FRANCONIAN ILLUMINATION

The later Saxon schools—Bernward of Hildesheim—Tuotilo and Hartmut of St. Gallen—Portrait of Henry II. in MS. 40 at Munich—Netherlandish and other work compared—Alleged deterioration of work under the Franconian Emperors not true—Bad character of the eleventh century as to art—Example to the contrary.

The MS. just referred to (Munich, Cimel. 58) brings us most probably to the time of the third. Otho, but it is really with his father's marriage to the Princess Theophano that the great revival in the arts began, and the names of St. Bruno of Cologne and Augsburg, Gerbert, Bernward of Hildesheim, Tuotilo, Salomon, Hartmut, Folchard, and Sintramn of St. Gallen, are, as it were, points of light and centres of expanding circles of artistic skill. Bruno and Gerbert are too well known to need any further remark. Bernward of Hildesheim, made bishop there in 992 by Theophano, and tutor to her son Otho III., “excelled no less in the mechanical than in the liberal arts. He was an excellent penman, a good painter, and as a household manager was unequalled.” Such is Tangmar's tribute to his pupil's character. He was, indeed, an enthusiast in painting, mosaic, and metal-work, and used to collect all the objects of art he could lay hands on, to form a museum or studio for the instruction of a class of art students and workmen. The collection was formed mainly out of the numerous presents brought to the young Emperor from foreign, and especially Greek and Oriental, princes, and contained many examples of beautiful metal-work and Greek illumination. His own Cathedral of Hildesheim was supplied with jewelled service-books, in part at least the work of his own hand. The chalices and incense-burners and the massive golden corona or candelabrum of the cathedral were also the productions of his own workshops. The mural paintings, too, were executed by himself. His handiwork, so lovingly described by his old schoolmaster Tangmar, may still be seen in Hildesheim, where visitors to that quaint old Saxon city are told that the bronze gates of the cathedral and the jewelled crucifix were placed there by the venerable bishop himself in 1015, while in the cathedral-close rises a column adorned with bronze reliefs from the Life of Christ, authoritatively declared to be the work of his own hands—let us say they came out of his own workshops, in the year 1022, nearly a thousand years ago. St. Bernward was canonised by Celestine III. in 1194. His sarcophagus is in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Michael at Hildesheim. Of Tuotilo, the pupil of Moengall (or Marcellus), it is said that he was physically almost a giant; just the man, says his biographer, that you would choose for a wrestler. He was a good speaker, had a fine musical voice, was a capital carver in wood, and an accomplished illuminator. Like most of the earlier monks of St. Gallen, he was a clever musician, equally skilful with the trumpet and the harp. And the charm about it all was that he was always cheerful and in excellent spirits, and in consequence a general favourite. Nor is this all. Besides being teacher of music in the upper school to the sons of the nobility, he was classical tutor, and could preach both in Latin and Greek. His chief accomplishments, however, were music and painting, and on these his reputation mainly rests. He composed songs, which, like an Irish bard, he sang to the harp—the popular instrument of this Irish foundation. Being thus multifariously accomplished (he was, by the way, an excellent boxer), he was much in request, and by the permission of his abbot travelled to distant places. One of his celebrated sculptures was the image of the Blessed Virgin for the cathedral at Metz, said to be quite a masterpiece. Nay, he was even a mathematician and astronomer, and constructed an astrolabe or orrery, which showed the courses of the planets.

This allusion to the astrolabe reminds us that it was Abbat Hartmut of St. Gallen, who was also an accomplished illuminator, who constructed a large map of the world—one of the extremely few that until that time the world had ever seen.

St. Gallen and its artists, however, must not be permitted to monopolise our attention too long. The reader must for the rest refer to Dr. Rahn and the writers whom he quotes. Sometimes it is said that the illuminations of the eleventh century are proofs of the rapid decline of art, and to demonstrate the fact that they are frankly hideous, some writers bring forward instances such as the miniatures of a Missal, especially a Crucifixion, said to be at Paris,[22] and a MS. at Berlin said to have been executed in the earlier days of the Franconian dynasty (1034-1125) containing another Crucifixion, which, though not quite so horrible as the one just referred to, is sufficiently bad. These miniatures are irredeemably barbaric and not in any sense typical of the age. Such examples, in fact, can be found in any age and in any country. Were they really representative of the best art of the time, there might be an excuse for their reproduction, but they are not, and therefore no reliance can be placed on their evidence.

[22] Le Livre, etc., par M.P. Louisy, Paris, 1886, 8°, p. 79.