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Les mobilités monastiques en Orient et en Occident de l’Antiquité tardive au Moyen Âge (IVe-XVe siècle)

 | 
Olivier Delouis
, 
Maria Mossakovska-Gaubert
, 
Annick Peters-Custot

Mobilités et réseaux culturels

From Monte Cassino abbey to St Catherine’s monastery on mount Sinai, and back: the journey of a monk and the encounter of graphic cultures

Arianna D’Ottone Rambach

Note de l’auteur

I am grateful to: Flavia De Rubeis, Ca’ Foscari-University of Venice, for having invited me to present an early version of this research in her course of Latin Palaeography; Francis Newton, for the fruitful exchange; all the readers – paleographers and historians – who discussed with me the contents of this text; Heinz Miklas, University of Vienna, for his prompt, learned and friendly collaboration.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Leo Ostiensis 1980, p. 206.

Iohannes tricesimus a beato Benedicto abbas effectus sedit annus duodecim, mensibus sex […]. Qui cum aliquantos sub sancte conversationis studio peregisset annos atque post Aligerni transitum Manso in abbatiam ordine, quo iam diximus, successisset, egressus hinc Ierusolimam orationis causa profectus est atque in monte Syna per sex continuos annos commoratus1.

  • 2 Manso was more imposed than elected as abbot of Montecassino and his accession to the head of the (...)

1This quote from the Chronica Casinensis by Leo Ostiensis (1046-1115), tells us about John, 30th abbot (997-1110) since the time of St. Benedict who, after having spent many years in the convent, studying and praying – following the election of Manso (986-996) as abbot of Monte Cassino in 986, left to pray first in Jerusalem and then on Mount Sinai, where he stayed for six continuous years2. The future abbot, monk John, travelled from the abbey of Monte Cassino to Mount Sinai, and then came back to Southern Italy.

  • 3 Scare Beckett 2008, p. 45.
  • 4 An Anglo-Saxon nun called Hygeburg, who had moved to Heidenheim, composed the story of his life an (...)

2He was neither the first nor the last Westerner to travel towards the Arabic-Muslim lands. For example, another interesting case is that of the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon Willibald (c. 700-787), who «spent several years in Muslim lands and smuggled balsam through customs in Tyre in a false-bottomed flask of petroleum»3. After his travels through the Holy Land, in AD 723-727, Willibald did not return to England. Instead, he stopped in Southern Germany where he became bishop of Eichstätt4.

  • 5 See Davids 1996, p. 82.
  • 6 Hoffman 2001, p. 17. On the transfer and re-use of Middle Eastern objects in Europe, see Contadini (...)
  • 7 For another contribution on the shared Mediterranean taste in a later period, see Contadini 2013.

3Between the 8th and the 11th centuries, it was not rare to find pilgrims going towards the East, notably aiming at reaching the Holy Land that became a meaningful destination for believers and Crusaders in the following centuries5. The same routes were also haunted by objects and works of art: as Eva Hoffman pointed out «while portability destabilized and dislocated works from their original sites of production, it also re-mapped geographical and cultural boundaries, opening up vistas of intra- and cross-cultural encounters and interactions»6. She also stressed how the similarities among objects – textiles, ivories, metal works and so on – testify of a shared visual culture in the Mediterranean centers, between the 10th and the 12th centuries7.

  • 8 See Cherubini 2000. I am soon publishing a study of the Oriental glosses (in Arabic and Hebrew scr (...)

4Manuscripts too travelled. The so-called Bible of Cava – that is Cava de’ Tirreni where the codex is nowadays housed is a first example. This codex was produced in Spain, possibly in Oviedo, at the beginning of the 9th century. Three manuscript notes in Beneventan script, attributed to the 12th century, suggest that the manuscript arrived in Southern Italy at that time. The codex has also many other marginal glosses different for their date (from the beginning of the 9th to the 12th century), provenance (Spain and Italy) and script: Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic8.

  • 9 The codex travelled afterwards from Egypt to England and finally to New York, where it is currentl (...)

5The sumptuous illuminated codex known as the «Crusader Bible», was produced in mid-13th-century France and contained only a rich cycle of illustrations: its trilingual text – in Latin, Persian and Judeo-Persian – was later added during its journey from France to Italy, Poland and Persia9.

  • 10 See Elba 2009.
  • 11 Ibid.
  • 12 See infra.
  • 13 «Dall’essenza stessa dell’Islam, il Libro sacro della Rivelazione, trasmigra infatti nei manoscrit (...)
  • 14 See Déroche 2009, p. 98.

