Aaron: The Wilderness Within - Visualizing Internal Colonization on the Medieval German Frontier

Aaron: The Wilderness Within - Visualizing Internal Colonization on the Medieval German Frontier

Human migration and environmental struggles are not exclusively modern concerns. The medieval predecessor states of today’s Austria and Bavaria were founded in the twelfth century upon expansion into the “wilderness” around Salzburg, Passau, and the eastern Alpine range, where settlers decried the natural obstacles impeding their efforts. Loosely united through ties to the archbishop of Salzburg, or through ministerial lineages across the region, new foundations shared an aggressively colonial worldview, together with their cousins further north. More so than in Saxony or Silesia, Austro-Bavarian art—in both well-established cities like Regensburg and new foundations like Gurk—reflects a highly localized understanding of the environment and humanity’s place in it. No medium did this more so than architectural sculpture. Despite significant monographs on major Bavarian Romanesque monuments over the last century, few have recognized the underlying sophistication of the many sculptural programs that do not conform to iconographic or narrative standards set elsewhere on the continent. Images of saints are rare and the usual biblical scenes that adorn Romanesque churches elsewhere are almost entirely absent. They are instead replaced by images of bestial combat and vegetal hybridity. I contend that, as the most public-facing component of medieval artistic production, architectural sculpture in Austro-Bavaria does not suffer from a lack of aptitude, but actively participates in the rhetorical reckoning of frontier expansion, ultimately questioning the very nature of humanity and its salvation.

 

Projektmitarbeiter ZI