The Prefiguratio Christi: Prefiguration in Intriot Tropes of Southern Italy

Siu-Yin Mak


The concept of typological prefiguration is based on the Christian belief that components of the Old Testament are prophecies or symbols of those events in the New Testament that constitute the main tenets of the Christian faith. Within the context of the Mass, tropes in a prefigurative function manipulate Old Testament texts used in the parts of the Mass preceding Communion, reframing them to forecast the upcoming commemoration of Jesus Christ. Most commonly, this form of prefiguration occurs in tropes of the Introit, in which both psalm and antiphon texts are derived primarily from the Old Testament.

My paper focuses on a representative sample of medieval Introit tropes from southern Italy are presented. In my analysis, I identify four primary forms of prefiguration are identified: nominal, analogical, contextual, and prophetical. Essentially, tropes may alter the original context of an antiphon in one or more of the following ways: by making a textual reference to Christ, by drawing parallelisms between Christ and the antiphon's original subject matter, by resetting and / or temporally displacing the antiphon, or by presenting the antiphon text as a quoted prophecy.

Textual examples provided throughout the discussion illustrate these different methods of prefigurative technique and the resulting relationships created retroactively between original antiphons and the subsequent Communion. The diversity of these techniques, each with their various intrinsic complexities, offers insight into the heavy role of the prefigurative function in medieval troping practices.

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