmed when Yahweh commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.(20) Abraham the prolific father is also, according to Maxim of Turin (circa 400), an example of "devout parricide" as he is willing to cut the throat of his own flesh and blood.(21) When looking at images of the Bosom of Abraham, it should be remembered that the Patriarch is both the formidable and the pathetic father, the hero of sacrifice. Gregory of Nyssa said that he could not look at representations of Abraham's sacrifice without being overcome with sadness.(22)

The New Testament recognises fully the importance of Abraham in the history of salvation. He is mentioned seventy-two times, more often than any other Old Testament figure apart from Moses.(23) Furthermore, on several occasions, God is called the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," as he was in the Old Testament (Exodus 3, 6). Abraham's status as patriarch is confirmed above all by the two accounts of the genealogy of Christ (Luke 3, 23-38 and Matthew 1, 1-16). The latter links Christ to Abraham. The choice of Abraham as starting point in the family line is a direct consequence of his status as Patriarch, ancestor of the chosen people. Thus, the opening lines of the Gospels begin by claiming a fleshly filiation between Christ and Abraham.

The Bosom of Abraham demonstrates Abraham's paternal function visually. Sometimes inscriptions reinforce it as on the tomb of the canon Sulpicius in Plaimpied (near Bourges, twelfth century), where the words "pater Abraham" are bombastically carved above Abraham and the soul in his cloak, or at San Pietro in Civate, where the Genesis expression "Abraham pater multarum gentium" may be read beside the figure in the mural.(24) In the Parable of Lazarus, the rich man's entreaty begins with the words "Pater Abraham miserere mei" (Manerius's Bible, late twelfth century).(25) Even when there are no scriptural quotations, it's the expression of the paternal relationship between Abraham and the elect that gives images of the Bosom of Abraham their forcefulness. Lazarus is shown as a child in his father's arms (as in the Liuthar Gospels, the first known example in Western art, circa 990, or for the elect after the resurrection at St Trophimus in Aries, late-twelfth century, which features the three patriarchs).(26)

The filial link between Abraham and Lazarus is again illustrated by the fact that the two people are shown on the same vertical axis (as in the cloisters at Monreale, and also in a manuscript of the Gospels from northern Italy, second quarter of thirteenth century).(27) This axis was used to express fleshly filiation in genealogical representations, including royal and aristocratic family trees, the arbor consanguinitatis and the Tree of Jesse, which developed in the twelfth century.(28) The connexion is sometimes reinforced by Abraham's beard which joins his head to that of Lazarus. The symbolism of fertility is, without doubt, significant here (manuscript of the Homilies of Geoffrey of Admont).(29)

The patriarch is often shown in an attitude of kindly authority, as in the case of Conques where he is holding two of the elect to his breast.(30) The elect are holding upright, on Abraham's lap, two virgae which symbolise the fertility of the patriarch, in the same way as the virga Jesse illustrates the line of David. In the Last Judgment at Rampilion (circa 1250), Abraham is affectionately holding a group of offspring who are happily playing in the protective shadow of their venerable ancestor.(31) In a Book of Hours from the early fifteenth century, the cloth is held at an angle to indicate a rocking movement and therefore that Abraham is concerned to give the righteous an ever more perfect requies.(32)

As we have seen, Christianity, therefore, fully adopts the patriarchal status of Abraham. He is Christ's ancestor. He is the father, with a dual, contradictory role: the cruel and pitiless father of sacrifice, but also the benevolent father who, in the hereafter, gathers to his breast a multitude of the elect, a crowd of children made up of his descendants.

Abraham's Spiritual Descent

Despite the fleshly aspect that images give of the paternity of Abraham, we should also consider another level of understanding,the spiritual. For Christians--and therefore for the elect whom we see in the Bosom of Abraham--Abraham is not an ancestor of the flesh. His descendants of the flesh are the Jews, not the Christians. Yet, as I have shown, the New Testament and patristic tradition claim an attachment to Abraham as the founder. Each Christian has to be child of Abraham to gather the fruits of the covenant made between God and the patriarchs. Yet, because Christianity is not a national but a universal religion, to maintain the filial link between Abraham and every Christian, it was necessary to establish a new concept of Abraham's posterity: the idea of spiritual descent.

