The Memory of the Bishop in Medieval Cathedrals

Ceremonies and Visualizations

by Gerardo Boto Varela (Volume editor) Isabel Escandell (Volume editor) Esther Lozano Lopez (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 608 Pages


From Late Antiquity to ca. 1500, the exchange of artistic expressions, literary formulas and moral ideals allowed successive bishops to generate and transform the paradigmatic buildings and devices epitomising episcopal power, both in life and posthumously by dictating the manner in which they were to be com-memorated. Indispensable to this process of integration was the ability to absorb foreign artistic formulas, devise innovative creations and integrate them into mutated patterns that were always defined by local material and intellectual conditions and resources.
This volume explores the making and metamorphosis of images and memories of European Medieval Bishops as individual personalities or institutional figures within the framework of their respective cathedrals. The studies discuss the circumstances and factors that have determined funerary configurations and ritual remembrances of bishops in cathedrals and ecclesiastical colleges in the Medieval Latin Church. The authors of this volume adopt and implement a dual and complementary methodology. First, they take into account a wide range of factors, including specific community practices, liturgical ceremonies, church furnishings, and artistic equipment. Second, they explore to which the morphology of individual tombs can be ascribed to the preferences of patrons who, hypothetically, would also have imposed a religious protocol as the patrons of the future commemoration of their personalities.
In these novel studies, special attention is paid to the symbiosis of pictorial narratives, liturgical performativity, and spatial arrangement, which made up and propitiated a large part of the visual experience of episcopal memorials. The volume focuses on the use of the memorial devices of important bishops as a privileged lens to analyse the complexity and dynamics of the artistic landscape in western Europe during the Middle Ages.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Visual and Narrative Memorials of Medieval Bishops (Gerardo Boto / Isabel Escandell / Esther Lozano)
  • I. Emerging Episcopal Memory
  • Letrán, el Vaticano y los apóstoles en la Visio Taionis. Notas sobre la construcción de una memoria hispánica de Gregorio Magno (Joel Varela Rodríguez)
  • II. Shaping Ceremonies and Visual Devices to Episcopal Memories
  • Les évêques de Lausanne et la cathédrale Notre-Dame. De la mémoire individuelle à la mémoire institutionelle (Kérim Berclaz)
  • Between Commemoration and Cult: Creating and Recreating Episcopal Memory at Cologne Cathedral (Adam R. Stead)
  • Constructing Episcopal Authority through Hagiography and Ritual in the Saint Honoré portal at Amiens Cathedral (Lindsey Hansen)
  • La cattedrale di Parma e la memoria del vescovo Bernardo degli Uberti: luoghi, liturgia e culto santorale (sec. XII–XVI) (Carlotta Taddei / Fabrizio Tonelli)
  • III. Medieval Cathedrals and Episcopal Memories in Gothic Spain
  • El claustro de la catedral de León: un espacio entre la memoria individual y colectiva a través de los sepulcros y testamentos canonicales a mediados del siglo XIII (Pablo Ordás Díaz)
  • The altar de Santa Elena or Capilla de Pedro de Mendoza in the Cathedral of Toledo: the Artistic Work and its Liturgical and Spatial Dimension (Maria Dolores Teijeira Pablos)
  • Identidad y memoria en los pontificales iluminados en Castilla durante la Edad Media (Mercedes López-Mayán)
  • El cardenal Gil de Albornoz (1302–1367), siete siglos construyendo memoria (Manuel Parada López de Corselas)
  • Memoria de Diego de Anaya y Maldonado († 1437). Ilustración, crítica y devoción (María Concepción Cosmen Alonso)
  • Catedral y colegio, magnificencia y memoria en la promoción artística de fray Alonso de Burgos (Diana Olivares Martínez)
  • List of illustrations
  • Index of monuments and individuals
  • List of Contributors and Editors

