Wednesday 26 April, 5.00 pm
Medieval Work-in-Progress Seminar
The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London
Dr Peter Toth, Dr Donal Cooper, Prof. Joanna Cannon
The Meditationes vitae Christi: a conversation about dating, authorship and contexts
Peter Toth (British Library)
The Meditationes Vitae Christi, a series of affective meditations on the life of Christ, has long been regarded as one of the most influential medieval works ever. It had decisive influence on literary and religious thought as well as the fine and performing arts of the Late Middle Ages. Despite its wide-reaching importance, however, neither its author nor even its date or the language it was originally written has ever been identified. This talk will survey the latest research that shed some new light on these questions and reflect on the challenges this new light had created, showcasing further evidence for the date and original language of this medieval best-seller.
Donal Cooper (University of Cambridge):
A long-standing conundrum regarding the origins of the Meditationes vitae Christi has been the elusive nature of the Franciscan friar traditionally proposed as its author: Giovanni de’ Cauli or John of Caulibus. The claim made by Fra Bartolomeo da Pisa in the 1390s that “Iohannes de Caulibus de Sancto Geminiano” had written a book of meditations on the Gospels has yet to be corroborated by contemporary archival sources. Building on Péter Toth’s and Dávid Falvay’s compelling reappraisal of the early manuscript tradition of the Meditationes, this contribution turns to the rich archival record that survives for the Tuscan Franciscans from the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in search of the text’s likely author.
Joanna Cannon (Courtauld Institute of Art):
Since the days of Henry Thode and Emile Mâle, as views on the authorship and dating of the Meditationes vitae Christi have evolved, the uses that art historians have made of the text have undergone several changes. My brief contribution reflects on the implications of these changes, and of the recent findings of Péter Toth, Dávid Falvay and Donal Cooper, for the study of the Meditationes vitae Christi in relation to art in thirteenth-century Siena.