Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seven Doves, Part III a.

I wandered rather far afield in the last blog with all the references to the wood of trees as a symbol for the Trinity when the emphasis was supposed to be on three doves as a symbol for the Trinity.  If I ever get to writing about the Jesse Tree window at the Cathedral Church of St. Andrew, better known as Wells Cathedral with its green wooden cross crucifixion scene that tops the Tree of Jesse in the choir east window (window #E1, panel 6d, 7d and 8d), then perhaps my interest in wood, especially rough-hewn green wooden crosses might make more sense.  Below is a peek at the top of the Jesse Tree at Wells. 
The crucifixion that tops the Jesse Tree in the east choir window at Wells Cathedral.[1] This window dates to about 1335-1345.

Part III a.  Seven Doves in manuscript Jesse Trees

Seven doves are the symbol of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit as given in Isaiah 11.2-3a: spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, godliness, and the fear of the Lord.[2] The Vulgate Latin text is: et requiescet super eum spiritus Domini spiritus sapientiae et intellectus spiritus consilii et fortitudinis spiritus scientiae et pietatis, et replebit eum spiritus, timoris.[3]

Jean Hayes Williams argued in her paper that the oldest extant Jesse Tree is to be found in the Vyšehrad Codex (Latin:Codex Vyssegradensis), also known as the Coronation Gospels of King Vratislaus. The codex was made in the late 11th century to honor the anniversary of the Czech king’s coronation in 1085.[4] In this half-page Jesse Tree, the prophet Isaiah holds a scroll with the opening words of Isaiah 11.1 in Latin. This scroll wraps around Jesse who is standing upon a tree with seven birds wearing halos. Above the picture is a title: “Virgula Jesse pro[ce]dit spendida flore” or “the little rod of Jesse produced beautiful flowers.” This reference to the Virgin Mary reveals an understanding of Mary as the rod or branch or stump of Jesse. There is much more to be written about the development of the cult of the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages and how it related to the development of Trees of Jesse over the centuries, but that has to wait for now. The point to be made now is that the seven doves appear early in the development of the Jesse Tree image.

The bottom half of this illuminated page is thought to be the oldest extant Jesse Tree.  Isaiah is on the left holding the scroll with the verse from Isaiah, and it is Jesse who is standing on the tree that supports seven haloed doves.[5]

The British Library owns the Siegburg Lectionary that was apparently made at the Benedictine abbey of St. Michael at Siegburg in the diocese of Cologne (Harley 2889). It was made about 1125-1150 and contains a curious Jesse Tree with an enshrouded Jesse in a coffin. From Jesse is growing a white tree with seven doves in roundels. (Harley 2889 f.4r) At one time the gifts of the Holy Spirit were written on the margins but the lettering is now very worn.
Siegburg Lectionary, made near Cologne about 1125-1150.  British Library Harley 2889 f.4[6]

Jesse Tree from Lambeth Bible.  Lambeth Palace, London, MS 3 f. 198

The Lambeth Bible (Lambeth Palace, London, MS 3 f. 98 ) was made about 1140 or so at Canterbury, presumably Christ Church .  The central image of whole page Jesse Tree is the Virgin Mary in blue gown and red cape.  From her head spring tendrils that encircle Jesus’ upper torso, and the seven doves that represent the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  The upper two corner roundels are apostles, most probably St. Paul on the left and St. Peter on the right.  The lower two corner roundels are Old Testament kings (perhaps David and Solomon), all pointing toward Mary and Jesus Christ.  The kings of Israel are not found in the six roundels above Jesse and beside Mary.  The upper left roundel holds two apostles supporting a crowned female figure of the Church Triumphant.  I assume that one is St. Peter though he does not carry a key, and the other probably St. Paul with his long beard and balding head.  The upper right roundel has Moses (with horns) and another Old Testament prophet or perhaps a New Testament apostle, since he has a golden halo, supporting the blindfolded female figure of Synagogue.  A hand in the right corner roundel is removing the blindfold from Synagogue.  This image is often used for the Hand of God.  In the two middle roundels are Mercy and Truth (misericordia et veritas) meeting together (left), and Righteousness/Justice and Peace (iustitia et pax) kissing (right). (Psalm 84.10 Vulgate, Psalm 85.10 KJV).  The two bottom roundels are four prophets pointing to the Savior.  The prophet on the left with the inscribed scroll is Isaiah.  Jesse is asleep across the bottom though he does hold the tree. (See Charles F. Dodwell. The Canterbury School of Illumination: 1066-1200. (1954) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.)