← 2 | 3 →


Introduction: Visual and Narrative Memorials of Medieval Bishops

The medieval cathedral was the principal centre around which gravitated the personal ambitions of the bishops, chapter dignitaries and canons. Each of these individuals and groups tried to leave a record of their personal or collective initiatives so that the passage of time should not erase them from memory.1 The prelates’ presence in their cathedrals during their lifetimes is continued by their respective tombs, which make up for the absence of the deceased.2 However, these magnificent monuments were not only the final resting place for their mortal remains, but also evidence of their ambition and the chance to leave a visible record in stone of the cadavers concealed within them. From the second half of the 12th century, funerary effigies became effective resources for fixing in the minds of successive generations the spectacle of a petrified and therefore contained and suspended death. This period witnessed the beginning of attempts to idealize the image of the deceased (saint, king, bishop or noble), which in turn led visual mechanisms that played an essential role in idealizing the memories of the individuals concerned. ← 3 | 4 →

These sepulchral monuments and other artistic accomplishments occurred in the context of complex ritual and visual programmes and accrued further meaning under the melismatic chanting of the canons during mass to commemorate both the living and the dead. The singular tombs were the principal physical catalysts promoting the intangible memory of bishops and canons because they served to evoke and imitate the actions and resources of the prelates.3 We are still far from determining the specific dynamics of the funerary practices in each of the very diverse episcopal sees in Europe. It is clear that in cathedrals, with the passing of time, changes occurred to both the locations of the tombs and to their funerary uses, especially in cases where a Early medieval cathedral gave way to a Romanesque building, which in turn would be replaced by a Gothic structure. Even during these temporal and architectural transfers in which monumental and material evidence was destroyed by grafting the new structures over the old, attempts were made to ensure that the memory of the earlier ecclesiastics endured by moving the old tombs to new walls. This occurred at the cathedrals of Parma, Cologne, Girona and Leon, among others.4 To understand the resources used by cathedral administrators to ensure that the memory of their predecessors survived, it is necessary to identify what procedures they undertook in each case. As is shown in the present book, from the 13th century onwards, it was common practice to design ritual and funerary activities that modified the internal layouts and perimeters of cathedrals and propitiated the emergence of spaces of worship and ← 4 | 5 → specific commemoration; once the ecclesiological thought of the 11th century resolved the conflict relating to be buried next to sinners.5

The present publication is substantial contribution to the historiographic tradition of studies regarding pan-European episcopal memory in both the funerary and performative ambits, one of the factors leading to the creation of an “episcopal art”.6 These pages bring together a series of studies that help identify the various mnemotechnical resources used to commemorate bishops and canons individually or collectively in Medieval Latin churches. Analysis of literary texts, material examination of the works and attention to the visual arrangements and ceremonial uses are some of the methodological processes followed by the eleven authors brought together in the present book. Their analyses raise new questions regarding the motives behind the emergence of episcopal and canonical memory in cathedrals. The authors turn their gaze on the specific historical, artistic and liturgical contexts of different buildings and reveal the extraordinary semantic potential of the tombs with their carvings, epigraphs, paintings and diverse world of ornamenta ecclesiae and the immaterial factors that made explicit the political memories in each case study. The commemorative purpose of these privately sponsored works was nuanced and enriched by the precision of ritual protocols that conferred multidimensional meanings on the works of art.

Even though the subject of episcopal memory has been the object of numerous studies,7 this book still fills a gap in our knowledge. ← 5 | 6 → Individual artistic patronage is analysed in the context of devotions, liturgical and ritual circuits and episcopal politics. The synergy of these three factors exponentially multiplied the eloquence of episcopal monuments. Emphasis is thus placed on the important of the initiatives connected with commemoration and the ritual and symbolic frame of action in which these unfolded. The chapters in the present volume have been chosen to form three coherent sections that meld neatly into one another. They establish an interpretive symbiosis through chronologies, geographic ambits and various governmental, scenic and protocolary procedures. As a result, together the authors recreate a rich visual and narrative account. In the first part, Emerging Episcopal Memory, literary sources from the Middle Ages are used to exemplify how the creation of memory was a literary narrative modality that developed very early on and independently of material processes. In the second part, Shaping Ceremonies and Visual Devices to Episcopal Memories, four studies focus on ceremonies and reveal the different material and visual resources used in them and the singular participation of their audiences. In the final section, Medieval Cathedrals and Episcopal Memories in Gothic Spain, six more case studies on Gothic art in the Crown of Castile provide eloquent examples of the diverse resources used for personal memory in a historical and geographic setting that is not well known by international historiography.