This transaction, which gives Christians the right to the fruits of the covenant, is mainly demonstrated by St Paul in his Epistles to the Romans (4, 1-25 and 9, 7-9) and the Galatians (3, 6-29).(33) What is important, he says, is not to be the children of Abraham in terms of the flesh (filii cam is), but to be the children of Abraham in terms of the promise (filii promissionis). Furthermore: "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and theirs according to the promise" (Galatians, 3, 29). The Church Fathers stress the point further. In the City of God, St Augustine opposes Abraham's fleshly descent to his spiritual descent (in terms of faith), establishing thus a structuring duality in the Christian ideology of kinship.(34) Christians are the descendants of Abraham "non de carnali sed de spiritali semine."(35) Every Christian is the child of God, and at the same time the child of Abraham through the spirit, a member of his semen spiritale.

This is why the image of the Bosom of Abraham is significant in Christianity: the elect appear united with their ancestor in spirit. The fact that they are in Abraham's Bosom shows that they are his semen spiritale and as such inherit God's covenant. This is how they are the chosen people, or rather the elect.

The tie of kinship between Abraham and the elect in his Bosom is clearly a spiritual one. While every image of the Bosom of Abraham may be read as such, some suggest the specific, intermediary nature of the link with Abraham more explicitly. The porch of the abbey-church in Moissac contains one of the most extraordinary illustrations of the Bosom of Abraham, showing the corporeal closeness between the patriarch and the elect. This wonderfully complex work weaves a dense network of meaning and affiliation around it which is difficult to unravel.(36) A detailed analysis, which I cannot go into here, shows how the figure of Abraham works in relation to two different sets of figures. Firstly in relation to Christ on tympanum whose attendant glory indicates his place in the highest possible heavenly abode. While Christ and Abraham are linked by a common position--they are both enthroned--and by the rest and repose they are granted (as M. Schapiro has pointed out), they are at the same time highly opposed, particularly since they represent the two extremes of the range of bodies illustrated: the lengthening of the body of Christ and the less pronounced relief work in the carving contrasts with the compactness and the relief work in the squat carving of Abraham who seems to be fitted into a sphere.

Secondly, the relation to the child. In the case of Lazarus with Abraham, the scene is represented with astonishing vigour, and is mirroring scenes of the Childhood of Christ, particularly that of Simeon holding Jesus during the Presentation at the Temple. Thus, two images of the "Old Man and Child" are shown facing each other.(37) They differ nevertheless. Simeon's gesture, like those of the Virgin, is full of tenderness. Both are shown leaning towards the child; the closeness of the faces expresses affectionate intimacy. In Abraham's case, on the other hand, the fact that the child is wrapped in his cloak is certainly more basic, yet at the same time the affectionate, sensitive aspect is missing. The stiffness and impassiveness of Abraham dominate. The geometric design of his cloak gives him an abstract, disembodied quality. Distanced from the glorified deity of the tympanum and the human figures with gentle gestures which celebrate the Incarnation, Abraham seems to demonstrate a non-carnal way of expressing filiation, a spiritualised form of kinship.

Another aspect which should be considered is the way in which the Bosom of Abraham illustrates the relationship between the elect themselves. First, I must specify the nature of the tie of spiritual brotherhood which links all the Christians, as the children of God (and Abraham). Although the principle of this link is often mentioned, in the reality of everyday life it is mainly potential and ineffectual. It may be prompted, for instance through membership of a confraternity, but this only concerns a limited group of people and not Christianity as a whole. On earth, the link is conceived of as a distant, ideal state. It is only in the heavenly hereafter that it is fully realised.

The spiritual brotherhood of the faithful is given special expression in the Bosom of Abraham. It is represented as a gathering of the elect in a compact, harmonious group (Hofius Deliciarum).(38) They may be shown inside a common receptacle--a cloth which has the symbolic quality of a link--and in which they melt into a single mass (St Peter in Brancion, circa 1300).(39) The fraternity of the elect is occasionally expressed in a more dynamic way, through gestures of concord and understanding (Berthold Missal, early thirteenth century).(40) Above all, however, the spiritual kinship of the elect is expressed through the fact that they are all together in the folds of the patriarch's body-cloths (Fiastra, circa 1275).(41) The extraordinary Bible of Pamplona made for King Sancho of Navarre in 1197, makes Abraham into a fantastic figure.(42) He is the largest reservoir of the elect ever shown! With great force, the miniature expresses Abraham's tremendous fertility, the gathering in his Bosom of his spiritual descendants and the brotherhood of all the elect.

