Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

The Text of the Mystic Ark as a Reportatio

Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

The Text of the Mystic Ark as a Reportatio

Article excerpt

In one of his fictive moral letters to Lucilius, Seneca, the genuinely amoral Roman statesman and philosopher, wrote, "It is necessary that you pay close attention-and blame the difficulty of these things on Plato, not on me!"1 I could easily say the same thing about Hugh of Saint Victor with regard to The Mystic Ark, a text so difficult to read and to understand that its very difficulty seems to be the reason why it has previously been almost completely ignored by art historians.

But this would be unfair to Hugh-or at least a little unfair. For, despite what can only be described as a horrific text, equal blame must be shared with modern scholars. Indeed, just as scholars used to wonder how such a disorderly thinker as Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis could have conceived such orderly artworks, so some of them still wonder how such an orderly thinker as Hugh could have produced such a disorderly text as The Mystic Ark, the written expression of the supremely orderly image of The Mystic Ark. In an earlier study, I showed how the order in some of Suger's artworks was the result of Hugh's role as a principal advisor to Suger on his art program.6 It can now also be shown that the disorderliness of the text of The Mystic Ark is owed to the fact that the text is not by Hugh per se but is a reportatio: while the intellectual, visual, and oral images of The Mystic Ark are or were by Hugh, the main body of the text of The Mystic Ark was not actually written by Hugh himself, but by an anonymous reporter as something similar to lecture notes, although Hugh remains its author, morally speaking.

Having failed to make this fundamental observation, scholars have in many cases needlessly compounded the difficulties of this tortuous writing with equally tortuous explanations, hoping to force the round pegs of the evidence into the square holes of their preconceived arguments. Twisting and turning more than the serpentine attribute of a medieval personification of Dialectic, these arguments have such potential for causing confusion that it is only by addressing them individually that a coherent view of this complex text can be presented and "the difficulty of these things" kept to a minimum.

On the basis of both a passage in The Mystic Ark that refers to The Moral Ark as already written and a number of references in The Moral Ark that speak of the painting of The Mystic Ark as preexistent, the traditional view has been simply that The Moral Ark was written first and that The Mystic Ark was then written in order to describe the painting of the ark-schema that is referred to in The Moral Ark. Although this order of composition may be correct as far as it goes, most scholars have ignored the greater significance of these same references in The Moral Ark to the preexistent painting and the actual relation between the painting of The Mystic Ark, the treatise of The Moral Ark, and the text of The Mystic Ark, and none have seriously questioned why the text of The Mystic Ark should be so unlike Hugh's other writings in its lack of clarity.

In a pair of, at times, contradictory studies on Hugh and The Mystic Ark, Patrice Sicard, a canon regular, has attempted to go further than those before him in trying to articulate the origins of the painting and text of The Mystic Ark and their relation to The Moral Ark.7 Despite a great deal of very useful and much-appreciated work, Sicard makes two basic errors of interpretation that fundamentally affect the vast majority of his extended analysis of the subject. The first is his lack of recognition that the text of The Mystic Ark is a reportatio.&


The initial obstacle in coming to an understanding of the nature and function of the text of The Mystic Ark immediately presents itself in the absence of any introductory statement regarding its purpose, a statement it very much needs. With no preface whatsoever, the text begins abruptly in the first person (the voice of Hugh) and proceeds in a very uneven series of seemingly practical instructions for the production of the painting of The Mystic Ark: now being very methodical, now adopting a sermon-like quality, now slipping into an irredeemably laconic tone, toward the end seemingly losing interest in the undertaking, and finally concluding with a very brief statement on the function of the text that is something less than illuminating.

As discussed below, the text is on occasion unclear or even confused; it is filled with inconsistencies; it often gets ahead of its own description, taking for granted information that has not yet been introduced; and it displays a weak knowledge of the Bible at times-to name only a few of the problems that arise from this work. This is entirely out of keeping with Hugh's other writings, which display a high degree of clarity, consistency, logic in the order of information introduced, biblical knowledge, and general enthusiasm for the subject at hand.9 With a few isolated exceptions, the only consistent stylistic element that the text of The Mystic Ark has in common with the body of Hugh's writings is the high level of its basic organization, something that stems directly from the very nature of the painting and that is at times severely strained in the written presentation when the text moves away from the structural logic of the painting. As any university professor will confirm, all of these traits of the text of The Mystic Ark are fully in character with student notes of a complex lecture.

While the term "reportatio" does not appear before the thirteenth century, the practice of a reporter taking notes during an oral presentation in a class situation is one found throughout the Middle Ages.10 As described by Beryl Smalley, a reportatio is not exactly class notes, but rather something like class notes worked into a fuller state, sometimes put into the first person, typically for the use of others. Though it may be recopied again and again without recomposition, it may need to be corrected and to have references supplied. Above all, it has no pretensions to literature."

