Shiri Fridman Waisbard, BA
Labyrinths floor paintings in European medieval churches; Carolingian replications of the Holy Sepulchre
Early Representations of the Tomb of Christ’s Aedicule in Fulda and Aquileia
Research on the earliest European representations of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Tomb aedicule in Jerusalem has progressed rather slowly since the extensive works of Dalman and Krautheimer. In 2011 I had the opportunity to visit two of these representations: St. Michael’s church in Fulda and the patriarchal cathedral in Aquileia. St. Michael’s, dating to Carolingian times, is still largely cited in the literature as the earliest building to represent the Anastasis rotunda and the Tomb aedicule. However, as Ellger suggested in 1989, a review of the written sources regarding the structure casts uncertainty upon the existence of an aedicule representation. In addition, an examination of this structure in the context of the Abbey church basilica previously built in its proximity may reveal that its more prominent artistic influence came not from Jerusalem but rather from Rome. While visiting the site, I explored how a much neglected aspect of the church, the Carolingian appropriation of Pagan symbolism, might assist in shedding new light on the structure’s iconography. Furthermore, I suggested it was not the Carolingian church but its 1093 Romanesque reconstruction which housed a representation of the Tomb aedicule with relics from the Holy Land.
The Aquileian structure, dated to 1031, is perhaps the earliest representation of the Tomb’s aedicule to have survived. Current research focuses mainly on its role in Easter plays and the similarities and distinctions between it and the Tomb aedicule in Jerusalem, which suggest it is a synthesis of the Anastasis rotunda and the Tomb aedicule, practice of the former being the structure’s raison d’être. Yet, when visiting the site, reviewing its historical context, and taking into consideration the extensive rebuilding of the cathedral itself undertaken at the time, it seems this endeavour may also have had political motivations. It may have been motivated by the aspiration to reconnect the basilica to the apostolic and Constantinian eras, thus restoring Aquileia’s long lost glory. In addition, I maintain that one must not compare the Aquileian aedicule solely to the tomb aedicule in Jerusalem, but also to contemporaneous representations in nearby regions. Such an examination reveals that the design of the Aquileian structure displays more distinct similarities with European representations built in its proximate vicinity than with the Tomb aedicule in Jerusalem.