Rituals of Power: From Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages

By Frans Theuws; Janet L. Nelson | Go to book overview

FRANKISH GIVING OF ARMS AND RITUALS
OF POWER: CONTINUITY AND CHANGE
IN THE CAROLINGIAN PERIOD*

Régine Le Jan

In the picture showing the count and lay-abbot Vivian offering Charles the Bald the Bible which he had had made for him in his abbey of St Martin, Tours, the king is seated on a throne under a baldaquin. He wears a crown and ceremonial cloak, and holds a sceptre in his hand. The hand of God appears above the baldaquin and, together with two angels on either side of the arch-openings, assures the king of divine protection. Two helmeted warriors placed on the same level as the king carry spear, shield and sword.1 This theme is exactly like the one found also in a scene depicted in the Codex Aureus of St Emmeram, Regensburg, where King Charles the Bald is enthroned beneath a baldaquin, crowned and clad in royal robes, without weapons, while in the lateral arcades two men carry sword, spear and shield. The warriors hold the sword in both their hands in a gesture which indicates that it does not belong to them. Captions written above the two warriors in fact make it clear that these weapons enable Christ to vanquish his enemies.2 A third scene in the Bible of San Paolo, made c. 870 for Charles the Bald's wife, depicts King Solomon enthroned beneath a baldaquin, crowned like a Carolingian king, clad in a ceremonial cloak and flanked by two men, one of whom carries a sword, the other a spear and a shield.3

What we clearly have here is a classic representation of a Car- olingian king. The weapons carried by the warriors belong to Christ,

* I like to thank Janet Nelson for translating this paper, and for helpful com-
ments.

1 First Bible of Charles the Bald, c. 846, Paris, Bibl. nat., MS, lat. 1, fol. 423,
reproduced in P.E. Dutton and H.L. Kessler, The Poetry and Paintings of the First Bible
of Charles the Bald
(Ann Arbor MI, 1997), colour plate IV, facing p. 51, and black
and white plate 17.

2Codex Aureus of St Emmeram, Regensburg, court school of Charles the Bald,
870, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14000, fol. 5v, reproduced by
F. Mütherich and J.E. Gaehde, Carolingian Painting (London, 1977), pp. 37–38.

3 Bible of San Paolo fuori le Mure, Rheims?, c. 870, fol. 188, reproduced in
Mütherich and Gaehde, Carolingian Painting, p. 44.

-281-

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