Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Faith, Art, and Politics and Saint Riquier: The Symbolic Vision of Angilbert

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Faith, Art, and Politics and Saint Riquier: The Symbolic Vision of Angilbert

Article excerpt

Faith, Art, and Politics at Saint Riquier The Symbolic Vision of Angilbert. By Susan A. Rabe. [Middle Ages Series.] (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1995. Pp. xvii, 220. $36.95.)

At Easter in 800 Charlemagne and his court attended the dedication of the Abbey of Saint-Riquier, one of the best-documented of major Carolingian buildings.The abbot, Angilbert, was responsible for the rebuilding, and he left an account of the buildings and their liturgical use. Two seventeenth-century engravings reproduce a lost late eleventh-century drawing of Saint-Riquier, showing the three churches dedicated to Richarius, Benedict, and Mary. The main church had three great towers at each end and eleven major altars. Dr. Rabe's study sees the building as a reflection of Carolingian theological debate, in which symbolism based on the number three was present everywhere. She provides superb translations of some of Angilbert's poems and accounts of his involvement in the debates on Adoptionism and image worship to sustain her argument, which is an important exploration of how Carolingian architecture was viewed by its creators.

I am not clear how Dr. Rabe selects her evidence for Angilbert's thought, or his patronage. She discusses the theology of the poem De Conversione Saxonum, but I am not persuaded by her arguments for attributing it to Angilbert rather than to Paulinus of Aquileia, as D. Schaller has proposed.Angilbert's prefatory poem for a presentation copy of the De Doctrina Christiana is carefully analyzed, but its Trinitarian symbolism relates to its summary of Augustine's thought and need not represent Angilbert's thought. Other poems by Angilbert about Charlemagne's court, which show his command of different genres and his reading of Ovid, are not mentioned here. Dr. Rabe has found parallels for her sense of the symbolism of Saint-Riquier, but she tells us more about Alcuin's theological disputes, which provide the context for that symbolism, than about Alcuin's explicit criticisms of Angilbert. …

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