Not only did Hugh actively participate in the making of reportationes, but the first detailed account of the practice comes from his very lectures. In the Sententie de divinitate of around 1127 (precisely the same time as the Ark lectures), a student named Laurence, perhaps later abbot of Westminster, describes his own experience in the process of making a reportatio of a series of lectures by Hugh that presents an early, oral form of a portion of the first part of Hugh's De sacramentis.12 According to Laurence,

I brought my tablets [of worked-up notes of the lecture] back to Master Hugh once a week so that, under his direction, if there were anything superfluous it might be cut out, anything overlooked might be added, anything poorly phrased might be changed.13

Even so, he put the lectures into a language that was very simple and ultimately his own, like lecture notes today. The same can be said for another reportatio of Hugh's lectures, the Descriptio mappe mundi, where the writing is again in a very simple style. This piece, however, also has a preface written in a literary style that is in such stark contrast to the body of the work as to suggest that the two were written by different persons, with the prologue in all probability being by Hugh himself.14 In contrast, the irregularity of the writing of the text traditionally ascribed to Hugh and known as De contemplatione has suggested that it was a reportatio that was assembled by a student reporter without Hugh having revised or even reviewed it.15 Thus, while all of these writings are reportationes of Hugh's lectures, the degree to which Hugh participated in them varied: in the first, Hugh followed what, for the sake of this study, might be described as a moderate level of participation in the reportatio process, one that was limited to emendation; in the second, he was involved to the point of at least some actual composition; in the third, he seems to have had no input all.16

In The Mystic Ark, it seems that Hugh's participation was something else again, being less than the moderate level of participation described by Laurence but more than that of the apparently completely independent reportatio of De contemplatione.


While the evidence of this particular reportatio process manifests itself most clearly in a general reading of the entire body of the writing, let me point out a few of the more pronounced indications of the origins of The Mystic Ark as a reportatio without detailing every single occurrence, which are many.

Perhaps the most obvious specific evidence that The Mystic Ark is a reportatio lies in a lack of clarity and even a confusion so consistent that it is all but impossible that the text was directly written by Hugh, an author who-like Bernard of Clairvaux-never lets his eye drift from the target.17 Sometimes these slips manifest themselves as an absence of true understanding of the fundamental logic of the structure of The Mystic Ark.

For example, following the description of the construction of the central cubit with which The Mystic Ark begins, the Ark proper is taken up (Fig. 2, no. 11). Here, the text mentions (using the present subjunctive) that the rectangle that is to become the first stage "ought" to have a length six times its width, according to the biblical dimensions, but immediately goes on to state (using the perfect indicative) that "I myself have shortened the length to around four times."18 The purpose of this modification is to decrease the size of the Ark "because of its more suitable form": so that, rather than have an extreme oblong shape, the world with which the Ark is more or less coterminous-and which is traditionally circular-would have to be only oval, properly speaking (Fig. 7). This is a reduction that determines every other aspect of the size of the painting and that, in its willingness to alter not just divine proportions but the divine proportions of the basic structure of the painting, can come only from the authority of Hugh, not a student reporter. A few sentences further on, however, in the discussion of the construction of the second and third stages, the reporter notes (in the present indicative now and oblivious to any change), "I construct two more rectangles similarly having lengths six times their width," conceiving of the new stages as identical to the traditional and very well-known biblical proportions of six to one that had just been altered.19 Whether because the reporter had been working from The Moral Ark (which is concerned only with a discussion of biblical proportions, not the practical details of the image) or from the original image itself (which carried an inscription describing the length of the Ark as 300 cubits, the length given in the Bible), this oversight betrays a mind unwittingly reverting to the Ark of Genesis rather than fully understanding Hugh's fundamentally original conception, which, like so much of Hugh's thought, is founded equally in the ideal and the practical.20

The reporter is equally unclear regarding the relation of the structure of The Mystic Ark to the content of its message, something completely contrary to the very essence of the Ark. This is true for all aspects of The Mystic Ark, from the crucial center of the painting to the critical ascents that so define the nature of the structure of the Ark proper. On the one hand, the reporter never specifies that the central cubit is also to be understood in part as the location of Jerusalem, despite the fact that the wanderings of the Chosen People and the temporal-spatial logic of the line of generation-both important components of the conception of The Mystic Arkrely upon this understanding (Fig. 5, no. 14, 4).21 On the other hand, he is vague almost to the point of indifference in articulating the logic of the order of progression of the four ascents that radiate around the central cubit-a logic that is deeply integrated temporally, spatially, and spiritually into the structure of The Mystic Ark-noting in passing that the Heat of the East is "the last corner for those returning and the first for those departing," revealing only much later that this refers to the necessarily interdependent fall and salvation of humankind: humankind's departure from and return to God being the essential theme of The Mystic Ark (Fig. 8).22

