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Africa: Divination instruments  

Doran H. Ross

The arts of divination are practised in a wide variety of African societies with a wide range of objects. An account of the divinatory process must be given before the objects themselves can be understood.

See also Africa

In most African societies where divination is practised it is a decision-making and problem-solving process rather than a fixed system of prediction. The future is not predetermined but can be influenced by human actions. Individuals or communities use divination to resolve problems ranging from the trivial to the cataclysmic: from finding a lost or stolen possession, deciding whom to marry, discovering how to cure an illness, to determining when and where to move a whole village during a drought. Moreover, in many African societies disease, otherwise unexplained deaths and other misfortunes are often attributed to neglected deities, offended ancestors or malevolent witches and sorcerers; a common goal of divination is therefore to identify the perpetrator and to divine a remedy. Solutions to the problem may range from a prescribed ritual sacrifice to execution of the identified guilty party....



Alexander Nagel

[Fr. postautel, retable; Ger. Altar, Altaraufsatz, Altarbild, Altarretabel, Altarrückwand, Retabel; It. ancona, dossale, pala (d’altare); Sp. retablo]

An image-bearing structure set on the rear part of the altar (see Altar, §II), abutting the back of the altarblock, or set behind the altar in such a way as to be visually joined with the altar when viewed from a distance. It is also sometimes called a retable, following the medieval term retrotabulum [retabulum, retrotabularium].

The altarpiece was never officially prescribed by the Church, but it did perform a prescribed function alternatively carried out by a simple inscription on the altarblock: to declare to which saint or mystery the altar was dedicated. In fact, the altarpiece did more than merely identify the altar; its form and content evoked the mystery or personage whose cult was celebrated at the altar. This original and lasting function influenced the many forms taken by the altarpiece throughout its history. Since the altarpiece was not prescribed by the Church, its form varied enormously. For this reason, it is often impossible, and historically inaccurate, to draw neat distinctions between the altarpiece and other elements occasionally associated with the altar apparatus. For example, movable statues, often of the Virgin and Child, were occasionally placed on altars according to ritual needs, and at those times fulfilled the function of the altarpiece....


Ambrosian Bible  

Sarit Shalev-Eyni

Thirteenth-century Ashkenazi illuminated Bible (Milan, Ambrosiana, MSS. B.30–32 INF). One of the earliest illuminated Hebrew manuscripts originating in Germany, it is a giant manuscript in three volumes, containing the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible. As attested by a colophon at the end of the first volume, the Bible was commissioned by Joseph ben Moses from Ulmana, possibly referring to Ulm in Swabia or to Nieder-Olm in the Rhineland. The Bible was copied by Jacob ben Samuel and was massorated and vocalized by Joseph ben Kalonymus in collaboration with another masorete. The first part was completed between 1236 and 1238. The three volumes were illuminated by two artists, whose style is related to the 13th-century school of Würzburg. Illustrations with biblical scenes are located mainly within the initial word panels of the various biblical books, or at their end. Some of the illustrations carry a messianic or eschatological meaning. A broad cosmological composition occupies an opening at the end of the third volume, suggesting an impressive climax for the entire Bible. The full page miniature on the right illustrates the seven heavens, accompanied by the four animals of Ezekiel’s vision and the luminaries (fol. 135...



John N. Lupia

Type of ewer, usually of metal, used for the washing of hands in a liturgical or domestic context. It is often zoomorphic in form and usually has two openings, one for filling with water and the other for pouring. In their original usage aquamanilia expressed the symbolic significance of the lavabo, the ritual washing of the hands by the priest before vesting, before the consecration of the Eucharist and after mass. The earliest production of aquamanilia is associated with Mosan art of the Meuse Valley in northern France, and with Lower Saxony in north-east Germany. The majority of surviving examples are made of a variety of bronze that resembles gold when polished, while nearly all those made of precious metals are known only from church inventories.

Church documents refer to aquamanilia as early as the 5th century, when canon regulations stipulated that on ordination the subdeacon should receive such a vessel. Various documents from the 5th century to the beginning of the 11th sometimes use the term to denote both the ewer and its basin. Sometime after the beginning of the 11th century the term became transferred to a type of vessel, usually in the shape of an animal (e.g. lion, stag, horse; ...





Annabel Jane Wharton

Building used for the rite of baptism into the Christian Church. In late antiquity the term baptisterium or baptisterion (Lat. baptizare: ‘to dip under water’), which designated a swimming bath (e.g. Pliny the younger: Letters II.xvii.11), was applied to the baptismal piscina or font and then to the whole structure in which baptism took place. With the Eucharist, baptism was a central sacrament in the Early Christian Church. The ritual was prescribed by Christ (John 3:5; Matthew 28:19) and modelled after his own baptism by St John the Baptist. The meaning of baptism was established by St Paul: by participating in Christ’s death and resurrection through baptism, the believer was cleansed of his sins and admitted to the body of the Church (1 Corinthians 6:11, 12:13; Romans 6:4). By the 4th century ad the main features of the rite had become remarkably consistent throughout the Roman Empire: Easter eve was recognized as the most appropriate moment, although baptism might take place at Pentecost or if the candidate were ...


