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La mémoire d’Ambroise de Milan

Patrick Boucheron
Stéphane Gioanni


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1Silvia Lusuardi Siena, Elisabetta Neri, Paola Greppi

2The churches of Ambrose and Milan: Topography and architectonical evolution. An archaeological point of view

3The paper describes the topography in which Ambrose operated, as well as the interventions and projects with which he re-semanticised the imperial city. Despite the fragmented picture offered by the Christian topography of Milan, the pre-Ambrosian churches and those attributed to the patronage of the bishop are compared. In particular, the problematic architectural evolution of the Ambrosian churches is analysed: the interventions within the Episcopal complex, St. Nazarius, St. Simplician, St. Ambrose and St. Denis.

4The problematic, and sometimes conflicting, points of view on the origin and transformation of these buildings are highlighted and discussed critically, in the light of new archaeological surveys and of the latest research. The picture briefly traced reinforces the hypothesis that Ambrose carried out an urban and architectural project for the city and transformed Milan into a Christian capital, building monuments that were inevitably juxtaposed with those of the imperial city.

5Simone Piazza

6The Ambrose’s face. The success of late antique model and some early medieval variations

7The object of the present contribution is the tradition of portraiture of Ambrose during the Middle Ages and beyond, until the time of the cardinal Carlo Borromeo, through the examination of relevant figurative evidence. Such a research has highlighted the persistence of the early Christian prototype of a middle-aged man with brown beard and mustache (mosaic of the chapel of San Vittore in Ciel d’Oro in Milan, V cent.), both in the basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan (stucco ciborium, X cent.; polychrome medallion, XII-XIII cent.) and elsewhere (Egino codex, VIII cent.; apse of a church of Occiano, near Salerno, IX cent.). In the Carolingian age, beside the persistent model of Late Antiquity, two other physiognomic types appear: a young and beardless man (golden altar of Vuolvinius, IX cent.; Psalter of the Archbishop Arnulf II, X-XI cent.; Gospels of Archbishop Aribert II, treasure of the Cathedral, XI cent.) and an old one with grey beard and hair (apse mosaic of St. Ambrose, IX cent.). This variant is widespread in the Byzantine area (Menology of Basil II, X cent.; Cappella Palatina in Palermo and cathedral of Monreale, XII cent.) and it becomes prevalent in the West since the fifteenth century.

8Vivien Prigent

9A lead seal with saint Ambrose’s effigy

10This short note aims to provide a complement to the iconographic dossier of Ambrose by offering the edition of a lead seal displaying an image of the saint. The artefact, tentatively dated to the 8th century, offers an early testimony of the peculiar “Carolingian” iconography of Saint Ambrose. Parallels drawn from the sigillographic iconography of Saint Augustine lead toward a hypothesis explaining the appearance of the Carolingian portrayal of the Milanese patron saint.

11Guido Cariboni

12The iconography of Saint Ambrose in the early development of the Visconti’s signoria

13The iconography of Saint Ambrose underwent a significant and progressive change during the fourteenth century. Although examples from the first half of the eleventh century already granted warlike traits to images of Ambrose, the traditional iconographic representation was usually that of a simple bishop—with pallium and pastoral—giving blessing. The iconography for depictions of Ambrose changed from the fourth decade of the fourteenth century. Artists increasingly portrayed this father of the Church with a scourge in his right hand, often astride a white horse, intent on striking and defeating the enemies of the city. No longer a bishop busy with pastoral activities, Ambrose became a militant bishop holding political dominion over Milan in his hand as much the city’s spiritual care. In this newly depicted role, he was like the prelates of the Visconti clan, the archbishop Otto and, in particular, his nephew John, archbishop and lord.

14Annalisa Albuzzi

15The beard of Ambrose. Iconography, hagiography and propaganda in Milan at the time of the two Borromeo

16First, the author presents theoretical and methodological presuppositions: it is necessary, especially for the iconography of the post-Tridentin period, to explain sample details and encoded representations. Thus, after having studied the cultural, pastoral and ecclesiological context, the author focuses on a detail: the presence or the absence of the beard in Ambrose’s portraits realised from the episcopate of Carlo Borromeo till that of his cousin Federico. This detail is very interesting to interpret the standards, the discipline and the relations between spiritual and temporal power, as well as the construction of models of holiness.

17Camille Gerzaguet

18The “textual memory” of Ambrose in Italy: manuscripts, diffusion centres, transmission (5th-12th cent.)