6An example of «the uninterrupted book circulation that existed on both sides of the Adriatic for three centuries, roughly from the eleventh to the thirteenth century»10 is a 12th/13th century codex, produced at Monte Cassino in Southern Italy, as its Beneventan script suggests, which is now in Croatia (Metropolitan Library of Zagreb, Missal MR 166)11. Other examples of Beneventan manuscripts having traveled through the Mediterranean reaching the Muslim East are attested12 and manuscripts came to Monte Cassino from other regions as well. It seems interesting to recall here the Arabic-Islamic influence on Southern Italy manuscript production13, as well as the hypothesis of «a common origin of the presentation found on early Qur’ān and manuscripts produced in the British Isles«» that «[…] finds further support in the links between the Late Antiquity and the Early Arabic manuscript traditions»14.

  • 15 See Falco, 1929, p. 528-529; Braga-Pirone-Scarcia Amoretti 2002.
  • 16 See Gabrieli-Scerrato 1979, p. 110; Stasolla 1988; Berto 2001; Berto 2007; Marazzi 2015. Last but (...)
  • 17 I like, however, to recall the Bologna coin hoard, containing 5 Beneventan gold coins, 23 Byzantin (...)

7Contacts between Arabs, who were present since the 9th century in the South of Italy, and Monte Cassino have already been noted by other scholars15. But the Muslim presence in Southern Italy at that time was probably more «an endemic plague of war and robbery»16, to quote the Arabist Francesco Gabrieli, than an agent of cultural transmission17.

  • 18 Newton 1999, p. 5.
  • 19 The mundane conduct of Manso and his way of managing the Abbey made also Nilus the Younger and his (...)
  • 20 The election of Manso as abbot of Monte Cassino pushed a number of monks to leave the abbey, not o (...)

8In considering the case of the monk John one has to have in mind that the institutions between which he was travelling, that is Monte Cassino abbey and the monastery of St. Catherine, were both well-established places of scribal activity created in the 6th century. Monte Cassino abbey had been founded in 529 by St. Benedict (480-547) on a mountain spur in Southern Italy, and «it is generally acknowledged that it was the greatest center of book production in South Italy in the high Middle Ages»18. The monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai had been founded by the Emperor Justinian (482-565), and was built between 548 and 565. Both exist still, but they had to face different existences: whilst, in the Christian West, Monte Cassino was destroyed and rebuilt several times, St. Catherine, in the Muslim East, has survived almost intact. Despite the geographical distance, a connection between these two centers of scribal activity can be tracked down, thanks to John the monk. But there were probably other such cases, that were unfortunately not recorded by the chronicles. The election of Manso as abbot of Monte Cassino pushed a number of monks to leave the abbey19, not only John but also Theobald – another future Abbot of Monte Cassino – and others whose names were not recorded (quinque alii quorum nomina non recoluntur)20.

  • 21 A large bibliography on the Beneventan script is available online on the site Bibliografia dei man (...)
  • 22 Signorini 2009, p. 4.
  • 23 See Battelli 1949, p. 128.

9I made these remarks in order to replace in context my contribution, which aims at reconsidering a technical aspect of the Beneventan-Cassinese script21. This type of script was employed at Monte Cassino and, to a large extent, in the areas in which the Beneventan script had spread, in particular in Campania, starting in the 11th century22. The most striking peculiarity of the script is the succession of thick and thin strokes given by a typical pen that was held by the scribes so that the oblique strokes towards left are thick and those towards right are thin23.

The Beneventan-Cassinese type and its pen

  • 24 See Lowe 1980, I, p. 127-128.

10According to Elias Avery Lowe who was writing in 1914, «the peculiar look of a page of developed Beneventan is also, and to a large extent, due to the manner in which the Beneventan scribe manages his pen, in other words, to his technique»24. This was the first explanation given for the peculiar aspect of the Beneventan-Cassinese script.

  • 25 Boussard 1951, p. 241: [les écritures cassiniennes et gothiques] «ne peuvent s’expliquer par une s (...)
  • 26 See Schiaparelli 1929.

11But as early as in 1951, Jacques Boussard pointed out that the Cassinese and Gothic scripts, i.e. the so-called «broken scripts», «»could not be explained through a simple change of the way of writing made by the copyists: it was the writing instrument that changed and not the way in which it was employed»25. The Cassinese pen, which is a left-cut pen, is actually an autonomous and isolated precedent of the gothic pen26.

  • 27 See Newton 1999, p. 121.

12More recently Francis Newton, author of the most important study dedicated to the Beneventan script, agreed with Boussard and wrote: «As Boussard has shown, the tool that made the style technically possible was the ‘plume biseautée à gauche’, and specifically, a left-cut pen»27.

  • 28 No mention of the type of pen employed for the Cassinese type is made by Cherubini-Pratesi 2010, p (...)
  • 29 It is worth recalling what already J. Boussard noticed about the traditionalism and the foreign in (...)