The same indifference, in this case to a proper written explanation of The Mystic Arks incredibly painstakingly thought-out system of interrelated logic, is the basis of the almost total lack of indication of where the only seemingly irregular (and then just slightly) set of inscriptions belongs-this set being made up of three triads rather than the four triads that is standard in the Ark (headed by The Married, Those Making Use of the World, and The Things That Creep)-a set whose very irregularity suggests its importance to Hugh.23

And in his presentation of the quaternary harmony that plays such a significant and delicate role in relating the basic soteriological nature of The Mystic Ark to the current controversy over advanced learning, the reporter hopelessly confuses the tightly interconnecting elements that correlate the time and space of the cosmos to the individual: first associating Spring with the East (the top of the painting) and then, two paragraphs later, associating Summer with the same top (Fig. 2, no. 9; Fig. 9). This error apparently came about through the reporter's consultation of a schema from a literary source for this particular component (which had such a strong literary tradition)-such as the schema illustrating the chapter on the four elements in Isidore of Seville's De natura rerumrather than from direct observation of the painting itself as the text was written (cf. Figs. 9 and 10, for example).24 This he would have done because of his relative unfamiliarity with this seemingly complex but actually quite simple and entirely traditional "scientific" component, and because he knew that the schema of Isidore (among other possibilities) and The Mystic Ark replicated the same concept. He was oblivious to the fact, whether through indifference or inexperience, that this very common schema has a variable orientation that had to be made to agree with The Mystic Ark's own four cardinal directions, which are an important component of the Ark. Not only is such an error indicative of an individual who was not very advanced, but it is also suggestive of one who was, at the most basic level, not in harmony with the logic of The Mystic Ark. The practice itself of turning to the library to work up the details of the written text, however, is exactly that of the reportatio process as described by Smalley, although the particular reason for doing so here would have been unnecessary for virtually any experienced scholar-not to mention that the act was quite clumsily effected.

Distinct from this lack of connection with the logic of the structure of The Mystic Ark, a general carelessness of description pervades the text that is completely foreign to those writings by Hugh himself, whose clarity, precision, and organization have caused him to be described as one of the first of the scholastics. For example, in one passage, the reporter calls the all-important ascents (each ascent comprising a triad of ladders) scalae, while at the same time using the same word for the individual ladders that make up the ascents, but then later switching to two distinctly different terms for the ascents-an impossibly muddled presentation of The Mystic Ark.25 He calls the personifications of the concepts associated with these four ascents "Virtues," even though elsewhere in the text it is explicitly stated that the personifications of only one of the ascents are to be considered virtues, the rest being grouped systematically by ascent as "emotions," "works," and "thoughts"; this more analytical method of categorization is typical of the thought of Hugh.26 He says that the Four Evangelists are to be depicted at the four corners of the Ark, and then goes on to describe not the Evangelists but their symbols-the animalia or Four Living Creatures-a lack of precision that reveals an imprecise mind, and a mistake that Hugh himself would hardly have made when presenting the subject in a school context (Fig. 2, no. 12).27 Despite a clearly established pattern of noting for symbolic purposes either a division or a lack of division of the inscriptions of the ascents and ladders, the reporter overlooks one of these, a wandering of attention that reveals a lack of sensitivity to how these important inscriptions function within the schema, not something the very author of these inscriptions would be likely to do.28 He often neglects to indicate what are inscriptions within the painting and what are not, a failing that is at cross-purposes with the very reason for the existence of the text.29 He forgets to specify that some imagery, such as the Twelve Months, is to be figurai-apparently lacking the essential visual tendency basic to the actual author of such a supremely visual creation as The Mystic Ark (Fig. 2, no. 7).30 His level of attention to history is low-something that could never be said of Hugh himself. The reporter mentions the Babylonian Captivity before the liberation from Egypt, a small point but a telling one that, in its ahistorical attitude, is contrary to the deeply historical outlook of both Hugh and The Mystic Ark (Fig. 5, no. 15, 14).31 Likewise, in a passage devoted to the six ages of the history of salvation, the reporter never describes these ages as being in any way coordinated with the rest of the image, though the context of the passage suggests that they were (Fig. 11).32 He confuses the traditional order of exegetical levels, at one point giving the sequence of history, allegory, and tropology as history, tropology, and allegory, something that in its blatant inattention to the spiritual ascent inherent in the different levels of exegetical understanding-a subject with which The Mystic Ark is intimately concerned-is absolutely inconceivable as coming directly from Hugh, about whom no less a personage than Bonaventure said, after identifying certain individual Fathers with the various levels of exegetical interpretation, that only he excelled at all of them.33 Even worse from the point of view of the basic function of the text of The Mystic Ark, which is to provide a description for constructing the image, this misordering comes in the highly detailed account of various ladders of the ascents-a real impediment for successful completion and use of the Ark. And the reporter wavers in his point of reference, normally describing the painting from the point of view of looking out from the image (where the term "right" means stage right, or the left as viewed), but in more than one place describing it both from this point of view and from that of looking directly toward it (where the term "right" means the viewer's right, or stage left).34 This inconsistency indicates the absence of a firm grasp of the importance of the essential relation of the image to the viewer. The first point of view, which conceives of the painting as the subject from which knowledge emanates, is indifferently abandoned for the second, which sees it simply as the subject of description: the point of view of the actual author, Hugh, becomes unwittingly transformed into the point of view of the mere writer, the reporter.

