The identical synthronos Trinity: representation, ritual and power in the Spanish Americas
Storey, Ann Elizabeth
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This dissertation examines the origin and meaning of the Trinity represented as three enthroned (synthronos), identical men. Although banned by the Vatican in 1623 and 1745, it was used in the Spanish Americas until the twentieth century. This study shows that the identical, synthronos Trinity was not derived from the "Old Testament" Trinity, which, until now, has been most often posited as its source. Instead, its visual prototype was the enthronement of Roman emperors commonly represented on coins distributed throughout the Roman Empire and widely available in Medieval Europe. The function of the identical, synthronos Trinity during the Middle Ages was to combat heresies against the faith or to be used in polemics directed against Muslims, Jews and other outsiders of the Roman Catholic Church. It would eventually do the same with Native Americans. The motif's textual source was Psalm 109 and its New Testament derivations, the credo and Gloria in Excelsius Deo. It expressed in word and imagery Augustine's mystical "City of God" ruled over by the Trinity, a Christian utopian paradise believed by the conquistadors and friars to have been found in the Americas. Having the attributes of secular and ecclesiastical power, the synthronos Trinity connoted triumphal victory and world sovereignty.This study also investigates the affiliation of the synthronos Trinity with the Roman Imperial Entry (adventus) and enthronement rituals, which were adapted and used to sustain the theocracy in Medieval Europe. These ceremonies were also performed throughout the Americas after conquest. Because of the European desire to conquer and missionize Native peoples and the need for images to assist in this activity, these rituals and the image of the identical, synthronos Trinity were considered particularly appropriate for the Americas. The ultimate purpose of the image was didactic; it taught Native Americans about the scriptures, the credo and Gloria, and the dogma of the Catholic church.The goal of this study is to establish a more inclusive interpretation of the political, spiritual and social context of the Spanish conquest by understanding aspects of the theater of power expressed through the adventus ceremony and the synthronos Trinity.
- Fine arts