19This paper intends to give a status quaestionis and some suggestions for future research about the circulation of Ambrose’s texts in medieval Italy. It deals in chronological sequence with the Ambrosian “textual memory”. From Late Antiquity to XIIth century, three periods can be distinguished: from Vth to VIIIth century, characterized by a scarse manuscript documentation, the Carolingian Renaissance and its rediscovery of Ambrose’s texts, the XIth and XIIth centuries and the building up of great collections. Annexes add a hopefully comprehensive list of ambrosian manuscripts from Vth to IXth century.

20Stéphane Gioanni

21Augustin, Paulinus, Ennodius and the origins of Ambrose’s memory (5th-6th centuries): a new foundation of Milan Church?

22This paper aims to focus on the first constructions of the Ambrose’s memory in the Milanese ecclesiological and political debates of the Early Middle Ages. The origins of this memory are closely linked to Augustine’s representations of Ambrose in the Confessiones and to the Vita Ambrosii of Paulinus of Milan which constitutes the first biography of a holy bishop in Italy. Paulinus, deacon of Milan and Ambrose’s secretary, asserts having written the life of Ambrose, at the request of Augustine of Hippo, to answer the lies spread about his memory. From the 5th century, the Ambrose’s memory separates so much that it gathers, and its memoria is ceaselessly reconstructed during the theological and political fights, well beyond the Milan Church. A new representation of Ambrose appears in the beginning of 6th century in the works of the deacon of Milan Ennodius who made up an hymnus Ambrosii and a cycle of thirteen carmina dedicated to the Milanese bishops since Ambroise. These thirteen carmina constitute a kind of poetical liber ecclesiae of Milan Church (Ambrose and his twelve successors!): this new representation of Ambrose, as the founder of a new era of Milan Church, could be considered as the origin of “the Ambrosian Church” celebrated in the second half of the 9th century.

23Claire Sotinel

24Do not remember Ambrose. The disappearance of reference to Ambrose in North Italy in the 6th century

25The paper takes into exam references to Ambrose in the Three Chapters Controversy. While Ambrose could have made a suitable patron for the cause of the defenders of the Three Chapters, his name was almost never made in the numerous texts produced at the time: seldom in the theological debates over the orthodoxy of the condemnation, never during the schism where the Church of Milan was deeply involved. Ambrose’s name was made forward by the Roman church when pope

26Gregory the Great wrote to the freshly reunited Milanese people. Asserting that any bishop of Milan should be vicarius sancti Ambrosii, Gregory designated Ambrose as the herald of Roman orthodoxy, as opposed to the claims of theological purity made by the Aquileian Church.

27Alessio Peršič

28Aquileia and Ambrose after Ambrose. The Rufinus’ defense of local “adiecta” to Symbolum and the Paulinus’hymn in honour of Sts. Peter and Paul

29Ambrose’s Nachleben in the writers of Aquileia is here shown as in a diptych: on one side, Rufinus of Aquileia in his Expositio Symboli mounts a polite but frank defence of some differences in wording and concepts of the local Creed from Roman Creed against the rejection of them that the bishop of Milan declared in his Explanatio Symboli; on the other, the Carolingian hymn writen by Paulinus of Aquileia imitates—but like in a recantation—the authoritative Ambrosian hymn in honour of Sts. Peter and Paul, in order to mitigate the pre-eminent exaltation of Peter and so to get around the hot topic of judicial supremacy at that time claimed by the Roman Pope on the secular power.

30Paolo Tomea

31Representations of Ambrose in hagiographical texts written in Italy (5th-11th cent.)

32Vita Ambrosii BHL 377d is a text composed in Milan during the IXth century. The first section of the article traces its main sources and shows the considerable discrepancy of view between the IXth-cent. author and Paulinus Mediolanensis, the first biographer of the Saint. The second section offers a census of references to St. Ambrose in hagiographical texts written in Italy and devoted to other Saints, explaining the part played by Ambrose and the significance of his figure.

33Roberto Bellini

34Fragments from Ambrose’s works in the Italian canonical collections.

35New perspectives

36The first part of this paper presents a survey of fragments taken from Ambrose’s works, contained in the Italian canonical collections composed during the age of the reform (from the second half of the XI century to the first half of the XII century). The research has revealed a substantial increase in these sources compared to the canonistic tradition of the Othonian age. The second part is concerned with the way these sources were employed in the most controversial issues of that period: the nature of the Eucharistic species, the question of the simony, the relationship between ecclesiastical and lay authority, legitimacy and limits of the Chuch in exerting a coercive power. In particular, it is possible to infer how these themes are dealt with in the light of the principle of the primacy of the roman Church, which Ambrose’s excerpts, in various ways, contribute to establish.