The studies presented in this volume derive from scientific seminars involving international researchers hosted by the University of Girona (Spain) and held in the frame of the academic initiatives of the interdisciplinary research group Templa. Taller d’Estudis Medievals.8 Templa brings together scholars from Spain and other European countries who devote their attention to the prolific universe of cathedrals, ← 6 | 7 → non-episcopal canonical churches and medieval monasteries as focal points in the development of architecture, sculpture and painting, liturgical ornaments and liturgy, iconographic programmes and ritual procedures and the events connected to social and economic history.

Policies of episcopal memory

The literary sources describe episcopal memory in great detail. Accounts from the high medieval period relate the birth of memorial legends in cathedral ensembles, often associated with holy or significant bishops.9 J. Varela presents a singular study based on the analysis of literary sources in the Early Middles Ages, which detail the symbolic form of the Lateran scrinium and the memory of the Roman apostolate in the Visio Taionis. Varela demonstrates that the author of the Visio Taionis was aware that certain apostolic symbols with political meanings and ← 7 | 8 → linked to certain spaces of worship and literature contributed to the creation of Vatican memory. The account given in the Visio Taionis of the visit to Saint Peter’s tomb in Rome was used in the Hispanic world of the 7th century to develop a more effective evocation of Pope Gre­gory I, which was important given his status as an exponent of Roman evocation whose parameters and articulations were alien to the Italian peninsula.

With a different objective, the chronicles studied by A. R. Stead are the medium that allows us to examine at close quarters the now-disappeared funerary ensembles of Gero and Rainald von Dassel in the Cathedral of Cologne, which had been subjected to a translatio by their successors as part of a programme of archiepiscopal exaltation. Also in Parma, the texts studied by C. Taddei and F. Tonelli discuss the processes of worship, canonization and arrangement of funerary ensembles relating to Bishop Bernardo degli Uberti as a result of the initiatives started by his successor. L. Hansen clarifies another remarkable case in the Cathedral of Amiens, namely the writing of the hagio­graphic narrative of the bishop and saint Honoratus, which provided the impulse for the creation of a magnificent sculpted entrance that justified and reaffirmed episcopal authority.

As is to be expected, the political events in which the different cathedrals were immersed affected the development and maintenance of the collective memory of their respective bishops.10 As is demonstrated in the study by C. Taddei and F. Tonelli, the Cathedral ← 8 | 9 → of Parma, immersed from the start of the 12th century in a conflict between Roman and Imperial partisans, started to pay homage to the memory of a contemporary bishop, celebrated him as a founding saint in the face of external pressures. K. Berclaz argues that the continuous interferences by the House of Savoy regarding the prelates of Geneva and Sion prevented stable funerary practices. In contrast, the political autonomy of Lausanne and its connections with the territory and the local nobility gave it a stable and lasting government and thus a foundation for the development of episcopal memory. The comparison of these cases reveals that there was no homogenous model.

These analyses of episcopal monuments have also examined the quality and exclusivity of the artisans and raw materials selected. The material nature of the artistic project is recorded in the body of documents relating to each ensemble. The material forms of the tombs reveal the inclinations of their patrons, who also left evidence of other ceremonial preferences. A rich source of documents allows us to evoke with a certain precision the words and desires of the medieval prelates.

