Columns of Time: Imagined 'Spolia' and Historical Meaning in the 'Kaiserchronik'
Cover Image of 'Interfaces,' Issue #10: Robert Hardy, 'Engel,' oil on canvas, 20 x 20 cm –


reception of antiquity

How to Cite

Pretzer, C. (2023). Columns of Time: Imagined ’Spolia’ and Historical Meaning in the ’Kaiserchronik’. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, (10), 218–245.
Received 2023-07-11
Accepted 2023-07-28
Published 2023-12-07


The Middle High German Kaiserchronik, written by an anonymous author in the middle of the twelfth century, focuses at strategic moments of its historiographical narrative on columns in the city of Rome. Drawing on critical literature relating to columns and spolia, this article presents a reading of the columns in the Kaiserchronik as markers of continuity, connected to what Mikhail Bakhtin called chronotopes: mutually semanticising combinations of space and time. In the case of the Kaiserchronik, these chronotopes are the pagan Roman past on the one hand – as a sphere of reference valued for its auctoritas, and as a source of political prestige and legitimacy – and on the other hand the Christian medieval present of the twelfth century: a sphere of reception, interested in benefitting from this prestige and legitimacy, and retrospectively confirming and constructing it in turn. The article uses the concept of allelopoiesis to describe this process as one of reciprocal transformation, and uses Bakhtin's concepts of the chronotope to illustrate the complex relationship between the shifting semantic charges of the Roman Empire. As a result, it becomes apparent how – connected through time by columns as meaningful spolia – antiquity and the Middle Ages emerge as two chronotopes: intertwined as mutually semanticising spheres that, for all their differences (above all in religion), can infuse each other with new meaning.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2023 Christoph Pretzer


Metrics Loading ...