Barge, ceremonial  

Alan McGowan

Ceremonial boat, usually decorated with elaborate carving (see Ship-decoration), used by royalty, civic dignitaries and wealthy citizens to travel in considerable state. While state barges most commonly appeared on the waterways of Europe, there are examples of state caiques in Istanbul (Maritime Museum), and they continue to be used in Thailand.

The first appearance in Europe of the oared barge as a vehicle and symbol of state was in Venice in the Middle Ages. In a ceremony held annually on Ascension Day, the Doge of Venice dropped a gold ring into the sea to symbolize the espousal of Venice to the Adriatic. This ceremony originated under Doge Pietro Orseolo III (reg 991–1008), although it achieved real importance only after the attendance of Pope Alexander III (reg 1159–81) in 1177. It was last celebrated in 1796. At first the Doge’s golden barge, Buzeus Aureus, was towed by a suitably decorated smaller boat, but by ...





Gordon Campbell




Bohun manuscripts  

Lucy Freeman Sandler

Group of twelve manuscripts, primarily Psalter and Book of Hours, nearly all illustrated by in-house artists for members of the Bohun family in the second half of the 14th century. The owner–patrons were the successive earls of Essex, Hereford and Northampton: Humphrey de Bohun VI (1309–61), the 6th Earl of Hereford and 5th Earl of Essex and his nephew Humphrey de Bohun VII (1342–73), the 7th earl of Essex and 2nd Earl of Northampton, Humphrey VII’s wife Joan Fitzalan (d 1419) and their daughters Eleanor (1366–99), who married Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester (see Plantagenet, House of family §(5)), son of King Edward III, and Mary (c. 1369–94), who married Henry of Bolingbroke (1366–1413; from 1399 King Henry IV), son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Known to have been active between c. 1360 and ...


Book of Deer  

Katherine Forsyth

Illuminated Gospel book (Cambridge, U. Lib., MS. Ii.6.32) made in the 10th Century. This is the oldest extant Gospel book with a securely Scottish provenance. Housed since 1715 in Cambridge University Library, it belonged in the early 12th century to the monastery of Deer, Aberdeenshire, as shown by a series of property grants recorded in its margins. These notes constitute, by some three centuries, the oldest surviving documents in Scottish Gaelic. The Book is a small-format, abbreviated Gospels intended for personal devotion and intimate pastoral use. As such it is an exceptional survival from the period. It contains the complete Latin text of John’s Gospel, and the beginnings of the other three. At an early date the text of a communion service for the sick and dying was inserted on a separate leaf. The Book was produced c. 900 in a Gaelic-speaking milieu at an unknown location, possibly in north-east Scotland, perhaps at Deer itself. The scribe appears also to have been the artist. Despite its small size, the Book follows many of the conventions of Insular book art and is comparatively heavily illuminated. Its programme consists of ‘three cruciform pages, five Gospel incipits with decorated initials, five full-folio and one half-folio figurative miniatures, and a variety of marginalia’ which relate to points of significance in the text (Henderson ...


Book of Dimma  

Ben C. Tilghman

Irish illuminated Gospel book (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS A. 4. 23. (59)), with a short Missa pro infirmis inserted between the gospels of Luke and John, made in the 8th century. It consists of 74 folios and measures 175×142 mm, and is one of the distinctively Irish manuscripts known as ‘pocket gospels’, due to their small format. The traditional association of the manuscript with Dimma, a scribe and later bishop who miraculously wrote a copy of the gospels in 40 days for the 7th-century saint Cronan, cannot be sustained. The inscriptions in which his name appears include evident signs of erasure, indicating that the name of the original scribe was replaced with ‘Dimma’ in perhaps the 10th or 11th century, possibly at the same time that the Missa pro infirmis was added. The manuscript is in fact the work of several scribes. The synoptic gospels are written in an insular miniscule script alternating between bookhand and cursive forms, highly abbreviated and cramped in some places. The script for John is bolder, more regular, and refined. As with most other pocket gospels, each gospel is written on a separate quire, and each gospel begins with an evangelist portrait facing a page with display lettering. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are each represented as men holding books, while John is again differentiated by being represented as his symbol, the eagle. The book was enshrined in a ...