Hugh is a scholar who advocated the very careful use of color as a memory aid-a practice in which the slightest mistake renders the device counterproductive-and color is a very significant element in The Mystic Ark.35 Yet the reporter has an extremely lax attitude toward color indeed. For example, in his discussion of the planks of the three periods, he mentions the use of color even before he takes up the logic of the planks but discusses these colors without actually specifying them; he then gives a partial interpretation of the significance of the colors, even though they still have not been specified (Fig. 11). He finally gives the colors after several pages of general discussion of the composition and significance of the planks, whose expression in the painting is strongly dependent on the use of these colors, but then immediately conceptually relates one of the colors (green) in the vaguest possible manner to the same color elsewhere in the schema (in the mappa mundi; Fig. 2, no. 10), although this component will not be mentioned for many, many pages and the use of color within it is never taken up at all.36 Elsewhere, the reporter notes how each step on the outside of the ladders of the Cold of the East and the Cold of the West (every one of which is inscribed with the title of one of the thirty books of Scripture) is divided into three sections to indicate the book's potential for interpretation according to the three levels of exegetical thought, indicating only much later how this division is to be achieved compositionally: through the use of symbolic colors.37

Even more out of character is the display of a weak knowledge of the Bible. One of the distinguishing features of the line of generation is the series of "icons" of the sons of Jacob, the Patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel, arranged "as if a kind of senate of the City of God" (Fig. 5, no. 5). The maternity of these men, born of different women, was a very popular historical and exegetical subject in the Middle Ages. And yet the reporter confuses the mothers who were servingwomen, describing Bilhah as the servant of Leah and identifying Zilpah as the servant of Rachel, when, in fact, it was just the reverse. This is hardly the sort of mistake that a person would be likely to make who was "in knowledge of Scripture, second to none in the world," according to one twelfth-century author.38 And yet, it is an error into which a student reporter might quite easily fall.


The Mystic Ark would be a complex text even if it had been recorded by a very clear and disciplined individual. But it was not. Close analysis reveals faint traces of three successive, unintentionally slightly different sections of text, sections that were the result of three successive, slightly different approaches to the reportatio process as the work progressed. There are occasional inconsistencies within these sections, inconsistencies that are themselves sometimes significant in understanding the reportatio origin of The Mystic Ark.

The first of these unintentionally slightly different sections continues in a more or less even fashion from the beginning of The Mystic Ark until the theme of the four ascents is taken up, approximately half-way through the text. It is characterized by a very strong pattern of presenting first a passage of directions for the production of the Ark proper written in the first-person singular, "I," followed by a discussion of its meaning (or of how a particular aspect of the structure of the Ark is to be understood in the context of the entire construction) in the third person, with this alternation then repeated over and over again. The second section runs from the discussion of the four ascents up to the introduction of the cosmos. Here, generally speaking, the presentation changes to one of directions in the third person (as opposed to first), followed, as before, by third-person interpretations of meaning. In the third section, from the introduction of the cosmos to the end of the text, the use of first-person directions returns, generally displacing the third-person directions, except that now the first person consistently appears in the plural "we," as opposed to the earlier, more immediate singular "I." More significantly, passages of formal interpretation cease to appear, for all practical purposes.39

