The article aims at investigating the original features of St Michael’s iconography attested in literary and artistic works produced in the Northern Germanic countries during the Middle Ages. After a general introduction, attention focuses on a peculiar scene of Nikulás saga (St Nicholas’s Saga), composed by the Icelandic monk Bergr Sokkason (d. 1345): the saga recounts the unusual apparition to Nicholas, in a dream, of the archangel Michael on horseback. An exaustive examination of the possible sources used by Bergr (partly conducted on unpublished manuscripts) reveals, firstly, the possibility that the dream episode is the result of a contamination between the original Life of St Nicholas of Myra and another Life of a saint by the same name, who lived in Syon almost two centuries later. It follows, then, a discussion of all examples handed down to us in the field of visual arts in which St Michael is portrayed on horseback, in order to evaluate whether a model of this kind may have been used by the author of Nikulás saga, considering that in his sources the image of a riding St Michael is not present. Given these premises, it seems important to mention the existence of a 16th century Novgorod icon of St Nicholas of Zaraisk with scenes from his life, one of which depicts the archangel on horseback in front of a lying (i.e., sleeping) St Nicholas. Given the commercial links existing between the Novgorod region and the Varangians, it seems possible that such iconography, attested only in Byzantine and Slavonic areas, may have reached Scandinavia following the Varangian route.

"Sulle orme di san Michele a cavallo: la testimonianza della Nikulás saga"

RUGGERINI, MARIA ELENA
2004

Abstract

The article aims at investigating the original features of St Michael’s iconography attested in literary and artistic works produced in the Northern Germanic countries during the Middle Ages. After a general introduction, attention focuses on a peculiar scene of Nikulás saga (St Nicholas’s Saga), composed by the Icelandic monk Bergr Sokkason (d. 1345): the saga recounts the unusual apparition to Nicholas, in a dream, of the archangel Michael on horseback. An exaustive examination of the possible sources used by Bergr (partly conducted on unpublished manuscripts) reveals, firstly, the possibility that the dream episode is the result of a contamination between the original Life of St Nicholas of Myra and another Life of a saint by the same name, who lived in Syon almost two centuries later. It follows, then, a discussion of all examples handed down to us in the field of visual arts in which St Michael is portrayed on horseback, in order to evaluate whether a model of this kind may have been used by the author of Nikulás saga, considering that in his sources the image of a riding St Michael is not present. Given these premises, it seems important to mention the existence of a 16th century Novgorod icon of St Nicholas of Zaraisk with scenes from his life, one of which depicts the archangel on horseback in front of a lying (i.e., sleeping) St Nicholas. Given the commercial links existing between the Novgorod region and the Varangians, it seems possible that such iconography, attested only in Byzantine and Slavonic areas, may have reached Scandinavia following the Varangian route.
88-430-3023-X
Nikulás saga; iconografia San Michele; San Michele a cavallo
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11584/13449
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