37Cesare Alzati

38Genesis and metamorphosis of the Ambrosian tradition

39The report has documented how early there arose, in the consciousness of the Church of Milan, the perception of itself as the guardian of the tradition—first of all magisterial—of its ancient bishop Ambrose. This fact, already indicated by the continuity in celebrating the Dies Natalis of his episcopate (December 7) even after Ambrose’s death, is confirmed by the interventions of the Milanese metropolitans Martinianus and Eusebius (the latter of Greek origin) during the debates linked to the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451), as well as by the title of vicarius Ambrosii applied by Gregory the Great to the holder of the metropolitan chair of Milan. If in the second half of the seventh century the hegemony of the Eastern ecclesiastical intellectuality in the West (which culminated in the documents of the Roman synod of 680, before the council convened in Constantinople in the same year) seems to have attenuated the vitality of rootedness in Ambrose’s teachings—as shown by the synodal texts of the metropolitan Mansuetus to emperor Constantine IV (written in the same year 680 by the Greek Damianus)—with the Carolingian age the revival of the reference to Saint Ambrose found its full expression in the definition “Ambrosian Church”, that we see in 881 used by the papal chancery too. After the Roman ecclesiastical reform of the eleventh century, the “Ambrosian” tradition of the Milanese Church—whose features previously included institutional, disciplinary, and also doctrinal aspects—assumed an almost exclusively liturgical shape. In this case we are facing a continuity of elements, some of which were already declared customary by Ambrose, while others were attested in his works, and still others represent the ritualization of late antiquity ecclesial practices. In Carolingian times this heritage underwent a strong consolidation, preserved—in its structural elements—in the following centuries. Therefore, as it is difficult to talk about a—more or less—belated “invention” of the Ambrosian tradition, so, as for its ritual aspects, we cannot but recognize a continuity of forms, orders, and texts, which refer undoubtedly to late antiquity, and not only Latin.

40Marco Petoletti

41The letters of Martino Corbo, “Ambrosiani saporis amicus”. Politics and philology in Milan during the XII century

42The correspondence between the canons of Regensburg Paul and Geberhard and Martinus Corbo, chief of St. Ambrose canons around 1130-1154, deals with philological questions in collecting the whole works of St. Ambrose and political troubles in Milan during the papal schism of 1130. This article provides critical edition and full historical commentary of five letters that Martinus ordered to be copied in the last folios of his manuscript of Ambrose’s letters, now lost. This book can be reconstructed from two direct copies made in the XIV and XV century (Vat. lat. 281 and Ambr. F 114 sup.).

43Miriam Rita Tessera

44The memory of Ambrose in Milan during the X-XI century

45After the Carolingian renewal, during the X-XI century the memory of St. Ambrose in Milan developed with the growing power of episcopal authority. Emperors, kings and queens made precious gifts to the basilica where the patron was buried, as the medieval inventories of the treasure of St. Ambrose testify. Starting from the IX century a new vocabulary was created in order to link the Milanese Church with Ambrose himself. The bishop’s palace was called domus sancti Ambrosii; the estates and revenues belonging to the Church of Milan were identified in charters as iuris domui sancti Ambrosii. Archbishop Aribert of Intimiano (1018-1045) greatly emphasized his personal relationship with Ambrose, especially when defying the political supremacy of emperor Conrad II. The basilica of St. Ambrose claimed to be the place of coronation for the kings of Italy, thus giving to the archbishop of Milan in the name of Ambrose a prominent role in his relationships with the German emperors.

46Fabrice Delivré

47Ambrose, Schism and Heresy (Eleventh-Twelfth Centuries)

48This paper deals with the uses of Ambrose’s authority in matters of schism and heresy in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The study begins by focusing on the imperial-papal strife and, in particular, on a maxim attributed to Ambrose according to which the one who disagrees with the Roman Church is to be regarded as a heretic. Another part of the work is dedicated to the role played by Ambrose in narratives of the Pataria and of the schism of Tedald (1075-1085) ended with the reconciliation of Rome and Milan in the first year of the pontificate of Urban II (1088). The last section considers a sermon by Geoffrey of Auxerre delivered after the general council of Tours (1163), during the conflict between Alexander III and Victor IV, that refers to Bernard of Clairvaux in Milan (1135) as Ambrosius redivivus, comparing the eradication of the schism of Anacletus II to the struggle against the Arian heresy.