Let me characterize these sections a little further to give a better understanding of the changing reportatio process with which the text of The Mystic Ark was created. The first section begins with a very clear and detailed discussion in the first-person singular of the central cubit, followed by its thorough interpretation in the third person: this was clearly work that had been carefully gone over and, when seen in relation to the rest of the text of The Mystic Ark, it was clearly work that had been gone over by Hugh to one degree or another.40 The pairing of a first-person direction passage with a third-person interpretation is a natural one here. The actual process of the production of the Ark proper is not part of the conceptual logic of The Mystic Ark, as will be discussed below, and so it would not have been part of the lectures; and so the reporter would not have had any rough notes on this aspect of the painting of The Mystic Ark from the lecture. This first section lays out the basic structure of the Ark and involves, at times, some fairly complex geometry.41 To someone without any visual facility and not truly intellectually connected with the concept of the Ark in any profound way (as I have already shown the reporter to be) it seems that actually working up the reportatio from the extant painting of The Mystic Ark was not possible, at least in regard to the structure of Ark. It thus seems that Hugh personally went over the process of the basic construction with the reporter, something that should be thought of as a private lecture of sorts, not as a session of dictation with the reporter writing everything down, word for word. The use of the firstperson singular here, whether simply a rhetorical device as described by Smalley or an actual vestige of this exchange, marks a presentation by Hugh that was part of the reportatio process but not part of the original lectures of The Mystic Ark. The interpretation passages that come after the direction passages generally follow the most common written form used in exegetical discussions, the third person, a form that Hugh typically uses in his own exegesis, and it would be natural to assume he used this form in the oral presentation of his lectures. The vast majority of these interpretation passages typically have a specificity that ties them to the image of the Ark, have no counterpart in the body of Hugh's writings, and are in all likelihood based on the reporter's original notes from the lectures. The alternation between first-person direction passages and third-person interpretation passages undoubtedly read perfectly well to the reporter, just as it does today.

The next pair of direction and interpretation passages is much the same as the first, except that it is in this direction passage that the reduction of the proportions of the Ark mentioned above is first noted and then ignored.42 How could such a thing have come about? It is unlikely that either Hugh or the reporter forgot about this change in the few sentences that come between the two references. Rather, it seems that the vehicle was a reportatio process that unwittingly allowed such mistakes to slip by. It seems that, in the editing process of the no longer extant rough draft, Hugh noted (apparently orally) the reduction in proportions at the first of these two references-an alteration that could only have come from him-and that the reporter then neglected to harmonize the following text as he should have done, a text that would have agreed perfectly well before this revision in its dutiful recording of the well-known proportions of Genesis.43 Thus, Hugh's revision was duly accepted, but Hugh himself apparently never reviewed the revised text for thoroughness, and so never caught the new error that sprang up through the careless practice of the reporter.

The same flawed process seems to account for the passage that details the six ages of the history of salvation but then neglects to specify how this subject appears in the painting (Fig. 11). Breaking the first section's pattern of a first-person direction passage followed by its interpretation in the third person, the passage on the six ages incongruously appears as a third-person narrative-neither a direction nor an interpretation-right in the middle of a long first-person direction. Easily overlooked as a meaningless inconsistency, it is precisely such hidden clues that inform us of the working process of the reporter. For the third-person passage on the six ages, unlike those passages in the first person that precede and follow it, is taken directly from Bede's De temporum ratione, Bede in turn having adapted it from Augustine.44 Medieval maps and other schemata at times incorporated substantial textual passages, and there would be nothing unusual in inserting passages from Bede into the painting of The Mystic Ark. But the complete absence of any directions to these passages implies that they were inserted as an afterthought and perhaps from a written text rather than from the painting itself, very possibly after Hugh had pointed out that the subject had been overlooked in the mass of images and inscriptions that occupy the Ark, especially the general area of the first half of the line of generation proper. This use of the third person in a non-interpretation passage that seems not to have been part of the rough draft suggests, though it does not confirm, that the only other third-person non-interpretation passage in the first section is also an addition whose original absence may have been noticed by Hugh in a cursory review of the rough draft, this being a direction passage on the beams that become the basis of the four ascents, a passage that, this time, comes disconcertingly in the middle (again) of a very long third-person interpretation passage.45

Another anomaly in the first section seems to have come about in a similar way. While the written presentation of The Mystic Ark can be very uneven, now with a moderate amount of discussion and now less, as if dependent on the uneven lecture notes of the reporter, one subject stands out from the entire text for the great length to which it is articulated: the concept of the periods of natural law, the written law, and grace (Fig. 11). In fact, the discussion is so distinct that Sicard sees its appearance in The Mystic Ark as the original presentation by Hugh of a new development of his thought.46 But for a prolific author like Hugh to publish such a developed discourse as an original presentation in a text of this genre with its otherwise minimal discussions and generally careless work would be completely inconsistent with both the evidence of Hugh's practice and the genre itself, and so more than a little unlikely. The reason for its presence in The Mystic Ark seems to lie elsewhere.