Apart from the common link with father Abraham, the brotherhood of the elect is shown by the uniformity of the figures gathered at his breast. (There are very few exceptions to this rule.) All difference in age disappears. In any given representation, the elect are all the same age whether little children or sometimes young people. In spiritual kinship there are only two generations: the father on the one hand and the community of his children, all joined by fraternity, on the other. Although the distinction between sexes may appear more often than that of age, it is generally not shown: the elect are either all male (Hortus Deliciarum) or neuter, of indeterminate sex (Berthold Missal).

There are no social distinctions either: no insignia or garment indicating rank or status. There are barely two or three tonsures in the whole corpus.(43) When the Bosom of Abraham is integrated into the Last Judgment, the uniformity of the elect at his breast contrasts strikingly with the marked different social groups amongst the elect when they are shown on their way to heaven (Bourges cathedral, circa 1260). In the procession, the organisation of earthly society is illustrated in its ideal form.(44) But it disappears completely on entering the Kingdom of Heaven. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven," warns Matthew 18, 3. In fact, the elect in the Bosom of Abraham are only those who have become children again. At the same time they are identical; there is no differentiation. A real metamorphosis takes place on entering the Gates of Heaven and passing the ecclesial figure of St Peter: the swing from an ideal earthly social order to an even more ideal order, that produced by the general-germane ties of all Christians.

In this way, one could say that the Bosom of Abraham is a masculine equivalent of the Ecclesia, a body to which Christians also belong. The Mater Ecclesia includes all the righteous, from the moment they are baptised until their entry into the triumphant community of heavenly Jerusalem. What is important to remember is that the image of the Bosom of Abraham expresses two principal types of affiliation: on the one hand Abraham's spiritual paternity, and on the other the cohesiveness and brotherhood of all the elect. It is thus a perfect model of the workings of spiritual kinship and an image of Christianity as a network that asserts the ties of spiritual kinship.

Abraham Associated with God the Father

Abraham also adjoins the divine end of the spectrum. When he is seated on a rainbow, in a mandorla, as in the Psalter of Bury-St Edmonds (circa 1040), or surrounded by the four rivers of paradise as in the Obermunster Necrology (circa 1180), he is not unlike the Maiestas Domini.(45) More disturbing still are the representations in which the patriarch is shown with a cruciferous halo, which is usually exclusively reserved for deity. Yet, this type of image cannot be taken simply for one of God the Father, since an inscription usually recalls that it is indeed the Bosom of Abraham (as in a Spanish miniature of the Parable of Lazarus, circa 1200; or in the Book of Hours from Utrecht,).(46) Abraham and God the Father are melded here into a single image. We are in the presence of an ambivalent figure that is both Abraham and God the Father. This figure may be called God-Abraham.

Theological and liturgical texts reflect the same phenomenon. Current exegesis compares Abraham sacrificing Isaac with God the Father sacrificing his Son.(47) A similar parallel appears in St Augustine's exegesis of the Parable of Lazarus: there Lazarus at the door of the rich man is the figure of Christ suffering the Passion; Lazarus in the Bosom of Abraham is Christ reunited with his Father after his resurrection.(48) In both cases, the complicity between God and Abraham is formed. Furthermore, many texts evoke the Bosom of Abraham as a heavenly place; to be in the Bosom of Abraham means to be in contact with the Trinity. It's to be "in the presence of God," "in the glory of the Father," according to an anonymous Benedictine in the early twelfth century.(49) If, therefore, being in the Bosom of Abraham means being with God, there is good reason for the ambivalent God-Abraham figure.

This parallel with God the Father serves at first to exalt Abraham, but it may then also turn against him, making him superfluous. In fact, occasionally in the fifteenth century, he disappears, leaving God the Father alone to gather the elect to his Bosom. New iconographic forms show the elect no longer in the Bosom of Abraham but in that of the Trinity or in that of God the Father (as in two Books of Hours, circa 1460 and 1480).(50)Abraham therefore moves aside for the person for whom he was the double, the back-up, the substitute.

Since that time, all images of the Bosom of Abraham seem to be marked, to a varying extent, by ambiguity. Abraham always tends to be taken for a figure of God the Father; God the Father is always potentially there, behind Abraham. And yet, between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, the heavenly Father was hardly shown. He retired into near invisibility, leaving the front of the stage to some one else. It would appear that for three centuries he entrusted Abraham with the task of representing heavenly reward--Abraham, the strange figure who could combine all the different types of Father and who was at once fleshly ancestor, a model of spiritual paternity and double to the heavenly Father.