The Jesse Tree illumination in the Bible of the Capuchins, also called the  Capucin's Bible of St. Bretin, resembles the Jesse Tree of the Lambeth Bible.  The Bible of the Capuchins was made about 1180, probably Champagne, France by Master of Simon of St. Albans with collaborators.[7]  Another possible site for the Bible's production was the Abbey of St. Bertin, Saint-Omer, Nor-Pas-de-Calais.  (University of Michigan, History of Art, VRC).  If the Abbey of St. Bertin is correct, that would explain some of the similarities between the two bibles since there was communication between the Abbey of St. Bertin and Christ Church at Canterbury in the first part of the 12th century. The Bible is now in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris.  Here the Jesse Tree is not free-standing but contained within the letter “L” from Liber generationis or “Book of generations” the opening words of the Vulgate Matthew 1.1.  As one expects, Jesse is asleep at the bottom with Kings David and Solomon above him in static frontal poses.  Above the kings is the Virgin Mary.  From her head spring the tendrils that surround the bust of Jesus and seven doves for the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  In the roundel with Jesus is a banderole with the words: ego flos campi et lilium convallium.  [I am the flower of the field and lily of the valley. (Song of Solomon 2.1)] The Jesse Tree is a green and white vine that surrounds the figures in roundels.  To the left of Jesus Christ is a queen holding a chalice and representing Church.  She is accompanied by a saint or apostle (probably St. Peter) and to the right of Jesus is a queen (or perhaps a king) holding a stopper bottle.  A crown is falling from the head since the figure represents Synagogue.  He or she is accompanied by a golden haloed apostle or saint.  In the eight roundels on either side of Virgin Mary and kings are sixteen prophets: Daniel, Isaiah, Nahum, Ezekiel, Sophonias (Zephaniah), Obadiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Jonah, Joel, Micah, Hosea, Amos, Habakkuk, Malachi, and Haggai. (The names of the so-called major and minor prophets will appear recurrently in Jesse Trees even if most of their books are no longer part of the Revised Common Lectionary. The books would have been knows to literate medieval monks and nuns.)  Each of the prophets holds a scroll with what is presumably an identifying Bible verse.  Also the name is written on the pink and blue nimbi.  The kings are quite dour and lack the usual identifying symbols such as harp or model of the temple or scepter.  (I have been trying to locate a high quality print of the Jesse page so that I can read the Latin in the other banderoles. Any help appreciated.)
Letter 'L' (from Liber, the opening word of the Gospel according to Matthew) with Jesse Tree. Note that Jesus is at the top and springs from Mary’s head. The angel at Jesse’s feet holds the remaining letters “iber.” c. 1180. Arbre de Jesse, Latin 16746 fol. 7v. Bibliotheque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Division occidentale, Paris.[8] 

There is some similarity in the handling of the cloth by the artists of both the Lambeth and Capuchin Jesse Trees.  The French Jesse page has much more script on it than the Lambeth Bible.  Some of the design elements of this elaborate and elegant Jesse Tree are carried forward into stained glass but not all.  Elements carried forward include the paired figures in some Jesse Windows.  Representation of Church and Synagogue do not appear in Jesse windows, for example.  Figures of Mercy and Truth (misericordia et veritas) meeting together, and Righteousness/Justice and Peace (iustitia et pax) kissing maybe found in other stained glass windows but not part of Jesse Tree windows.  The stacking of the kings below the Virgin Mary and the Christ placed at the apex with seven doves will be seen again and again in the Jesse Tree stained glass windows.

I am adding another aside here on the subject of Ecclesia et Synagoga. Though these symbols did not continue to be used in Jesse Trees, they have an interesting history of their own.  Two female figures representing Church and Synagogue are undoubted derived from the literary disputation of a Christian and a Jew that are a carry over from the ancient Socratic dialogues of the philosophers such as Plato. Justin Martyr (about 100-165) wrote a long Dialogue with Trypho. Pseudo-Augustine or Quodvultdeus wrote Contra Iudaeos, Paganos et Arrianos in the 400s . Thus sermon it is known to have circulated in Anglo-Saxon England. (Sources of Anglo-Literary Culture, <>) Even more contemporary to the production of the Lambeth Bible, the monk-abbot of Westminster, Gilbert Crispin, wrote Disputation of a Jew with a Christian about the Christian Faith sometime before 1096. In addition to a literary foundation for showing Ecclesia et Synagoga together are carvings from the Carolingian period.  A number of ivory book cover panels exist that show Ecclesia and Synagoga present at the Crucifixion.
Ivory panel made probably in Constantinople 515-530. In the middle right panel is Synagogue being expelled by a figure, symbolizing the Church .  Church is holding a trident. Synagogue is seated figure with a nimbus representing the City of Jerusalem, and holding a banner and attended by an armed man.  Victoria and Albert Museum no. 266-1867.