Idealization of episcopal memory

The construction of memory was not free from the influence of medieval bishops’ vanities and power. We can evaluate the scope of their projects by studying their material composition, topographic context and liturgical practices. However, we need to resist the charms emanating from these works and from the deeds recorded by the chroniclers so that we may look beyond their apparent historical realism and question their veracity. The prelates’ construction of their own commemoration was a public stage on which they expressed the sublimation of their personal or collective memory, a mirror that reflected the desired effigy. In practice, this conceptualization consisted of selectively exhibiting that ← 9 | 10 → which contributed to the desired image and leaving out any less than favourable qualities. Such veneration was channelled through physical representation or through the promotion of their memory. A significant number of the prelates regarded their cathedrals as a stage on which they could symbolise their authority, jurisdiction and spiritual duties, meaning that the cathedral became a privileged locus of episcopal memory. Other less usual and therefore more interesting alternatives were also possible.

Rome is an exceptional and original testimony to the assimilation of an entire city into the role of episcopal locus. J. Varela, in his study of the first chroniclers, demonstrates how the presence of the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul identified the city from the birth of Christianity as a sedes apostolorum. This led to the development of an iconographic apparatus, sermons and liturgical texts that reproduce the saints symbolically. More specifically, the tomb of Saint Peter was explained by Pope Gregory I as the epicentre of certain miracles that were connected to the office of the pontiff.

The idealization of the memory of patron bishops was common practice. D. Olivares presents an examination of the complex personality of Alonso de Burgos, Dominican priest to Queen Isabella the Catholic and bishop of Córdoba, Cuenca and Palencia. This prelate decided that he preferred to be commemorated in a non-cathedral setting by founding a college connected to his religious order. As bishop he was a patron of the arts and legislator, but the funerary effigies of him as bishop were located not in a cathedral but on the façade of the college that he founded and in the convent that he chose to house his funerary chapel, which was at the same time a collegiate church. He entrusted custody of his memory to the Dominican intellectual elite. At both sites, his heraldic insignia was widely displayed, on occasions alongside that of the Catholic Monarchs. Indeed it was commonplace to use coats of arms to single out certain bishops and link them to certain artistic projects. Heraldic devices can be seen not only in funerary chapels but also on all manner of other surfaces, although this does not necessarily mean that heraldry was systematically used to reflect episcopal patronage. A group of Castilian pontificals studied by M. López-Mayán highlights ← 10 | 11 → the scant presence of this visual resource in a type of book which by definition deals with episcopal function and ritual. Heraldry has no constant or universal presence in these books, leading her to assert that it plays no role in the construction of the identity and memory of prelates. Furthermore, the said pontificals formed part of chapel libraries whose manuscripts featured the same decorative lexicon pertaining to the Castilian aristocrats who in this manner exhibited their cultural interests and aspirations as members of an elite.

Canons and bishops shared these same preoccupations, although the material richness of their projects and their impact on their cathedral topographies is evidence of an unwritten code that distinguished funerary monuments from one another. P. Ordás provides a study on the canonical funerary s in the cloister of the Cathedral of León over the course of two centuries, an architectural ensemble conceived and built precisely for this purpose. Some reliefs depict canons making offerings, the purpose being to perpetuate their memory as constructors and donators of buildings, whereas others represent the position that they held within the cathedral (precentor, treasurer, dean, etc.). All refer to a desire to be recorded according to the position that they occupy and for their singular patronage, facts that can be verified in the documentation. Each one contributed, individually, to the joint reconstruction of canonical history at their cathedrals.

Topographies of episcopal memory

Cathedrals as distinct from one another as Lausanne, Cologne, Amiens and Parma provide physical and written evidence of ceremonial activities concerning the commemoration of prelates in all Roman Catholic cathedrals. The studies in this book highlight the changes to commemorative protocols that occurred over a long period from the 10th to the beginning of the 16th centuries. ← 11 | 12 →

Before the 12th century, it was not common for bishops to choose to be buried in the cathedral where they had executed the duties of their office. Neither was it necessary for the siting of their tombs to be directly linked to their patronage. A. R. Stead relates how in Cologne burials of prelates within the cathedral were highly unusual before the construction of a new gothic east end that contained a pantheon of archbishops, including ancient prelates dating back to the end of the 10th century. It was a project that was put on the same level as the collective memory of the cathedral, as a sort of idealized reflection of the episcopal past. This generated a new symbolic institutional image of the cathedral before the seculum, a term which refers on one hand to the physical dimension of the urban environment and diocese with its faithful and on the other to the theological dimension of the prelatures and their temporal succession within the overarching Story of the Salvation.

