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The Memory of the Bishop in Medieval Cathedrals

Ceremonies and Visualizations

Edited By Gerardo Boto Varela, Isabel Escandell and Esther Lozano Lopez

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Constructing Episcopal Authority through Hagiography and Ritual in the Saint Honoré portal at Amiens Cathedral (Lindsey Hansen)

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LINDSEY HANSEN Indiana University Bloomington lindsey.hansen@gmail.com

Constructing Episcopal Authority through Hagiography and Ritual in the Saint Honoré Portal at Amiens Cathedral

Abstract: This paper argues that the bishops of Amiens manipulated the iconography of the Honoré portal to shape ideas of episcopal authority. Beginning in the eleventh century, the Vita sancti Honorati was redacted several times by Amiénois bishops to establish the historical basis of their authority through affiliations with their legendary predecessor. In the portal, juxtaposition of the hagiographic narrative in the tympanum with cycles of patriarchs, prophets and apostles in the archivolts and lintel created an imagined administrative line that extended from the Old Testament to the diocese’s first leaders. During ritual processions, movement through the portal produced strong visual affiliations between the bishops and their biblical and legendary forbears, identifying them as continuators of an unbroken line of ideal leaders and allowing them to share in the power of Amiens’ sacred past.

Keywords: Hagiography, liturgy, episcopal authority, Saint Honoré, diocese of Amiens.

The Saint Honoré portal is the single entrance into Amiens cathedral from its south transept façade (Figure 1). In the Middle Ages, it provided the primary point of access to the cathedral’s liturgical choir from the canons’ cloister and the canonical quarter of the city. The tympanum of the sculpted portal program is filled with scenes from the life and miracles of the local bishop-saint Honoré, the sixth bishop of...

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