13Nonetheless the reasons that led to a new writing instrument shape did not receive yet a proper explanation from a historical, cultural or technical point of view28. Considering the conservative attitude dominating the processes of technical transmissions in medieval scriptoria, and considering also that the change of the pen cannot be explained as a simple and unmotivated choice of the copyists29, it seems possible to hypothesize a contact between different writing traditions as a stimulus of this change in Monte Cassino at the beginning of the 2nd millennium CE.

  • 30 The transition between the brush and the pen realized by Chinese copyist at Dunhuang is also an im (...)

14The choice of a writing instrument, or the change of its shape – as in this case – can be determined by cultural changes or reflect them. A non-Western example is the rigid pen employed in Dunhuang (Central Asia): the use of the pen instead of a brush of bristles which were easy to get from rabbits, foxes and others local animals, has been considered to reflect a cultural influence  – possibly of Tibetan origin30.

  • 31 Rosenfeld 2008, p. 178 and p. 193.

15And it seems worth to recall here what Randall Rosenfeld wrote about the late-medieval western travelers’ knowledge and perception of non-Western script and book materials: «[…] the tools, techniques, and products of the Western scribe were physically available in the travelers’ luggage as they were conceptually present in their minds for ready comparison with their non-Western equivalents» and he adds: «None of the authors used for this study note that they collected foreign scribal tools as curios, or for their own scribal use, but it is known from elsewhere that this was done by some individuals […]»31.

Chronology

16It seems relevant to consider at this point the chronology of the transition from the Beneventan to the Cassinese script, corresponding to the adoption of the left-cut type of pen, and to the appearance of the broken script written with it.

  • 32 See Lowe 1929, II, tav. LVI.

17Elias Lowe saw this transition in the manuscript Monte Cassino 759, which is an Octateuchus datable between 976 and 1025, which most likely dates from the beginning of the 11th century32.

  • 33 See Cavallo 1970, p. 349-350. In turn, Francis Newton pointed out that the subscription of the man (...)

18Guglielmo Cavallo slightly disagreed, but also dated the transition from the Beneventan to the Cassinese script to the first decade of the new millennium33.

19According to Francis Newton the

  • 34 See Newton 1999, p. 32.

breaking was a feature of the book hand at Monte Cassino from an early time. By the opening of the eleventh century, Cassinese scribes were consciously exploiting the contrast of thick and thin strokes which creates so striking an impression on the page. For the finest achievement of the first one-third of the century, let us consider Monte Cassino 73, Gregory’s Moralia. This manuscript is rather precisely dated. It contains a dedication miniature that depicts Abbot Theobald presenting his book to St. Benedict, and has therefore been assigned to the period 1022-103534.

20And Newton adds: «But in reality we can narrow down these dates. […] MC 73 must date within, at the most, eight years of his accession as abbot» – that is between 1022 and 1030.

21Considering that, we find «the Cassinese style at its height» in the manuscript MC 73, it can be assumed that the adoption of the left-cut pen (which made this style possible) pre-dated it by some years at least – possibly before Theobald’s time. And I note here that both Theobald (1011-1022) and his predecessor John III (997-1010) had travelled to the Muslim East.

Mount Sinai at the time of John III (997-1010)

  • 35 See Nasrallah-Haddad 1987, p. 13-14; Weitzmann 1973, p. 6.
  • 36 See Brown 2018. On the other hand, Monte Cassino abbey itself is a centre of polyglot culture, I w (...)
  • 37 See K. Weitzmann 1973, p. 10; Lafontaine-Dosogne 1996.

22At St. Catherine there were many monks who had to be more fluent in Arabic than in Greek, as they came from regions under Muslim control, like Syria and Egypt35. Indeed, the monastery was, and still is, a symbol of polyglot coexistence36, where Greek, Arabic, Syriac, Georgian, Slavic and – of course – Beneventan monks met and worked together37.

  • 38 For the Slavic manuscripts produced at St Catherine, among which there is also a codex containing (...)

23The case of a manuscript written at St Catherine, in Glagolitic script, containing the Italo-Greek liturgy of St. Peter’s – composed or revised by Nilus of Rossano during his stay at Valleluce – as well as a biography of the Cassinese abbot Aligern (d. 986) (Vita Aligerni) shows the interconnection between the different cultures and languages that was taking place in the Sinaitic monastery, and strengthens the link between St. Catherine and Monte Cassino38.

  • 39 Brown 2018, p. 91.

