Christ is surrounded by four men. The tectonic elements are reduced to an elementary pattern of paired columns and arches. Christ is marked by an halo and a celestial background, he is positioned on a slightly higher level on a platform and throne, his head in the tympanum. Inside the cultic hut, there is a meadow! Note the plants above the arch and the birds that wander about in the celestial scriptory area. The picture’s aim is not to represent a roof with grass growing on top of it but rather hints at a legendary tradition, according to which the heavenly roof of primordial times had something to do with plants or grasses. Evolved Christian symbols in gold – such as the goblet, globe, and cross – dominate the primitive hut: this evidently is a later accumulation!
-> The Rabbula gospel book. It was created in 586 at the monastery of St. John in Zagba (Mesopotamia). Since 1497 it has been kept at Florence [Bibl. Medicea-Laurenziana, Cod. Put. 1, 56].
Canon table. The tectonic element is expanded according to its text-framing function, the essential elements are preserved. The narrative parts have become marginal and are to be found loosely scattered over three levels. Uppermost, there is the legitimation, Christ’s royal ancestors: Solomon and David. On the bottom level there are scenes depicting the Massacre of the Innocents. In the level in–between, the depiction of the birth of Christ at the right–hand side, baptism on the left. From a bit of blue sky, God's hand is shown pointing down, the dove dives towards the scene, fire erupts from the water like a fountain, an allusion to a passage from the Bible. On top of the celestial roof there are birds, trees, and a jug that opens towards heaven. The tympanum is covered in a baldachin–like pattern, in the centre of which there is a golden whorl rosette, suggesting eternal movement!
Picture similar to 2, but with only two registers. The Evangelists (Matthew on the right, John on the left) are incorporated into the "building" by means of apsides. The capitals above the arch on the left and the semidome on the right suggest support - in a historical and ontological sense: the founding teachers support the vault of heaven. Evidently the different formation of the two niches implies a different evaluation of the two Evangelists, relative to the celestial building they are supporting. Here too, an indication of plants and birds.
The front is monumentally heightened with resemblance to a portal. The columns left and right are doubled, the space in–between is filled with scenes from the Gospel according to St. Luke. In the celestial tympanum there is a winged bull, St. Luke’s symbol. The Evangelist’s study resembles a temple-like niche, set behind the facade without any tectonic relation whatsoever. The dominating element in the whole arrangement is the sculptural architrave with its rounded sides.
-> The Gospel according to St. Augustine showing apostle St. Luke [Cambridge, Library of the Corpus Christi College, Cod. 286]
The fountain of life as a symbol of the gospels and a source of eternal life. The picture shows a circular–plan building with eight columns and a conical roof, which, tied like a net, forms a goblet–shaped top similar to a thatched roof. Above it, there are royal Christian emblems, the globe and the cross, denoting the superimposition of the developed over the primordial and primitive. At the front, the antiquely ornamented border presents the motif of the arch, opening the view onto the classical heaven of golden capitals and the sacrificial goblet suspending from the centre. Above the roof there are richly decorated birds of paradise. At the bottom there are unadorned birds and a deer, symbolizing the thirst for salvation.
-> From the Godescalc gospel book [Paris, Bibl. Nat., Vouv. acq. lat. 1203; court academy of Charlemagne, between 781 and 783].
This illumination is characterized by its strong tectonic articulation, imitating classical models. The uppermost section is rectangular, but is dominated by the medallion of the lamb from which spread both triangular lines towards the eldest 24 of the revelation and apocalyptic rays of light illuminating the Evangelists depicted in the architrave. The lower part reproduces a similar architectonic articulation representing space behind the four–columned front and the curtain as stage-like and theatrical. All these depictions are not just pictures but present the view of a transcendental space. The front marked by columns always suggests the existence of a sacred place behind it.
->From the gospel book of Saint Medard at Soissons, called the 'veneration of the holy lamb'. From the court academy of Charlemagne, early 9th cent.[Paris, Bibl. nat., Lat. 8850]
The structuring of canon tables with the means of architectonic elements originates from the 4th century. This example from the 9th century with its spiral–shaped columns reproduces Byzantine and Italian prototypes. Structurally, this denotes a categorial penetration of the upper into the lower part. The dynamically spiral–shaped columns are considered more sacred than the functional ones.
-> Table from the same book as quoted in 6.
Lion leaning down from heaven to communicate the first words of the gospel to St. Mark. Note the detailed realism in the lower part. In the upper part, heaven and earth are depicted with hazy floods of bright colours. The realistic portrayal of the lion corresponds with the lower part. The 'columns–arch-schema' is set in a rectangle that emphasizes their unity. In the spandrel on the left, there is an angel turning towards John the Baptist on the right.
-> From same book.
In this picture of the Evangelist Matthew, the 'columns-arch-schema' has lost most of its tectonic qualities. Strong tectonic characteristics now appear in the library-like throne of the Evangelist, who lives (and studies) in a kind of 'celestial building'. Narrow strips of sky blue descend to the foot of the columns. Reminiscences of the vegetable world are found in the outer rectangular frame, unifying the whole, in the spandrel as a dome of leaves, and, strikingly, in a red strip above the clouds, in which there is an angel talking to the Evangelist. The rules of the mosaic are obvious: they are fragments of cultural memories and new values which form a puzzling new unity in these compositions.
-> From the Codex Aureus of Regensburg, St. Emmeram (870); court academy of Charles the Bald [Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibl., Slm 14000]
This canon table clearly borrows from late classical models which were introduced by painters of the coronation gospel but traditional elements produce variations from the classical forms. For instance, the front of the 'temple' is reduced to the elementary schema of only two columns. Similarly the plants on the roof and the palm branches freely jutting out from holes in the columns. What the significance of the - probably pre-Christian and sacred - hunting scene depicted on the celestial roof might be, is hard to say.
