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Title page for ETD etd-03232016-213956

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Awes-Freeman, Jennifer Cecelia
URN etd-03232016-213956
Title Erasing God: Carolingians, Controversy, and the Ashburnham Pentateuch
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
David Michelson Committee Co-Chair
Robin M. Jensen Committee Co-Chair
Lawrence Nees Committee Member
Lynn Ramey Committee Member
Paul Lim Committee Member
  • Carolingian era
  • medieval art
  • iconoclasm
  • Trinity
  • manuscript
Date of Defense 2016-02-29
Availability unrestricted
The images and theologies of the Trinity during the transition from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages have remained largely unstudied as a phenomenon. In this regard, the Creation folio of the sixth-century Ashburnham Pentateuch (Paris, BnF, NAL 2334, f. 1v) provides a valuable case study; in its original state, the illustration presented an anthropomorphic Trinity at work in the first few days of Creation. The Father and Son were depicted standing side by side four times, while the Holy Spirit was depicted only once as a winged man hovering over the waters. In the early ninth century, by which time this possibly-Italian manuscript had traveled to Tours, the figures of three of the Sons, one of the Fathers, and the Holy Spirit were painted over. While the origins of the manuscript remain obscure, the modification to its Creation image demonstrates a desire for theological orthodoxy and iconographic consistency, as the image was made to conform to contemporaneous Carolingian depictions of a single Creator. This embodied response seems to have emerged from a context of political and theological instability; the manuscript’s redactor may have been countering debates over issues such as the filioque and adoptionism with an assertion of the absolute unity of the persons of the Trinity. Moreover, Carolingian image theory, most notably expressed in Theodulf of Orléans’ Opus Caroli Regis contra Synodum, revealed a pervasive belief in the hierarchy of word over image and the potential danger of the latter, which enabled and perhaps even necessitated the modification of the Ashburnham Pentateuch’s Creation image.
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