Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Mystic Ark: Hugh of Saint Victor, Art, and Thought in the Twelfth Century

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Mystic Ark: Hugh of Saint Victor, Art, and Thought in the Twelfth Century

Article excerpt

The Mystic Ark: Hugh of Saint Victor, Art, and Thought in the Twelfth Century. By Conrad Rudolph. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. xix, 609. S120. hardback. ISBN 978-1-107-03705-2).

The author is a professor of art history at the University of California, Riverside, who has written extensively on twelfth-century art. His subject here is a large painting that Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141) or one of his students described in the small book Libellas in the critical edition of Patrice Sicard, which Rudolph calls by its traditional title, The Mystic Ark. In Rudolph's estimation, this work,

fundamentally political, the medieval equivalent of a best-seller, conceived by one of the leading scholars of the day, unique in its format and in its means of presentation, is not only the most complex individual work of figurai art of the entire Middle Ages, but also certainly one of the most ambitious and astonishing, (p. 377)

Rudolph has produced a study worthy of such a subject.

Rudolph emphasizes Hugh's polemical or political aim for his painting, which was to stake out a middle ground in what Rudolph calls the culture wars of the twelfth century between the conservative representatives of traditional theology, one of whom was St. Bernard, who criticized the use of figurai art in monastic settings, and representatives of the "New Theology" such as Peter Abelard, Thierry of Chartres, and William of Conches.

Rudolph argues forcefully several convictions. Hugh painted this large (12 by 15 feet) and complex artistic image on the wall of the cloister at St. Victor. It was a visual summa of theology that served as the basis for a lecture series that Hugh gave at Saint Victor for advanced theology students. Using the written description of the painting in The Mystic Ark and Hugh's further elaborations of the painting in The Moral Ark, On Vanity, and What Truly Should be Loved, other teachers throughout Europe composed their own paintings and gave lectures on them. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.