In Parma the body of Bishop Bernardo, entombed in the cathedral at the beginning of the 12th century, was transferred to the crypt when he was canonized (1139) because a tomb (sub confessionibus) was now required that was better suited to facilitating the worship and commemoration of such a prestigious occupant. C. Taddei and F. Tonelli explain how a century later the veneration of the holy Bishop Bernardo in Parma took place at an altar located in a chapel in the transept, which once again proves the mutability of physical spaces dedicated to episcopal exaltation compared with commemorative practice down the centuries. The crypt and the chapels in the east end were privileged sites for collective burials, although there were other options. The prelates of Lausanne were buried along the length of the walkway used by pilgrims when approaching the chapel of the Virgin. K. Berclaz explains that this walkway symbolically evoked the episcopal lineage of the cathedral, providing the see’s former bishops with a singular joint episcopal memory that has antecedents as remote and eloquent as the east end of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. On some occasions canons were also buried within the cathedral, but at other times they preferred to ensure that they would be commemorated at sites that in some way were associated exclusively with canonical power. In the Cathedral of León this practice began at the start of the 13th century in its cloister, which in time ← 12 | 13 → became a sort of “house for the dead” in the words of P. Ordás. Ordás shows that the interior of the cathedral and the cloister were reserved for two clearly distinct sets of occupants, with the former being reserved for the sole funereal use of bishops and the latter providing a final resting place for the canons. This antithesis can be observed with the same emphatic clarity in an infinite number of Gothic cathedrals, for example the Cathedrals of Tarragona or Salamanca from the 12th century onwards.11

From the second half of the 12th century it was common for grand episcopal funerary monuments to be erected as symbols of individual memory that were exhibited in significant enclaves of the cathedral church. They were and still are paradigmatic visual testimonies to episcopal power. The most ambitious are the result of direct planning and patronage by their intended occupants, who deployed visual programmes that spoke of their lives and encouraged the eternal commemoration of their personas. In the act of remembering a prelate, the tomb and funerary ritual are inseparable from one another, and they combine the material enterprises executed over a limited time-period with unlimited immaterial actions. The present volume offers a series of studies of the nature and diversity of the funerary monuments undertaken by bishops in Castilian Gothic cathedrals. These analyses reveal the singular nature of each ensemble, which is the direct result of the life and ideological and moral programme promoted by each patron.

It can be seen how the location of the tomb within the church is directly related to the personal relationship that each patron had with his respective cathedral. To a certain extent, we can point to nuances and hierarchical developments in the funerary monuments at various ← 13 | 14 → cathedrals, in particular Toledo, analysed by M. D. Teijeira, where successive Castilian archbishops (and also cardinals) are the protagonists and patrons of the most dazzling projects. In certain cases funerary ensembles were inserted into the heart of a liturgical space whose use was consequently modified and reordered. Through carefully thought-out strategies the practice of memory was linked more closely to ritual practices. K. Berclaz explains the close relation between the tombs and Marian worship and pilgrimage at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Lausanne from the 13th century until the Reformation at the beginning of the 16th century. A. R. Stead relates how at Cologne the Gothic arrangement of the tombs of Gero and Rainald in relation to the carving of Christ crucified and a figure of the Madonna were resources designed to activate memory by bringing together tomb, image of worship and the pious spectator. The complementarity of these factors led to a catalogue of benefits that was reactivated each time the devotional spaces were used for mass, celebrations or private devotional rituals.

The studies gathered in this volume examine the internal settings of the cathedral churches, whilst also acknowledging that commemorative actions were often directed towards peripheral spaces. In Salamanca, C. Cosmen points out, Bishop Diego de Anaya preferred to place his funerary monument in a chapel constructed ad hoc in the cloister, hence the privileged position of his tomb in front of a private altar. The case of Amiens, studied by L. Hansen, offers us an unusual example insofar as memory of its bishops was evoked via a processional ceremony around the portico of the south transept, whose sculptural programme renewed the symbolic links connecting the bishops and canons of the 13th century with their predecessors, patriarchs, prophets and apostles.

