Here’s one for you all currently at a conference of the learned. I can’t now remember what it was, but there was some reference a while ago on one of the various blogs in the sidebar there to a medieval summit meeting of some kind which is recorded in a text that has the participants’ tents all round the central hall. Anyone? Anyway, it reminded me that some time ago I asked if anyone wanted more of the work of Velasco of San Millá de Cogolla. Kishnevi obligingly stepped up, and then I did nothing for months. Poor show Jarrett! So here, at long last, is the mentioned picture of Visigothic Toledo in council season as imagined and painted by Velasco to accompany those councils’ resolutions.
Tents, you see! Actually I imagine that in Toledo of the sixth or seventh centuries there probably could have been found rooms for all the likely attendants, but given that they’d been travelling hundreds of miles to get there, they probably did indeed have tents with them. More importantly, at the places where Velasco was familiar with meetings of churchmen and their lackeys, there probably wasn’t room for them all to stay indoors, so we get his version here. At which rate, whose are the tents? Are the bishops and abbots and their batmen all inside, and the grooms and cooks outside under canvas (if medieval tents would have been canvas, I assume not really but I could be wrong)? Or are there some lucky contingents who get inside all of them and the leftovers are seen here? Is that to be read from the apparent precedence that the churchmen have in their line before the king, or is that just a stylistic choice of how to represent a lot of people? Could their varied robes have been decoded, like academic gowns now? Or is it just variation for variation’s sake? Are they actually meeting outdoors, or did the Visigothic kings have pot-plants taller than a man in their palaces? Did they really paint the town citadel patchwork like Elmer (but with more expensive joins), or is that just Velasco adding the sort of ornament that we saw his colleague Emeterius do in his picture of San Salvador de Tábara de León? Can we take any of this seriously?
I don’t know. But I love it.