As we reach the end of this paper, we may conceive of Abraham as being placed inside a triangle made up of the three points defined above: fleshly, spiritual and divine kinship. Far from occupying a stable position within this field, Abraham seems on the contrary to have great mobility. Depending on the work, context, social milieu or periods in time, he draws near to or blends in with a point in the triangle, or even varies his position within it.

As an example, we could, for instance, consider that the Bosom of Abraham might reflect the aristocratic ideology of lineage since it presents death--time in the hereafter--as a reunion with the figure of a male ancestor. However, although it seems to lend itself to this interpretation, the Bosom of Abraham is more a clerical concept, since for the Church, Abraham is a spiritual ancestor. More importantly, visual evidence shows that the Bosom of Abraham is just the opposite of a real family tree or a genealogical line of descent. Indeed, all generational relationships below the spiritual ancestor disappear: all the children form a unified whole which does not take genealogical succession or social differences into account.

On first looking at an image of the Bosom of Abraham, we seem to see an ancestor of the flesh. On taking a closer look, we understand that the figure is a spiritual father. And, behind him, emerges the heavenly Father who, as ultimate authority, orders the whole field of kinship. With this in mind, rather than being an articulated, organised hierarchical image of the medieval system of kinship, the Bosom of Abraham works as a potential means for obtaining a shift in meaning, a change of level (that is to say, it is a little more than "une sorte d'hieroglyphe"). The Bosom of Abraham conjures up a paternal being, but one who is made to ascend from the level of the fleshly father to the spiritual and from the spiritual to the heavenly father. According to clerical thought, fleshly kinship must be superseded, embraced by spiritual kinship, which in turn is embraced and dominated by divine kinship.

It is useful to note that images of the Bosom of Abraham reached their height from eleventh to thirteenth centuries, around the Gregorian period when the question of kinship was a crucial point in conflicts stemming from the Church's efforts to impose a new order on society. Representations of the Bosom of Abraham may have come then to the fore because Abraham is a subtle mediator between the fleshly and the divine, and also because the image of the gathering of the elect in his Bosom is an ideal one for representing spiritual kinship, which the Church asserted as being superior to fleshly kinship. This order was finally imposed in the thirteenth century; and for complex reasons linked to the new realities and conflicts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the heavenly function was progressively taken away from Abraham and monopolized by more eminent, more fully celestial figures: the Virgin as Church and God himself.

1 E. Male, L'art religieux du XIIIe siecle en France, 8th ed., Paris, 1948, p. 687 (The Gothic Image, New York, 1958).

2 This paper, published as it was delivered during the conference, sums up the axis of a larger research. A more precise discussion of single works and specific problems will be presented on other occasions. Notes and bibliography are limited to bare necessities. I would like to express my thanks to the participants in my seminar at the E.H.E.S.S. for their active contribution, and especially Jean-Claude Bonne, Anita Guerreau-Jalabert and Jean-Claude Schmitt.

3 In addition to the references given below, a synthetic and stimulating approach may be found in A. Guerreau-Jalabert, "Sur les structures de parente dans l'Europe medievale," Annales E.S.C., 36, 1981, pp. 1028-1049; "La parente dans l'Europe medievale et moderne: a propos d'une synthese recente," L'Homme, XXIX, 1989, 2, pp. 69-93; and "Les formes spirituelles de la parente dans la societe medievale" (forthcoming). Jean Wirth has pointed out the role of kinship in christian medieval iconography; J. Wirth, L'image medievale. Naissance et developpements (VIe-XVe siecle), Paris, Klincksieck, 1989.

4 For the conception of God as Father in Christianism, see J. Moingt, "Religion et paternite," Du Pere, Littoral, 11/12, 1984, pp. 5-15.

5 J. Bellamy, "Adoption surnaturelle par Dieu," Dictionnaire de theologie catholique, Paris, 1903, I, c. 425-437.

6 For example St Augustine, Sermo 216, P. L., 38, c. 1080-1081. Concerning the Mater Ecclesia, see H. De Lubac, Les eglises particulieres de l'Eglise Universelle, suivi de La maternite de l'Eglise, Paris, 1971, pp. 141-229.

