The Pictorial Program Of The Chapterhouse Of Sigena
New York: New York University, 1995
PhD thesis at New York University.
"The royal monastery of Sigena, in Northern Aragon, was founded in 1188 as one of the first female communities affiliated with the Knights Hospitalers. Soon afterwards its chapterhouse was painted with an elaborate mural program, severely damaged during the Spanish Civil War, which includes an Old Testament Cycle, a cycle of Christ's ancestors and a New Testament cycle, as well as a series of animals derived from bestiary illustration. The murals, executed in the Byzantine-inspired classicizing style, have been attributed to English artists associated with the later illumination of the Winchester Bible. They comprise one of the earliest and most completely preserved chapterhouse pictorial programs extant. The present study draws upon the rich archival record from the period of the monastery's foundation in an attempt to recover the function and meaning of the mural program for its original audience. It also includes a study of early chapterhouse decoration and a corrected and more thorough reconstruction of the program in its original form. Analysis reveals that the mural program is essentially historical with no apparent typological relationship between Old and New Testament cycles. The archival record suggests that the bulk of the founding community were mature adults without previous monastic training while the original conventual rule, composed specifically for the founding community, indicates an expectation of negligible literacy in Latin. The primary conclusion presented is that the plain historical narrative of the program conforms with contemporary Victorine doctrine stressing the need for the untutored to thoroughly learn the literal and historical aspects of scripture before attempting to advance to allegory. The bestiary animals adjacent to biblical narrative appear to function as instructional aids, following the contemporary popularity of the bestiary for religious instruction of the unlettered. The location of such a program in the chapterhouse accords with its daily use by the community for their religious instruction. Various aspects of the murals suggest that the program was primarily designed by the artists. Completed ca. 1190-1194, they are a late work of the school responsible for the later Winchester Bible illumination." - abstract
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