24Moreover recent research carried out by the palaeographer Michelle Brown brought to light, amongst unpublished material in the library of St. Catherine, «clumsy copies of early Western scripts, such as Visigothic, Beneventan (my italics), Luxeuil, and Caroline minuscule; and these may represent attempts by Sinai scribes to copy the scripts of imported Western manuscripts or the hands of foreign scribes they had met»39.

  • 40 See Aceto 1992.
  • 41 Schiaparelli 1929, p. 19: «È inoltre troppo evidente che uno scrittore straniero sentisse, in un c (...)

25These attempts to reproduce Western scripts are interesting, because they attest of a Western influence on Eastern scribes. This suggests that an Eastern influence, of visual and technical nature, might, in its turn, have affected Western copyists – Cassinese monks – working/writing at St. Catherine40. As Schiaparelli wrote: it «is more than obvious that, in a Beneventan centre of copy, a foreign copyist would have felt its influence, and that a Beneventan scribe, when outside of his own region, would have felt the influence of the place where he was»41.

Kálamos/Qalam/Calamus

  • 42 It seems important to recall here the fact that one of the merits of al-Khia is to quote more an (...)
  • 43 See Bianquis 1993.
  • 44 Khouri 1981, p. 125.
  • 45 On Muḥammad b. ‘Alī b. al-Ḥasan b. ‘Abd Allāh b. Muqla, see Brockelmann 1937; Grohmann 1967, p. 17 (...)

26The traditional writing instrument employed in the Arabic lands was a reed pen (Ar. qalam). Describing the Royal Library in Cairo (khizānat al-kutub), the historian al-Maqrīzī (766-845/1365-1441) cites, in his al-Khia (The Districts)42, the Fatimid chronicler al-Musabbiḥī (366-420/977-1029)43. Al-Musabbiḥī recalled to have found in the Royal Library in Cairo boxes full of reed-pen cut by Ibn Muqla44. Ibn Muqla (272-328 AH/AD 886-940)45, who was a minister of the ‘Abbasid caliphs, is famous for having developed a system of proportioned script (Ar. al-khaṭṭ al-mansūb).

  • 46 See Piemontese 2007; George 2010, p. 95-114 and fig. 4, p. 49. George does not cite Piemontese in (...)
  • 47 See Torki 1932, p. 243-244. For the edition of the text, see Nāǧī 1991, p. 113-126. Nāǧī edited th (...)
  • 48 Nāǧī 1991, p. 118: wa-ammā al-qaṭṭa fa-aḥmaduhā mā kāna ḏā sinn murtafi‘ min al-ǧiha al-yamanī irt (...)

27His system was based on two geometrical elements, the point and the circumference, the point is traditionally represented with a lozenge shape – that is being made with a left-cut pen46. This is not a surprise as, in the chapter about the pen (bāb al-qalam) of a text attributed to Ibn Muqla and entitled «»Treatise on the script and the style» (Risāla fī ‘ilm al-khaṭṭ wa-l-qalam)47, there is written: «»as for the point of the pen, the most appreciated one is that with the right side taller than the left side, when you write»48. This left-cut pen naturally evokes the one that allowed the appearance of the Beneventan-Cassinese script.

  • 49 «The writing instrument used by the first Qur’anic scribes was the reed. […] In Hijazi, the head o (...)
  • 50 See Maniaci 2015, p. 77.
  • 51 «»In the Muslim East the point was usually cut either straight […] or at an angle, obliquely […]. (...)

28In addition to textual sources, it is also important to study the manuscripts themselves. From a codicological point of view, the most ancient Qur’ān manuscripts reveal a gradual evolution of the shape of the writing instrument: the pen with a horizontal point, of the beginning (Ist century AH/AD 7th-8th century), slowly became a left-cut pen (2nd-3rd century AH/AD 8th-9th century)49. Despite the fact that it is not easy to determine the shape of a specific writing instrument in connection with a specific graphic type50, it is generally accepted that a left-cut reed pen was in use in the Arabic lands51 from the 9th century onwards.

  • 52 For two examples of bilingual papyri, in Arabic and Coptic, written in Egypt during the 9th-10th c (...)
  • 53 In a private email to me (26 February 2016), Francis Newton commented a tenth-century Qur’an speci (...)
  • 54 The different nature of the writing instrument, a reed for the Arabic qalam and a quill for the La (...)
  • 55 Until that time the Beneventan script was «»round and fluent, almost without contrast» («rotondo e (...)

29Therefore the monk John probably was aware of a left-cut type of pen that was widely employed in the Arab East52. John also likely became acquainted with the look – if not with the meaning – of Arabic manuscripts produced in St. Catherine and circulating in the Eastern part of the Muslim lands53. Back in Monte Cassino, and being at the head of the abbey as its new abbot, it is possible that John introduced a new cut for their writing instruments (a quill)54. Such a new technical element, applied to the Beneventan style already in use55, would have contributed to the birth of the Cassinese type.