The subject of the three periods of the history of salvation is composed of three distinct passages. As is normal in the first section, the subject begins with a first-person direction (the first passage), which is perfectly clear, except that it refers to the colors used in distinguishing the periods without actually specifying them. These colors are given only in the third passage, which, significantly enough, is a third-person interpretation passage agreeing with the usual pattern. It is, however, a somewhat confused passage and one that strangely repeats some of the information presented in the intervening passage, the error-free second passage, which is also a third-person interpretation passage.47 Compared with other parts of The Mystic Ark, this intervening second passage has an amount of explanation far greater than what the norm of the text implies is sufficient for understanding the painting, although it makes no mention of the colors whatsoever. In fact, the overall discussion of the three periods would be exactly what would be expected if it had been limited to the first and third passages alone-a standard first-person direction followed by thirdperson interpretation-the only problem being that they are so unclear. Why should this subject of the periods of natural law, the written law, and grace have been treated so differently from the rest of the text?

In the preface to De sacramentis, written shortly after The Mystic Ark, Hugh wrote,

I have been compelled by the desires of certain people to write this book on the sacraments of the Christian faith. I have incorporated into it a number of pieces that I had randomly written (dictassem) previously because it seemed laborious, even superfluous, to recompose these same points. If it happens that my plain words have been unable to observe a semblance of the art of writing in these, I have not thought it very important since they are [all] grounded in the same truth.

This, however, does concern me: that, when I had written these same pieces without sufficient attention earlier-having no intention of a future work at the time-I indiscriminately made them available for copying, having thought it was enough for these short pieces, even notes, to become known. But later, when I was incorporating them into the body of this work, reason demanded that certain things in them be changed, that certain things be added or removed... .48

From this, we learn that Hugh was willing to incorporate earlier works of his into later ones and that he had been handing out these works to others.49 We also know that the reporter was himself willing to incorporate other writings into The Mystic Ark, having copied directly both from Bede and from The Moral Ark, as a passage in the second section shows.50 Hugh's theory of the three periods, however, was never explicitly developed in The Moral Ark, and the reporter could not turn to it for the errorfree intervening second passage. Given that he was clearly having trouble describing this subject, it seems that this intervening passage, which has been figuratively described by Sicard as virtually an "insertion" into the text,51 is literally just that, though not actually an original development in the sense that he means. Rather, it seems that it is in all likelihood a vestige, partially adapted by the reporter, of one of those "short pieces or even notes" that Hugh had been accumulating, that he handed out, and that he eventually integrated into longer works-perhaps even a remnant of his lost letter to Bernard of Clairvaux, to which Bernard responded with his De baptismo of 1127 to 1128, apologizing for its lateness.52 Indeed, the component of color comes not from Hugh's thought on the three periods per se but from its visual expression in the painting: there is no reference to color in the intervening second passage because the second passage's exact language came from outside the Ark lectures, originally having been made without reference to the painting of The Mystic Ark. This intervening second passage, then, is an example of the type of writing mentioned by Hugh, which was given by him to help the reporter over a rough spot, and its artless integration by the reporter brought about the awkward separation of the original reference to the color scheme from its specification so many pages later, the result of a reportatio process that did not place a high value on consistency.

The second of the informal, unintentional sections runs from the discussion of the four ascents up to, but not including, the cosmos.53 No new, geometrically demanding construction is a part of this section, nor are there any difficult historical-theological concepts, as was the case in the first section, where Hugh seems to have had to coach the reporter personally and to provide clarifying written material. Though complex enough in its own right, this is a section in which reference to his own lecture notes and to the painting directly seems to have been enough for the reporter for the most part. This would account for the section's generally straightforward pattern of third-person direction passages alternating with third-person interpretation passages. Indeed, in this section-which shows no obvious signs of revision by Hugh himself-the use of the first-person singular "I" ceases to appear in any consistent fashion, and mistakes begin to proliferate, the latter apparently because Hugh was no longer closely reading the rough draft. At the same time, the use of the first-person authorial plural "we" is found from time to time, but in a generally haphazard manner that suggests no direct intervention on the part of Hugh.

