A methodologically ambitious, sumptuously illustrated, and erudite study of a twelfth-century monastery near Rome that offers a compelling biography of a neglected Romanesque jewel as well as evocative multisensory readings of its architecture, frescoes, and sculpture.
Blending innovative art historical analysis with archaeology, epigraphy, history, liturgy, theology, and landscape and memory studies, The Medieval Monastery of Saint Elijah: A History in Paint and Stone is the first comprehensive interdisciplinary study of a deeply intelligent yet understudied male Benedictine convent near Rome. The only monastery known to have been dedicated to the prophet Elijah in the Latin West, it was rebuilt c.1122–26 with papal patronage. Today, the monastery is represented by its church of Sant’Elia, a stone basilica endowed with its original Cosmati marble pavement and liturgical furnishings, early and high medieval sculptures and inscriptions, and vibrant wall paintings that include unique depictions of the prophet Elijah and the twelve tribes of Israel as warriors, an apse program with a distinctly elite Roman origin, and an important narrative cycle of the Apocalypse. An outlying chapel marks the site of a theophany that sanctified the landscape and gave the monastery its raison d’être. The Medieval Monastery of Saint Elijah makes significant contributions to current art historical debates concerning communal identity and the construction of social memory, artistic creativity and processes, the multisensory and exegetical capacities of works of visual art, intersections of topography and sanctity, and the effects of medievalism on our understanding of the Middle Ages.
Alison Locke Perchuk (Ph.D. Yale University) is an art historian specializing in medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. Her work on the Monastery of St. Elijah received the 2018 Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize of the Medieval Academy of America and she has held fellowships at CASVA (2016) and the Institute for Advanced Study (2018–19). Currently Associate Professor of Art at California State University Channel Islands, her next projects are on medieval Italy’s sacred landscapes and medievalism in California.