  • 56 Beit-Arié 1992, p. 52.
  • 57 See Déroche 1994, p. 81. On the contacts between Latin and Arabic script in the fragment Vat. Lat. (...)
  • 58 See Von Falkenhausen-Johns 2011. Islamic influences in Sicily «were accepted or even welcomed» in (...)

30As written by Malachi Beit-Arié: «The salient difference between the Hebrew scripts of the Islamic zone and those of the Christian zone of the Latin West is basically shaped by the employment of different writing instruments»56. In the Arab world too, it is a pointed pen, which was already in use in the Iberian Peninsula before the Muslim conquest, that contributed in a decisive way to the birth of the Maghribī type57. A pen, with a sharp point, was also used in Sicily, an island where Arabic and Western cultures met, to write in both alphabets58. The fact that – in Sicily – a same instrument was used by scribe(s) of different languages and graphic traditions, confirms that that techniques were shared in contexts of osmosis, such as St. Catherine.

  • 59 Gabrieli 1965, p. 26-27: «per l’Italia meridionale longobarda e greca con continue infiltrazioni a (...)

31As a conclusion, I wish to quote the Arabist Francesco Gabrieli: «with continuous Arab infiltrations, people, things and ideas, spiritual and material goods, were passing in the Langobardic and Greek regions – and this constitutes the record of the exchanges between the Christian West and the Muslim East»59.

32It is not excluded that the left-cut pen might be one of the elements of this exchange.

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Notes

1 Leo Ostiensis 1980, p. 206.

2 Manso was more imposed than elected as abbot of Montecassino and his accession to the head of the abbey is considered to be happened at some point between November 985 and May 986 then he remained abbot until 996; see Beolchini 2007, p. 154-155. Considering that the monk John was elected abbot in 996, and considering also the span of time to get to Jerusalem, it means that his stay on Mount Sinai might be dated between 987/8 and 993/4 and he returned to Montecassino around 995, that is one year before his election as abbot.

3 Scare Beckett 2008, p. 45.

4 An Anglo-Saxon nun called Hygeburg, who had moved to Heidenheim, composed the story of his life and travels: the Vita Willibaldi, see Scare Beckett 2008, p. 44-68. See also in this volume the contribution by Ritter.

5 See Davids 1996, p. 82.

6 Hoffman 2001, p. 17. On the transfer and re-use of Middle Eastern objects in Europe, see Contadini 2010. On the circulation of books and documents, see Drucker 2014.

7 For another contribution on the shared Mediterranean taste in a later period, see Contadini 2013.

8 See Cherubini 2000. I am soon publishing a study of the Oriental glosses (in Arabic and Hebrew script) in which I will illustrate the contents and the script employed for these glosses, see D’Ottone Rambach 2018. For the Latin marginalia, see Cherubini 2012. Probably the Spanish Bible of Cava, with its blue parchment folios and its ruling executed with a dry-point, might offer a good comparison – and possibly a solution – for some of the material characteristics of the famous Blue Koran that are still puzzling the scholars, see D’Ottone Rambach 2017.

9 The codex travelled afterwards from Egypt to England and finally to New York, where it is currently kept at the J. P. Morgan Library: New York, Morgan Library, M. 638; see Weiss 1999.

10 See Elba 2009.

11 Ibid.

12 See infra.

13 «Dall’essenza stessa dell’Islam, il Libro sacro della Rivelazione, trasmigra infatti nei manoscritti italogreci un particolare sistema di coreografia della pagina […]. Esemplare è il confronto proposto da André Grabar tra la decorazione del Vaticano Chigiano R IV 18, contenente testi di Giovanni Damasceno e prodotto in area meridionale agli inizi dell’XI secolo, e quella di Corani di area maghrebina del IX-X secolo»: Orofino 2007, p. 282. An early Islamic influence, coming from the Syro-Jordanian area of Umayyad times, has been detected in the Langobardic art – especially the stuccos – in the decoration of the church of St. Mary in Valley in Cividale del Friuli: see Arslan 1996.

14 See Déroche 2009, p. 98.

15 See Falco, 1929, p. 528-529; Braga-Pirone-Scarcia Amoretti 2002.

16 See Gabrieli-Scerrato 1979, p. 110; Stasolla 1988; Berto 2001; Berto 2007; Marazzi 2015. Last but not least Di Branco-Matullo-Wolf 2014 that throws new light on the Arab-Muslim presence in Southern Italy.