49Paolo Grillo

50Saint Ambrose and the memory of late imperial Milan in communal Italy

51In 1171 the people of Milan rebuilds the city walls, destroyed in 1162 by emperor Fredrick Barbarossa. One of the new gates, the Porta Romana, is decorated with basreliefs celebrating the rebirth of the city after the destruction. On the Porta Romana the Milanesi put an image of st. Ambrose chasing the heretics (or the Jews) from Milan. The paper focuses over this bas-relief, normally regarded as an out of context hommage to the saint. Reading Paolino’s vita Ambrosii, we can see that both, heretics and Jews, in late Roman Empire were under emperor Teodosius’ protection: the image of Ambrose therefore celebrates the victory of the patron saint of Milan over the Empire and it is a part of a complex iconographical project, aimed to assert Milan’s freedom and rights against Fredrick Barbarossa.

52Patrick Boucheron

53Ambrosian Defenders. Memory and Political Struggles of the Fifteenth Century

54In Milan, the period between 1447 and 1450 has for a long time been referred to as the “Ambrosian republic” in the historiography, largely because of the feverish commemoration of the saint-bishop which accompanied this political mobilisation. They open a “breach in the barricades” through which another history of the memory of Ambrose can be glimpsed, one which an excessively monolithic conception of civic religion disguises: a history, indeed, of a divided memory. This capacity for collective mobilisation, containing within it an appeal to Ambrose, can be seen very clearly in the proclamations of the Capitanei found in the Registri Panigarola which have been edited by Alfio Natale. This paper have undertaken a serial analysis of these proclamations (crida et bando). This analysis bears witness to the progressive snow-balling of a discourse of a republic in danger amongst rising political tension and the emergence of new threats. Indeed, when one starts to consider the proclamations of the Capitanei as a literature of political action, the development of their vocabulary points clearly to a sacralisation of political practice—a “civil” religion rather than a “civic” religion.

55Isabelle Fabre et Marie Formarier

56The Marcantonio Flaminio’s Carmina de rebus divinis (1550): did Ambrosian lyric support the Reformation?

57As founder of Christian hymnody, Ambrose stands at the background of Marcantonio Flaminio’s Carmina de rebus divinis (1550). While relying completely on the Ambrosian metrical (iambic) pattern mediated by the medieval tradition, Flaminio’s writing moves away from this model and turns to be highly subjective. As we move on into the Carmina’s collection, a lyrical meditation unfolds and intensifies, which focuses on Christ and takes on “Lutheran” undertones. This accounts for the doctrinal ambiguity of the poems, as Flaminio was close to some Italian dissident groups. But does it make this poetry emanate from the Reform? The answer may lie with the dedicatory material and especially with the editorial shaping of the work after Flaminio’s death, which shows how Ambrose’s memory could become controversial, as it was subtly reshaped and set to a new context.

58Marie Lezowski

59Ambrose’s seal: using the Ambrosian example at the time of Carlo Borromeo

60This paper deals with the Ambrosian inspiration of Carlo Borromeo, archbishop of Milan between 1564 and 1584, who was himself an example for all bishops in Modern Times all over the Catholic World. Instead of unraveling his private and unfathomable faith to Ambrose, we study the Ambrosian model in relationship with Borromeo’s action and with a Milanese topographical description. Secondly we show that his example was only implied when Borromeo fought political authorities, such as the Spanish governors. There was only one exception during the main crisis of his episcopate, because the City of Milan sent an embassy to the Pope against him and in name of Ambrose. Finally we draw a parallel between Carlo Borromeo’s time and his cousin Federico’s and analyse the explicit reference to Ambrose against the governor as a sign of political weakening.

61Marco Navoni

62Giovanni Andrea Irico. An erudite historian from the eighteenth century re-reads Ambrose’s representation

63Giovanni Andrea Irico (1703-1782) was an erudite historian in the eighteenth century. For sixteen years (1748-1764) he worked in the Ambrosian Library, where he dedicated his researches mainly to the oldest sources of the Ambrosian liturgy. This paper first presents a polemical debate among some Milanese scholars about life and action of St. Ambrose. Also Irico took part in this debate with a very balanced position: in fact he was able to combine the historical rigor with respect to some popular traditions widespread at that time in Milan. But his most important work, yet unpublished, is a long comment to Ambrosian Missal: in it he re-reads the personality and qualities of Ambrose through the “filter” of the liturgical texts of the three feasts dedicated to the patron of Milan in the Ambrosian liturgical year.

© Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2015

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