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Title: Understanding the Last Judgement mosaic at Torcello, Venice
Author: Martin, Patrick
Awarding Body: University of Winchester
Current Institution: University of Winchester
Date of Award: 2020
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In the second half of the eleventh century the Venetians erected on the west wall of the Cathedral at Torcello a gold-glass mosaic showing the Last Judgement. For geopolitical reasons, they chose to use Byzantine iconography rather than the local Western format. The apparent complexity of the Byzantine format has led scholars to brand it as ‘incoherent’ or ‘lacking in structure’. This thesis seeks to gain a proper understanding of the iconography by setting it in its historical context, asking what meanings the makers saw in the motifs they chose, and why they chose to deploy them as they did at Torcello and elsewhere. All images have an evolutionary history which governs their form, and guides, but does not control, their meaning. Current histories of early Last Judgement iconography are short and purely descriptive. This research offers a new analytical history of form and meaning in Eastern and Western Last Judgement images up to 1150. It examines them as ‘front-line’ artefacts, that is, as developed through time to carry the cognitive and emotional content needed to influence behaviour in accordance with their location and purpose. Iconography is analysed alongside other front-line activities (prayers, hymns, funerary rites, and congregation-facing texts). The analysis shows how, in ‘religion as lived’, inconsistent eschatological beliefs are used in different contexts for different purposes. It then shows how, in visual presentations, such beliefs can be combined to complement and reinforce each other. This process is facilitated by the Eastern concept of time. In the context of post-mortem judgement, this concept is used to reconcile two apparently inconsistent events, the Immediate Judgement at death and the Last Judgement at the end of time. While the Western iconography sets the Last Judgement in the future and ignores the Immediate Judgement, the Byzantine format unites both within a continuous present. The analysis shows how the mosaicists at Torcello combined this concept of time with strong visual guidance to deliver a clear structure and a single, complete, and coherent eschatological vision.
Supervisor: Baker, Robin ; Andreopoulos, Andreas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available