17 I like, however, to recall the Bologna coin hoard, containing 5 Beneventan gold coins, 23 Byzantine gold coins and 11 dīnār (gold coins) dating back to the years 769 and 813, attesting the mixed culture of the area in that time, see Oman 1971, p. 283. It seems also interesting to remind a later hoard found in 1898 at Monte Cassino, including a brooch (fibula) and 29 Norman gold coins with Arabic or pseudo-Arabic legends following the model of the Fatimid quarter of dinar, see Travaini 1986. The imitations of Arabic coins minted in Salerno and Amalfi since the 10th century reproduced Fatimid types circulating in Muslim Sicily. The alterations in the legends of these imitations attest the attempts made by the South Italian dye engravers to cope with the Arabic legends of the prototypes they were imitating. For an analysis of the legend of some imitative coins found in San Salvatore de Drapperia (Salerno) and dating back to the 11th century, see Giovino 2013. For an overview of San Salvatore hoard, see Peduto 2013.

18 Newton 1999, p. 5.

19 The mundane conduct of Manso and his way of managing the Abbey made also Nilus the Younger and his monastic community to leave – in 994 – San Michele di Vallelucio, a place where they were hosted since the time of the Abbot Aligern, see Follieri 1979, I, p. 215-216.

20 The election of Manso as abbot of Monte Cassino pushed a number of monks to leave the abbey, not only John but also Theobald and others whose names were not recorded: Iohannes Beneventanus, qui postmodum Abbas exitit, unus fuit; alter vero Theobaldus nichilominus postmodum Abbas affectus […] nec non et quinque alii quorum nomina non recoluntur, quibus omnibus tres priores Ierusolimam profecti sunt, Leo Ostiensis 1980, p. 190.

21 A large bibliography on the Beneventan script is available online on the site Bibliografia dei manoscritti in scrittura beneventana: edu.let.unica.it/bmb/. For the Beneventan-Cassinese type, see Newton 1999, with bibliography.

22 Signorini 2009, p. 4.

23 See Battelli 1949, p. 128.

24 See Lowe 1980, I, p. 127-128.

25 Boussard 1951, p. 241: [les écritures cassiniennes et gothiques] «ne peuvent s’expliquer par une simple modification des habitudes de main des scribes; c’est l’instrument qui a varié et non la façon de s’en servir».

26 See Schiaparelli 1929.

27 See Newton 1999, p. 121.

28 No mention of the type of pen employed for the Cassinese type is made by Cherubini-Pratesi 2010, p. 309-314 – who notice, however, the striking similarity between the Barese type of Beneventan script and the Greek minuscule known as Perlschrift, possibly linked to the use of a specific rigid and pointed pen: «In effetti, se da una parte non si hanno prove certe dell’uso da parte degli scribe latini di un calamo rigido e a punta sottile (invece della penna di volatile) sul tipo di quello contemporaneamente impiegato dagli scribe greci, è innegabile una marcata affinità della barese con la coeva minuscula libraria bizantina, non solo e non tanto quella dell’XI secolo né necessariamente d’ambito italo-greco, quanto piuttosto della piccolo scrittura ‘a perle’ usata nel secolo precedente (Perlschrift) anche in zone più centrali dell’impero d’Oriente […]» (ibid., p. 315).

29 It is worth recalling what already J. Boussard noticed about the traditionalism and the foreign influences on the instrument of writing: «Si l’on songe à la force de la tradition dans ce domaine des techniques dans lequel l’ouvrier cherche en général fort peu à modifier l’instrument qui lui est transmis par ses maîtres, on comprendra aisément que des scribes étrangers, immigrés dans un scriptorium de leur pays d’adoption, aient pu conserver et transmettre les méthodes de leur pays d’origine et les généraliser grâce à l’apport d’instruments inconnus avant eux beaucoup plus facilement que s’il s’agissait d’un simple tour de main»: Boussard, 1951, p. 244. Clearly also an emigrant scribe, like the monk John was at St. Catherine, could have become acquainted with a technique of pen-cutting that, once back in his abbey, with the influential role of abbot, might have introduced.

30 The transition between the brush and the pen realized by Chinese copyist at Dunhuang is also an important detail for dating manuscripts: «anything written with a stylus dates after the beginning of the Tibetan period (786); anything written with a brush must have been produced before that», Galambos 2012, p. 74-75. For the complex cross-cultural relationship, cultural exchanges and adaptation of foreign artistic and religious ideas within China’s borders, see Juliano-Lerner 2001.

31 Rosenfeld 2008, p. 178 and p. 193.

32 See Lowe 1929, II, tav. LVI.

33 See Cavallo 1970, p. 349-350. In turn, Francis Newton pointed out that the subscription of the manuscript MC 148 does not give «an abbot’s name or any other reference to Monte Cassino«» and therefore it was not produced there, nor was the manuscript MC 759, see Newton 1999 p. 34, n. 31, p. 310 and p. 405, 408, 409.