-> Table from the Ebo gospel book showing late classical influences; Reims, between 816 and 835 [Epernay, Bibl. Micip. Ms. 1]
This illumination with the Evangelist John shows some interesting features. Striking are the capitals, evidently corresponding to the so–called "bird's head-basketry-crownings" (Gaehde 1977) of Franco-Saxon initials. Thus, traditional local style was integrated. This also appears to be valid for the looped decoration of the oddly shaped column shafts. There is no study here, but there are open skies on both sides, opening up at the top in different colours, probably signifying the future or dawn? Withdrawn to the bottom margin of the picture there is earth, characterized as barren land or rock, with the Evangelist’s podium positioned rather clumsily at right angles on top. Consequently, but maybe also for other reasons, the Evangelist’s figure – otherwise statuesquely dominated by the tectonic element - becomes dynamic just like in the last picture. The two trees - their tops in the tympanum - and the rock behind the platform emphasize the elementary structure of a temple or cult site (access-place-schema). Eventually, this too, is taken from contemporary local sources.
-> From the gospel book of Franz II., depicting the Evangelist St. John [Paris, Bibl. Nat. Lat. 247]
Charles the Bald on his throne. Now a worm’s eye view of the entire arrangement. The throne is depicted conventionally from the front but the 'temple' is turned to the right, and so is Charles’s head. The canopy representing the arch is related to the blue–coloured background but it remains unclear how it is supported. In the spandrels there are two angels, in the background a wall forming a threshold between earth and heaven. Note that the capitals tower over the wall, likewise the back of the throne and Charles’s head. To make it absolutely clear: behind Charles's head, two angels are loosely holding up a celestial cloth. And, finally, in a fragmented medallion, there is God’s hand. Note that perspective drawing has not yet been established, for the back right–hand column stands in front of the throne and podium.
-> source as above.
Here the tectonic element has been ousted by the unifying frame, it only exists schematically through a bipartition indicated by the banderoles, which provide the scene with a meaning. The arch is inverted like the basic section of a dome. The celestial significance of this tympanum is indicated by two angels, and is thus preserved. The picture shows Christ appointing Matthew, who throws away both his sword and his money. Note the ‘local’, the characters’ medieval legal gestures. Their haloed heads are both on the same level and above the horizon, consequently celestial.
-> From the Franco–Saxon gospel book; Saint Vaast, late 9th cent. A.D. [Prague, Kapitulni Knohovna, Cim.2]
Here too, the frame dominates but the bipolar articulation of the picture is preserved. The heavenly building above the strip of clouds is reduced to a framework in which the bow dominates the centre.
-> Same source as above
The pyramidally presented lower part depicts Solomon on his throne rendering his famous judgement on the two women. Here too, the king is taller than his subjects, but remains within earthly walls. These are overtopped by a canopy located at the centre of the picture. Then the celestial arch, above there are clouds and scenes picturing the king's heavenly legitimation, i.e. his anointment. Thus, in quite a different context, this picture demonstrates how the Middle Ages, with the means of 'ontological proportion', structured - and read - the contents of their images.
-> Title page to the sayings of Solomon in St. Paul's Bible; Reims, about 870 [Rome, Abbazia di San Paolo fuori le mura]
The 'columns-arch-schema' clearly 'thinks' in vertical dimensions. Here the Evangelist obviously sits behind the columns, is part of the lower space, developed into depth. But his head is in front of the architrave, stretching between or behind the capitals: the ontological proportion of the capitals is still present. The arch, of glasslike transparency, does it represent a strip of clouds? Remarkable are the plants flanking the tympanum – vague memories of the schema’s origins?
-> Gospel book from Lorsch (Mainz ?, 9th cent. A.D.). Note the plants linked to the heavenly arch.
A very strange, almost surrealist picture. The frame is flat in the area of the capitals, non–perspective, seen at eye level, as it were. But the base is represented in a parallel perspective, with the observer's eye looking downwards. The technique is rather clumsy, likewise in the case of the platform. The arch element is formed by the curtain rod. Above, hovering over a vaguely indicated celestial building with cushion-like clouds, there is the haloed winged bull with a scroll around his neck like a collar. The picture conveys a surrealist impression also because some of its aspects (the portrait and the bull) are presented with great perfection, whereas the formerly fixed tectonic conditions are opened up.
-> Gospel book from Fulda, second half of 9th cent.
The explanation of this picture reads that the Evangelist Luke, in a state of visionary ecstasy, grasps his symbol which is hovering over his head among clouds flashing with lightning and surrounded by angels and prophets. The arch looks like a garland made of vegetables, very similar to what we find in photographs in a folklore book on German rural traditions. The fantastic centre is probably due to the painter’s capacity to amalgamate pre–christian cultic decorations with Christian meanings and symbols such as the winged bull, an angel, and God, who - as the crowned king - holds the ends of the plaited object’s loops in his hands. Thus, Luke is not only 'supporting' heaven but carries it with him, just like at a traditional cult festival. Below, animals are already drinking the water of paradise.
->From the gospel book of Otto III (Reichenau, about 1000)
Scene depicting Christ's foot washing. The frame is simple, without tectonic elements. Strikingly, the columns have been moved to the background supporting the celestial building, the church, with a strangely exotic gate beam. Mysterious is the black surface of this background. It seems that the pre-Christian structure of cults is integrated here, which implies that the sacred object moves out of the temple or shrine and enters the human domain. Note in this context the dialogue between the stable cross on top of the church and the flexible one in Christ’s halo. If that were the case, not stylistic diffusion but Christian interpretation of local pre-Christian concepts would be responsible for this particular variation.
-> Same source as above.