Heretics, orthodox and censored content in medieval imagery

There are ‘pictorial annotations’ in medieval Latins’ imagery; some refer to status (as a European crown upon the head of the Jewish king David). Others signal lower status, whether social or theological.

Headwear (apart from a crown) serves that purpose.  Pictorial “annotation” can be literal, but is more than just the literalism of a portrait; it is meant to tell of origins, attitudes, religious beliefs, profession – and any combination of such things.

Below are eight seated physicians, pictured across folios 1v and 2r of the “Manfredus” manuscript.  The most admired are in the lower registers, the less admired in the upper registers.  One figure is plainly to be abhorred, and he sits to the inner margin, on the upper  register of folio 1v – Johannitus.

The four foreigners Manfredus folio 1v four physicians Manfredus 6823 folio 2r

Feet on the ground meant  “A-ok” – checked and approved, theologically speaking.   Ankles crossed meant they were not a Latin Christian – or to all intents and purposes not.

Legs crossed higher, or at the knee(heaven forfend!!) meant a deliberately wayward character, the theological equivalent of which, in this case, is the Nestorian.

folio 1v top two Johannitus Manfredus

In fact, poor Johannites is not only given the “wicked” person’s high-crossed legs; his very speech is written “on its head” – this is how it looks. No mistake about it.

Johannitus Manfredus 1v

In the ‘Mongol century’ the Nestorians served as ambassadors to the west, so their costume wasn’t unknown before the Manfredus manuscript was made.  And the Latin church wasn’t pleased to hear that half the known world had been converted to this other ‘heretic’ form of Christianity.   Take a look at “Johannites” headwear.  Below, a figure from folio 85r, and further below a Mongol costume and 13thC Mongol coin that I’ve shown before.

Johannitus head Manfredus

Partisan detail f.85r

Mongol coin and costume

It’s this sort of thing which, in my opinion, prohibits the content in Beinecke 408 from being a German cultural product or, indeed, a product of any period later than 1440 – and there’s much more than this.

I was going to explain more of the cues built into the pictures of those physicians, but the latest product of Mr.Meme’s “meme-factory” has infected poor Thomas Spande, who has become the latest, and a rather sad example of the “mugger-with-meme” able to think of no productive comment on one’s volume of work, but only parrot the latest mean-nothing ad.hominem while ransacking the research I’ve published online.

He has first ‘adopted’ the material which I published (and he read) about Genoa and the Community of Thomas, simultaneously “rediscovering” a series of my plant ids – as he complains that I have far much to say, in too much detail.

In recognition of his comment, this post leaves out two thirds of the intended commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Heretics, orthodox and censored content in medieval imagery

  1. Damn just now I wanted to read the full story. It’s the lack of moustache, right? 🙂

    The coin you show in comparison with the Voynich man. I see that the ‘flower’ is indeed very similar. Is it possible that the position of the man’s arms are also meant to evoke the shape of the bendy figure under the flower on the coin, the curve in its center? Do you know what the elements on the coin stand for?

    Like

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