7 J. Goody, L'evolution de la famille et du manage en Europe, Paris, A. Colin, 1985. (The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe, Cambridge, 1983); G. Duby, Le chevalier, la femme et le pretre. Le mariage dans la France feodale, Paris, Hachette, 1981, and Male Moyen Age. De l'amour et autres essais, Paris, Flammarion, 1988. See also the synthetic presentations in D. Barthelemy, "Parente," in G. Duby (dir.), Histoire de la vie privee, t. 2, Paris, Seuil, 1985, pp. 96-161; D. Herlihy, Medieval Household, Harvard, 1985; A. Burguiere, C. Klapisch-Zuber, M. Segafen, F. Zonabend (dir.), Histoire de la famille, t. I: Mondes lointains, mondes anciens, Paris, A. Colin, 1986.

8 In addition to the references given so far, J. H. Lynch, Godparents and Kinship in Earty Medieval Europe, Princeton University Press, 1986, and most recently B. Jussen, "Le parrainage a la fin du Moyen Age: savoir public, attentes theologiques et usages sociaux," Annales E.S.C., 47, 1992, pp. 467-502.

9 A. Guerreau-Jalabert, "Les formes spirituelles. . ."

10 This point cannot be developed here.

11 For example, see M.-L. Therel, Le triomphe de la Vierge-Eglise, Paris, 1984, especially pp. 89-95 and A. L. Mayer, "Mater et filia. Ein Versuch zur stilgeschichtlichen Entwicklung eines Gebetsausdrucks," Jahrbuch fur Liturgiewissenschaft, 7, 1927, pp. 60-82.

12 To the points mentioned above, we should add the maternal role of Christ, studied by C. W. Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages, Berkeley, California U. P., 1982 and Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women, Berkeley, California U.P., 1987. I will not discuss here the maternal interpretation of the Bosom of Abraham (which seems to figure "Abraham as Mother," or "l'homme enceint," as studied by R. Zapperi, L'homme enceint. L'homme, la femme et le pouvoir, trad. fr., Paris, PUF, 1983). This interpretation seems to me too rapidly adopted by J. Wirth, (Abraham est "au ciel la mere qui rassemble les elus en son sein," L'image medievale. . ., p. 254).

13 See E. Mangenot, "Abraham (sein d')," Dictionnaire de theologie catholique, I, c. 111-116 et J. Ntedika, L'evocation de l'au-dela dans la priere pour les morts. Etude de patristique et de liturgie latines (IVe-VIIIe siecle), Paris-Louvain, Nauwelaerts, 1971. Concerning medieval conceptions of the hereafter, see especially J. Le Goff, La naissance du purgatoire, Paris, Gallimard, 1981.

14 In Matthew 8, 11-12 and Luke 13, 28-29, the Bosom of Abraham is not mentioned, but the eschatological banquet with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is announced.

15 According to medieval conceptions, the destiny of the souls of the righteous is not limited to a subterranean refrigerium, as described by A. Struiber, Refrigerium interim, Bonn, 1957 (critical review by L. De Bruyne, "Refrigerium interim," Rivista di Archeologia cristiana, 34, 1958, pp. 87-118).

16 St Thomas, Summa Theologiae, Supp., Qu. 69, art. 4. When integrated in the Last Judgment, the Bosom of Abraham has to be interpreted in this way.

17 I will elsewhere present and analyse this corpus. Until now, no comprehensive iconographic study of this theme has been done. The following studies take into account only particular or very specific images: R. Hamann, "Lazarus in Heaven," Burlington Magazine, 63, 1933, pp. 3-10; E. Rosenthal, "Abraham and Lazarus: Iconographical Considerations of a Medieval Book Painting," The Pacific Review, 4, 1945-1946, pp. 7-23; P. Sheingorn, "The Bosom of Abraham Trinity: A Late Medieval All Saints Image," in England in the 15th Century. Proceedings of the 1986 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. D. Williams, Londres, 1987, pp. 273-285; see also D. Markow, "The Soul in Ninth-Century Byzantine Art," Rutgers Art Review, IV, 1983, pp. 2-11.

18 It is absolutely necessary to study distinctly these contexts, insofar as the Bosom of Abraham may have, in each of them, a different signification. We have to distinguish very carefully between what concerns the soul before the Last Judgment (Parable of Lazarus) and what concerns the body reunited to the soul after the general resurrection (Last Judgment); see J. Le Golf, et J. Baschet, "Anima," in Enciclopedia dell'arte medievale, I, Rome, 1991, pp. 798-815; and my forthcoming "Jugement de l'ame, Jugement dernier: contradiction, complementarite, chevauchement?" 1, Revue Mabillon, 1994 (forthcoming).