Even so, the reporter still occasionally feels the need for an authority other than his own lecture notes and his own uneven ability at reading the painting, at times being compelled to turn to extant writings of Hugh. The most explicit example of this occurs in the passage on the four ways of going forth from the doorway of the central pillar. Here, in an interpretation passage, the reporter borrows directly from The Moral Ark, whose language,

Quatuor modis eximus. . . . Primus modus est, quando consideramus omnem creaturam quid sit ex se. . . . secundus modus est, quando consideramus quid sit . . . ex dono creatoris. . . . Tertius modus est, quando consideramus quomodo utatur Deus ministerio creaturarum ad implenda iudicia sua. . . . Quartus modus ... e s t, quando ... h o mo. . . .54

is copied almost word for word in The Mystic Ark:

Quatuor modis eximus. Primus modus est, quando consideramus omnem creaturam quid sit ex se. Secundus modus est quando consideramus omnem creaturam quid sit ex beneficio creatoris. Tertius modus est quando consideramus quomodo utatur Deus ministerio creaturarum ad implenda iudicia sua. Quartus modus est quando . . . homo. . . .55

Indeed, at the end of this passage, the reporter openly refers the reader to The Moral Ark, to which he himself had just turned.

The third of the unintentionally different sections covers the last part of The Mystic Ark: the cosmos and the Majesty/"1'' Extremely abbreviated in tone-as if the reporter came to realize that he had taken on a bigger job than he had initially expected or perhaps for another reason to be taken up later-this section consists almost entirely of third-person direction passages; there are no interpretation passages at all in the sense of those previously found in the text. The only passages in any way approaching an exception are a short introduction to this section and a conclusion to the whole of The Mystic Ark, both of which are in the first-person plural. Despite the importance of these two passages, which will be discussed soon, they are too terse to give any proof either way of having been directly written by Hugh.57

Nevertheless, there is significant evidence of the reportatio nature of The Mystic Ark in this section. I have already mentioned the confusion over the seasonal component of the quaternary harmony caused by careless reference to a differently oriented image from a text such as Isidore's De natura rerum and the impossibility of ascribing this inexcusable fumbling to Hugh. But, in its own way, equally revealing and perhaps even more striking as evidence that The Mystic Ark was written by a reporter-striking in its immediate, personal quality-is a passage that amounts to no less than a personal comment made by the reporter on the painting itself. One of Hugh's more original historical/theological theories was that of a developed east-west temporal-spatial progression of the focal point of human history, of the history of salvation, a theory that was rather fully articulated in The Moral Ark.58 According to this theory, at the beginning of human history, what might be called the focal point of human activity was what would have appeared as the extreme east on many medieval mappae mundi: the Garden of Eden (Fig. 5, no. 11). The focal point shifted west soon after, according to this theory, with the great Mesopotamian empires of the Assyrians, the Chaldaeans, and the Medes. Moving further west with the civilization of Classical Greece and the empire of Alexander, and further still with the Roman Empire, it reached its ultimate westernmost extension at "the end of the earth" after the fall of Rome with the advent of the centers of power and learning of Western Christendom. This theory is described in The Mystic Ark in the discussion of the earth as one of the three components of the cosmos:

A map of the world is depicted in this area [i.e., the area of an ellipse, overlaid by the Ark; cf. Fig. 5] in such a way that the top of the Ark is directed toward the east and its bottom touches the west to the effect that-in its extraordinary arrangement-the geographical layout of the sites extends downward in sequence with the events of time from the same beginning, and the end of the world is the same as the end of time.59

Far from taking this dimensional phenomenon of the history of salvation a step further as Hugh does in The Moral Ark by relating the length, width, and height of the Ark to the exegetical categories of history, allegory, and tropology, the reporter of The Mystic Ark completely ignores this aspect-though such an exegetical attitude is a constant undercurrent of The Mystic Ark-and explains even the basic historical theory rather poorly. Indeed, "its extraordinary arrangement" (mirabili dispositione) is a comment on the ingenuity of the painting's ability to express Hugh's theory, not on the theory itself. It is the passive reaction of an observer to the painting, not the active exposition by an experienced intellectual of one of his own original theories. It is as if the intellectually unaccomplished reporter were standing back, looking at the painting, and felt that it was enough to praise the subject at hand; it is inconceivable that such a statement should have been made by Hugh himself. That this was done through direct visual observation is confirmed by the extremely specific and entirely unnecessary directions regarding the depiction of the Winds and the arrangement of the figures of the Zodiac and Months, something that could only be site-specific (Fig. 2, no. 8, 6, 7).60

In the end, this last section shows no evidence of any close oversight by Hugh, whether in the form of personal revision, personal instruction, or the lending of unpublished material.

