The Amiata Stemma

We can be quite certain that a copy of the Great Stemma was at the Benedictine Monastery of San Salvatore on Monte Amiata in Italy in the eleventh century, because it inspired an author-artist on the mountain to attempt his own adaptation of it, "correcting" it, abridging it and extending its content up to "modern" times.

In this update, the structure and essential text of the diagram were retained, but most of the stemmata that fill its central space were discarded and replaced by a vast tableau of successive rulers of the western world in 128 roundels, spanning fifteen centuries from Darius the Great to Henry III. The latter name allows us to date this document, because Henry III must have been the current Holy Roman Emperor when this remix was laboriously copied by the scribes onto four blank folios at the back of a book of commentaries by great theologians on books of the Old Testament. Henry III ruled Germany and Italy between 1039 and 1056. His year of death is added in another hand to a list of kings elsewhere in the same codex.

This graphic adaptation of the Great Stemma scheme for a new age must have existed in multiple copies, but we only possess one of them,which has been penned into a codex which was made and kept at Monte Amiata and is preserved today in the Laurentian Library in Florence under the name Codex Amiatinus 3. The diagram spanning eight pages (ff. 169r-172v) in Amiatinus 3 is demonstrably not the original, because the artist evidently laid out his first draft on a wide scroll, and that is how I have sketched it here:

It is not too difficult to prove that the drawing now spread over eight pages must have once occupied a single sheet. The tableau of 128 kings, which is designed to be read left-to-right in eight rows of sixteen roundels, has been split and placed on two sides of a folio. This obliges a reader who wants to read it in historical order to continuously turn the page back and forth: a situation which would never have been intended by the artist. The split is merely the consequence of sectioning the overall diagram into frames so that it would fit in a codex.

In the above plot, I have drawn a black rectangle around the 128 historic rulers of the west. The succession (it makes many wild jumps) comprises Achaemenid rulers, emperors of Rome, kings of Italy and Holy Roman Emperors. Some of the authors below perceive this as a documentary forerunner to the translatio imperii doctrine.

It is conceivable that this remix (which dispenses with most of the stemmata except for the families of Adam and Isaac) was compiled before Henry III came to power, and was merely updated to keep up to date with changes in political control. The revision contains a list of popes which the scribe has not bothered to update. This roll-call of the papacy ends with Agapitus (pontificate 946-955), so it is conceivable that the re-drawing took place in the middle of the tenth century.

Very little has been published about this document, although a plot of it, not quite as accurate as mine, appeared some years ago in an article by Gert Melville. The latter two authors below appear not to have realized that the abbey possessed a copy of the Great Stemma from Spain which mentions the Visigothic King Wamba. None of them explore the theological position of the Amiata drawing, which rejects the Joachimite account of Jesus's ancestry and restores an orthodox genealogy that exactly follows the text of the Luke Gospel with 42 generations from David to Christ via Nathan.

Gorman, Michael. ‘Manuscript Books at Monte Amiata in the Eleventh Century’. Scriptorium 56 (2002): 225–293: 268–271. Lists the contents of Amiatinus 3 and discusses the Amiata scriptorium. See my earlier discussion of this article in respect of the Liber Genealogus.

Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. L’ombre des ancêtres. Paris: Fayard, 2000. Discusses the Amiata Stemma at pp. 72-73.

Melville, Gert. ‘Geschichte in graphischer Gestalt. Beobachtungen zu einer spätmittelalterlichen Darstellungsweise’. In Geschichtsschreibung und Geschichtesbewusstsein im späten Mittelalter, edited by Hans Patze, 57–154. Vorträge und Forschungen / Konstanzer Arbeitskreis für Mittelalterliche Geschichte 31. Sigmaringen [Germany]: Thorbecke, 1987. Contains a drawing of the Amiata Stemma on a fold-out, making clear that Melville also interpreted it as a single-page diagram. Given the work that went into the plot, one is surprised by the brevity of the discussion at pp. 66-67.

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