34 See Newton 1999, p. 32.

35 See Nasrallah-Haddad 1987, p. 13-14; Weitzmann 1973, p. 6.

36 See Brown 2018. On the other hand, Monte Cassino abbey itself is a centre of polyglot culture, I will limit myself here to mention among the monks the presence of Constantine the African (d. before 1098/99), first translator of the medical Arabic literature in Latin. On Constantine the African, see Von Falkenhausen 1984. On the impact of Constantine the African on medical knowledge in the Beneventan area a congress has been recently convened: The Before/After Constantinus Africanus. Medicine in the Beneventan Zone and Beyond, International Congress (Kalamazoo, 12-15 May 2016). An Arabic influence has also been hypothesized for the names of neums in the Cassinese manuscript Cas. 318 – a collection of texts on the theory of music that is a source for entire Middle Ages, see Wagner 1912. Moreover, one can also mention the presence in the library of Monte Cassino of at least one codex in Arabic alphabet and Turkish language. Despite the fact that this codex is relatively recent (976 AH/AD 1761), it is interesting to point out its manuscript notes that attest its arrival at the abbey on September 11, 1753 – brought by two Basilian monks from Aleppo and Damascus. This note is followed by the mention of the visit of a Syriac monk, see Caravita 1869-1870.

37 See K. Weitzmann 1973, p. 10; Lafontaine-Dosogne 1996.

38 For the Slavic manuscripts produced at St Catherine, among which there is also a codex containing the Vita Aligerni see, as exposed by H. Miklas during the Vienna Conference (unpublished contribution, entitled The Earliest Journeys of Slavic Monks to the Sinai).

39 Brown 2018, p. 91.

40 See Aceto 1992.

41 Schiaparelli 1929, p. 19: «È inoltre troppo evidente che uno scrittore straniero sentisse, in un centro di scrittura beneventana, l’influenza di questa; come uno scriba beneventano fuori del suo territorio subisse quella del luogo in cui si trovava».

42 It seems important to recall here the fact that one of the merits of al-Khia is to quote more ancient sources, see Walker 2002, p. 166.

43 See Bianquis 1993.

44 Khouri 1981, p. 125.

45 On Muḥammad b. ‘Alī b. al-Ḥasan b. ‘Abd Allāh b. Muqla, see Brockelmann 1937; Grohmann 1967, p. 17-18; Sourdel 1986; Nāǧī 1991, p. 28-33; Tabbaa 2001, p. 34-44.

46 See Piemontese 2007; George 2010, p. 95-114 and fig. 4, p. 49. George does not cite Piemontese in his bibliography, so he must have autonomously found the sources and shared the thoughts of the Italian scholar.

47 See Torki 1932, p. 243-244. For the edition of the text, see Nāǧī 1991, p. 113-126. Nāǧī edited the text of the Risāla on the basis of three manuscripts: Tunis, al-Maktaba al-waṭaniyya, Maktabat al-‘aṭṭārīn 672 – undated copy that the editor considered to be the most ancient one; Cairo, Dār al-kutub al-miṣriyya, 14 – manuscript dated Shawwāl 1074 AH/AD April 1664 copied by Muḥammad al-Munāwahilī al-Shāfi‘ī; Cairo, Dār al-kutub al-miṣriyya, al-Maktaba al-taymūriyya, 18 – lacking of the date, this is the most recent manuscript copied from the previous one. The contemporary calligrapher Hassan Massoudi consulted the copy of Ibn Muqla’s Treatise – that reproduces in his book (p. 40-41) – in the Cairo National Library (Dār al-kutub al-miriyya) and writes: «Ce précis contient dix pages qui sont un condensé de ses théories. Il donne de nombreux conseils quant à l’encre à utiliser et à la taille du roseau. Sur ce dernier point, il recommande que la partie droite du bec soit un peu plus haute que celle de gauche. Il taillait donc son roseau en biais», Massoudi 1981, p. 38. However, Adam Gacek pointed out that: «to him [i.e. Ibn Muqla] is attributed a short treatise on calligraphy. This text has been used by many specialists as the basis for their arguments, despite the fact that this attribution to Ibn Muqlah has never been effectively authenticated», Gacek 2009, p. 128-129.

48 Nāǧī 1991, p. 118: wa-ammā al-qaṭṭa fa-aḥmaduhā mā kāna ḏā sinn murtafi‘ min al-ǧiha al-yamanī irtifā‘an qalīlan ida kāna makbūban. See also the PhD thesis by Rayef 1974, quoted and illustrated in Déroche-Sagaria Rossi 2012, p. 73 and fig. 18. About the Arabic reed pen (qalam) Adolph Grohmann wrote: «The best is the oblique one with a midium (sic) slant. The qalam which is nibbed obliquely produces a weaker and more elegant handwriting […]», Grohmann 1952, p. 65. For the illustrations of the reed left-cut pen, see Grohmann 1967, p. 120; Déroche-Sagaria Rossi 2012, p. 73.

