Wisdom’s Creation: A Double Beginning in the Stammheim Missal (1160-1170)

Fricke, Beate (2021). Wisdom’s Creation: A Double Beginning in the Stammheim Missal (1160-1170). Codex aquilarensis : cuadernos de investigación del Monasterio de Santa Maria la Real, 37, pp. 357-376. Centro de Estudios del Romanico

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The moment in which one opens a book and begins to read is a particularly intriguing moment. Creating a design for the frontispiece of a manuscript thus presented medieval illuminators with a special challenge and a unique opportunity: it was the first pictorial element through which the illuminator could engage the interested reader. The Stammheim Missal (1160- 1170) offered its reader a beginning that addressed the problem of how to “begin” a manuscript by intertwining notions of the creative work of the illuminator with God’s creation of the world. In doing so, I argue, the Missal offers a kind of double beginning. The manuscript’s unique ensemble of four-full-page miniatures, spread over the Missal’s beginning after the calendar, constitutes a highly sophisticated and unique pictorial program. In these images, one discovers God creating the world along with the personification of Wisdom surrounded by several figures from the Old Testament. Turning the pages further, one discovers the story of the Fall and a sophisticated visual reflection on the perception of hidden wisdom. These four pages of illuminations were devised and executed by an unknown painter at Hildesheim.
A close reading of these sophisticated pictorial inventions reveals an extremely complex interweaving
of thoughts about creation and creativity, perception and cognition, which engaged
contemporary scholarly debates about these topics. This missal, I argue, creatively engaged this
discourse and its maker devised a unique artistic solution for rendering a variety of forms of
“creation” and creative wisdom visible.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History > Ancient and Medieval Art History
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History

UniBE Contributor:

Fricke, Beate


700 Arts
700 Arts > 730 Sculpture, ceramics & metalwork
700 Arts > 740 Drawing & decorative arts
700 Arts > 750 Painting




Centro de Estudios del Romanico


[18] European Research Council


[UNSPECIFIED] Global Horizons in Pre-Modern Art




Beate Fricke

Date Deposited:

16 Feb 2022 13:55

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 16:05





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