And so it seems that these three unintentionally slightly different sections of text were the result of three successive, slightly different approaches to the reportatio process as the work of the reporter progressed. The first section-whose component of the geometric structure of the Ark was crucial to the painting of The Mystic Ark, but which by its very nature had not been part of the original lecture series and so for which the reporter could have taken no notes-shows evidence that much of it was based on a private talk given by Hugh to the reporter to explain this structure. There is also evidence that Hugh gave the reporter some of his own, more extensive notes on at least one other subject that appeared in this section, and that the reporter readily resorted to related outside literary sources to fill out his text. In the second section, which contains no demanding geometric constructions or difficult concepts for which the reporter might have had to turn to Hugh, the reporter seems to have depended more on direct reference to the painting, on his own lecture notes, and on continued reference to outside texts, in this case Hugh's The Moral Ark. The reporter continued to make direct visual reference to the painting and to refer to outside written sources in the third section, although this section is distinguished by the virtually complete absence of interpretation passages, perhaps because the magnitude of the task had begun to make itself felt or perhaps for another reason, which I will take up further on.


Finally, the objection has been made by another scholar, Michael Evans, that "Hugh's diction throughout is odd," and that words such as planities, cingulus, zona, limbus, and cornu are not "the idiom of the practicing artist."61 No, they are not the idiom of the practicing artist. Hugh was not a practicing artist, and, so it seems, far less was the reporter; and so there is no reason at all to expect the language of the reportatio of The Mystic Ark to be that of a practicing artist. What Hugh was, was a master of the schools. And what the reporter was, was a practicing student. As such, The Mystic Ark understandably, if awkwardly at times, employs the language of the schools that was so familiar to them both.

Thus, when the first of the unintentionally different sections of The Mystic Ark mentioned above-the one that seems to have been the result of a private lecture of sorts given by Hugh on the geometric structure of the Ark for the benefit of the reporter-opens with, "First, I find the center point on the surface (planifie) where I wish to depict the Ark ...," the word planities is used by the reporter either because that was how Hugh described the geometric process of finding the center point during the private lecture or because that was how the reporter himself conceived the clearest explanation of the geometric process described to him by Hugh: planities being a common geometrical term used both in Hugh's Practica geometriae and, presumably, in any course on geometry the reporter may have taken from Master Hugh at Saint Victor.62 Indeed, the term is defined in the geometric sense of "surface" in the widely read school text Commentary on the Dream of Scipio by Macrobius (Macrobius was referred to repeatedly in Hugh's Practica geomefrifle), this usage also being found in Vitruvius, who is referred to by Hugh in his Didascalicon, the latter being a guide to study for students at Saint Victor.63

Cingulus and zona-which the same author who found the use of planities "odd" feels "derive as a group from the vocabulary of the gentleman's outfitter"-likewise either come or could come right out of the Commentary on the Dream of Scipio.64 In the same way that Macrobius begins his discussion of the different climatic divisions of the world employing the word cingulus (which I translate as "belt") and later switches to zona ("band"), using both words interchangeably, the reporter follows the same pattern in his discussion of the great bands that extend across the entire length and breadth of the Ark, which is itself virtually coterminous with the earth on all four sides, conceiving of these bands as essentially cosmic in scope (reflecting the thought of Hugh), however awkward the language may seem to a modern reader.65 And just as the zonae of Macrobius and other classical writers (such as Virgil, Ovid, and Pliny) distinguish the different climatic zones of the world-the frigid, temperate, and torrid-the zonae of The Mystic Ark distinguish the Heat of the East from the Cold of the East, the Heat of the West from the Cold of the West, and so on.66 A glance at a Macrobian zonal map makes very plain how the colored horizontal and diagonal bands of a map like this could have been transposed in the mind of the reporter (or Hugh) to the colored horizontal and vertical bands of The Mystic Ark (Fig. 12).67

Limbus, likewise, is a word that Honorius Augustodunensis does not hesitate to use in his Imago Mundi-another text addressed to school culture-to describe the "border" or limits of the world in much the same way that the reporter uses it to describe the border of the central cubit (Fig. 13).68

As to the use of cornu to mean "corner" (seven occurrences), it is enough to say that although cornu is a perfectly acceptable word for corner, the more common term for this meaning in The Mystic Ark is angulus (sixteen occurrences), the same term employed by Hugh in The Moral Ark, where the word cornu is never used.69 Thus, in that work that is unequivocally written by Hugh himself, The Moral Ark, the terminology is "standard." It is only in the reportatio that the language becomes perhaps a bit more arcane, whether as a demonstration of newly acquired Latin skills on the part of the reporter or because of the common usage of cornu in reference to the corners of an altar-the most common use of the word for a young ecclesiastic-which in plan shares the same shape as the Ark.70

So while it is impossible to say whether the particular choices of most of these "technical terms" came from Hugh or from the reporter, the word planities seems to have come from the reportatio process, and planities, cingulns, zona, and limbus are all from the language of the schools: not the language of a "practicing artist," but of the world from which Hugh and the reporter came, from which the painting and text of The Mystic Ark came, and in which The Mystic Ark functioned.

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