Ivory Crucifixion made in Metz about 860-870.  In the center, flanking Jesus, on the left with Virgin Mary with Ecclesia holding a chalice to catch the blood of Christ.  On the right in St. John with Synagoga holding a banner.  Victoria and Albert no. 250-1867

The representation of Church and Synagogue at the Crucifixion seems to be a Byzantine style that is picked up in Carolingian art.  It is carried into England.  Church and Synagogue appear in the crucifixion illumination of the Huth Psalter dated to 1275-1300. Additional 38116 was made in Lincoln or York and was written in Latin and French.  The Jesse Tree page from the psalter has two jousting knight.  This could also be interpreted as the combat between Church and Synagogue. (More about Huth Psalter in the future.) (For a discussion of Church and Synagogue in the ivories made at Metz, see: Nancy Bishop. "An iconographical study of the appearance of Synagoga in Carolingian ivories" in Kristine T. Utterback, Merrell L. Price, ed. Jews in Medieval Christendom: Slay them not.
(2013) Leiden: Brill. 2-24.)

Now back to doves and the representation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Not all manuscripts continued to use of the doves as representation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  In the Bible of Robert Gallo made in southeast England, perhaps Canterbury between 1240 and 1253, there is an elaborate Jesse Tree within the “L” of Liber that begins the gospel of Matthew.  In this bible there is an emphasis of the Virgin Mary and child as the apex of the illumination.
 Bible without Psalms, known as the Bible of Robert de Bello.  British Library, Burney 3 f.402. Made in southeast England between 1240 and 1253

A Jesse vine grows from the groin of a seated Jesse.  Above Jesse are Kings David and Solomon (holding a scepter).  Above the kings, Mary is seated and holding the infant Jesus.  There are no doves and no prophets in this Jesse Tree.  This may be the earliest example of a seated Jesse. Having Jesse seated and not reclining on a bed appears later in Jesse Tree stained glass windows and continued to be used into the 19th century gothic-revival stained glass windows.

In Jesse Trees drawn in smaller spaces reserved for the “L” of Liber, there are frequently no prophets and no doves. One of many examples of the more limited Jesse Trees at the beginning of Matthew include the Gospel of Matthew cataloged as British Library Royal 4 D 1 (made between 1200 and 1225).

Jesse Tree within "L" of Liber.  Gospel of Matthew. British Library Royal 4 D 1

Doves were used less frequently as time passed, and the Jesse Trees took on an increasingly Marian emphasis.  Below is a Jesse Tree from a Book of Hours made in Holland about 1490.  The elegant half- figures  arising from flowers will be discussed more since it is seen in stained glass windows and in manuscripts in the last half of the 1400s until the Reformation.

Book of Hours The Hague, KB, 76 G 9

One notable exception to the lack of doves in Marian emphasis Jesse Trees is the Scherenberg Psalter made in Strassburg about 1260.  Seven doves surround the figure of the seated Virgin with the infant Jesus.  Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and Kings David and Solomon accompany the Virgin and child.  There is a tender, sentimental charm to this Jesse Tree that is often  not present in most illuminations. 

Wurzel Jesse mit Maria und Kind; Miniatur aus dem Scherenberg-Psalter; Strassburg, c. 1260 Badische Landesbibliothek, Cod. St. Peter perg. 139, Blatt 7v

More to come:  Seven doves in Jesse Tree stained glass windows.

[1]Painton Cowen.  <>
Also Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Picture Archive. <>
[2] The list is compiled from the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition of the Vulgate.  Interestingly, the NRSV only lists six: wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord.  Godliness or piety or religious devotion is dropped.
[3] The spirit of the Lord as given in Isaiah 11.2-3a is different from those listed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 12.6-8 or 1 Corinthians 12.8 -10. 
[4] . Jean Anne HayesWilliams. "The earliest dated Tree of Jesse image: thematically reconsidered." Athanor 18 (2000): 17-23.
[5] <>
[6] <>
[7] < >
[8] < >

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