Numerous bishops opted to locate their tombs in the cathedral where they culminated their cursus honorum, a place that also corresponded to the most important site of their pontifical power. However, there were also frequent stipulations in bishops’ wills regarding occasional donations to various cathedrals that they had served and to which their families were most closely associated. In addition to highlighting how the bishops’ memorial actions were dispersed or concentrated during their lives and deaths, the authors of the present volume question ← 14 | 15 → the importance given to their funerary monuments within the context of all the other works that they promoted. This is the case of Cardinal Gil de Albornoz, who is studied by M. Parada. His will stipulated that his wealth was to be distributed among all of the episcopal sees that he had served and that the size of his funerary monument in the Cathedral of Toledo be restricted so that funds could be otherwise be used to create a scholarly foundation. Another revealing case is that of the archbishop of Salamanca, Diego de Anaya, who ordered selective commemorative works in his name, as explains C. Cosmen, which in the most part were installed during his life, rather than being stipulated in his will, and were distributed throughout the places that he had ministered to during his cursus honorum. C. Cosmen studies de Anaya’s wide-ranging patronage, which is dominated by the foundation of a college.

A complete contrast to the aforementioned examples can be found in the case of the archbishop and cardinal Pedro González de Mendoza of the Cathedral of Toledo, who concentrated his commemorative enterprises in one funerary project. Furthermore, this prelate sets himself apart from his predecessors, who had opted for funerary chapels, by appropriating the chancel for himself. M. D. Teijeira explains how the location of his tomb followed his earlier patronage and intervention to renovate the enclosure and content of the space occupied by the main altar. The chancel was extended with an elevated triumphal arch in marble that housed the tomb, thus benefiting from the liturgy of the main altar. Moreover, at the rear of the triumphal structure this archbishop built an altar dedicated to the Holy Cross whose principal purpose was the celebration of funerary rites. The sculptural programme over the altar depicts a moment of devotion in which Saint Peter presents the bishop with the Holy Cross. All of this is recorded in his last will and testament and in the epitaphs carved into the walls. Community and private religious practice combined here for the benefit of a single prelate.

The wider picture revealed by the individual analyses in the present volume shows how the deceased “participated” in the community of the living from their privileged locations. Commemorative monuments inscribed the deceased in the annual liturgical cycle and thus converted ← 15 | 16 → them into mnemotechnical places (beyond simple memory) that often underlined not only the individual’s character but also the value of institutional continuity.

Dislocations and replacements of episcopal memories

The patronage of imposing constructions dedicated to personal memory in cathedrals was not incompatible with other enterprises outside the episcopal ambit. We know of two material legacies that fostered individual evocation over time. Of these, M. López-Mayán points us towards a set of illuminated pontificals in Castile as mechanisms for the identification, exhibition and perpetuation of their patrons’ memories among a small aristocratic elite. In a few codices the arms and heraldic emblems on display in the main folios not only identify the patron and intended audience but also on occasions reveal the personality, ideology and cultural inclinations of those who commissioned them. This contribution highlights certain practices of the Crown of Castile, which when added to those exhibited in other codices from the Crown of Aragon, contribute to our understanding of the dynamics of how memory was perpetuated in the illuminated manuscripts of the Hispanic world.12