19 Abraham, pete des croyants, Cahiers Sioniens, V, 2, 1951.

20 See E. Mangenot, "Abraham (sacrifice d')," Dictionnaire de theologie catholique, op. cit., c. 98-106; I. Speyart van Woerden, "The Iconography of the Sacrifice of Abraham," Vigiliae Christianae, 15, 1961, pp. 214-255; A. Rouselie, "Le glaive d'Abraham," Le Pere. Metaphore paternelle et fonctions du pere: I'Interdit, la Filiation, la Transmission, Paris, Denoel, 1989, pp. 481-500.

21 Quoted by A. Rouselie, ibid., p. 498.

22 Gregory of Nyssa, De deitate filii et spiritus sancti, P.G., 46, c. 572.

23 P. Demann, "La signification d'Abraham dans la perspective du Nouveau Testament," Cahiers Sioniens, op. cit., pp. 44-67 and J. Danielou, "Abraham dans la tradition chretienne," ibid., pp. 68-87.

24 Plaimpied (Cher), St-Martin, south transept, 1142 (?); San Pietro di Civate (Lombardy), narthex, east wall, c. 1095, O. Demus, La peinture murale romane, Paris, 1970, fig. 15.

25 Paris, Bibl. Sainte-Genevieve, ms. 10, f. 128 v., Champagne or North Burgundy, last quarter of the twelfth century; cf. W. Cahn, La bible romane, Fribourg, 1982, p. 280.

26 Liuthar Gospels, f. 364 v., Aachen, treasury of the cathedral; Aries, St Trophimus, portal.

27 Monreale (Sicily), c. 1200; Gospels, Vatican Library, Vat. lat. 39, f. 58, cf. L. Eleen, "A Thirteenth Century Workshop of Miniature Painters in the Veneto," Arte Veneta, 39, 1985, pp. 9-21.

28 See C. Klapisch-Zuber, "The Genesis of the Family Tree," I Tatti Studies. Essays in the Renaissance, 4, 1991, pp. 105-129; H. Schadt, Die Darstellungen der Arbores Consanguinitatis und der Arbores Affinitatis in juridischen Handschriften, Tubingen, 1982; A. Watson, The Early Iconography of the Tree of Jesse, Oxford, 1934; H. Bloch, Etymologie et genealogie. Une anthropologie litteraire du Moyen Age francais, Paris, 1989; A. Guerreau-Jalabert, "L'arbre de Jesse et l'ordre ecclesiastique de la parente" (forthcoming).

29 Admont, Stiftsbibl., lat. 73, f. 1 (c. 1160).

30 As often in the Last Judgment, the Bosom of Abraham does not represent, on his own, the whole celestial place; yet, it is the heart of heaven. For this reason, Jean-Claude Bonne qualifies the heaven at Conques as "la Jerusalem romane d'Abraham";J.-C. Bonne, L'art roman deface et de profil. Le tympan de Conques, Paris, Le Sycomore, 1984, pp. 236-243. On the other hand, we have to remember that an image of heaven can only touch on a reality not accessible to human understanding; at Conques, it is suggested that the "Jerusalem d'Abraham" will rise up to be united with Christ (ibid., p. 243).

31 Rampilion (Seine-et-Marne), Saint-Eliphe, west portal, W. Sauerlander, La sculpture gothique en France, 1140-1270, Paris, Flammarion, 1972, pp. 148-149 and E. Male, op. cit., fig. 181.

32 Liege, University Library, Wittert, ms. 35, f. 195 v. (Utrecht, c. 1415); cf. The Golden Age of Dutch Manuscript Painting, New York, Braziller, 1990, n. 13, pp. 61-62. I would like to thank Elizabeth Burin who introduced me to the Baltimore manuscript, Walters Art Gallery, ms. 185, f. 171 v; (Utrecht, 1410-1415), which is iconographically very close to the Liege manuscript, although inferior in quality.

33 See P. Demann, "La signification d'Abraham. .," op. cit.

34 St Augustine, De Civitate Dei, XVI, 12-22, ed. B. Dombart et A. Kalb, Bibliotheque Augustinienne, v. 36, Paris, Desclee, 1960, pp. 230-258.

