An Ideological Kernel

A new article on the Great Stemma was published last year in Spanish, as I see from a new web search. In it, Helena de Carlos Villamarín seeks the reason for the inclusion of the diagram in the Codex of Roda. She argues that the diagram is the "ideological kernel of the Codex" and "points to the typological meaning of the textual ensemble, showing one of its interpretative clues to be the opposition between the Old and New Testament."

Perhaps. She says she is discussing all this "sin entrar a profundizar en el posible origen de estos textos o en sus avatares de transmisión". I would think that ignoring the possible origin of the genealogical diagram and its transmission history might make her interpretative argument rather vulnerable.

There is nothing wrong with speculating about the theological intentions of the Codex compiler, and de Carlos certainly knows the Codex as well as anyone today (this is her third published scholarly article about it), but surely one needs to also discuss what customers of the 10th-century book trade wanted (this was an expensive book to make), what was available for inclusion and why an illustrative frieze like the diagram was esteemed.

If the Christians of 10th century northern Spain knew that the diagram was of patristic origin, were aware that it had once existed in roll form and where it had been displayed, or even regarded it as an authoritative source, they might have used the diagram as a core document of their belief. If it was little known or obscure, it might have been taken up merely because of its decorative value. The errors in the diagram as copied leave the question open: did it go uncorrected because it was too authoritative to alter, or because the editors had a cavalier attitude to it?

The article is: "El Códice de Roda (Madrid, BRAH 78) como compilación de voluntad historiográfica". Edad Media: revista de historia, ISSN 1138-9621, 12 (2011), pp 119-142. Accessible here from Dialnet (which is an academic digitization portal, not a mobile-phone provider). (De Carlos's and other recent articles on the Codex by various authors are listed on Regesta Imperii.)

While I would not have expected de Carlos to have discovered my own Great Stemma research, which did not began to arrive online in bulk until 2010, I think she ought to have cited Christiane Klapisch-Zuber's L'ombre des ancêtres (2000) rather than an exploratory article published in 1991 by that author after her 1985-1986 Villa I Tatti stay in Florence. Klapisch-Zuber does not include the 1991 article any longer in her selected publications.

Admittedly my Spanish is too basic to go beyond the broad lines of argument of de Carlos, who teaches philology at the University of Santiago and edits an annual journal, Troianalexandrina, I find her re-interpretation of the genesis of the Codex an interesting contribution to the debate about the Great Stemma. In essence, she argues that the Codex contains two elements in tension: worldly history and biblical history, with a monastic editor trying to align them in a kind of harmony.

What I would have liked to see included would be some analysis of the diagram's history in Spain, including the known sightings of it in 772 and 672. Whether the Great Stemma in its 10th-century form really had kept its purely biblical character could also be debated. The Eusebian chronology and its synchronisms had long been introduced into the diagram by this stage via the Ordo Annorum Mundi. The version of the Great Stemma in the Codex of Roda is the closest in Spain to the lost original, and second only to the Florence version of the diagram as a witness, but we should not lose sight of the fact that the work was already at least 550 years old when the parchment for the Codex of Roda was still lying blank on a scriptorium shelf.

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