We must also examine those cases where whilst still alive the prelates took extraordinary measures to ensure that their memory endured for as long as possible and across the largest geographical space after their deaths, whether this was through material or immaterial projects and actions. Of particular note in this ambit is Cardinal Gil de Albornoz, studied by M. Parada. Included in this prelate’s extensive ← 16 | 17 → patronage was, of course, his funerary monument in Toledo, but he is also notable for having created a university college, the Real Colegio de España (Royal College of Spain) in Bologna, which still exists to this day. It was this college, founded in the 14th century, which created and spread the memory of the cardinal’s legacy and it was there that an iconographic ensemble was nourished and developed from the Middle Ages to the present day. It is an extraordinary example of dissemination and enduring memory in which the funerary elements for once do not form the nucleus of the artistic legacy that pulls on the strings of memory. The founding of another college, the Colegio Mayor de San Bartolomé (Great College of Saint Bartholomew), at the start of the 15th century was also at the instances of a prelate, this time Diego de Anaya y Maldonado, who is the object of the study by C. Cosmen. The dynamics of funerary and collegial memory was not, however, exclusive to bishops, archbishops and cardinals. The Dominican friar Alonso de Burgos, confessor to Queen Isabella the Catholic and Bishop of Cuenca and Palencia, attended to the requirement for nominal lasting memory by rebuilding the Dominican convent of Saint Paul in Valladolid and, in particularly by founding the Colegio de San Gregorio (College of Saint Gregory) in the same city. D. Olivares gives a good account of the singularity and magnificence of a project that in its very technical and aesthetic conception sought to exalt its patron by means of extensive figurative devices. This college was also given a chapel whose function was intended be both funerary and collegial. On another level, it seems that there were various historical actions in which, as we have seen, the agents who were responsible for personal commemoration were not relatives (in the broadest sense) of the patron. Moreover, the agents charged with exercising memory could be located in other churches or chapels away from the memorial devices, as tombs, patronised by the bishops or their successors; in these other ritual spaces commemoration took place even though there was no evocative object. Such an immaterial and distant connection also brings to mind Pedro González de Mendoza, the occupant of an imposing ensemble studied by M. D. Teijeira. Teijeira shows us how the bishop managed to combine the ← 17 | 18 → masses celebrated for his soul in the parish church related to the cathedral (some 20,000 in the first year alone) with the prayers of the faithful.

Revisiting the monumentalized episcopal memory

Medieval spectators understood funerary monuments as reliquaries and as repositories. Their interiors could be interpreted by their external profiles, texts and images, which were generated and understood in a specific historical context. Commemoration of the deceased and in particular of individuals as important as bishops was propitiated by two attitudes and actions identified by M. Lauwers,13 namely celebrating the memory of a “founder” or an “ancestor” so as to consolidate a collective identity (a cathedral, a monastic community, a noble family, etc.);14 or undertaking spiritual intercession (prayers, almsgiving, etc.) for the benefit of the deceased’s soul and thus, it was thought, reducing the time he spent in purgatory. Thus, whereas the first action served the corporate interests of the living, the second focused on the needs of the dead. According to M. Lauwers, the “memory of the ancestors” (mémoire des ancêtres) describes the dynamics of memory in western society from the Carolingian period to the 12th century. After this, intercessory be­haviours redefined relations between the living and the dead. This evolution from a collective behaviour aimed at fostering collective identity towards a more individual and soteriological behaviour is indisputable. This does not mean that the latter replaced the former, but rather that they lived side by side. In fact, the act of “caring for the ← 18 | 19 → dead” (souci des morts) or remembering the dead also brought benefits to the living. In practice, both different forms of commemoration were interdependent during the 12th to 15th centuries.

Regarding this complementary duality, it is useful to recall E. Panofsky’s in-depth analysis of the concepts of “retrospective” and “perspective”, that is, the commemoration of the past pressed into the manipulation of the future. It was he who stated in his majestic work Tomb Sculpture that “funerary monuments are fundamental to our understanding of the history of art”.15 In fact, tombs not were only instruments providing memory and benefit to the living community of the cathedral (intensified by panegyric inscriptions or laudatory iconography) but also tools of intercession.16 R. Marcoux believes that funerary monuments from the 13th century were not limited to glorifying the past, but also became effective instruments for spiritual mediation. Not dissimilar to this was the role played by the Church in administering the economy of eschatological health.17

