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Skįldskaparmįl

						184                                            Arni Einarsson
the main feature of the house is the richly decorated central dome supported by
the twenty pillars.
Important variants of the description of the Holm perg 4 4to manuscript occur
in other manuscripts.
The Symbols
Saint Olaf's "dream house" was obviously no ordinary building. The elaborate
description of the house, its geometry, and the careful use of names and numbers
without any obvious reason give the impression of an allegory. The use of allegory
in the interpretation of the dream demonstrates that the author was a master in
the art. In this chapter potential symbols associated with the building are studied
in the hope that they might convey a message as to an underlying meaning of the
house as a whole.12 The possibility that the house is allegorical will be easier to
grasp at the end of this paper when an attempt has been made to unveil the
underlying meaning. The decoration of the dome will be used as a starting point.
It depicts the Christianized version of the Platonic or Ptolemaic cosmology.13 The
highly stylized graphical representation of this cosmology, commonly expressed
in medieval times, has the earth at the centre, surrounded by the other three
elements: water, air and fire, then the seven spheres of the heavenly bodies, i.e.
the sun, moon and the planets, and finally the firmament. This scheme was
known in 14th-century Iceland. The regions above the spheres were inhabited
by the nine orders of angels and the Holy Trinity. The universe of the dream house
is theocentric: it is turned inside out so that God and the heavens have a central
position and the earth is placed at the periphery.15
The decoration of the dome immediately places the house in a cosmological
context and the discussion of potential symbols that follows will be based on that
premise.
Starting at the four doors one might assume that they represented the cardinal
directions, north, south, east and west. Alternatively they may be oriented to the
intermediate directions, SW, NW, NE and SE, with the result that the quarters
of the house faced the cardinal directions.
The twenty pillars supporting the dome can not easily be interpreted in
12  In this paper the term "allegory" is used as defined by Barney (1982): "A narrative whose
elements mean something other than what the narrative obviously narrates, and the narrative
encourages interpretation in order to uncover what that other may be." Cf. Dronke (1985).
13  The Platonic and Ptolemaic systems differ in the order of the luminaries closest to earth. Plato
(in Timaeus 38) placed Mercury and Venus above the Sun (see Stahl 1990 in his edition of
Macrobius Commentary on the Dream ofScipio, p. 162, footnote 1).
14  Cf. the lcelandic manuscripts AM 732b 4to (beginning of l4th cent.), AM 736 III 4to (c.
1400), AM 415 4to (beg. l4th cent.) and AM 736 I 4to (I4th cent.). See Simek (1990, pp.
412-418).
15   For the theocentric universe see e.g. Boéthius Consolation ofPhilosophyA. Prose 6.
					
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