Cava and the Mediterranean. Some Manuscripts from the Norman-Swabian Period

Teresa D’Urso
The article takes a new look at four decorated manuscripts (Cava dei Tirreni, Biblioteca Statale del Monumento Nazionale Badia di Cava dei Tirreni, 42, 53, 55, and 11), from the Norman-Swabian period, now in the Library of the Benedictine abbey of Cava dei Tirreni. Comparative analysis of codicological and stylistic characters suggests that the manuscripts 42, 53 and 55 were decorated in the same scriptorium between the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century and that they were originally included in a miscellaneous volume. The cultural roots of the Initialornamentik of such codices are placed in close relation to the formal repertory of manuscripts illuminated in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and Sicily during the Norman period. Furthermore, the essay detects significant formal affinities between the decorated initials of the three codices mentioned above and two initials found in the fourth manuscript, characterized by a less refined quality. A formerly neglected citation stating that the manuscript was already in the abbey in 1718 and the recurrence of the same typology of initials in some Cava codices from the Norman-Swabian period suggest the hypothesis that the fourth manuscript was decorated in the abbey's scriptorium. The ?Mediterranean' cultural imprint of all the four manuscripts can be explained with the likely presence in the abbey of Santissima Trinita` of manuscripts and illuminators coming from Sicilian scriptoria, in the wake of the well-known connections with the abbey of Monreale. Finally, stylistic observations, as well as textual references associable to the historic juncture following the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem on October 2, 1187, suggest that the Cavense 11 was realized between the last years of Abbot Benincasa (1171-1194) and the tenure of Peter II (1194-1208), or at the latest in the early years of Balsamo's office (1208-1232).


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