35 Ibid., XVI, 21, p. 255.

36 See M. Schapiro, "The Romanesque Sculptures of Moissac," in Romanesque Art: Selected Papers, London, 1977, pp. 131-264; and, including recent bibliography, P. K. Klein, "Programmes eschatologiques, fonction et reception historiques des portails du XIIe siecle: Moissac, Beaulieu, Saint-Denis," Cahiers de Civilisation medievale, 33, 1990, pp. 317-349.

37 Other similar ties link the two lateral walls of the porch; cf. M. Schapiro, ibid., pp. 235-237.

38 Hortus Deliciarum, f. 263 v., late twelfth century; R. Green et al. (ed.), Studies of the Warburg Institute, 36, London, 1979.

39 Brancion (Saone-et-Loire), St Peter, north nave; cf. P. Deschamps and M. Thibout, La peinture murale en France au debut de l'epoque gothique, de Philippe Auguste a la fin du regne de Charles V (1180-1380), Paris, 1963, pp. 182-183.

40 New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, ms. 710, f. 123; H. Swarzenski, The Berthold Missal, New York, 1943.

(41) Fiastra (Italy, Marches), San Lorenzo al Lago, right wall (the three patriarchs, unknown context); P. Zampetti, Pittura nelle Marche, Florence, 1988, vol. I, figs. 32-33.

42 Amiens, Public Library, ms. 108, f. 255 v. (this full page is part of a series of eight, dedicated to the Last Judgment); F. Bucher, The Pamplona Bibles, Yale U.P., 1970, 2 vol.

43 The mural in Bominaco is one of the rare with ecclesiastic identification of the elect in the Bosom of the patriarchs (a bishop and a benedictine); J. Baschet, Lieu sacre, lieu d'images. Les fresques de Bominaco (Abruzzes, 1263). Themes, parcours, fonctions, Paris-Rome, 1991, pp. 73-81.

44 On the opposite, hell and the damned offer the image of a perverted order (here, the king goes before the cleric).

45 Psalter of Bury-St-Edmonds, Vatican Library, Reg. lat. 12, f. 72 (illustration of Psalm 66); cf. A. Heimann, "Three illustrations from the Bury St. Edmunds Psalter and their prototypes. Notes on the iconography of some Anglo-Saxon drawings," Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 29, 1966, pp. 39-59. Obermunster Necrology, Munich, Hauptstaatsarchiv, Obermunster, 1, |pounds~01. 74 v. (1177-1183). The four rivers of paradise also appear in Hortus Deliciarum, and in a miniature from a Saxon Psalter (c. 1239), Washington, National Gallery, B-13-521.

46 Harburg-Oettingen, Wallenstein Coll., ms. 1-2, fat 4-0, 15, f. 201, cf. F. Bucher, The Pamplona Bibles, op. cit., pp. 29-41 and pls. 407-408; Liege, Univ. Lib. (see above n. 32). Ten representations of Abraham with cruciferous halo, from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, have been identified.

47 This exegesis is common from the second century onward, and is well-known also in art. See above, notes 19, 20, 23.

48 St Augustine, Questiones evangeliorum, II, 38, ed. A. Mutzenbecher, Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, XLIV B, Turhoult, Brepols, 1980, pp. 91-92.

49 J. Leclercq, "Une elevation sur les gloires de Jerusalem," Melanges J. Lebreton, Recherches de sciences religieuse, 40, 1952, pp. 326-334 and L'amour des lettres et le desir de Dieu, 3d ed., Paris, Cerf, 1990, pp. 63-67 (from the monastery of Beze, Burgundy).

50 Mostyn Hours, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 45-65-6, f. 206 v. (England, 1460-1470); R.S. Wieck, Time-Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life, New York-Baltimore, Braziller-Walters Art Gallery, 1988, p. 131 and fig. 122. Book of Hours, Utrecht, University Library, ms. 20, f. 198 v. (c. 1480). In English alabaster sculpture (end of fourteenth and fifteenth century), the elect are held in a cloth by God and Father and integrated in the Throne of Grace Trinity; on this new iconography (that I would name "Bosom of the Trinity" rather than "Bosom of Abraham Trinity," insofar as Abraham is no longer present), see P. Sheingorn, "The Bosom Of Abraham Trinity," op. cit.
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Title Annotation:French Issue
Author:Baschet, Jerome
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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