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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2020

Shifting Frames: The Mutable Iconography of Canon Tables

From the book Canones: The Art of Harmony

  • Susanne Wittekind


In the early Middle Ages canon tables became a visual characteristic and leitmotif of gospel books. When their specific arcade structure was employed in other manuscript contexts in the ninth and tenth centuries, it accordingly referred to the gospels. The framing motif expressed unity in diversity, standing for the testimony and story of the gospels alongside the historical truth of Jesus and the salvation promised to the faithful. The Pfafers Liber Viventium, the Folchard Psalter and the Aethelwold Benedictional all embody this direct reference to gospel books. With the turn to lectionaries and missals in the twelfth century, gospel books fell out of fashion and liturgical practice. Some of the few surviving examples also forego the canon tables. Meanwhile, the arcade frames of canon tables reappear, transferred to calendars. Here, they visualize the unity of liturgical time in its relation to core events in the life of Christ, salvation history and the church. The Stammheim Missal, the Claricia Psalter and the Landgrave Psalter demonstrate this shift. The paper thus argues that canon table structure-always visually pleasing-moved from a specific function and meaning in the early medieval period to serve as a more versatile but always semantically loaded vessel in high medieval contexts.

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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