49 «The writing instrument used by the first Qur’anic scribes was the reed. […] In Hijazi, the head of the vertical letters fluctuates between a […] horizontal shape and a slight slope to the left, often within a same manuscript. […] This means that the nib made contact with the page at a slightly left-facing angle. The same tendency was amplified in Kufic, where the letter heads have an angle of 30 to above 45o to the line, while the horizontal and vertical strokes are of approximately equal width. This gradual transformation of scribal technique was probably accompanied by an evolution of the nib cut from horizontal or right oblique cut to left-oblique. […] In sum, […] Arabic scribes adopted and developed their own type of pen […]», George 2010, p. 49-51.

50 See Maniaci 2015, p. 77.

51 «»In the Muslim East the point was usually cut either straight […] or at an angle, obliquely […]. The effect of writing with an obliquely cut nib was the appearance of thinner strokes (farakāt) at angles, as well as thinner shafts (muntaabāt) of such letters as the alif and the lām», Gacek 2009, p. 41. On the contrary in the Western regions of the Arab lands a pointed pen was in use and the script has a quite different look, lacking the succession of thick and thin strokes given by the left-cut pen, see ultra. On the other hand, despite the chronological distance, it seems worth recalling here the description of the pen (qalam) employed in West Africa – Timbuktu and the surrounding regions of Mali: «Le calame, outil principal du copiste, est un tube de roseau avec un bec fendu à l’image de la plume de fer classique. [...] Le calame est fendu au milieu puis coupé à un angle de coupe qui va généralement de 40 à 60o», Moumouni 2007, p. 58.

52 For two examples of bilingual papyri, in Arabic and Coptic, written in Egypt during the 9th-10th century AD for which a same pen and a same ink were employed for writing the texts in the two languages, see Delattre et al. 2012, p. 174.

53 In a private email to me (26 February 2016), Francis Newton commented a tenth-century Qur’an specimen and noted: «Your specimen is striking indeed.  It is not only the extreme contrast between thick and thin; it is also the diamond-shaped characters that remind one of diamond-shaped “o” and other letters with a sharp point at the base line and the head line, characteristic of the fully-developed Beneventan at Monte Cassino by the end of the 11th century. This is an aesthetic that is definitely worth pondering in considering the developments at that abbey».

54 The different nature of the writing instrument, a reed for the Arabic qalam and a quill for the Latin pen, should not be considered as an element that prevents the execution of a cut, as the pointed reed qalam employed in the Western part of the Arab world – in its turn influenced by the Latin pointed pen used for writing the Visigothic script – seems to confirm, see ultra.

55 Until that time the Beneventan script was «»round and fluent, almost without contrast» («rotondo e fluente, quasi del tutto privo di contrasto»), see Cavallo 1970.

56 Beit-Arié 1992, p. 52.

57 See Déroche 1994, p. 81. On the contacts between Latin and Arabic script in the fragment Vat. Lat. 12900, see D’Ottone 2012.

58 See Von Falkenhausen-Johns 2011. Islamic influences in Sicily «were accepted or even welcomed» in 12th-century Sicily also for coin production, see Metcalf 1996, p. 174. On the reciprocal cultural interactions between Greek, Latin, Arab and Hebrew in Southern Italy reflected in the Italo-Greek manuscript production, see Lucà 2015, p. 297-298. Despite the fact that the history of the Mediterranean region in the Middle Ages is nowadays a concept widely accepted by the international scientific community – see König 2015, p. 480-483 – and that reciprocal influences in the manuscript productions of various Mediterranean cultures are more and more a clear evidence, the palaeographical and codicological research is far from being a common one. On the need of a «Mediterranean Palaeography» – if not of a «World Palaeography», following the path already indicated by Sh. Pollock for the frontiers of Philology, see Pollock 2015 – I dedicated a conference entitled: «Arabic Palaeography: Mediterranean Contacts and Influences» given at the Medieval Manuscripts Seminar, School of Advanced Study, University of London on February 7, 2017.

59 Gabrieli 1965, p. 26-27: «per l’Italia meridionale longobarda e greca con continue infiltrazioni arabe, passavano persone e cose e idee, beni materiali e spirituali, che costituiscono il bilancio del dare e dell’avere tra l’Occidente cristiano e l’Oriente musulmano».

Auteur

Sapienza University of Rome, arianna.dottone@uniroma1.it

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