This book seeks to re-evaluate images and explore the complex correlations woven between the idealization of memory, the idealization of image, the creation of identity, the topographic and monumental developments of the tombs and the types of commemoration that each of them promoted or emphasised. The authors do not overlook the interactions of each personality with other commemorative constructions in the same cathedral or in other places, whether these are of the founders or later communities. One of the objectives of this volume is to show how medieval spectators understood funerary monuments as reliquaries (as repositories) whose invisible interiors could be interpreted by their visible exteriors, which in turn were generated and understood in a specific historical context. The final resting place of the deceased and the ← 19 | 20 → manner in which they were shown (standing, recumbent or kneeling) was not always an easy choice and on occasions became a question of rivalry. The need to unite visibility with functionality led to rich and varied typologies that can be seen in each of the cases analysed. The effigy was intended to be a permanent, perpetual manifestation of the deceased, suspended and petrified in time, who was required to activate the liturgical, cyclical and thus ensure dynamic commemoration of the presence of an absence.

The prelates went from being interred in the walls of cathedral sanctuaries (in the Early Hispanic Middle Ages, with such well known examples as Égara, Compostela and Oviedo) to lying in tombs inserted into the floors of the episcopal church. These burials under the paving stones allowed tombs to be sited close to the altar. The effigies carved on the stones were a visual reminder to pray for the soul of the deceased,18 who by being buried in this manner did not physically impede the religious community as they went about their prayers and observances. On the contrary, the recumbent image of the bishop, formulated as a double idealized on a parallelepiped sarcophagus, were sculpted to ensure that the body within the tomb could be perennially imagined. By representing flesh in stone, a strong relationship of continuity was established between container and contained. The recumbents literally gave the tombs their importance. Their physical three-dimensionality vouched for the presence of the deceased and unleashed collective memory around an individual worthy of such esteem. The sensory nature of the tombs nurtured affection among the spectators.

Although over time episcopal tombs came to enjoy the privilege of moving from the exterior of the cathedral to the sacred space of worship inside (sometimes from a former episcopal building), this was not a favour conferred on the canons. In death, they remained in the cloisters and at the perimeter of the cathedral precinct in corporative and homogenous cemeteries. One very important issue, which book also addresses, is to clarify the reasons and criteria that prevailed in the new memorial environment. ← 20 | 21 →

Analysis of the location of the funerary ensembles gives us a sense of the existence of a joint commemoration or, in contrast, the promotion of the individual above his institution. The generation of memorial areas, precedents and alternatives to individual funeral chapels led to ritual circuits that were non-liturgical and peripheral to the religious observances at the main altar. The formula used in numerous cathedrals consisted of anchoring the tombs in places where the community would meet daily, such as the chapterhouse or the choir, so that, depending on the case, the bishops’ tombs obtained or recovered a central position and were guaranteed the presence of a perpetual community of men of prayer and memory.

Reading these studies will certainly cause readers to ask new questions about the religious complexes that are most familiar to them. As is demonstrated by the range of studies brought together in this book, a basic starting point for any approach to the subject is to analyse the influence or the volatility of the episcopal memories in the respective cathedrals and in the surrounding lay society, these memories being to a large extent connected with religious law and with the political events of their time. They are also connected with a specific episcopal holiness that was replicated topographically and performatively by the bishops adjoining to the saints. In fact, the tombs of the bishops were mostly created after the 12th century as the repositories of men elevated as spiritual models concomitant with the saints contained in the reliquaries. Furthermore, the holy saints and bishops assisted each other at the intersection between these two spheres, the institutional and the beatific. ← 21 | 22 →


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (October)
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 608 pp., 60 fig. col., 60 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Gerardo Boto Varela (Volume editor) Isabel Escandell (Volume editor) Esther Lozano Lopez (Volume editor)

Gerardo Boto is professor in Medieval Art and Architecture at the University of Girona (Spain), leader of the international research team TEMPLA, and scientific editor of the journal Codex Aquilarensis. Revista de Arte Medieval. Isabel Escandell is tenured professor of Medieval Art at the Universitat de les Illes Balears (Spain). Esther Lozano is associated professor in Art History at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia and ENTI School-Universitat de Barcelona (Spain).


Title: The Memory of the Bishop in Medieval Cathedrals