Book of Durrow  

Ben C. Tilghman

Illuminated manuscript (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS A. 4. 15. (57)) containing the Vulgate translation of the four Gospels, plus prefatory material derived form the Old Latin tradition, made in the 7th century. It measures 247×228 mm, contains 248 parchment folios, and is in a modern binding. No firm internal evidence indicates the date and location of the manuscript’s production, and the question of its origins has a contentious history, influenced occasionally by nationalist ideologies. A later colophon attributing it to St Colum Cille [St Columba] cannot be accepted as fact, but it is widely assumed that the book was made in a Columban monastery, whether in Ireland, Scotland, or Northumbria. It can be dated to the 7th century on stylistic and palaeographical grounds. The main body script is an Irish half-uncial, punctuated by display lettering at six major textual divisions and letters ringed in red dots at minor divisions. The programme of illumination includes a full-page depiction of the four evangelist symbols together around a cross, full-page depictions of each of the evangelist symbols (e.g. ...


Book of Hours  

Christopher de Hamel

Late medieval prayerbook containing, as its principal text, psalms, and devotions (primarily invoking the Virgin Mary) for the eight canonical hours of the day: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. They were intended for private reading and meditation by the laity, forming a shorter version of the cycle of daily prayers and psalms recited from the Breviary by members of religious orders. Each office is usually no more than a few pages long, and the books are generally small and portable, often of octavo size. Most surviving Books of Hours were made in the 15th century and early 16th, and they were produced in such numbers that they still form the most common surviving group of European illuminated manuscripts.

The offering of psalms eight times a day can be traced back to early monasticism, and parallel forms of worship are found in lay devotions (see Service book...


Book of Kells  

Roger Stalley

Manuscript of the four Gospels, in Latin, written and illuminated on vellum probably in the second half of the 8th century ad. It is the most extravagant and complex of the Insular Gospel books, representing the climax of a development that began in the 7th century ad with such manuscripts as the Book of Durrow (Dublin, Trinity Coll. Lib., MS. 57; see fig.). The 340 folios (originally about 370; present size 330×255 mm) are now bound into four volumes (Dublin, Trinity Coll. Lib., MS. 58). As well as the four Gospels the manuscript contains a sequence of ornate canon tables, decorated with architectural frames and symbols of the Evangelists, and other introductory material. St Matthew’s Gospel opens with a whole page devoted to the symbolic beasts (fol. 27v), one of several such pages designed to underline the harmony of the four Gospels. This is followed by a portrait of ...


Border, manuscript  

M. A. Michael

The elaboration of the margins of a manuscript with decorative or figural motifs. The development of decoration for otherwise blank margins on a page with text is associated with the evolution of the decorated and historiated initial (see Initial, manuscript; for borders accompanying full-page miniatures, see Miniature §I). It forms part of a developing scheme of hierarchies in the decoration of the manuscript, which in turn is linked to the page design and punctuation of the text. In its earliest phase, border ornament was closely tied to the form of the initial, so that by the 12th century parts of the initial were elongated to the extent that they affected the design of the page. In the Gothic period, however, borders became a more independent form of decoration, and pages of lesser importance were also included in the decorative scheme.

Another factor in the development of border decoration was the use of penwork initials, particularly in the Canon law and theology books copied at the university towns of Bologna, Paris, and Oxford in the Early Gothic period. In these textbooks, the decoration of initials of varying importance formed part of the visual organization of the page to enable easier reference. This hierarchical system of decoration for secular texts may have influenced the introduction of a similar system into the growing numbers of liturgical books owned by the laity. In addition, there seems to have been an association between the increased decoration of a text and its veneration, so that Psalters and Books of Hours, in particular, used as part of a programme of private devotion, were lavishly decorated both in a way that made them more accessible to the layman and in order to emphasize their sacredness. The amount of decoration used in a book can also help to gauge the cost of its production. This consideration, combined with the hierarchy of borders that had emerged by the end of the 13th century, was important in shaping the decorative programme of a manuscript; whether borders covered one or more margins on a page would depend on the amount of money spent and the relative importance of the text they framed....



Nigel J. Morgan

Liturgical book containing the psalms, readings from the scriptures, the Church Fathers or the lives of the saints, antiphons, and prayers that constitute the Divine Office for each day of the Christian Church year (see Service book). The Divine Office comprises the daily devotions observed at the eight canonical hours of the day (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline), arranged around the psalms, so that all 150 psalms are read each week. Its text covers two distinct sections: the Temporal (or Proper of Time), containing the offices for Sundays and festivals commemorating the life of Christ and the weekdays of the year; and the Sanctoral (or Proper of Saints), with offices for the feast days of saints. Supplementary offices for certain occasions, for instance the Office of the Dead and Little Office of the Virgin, were sometimes added to the daily office, and a full version of the Breviary usually includes the whole ...


Bury Gospels  

Kathryn B. Gerry

Illuminated Gospel book (210×272 mm; London, BL, Harley MS, 76) made in the first half of the 11th century, probably at Canterbury, Christ Church. This is one of a group of manuscripts associated with the scribe and monk Eadui and several other unnamed scribes; other manuscripts in the group include the Eadui Codex (Hannover, Kestner-Mus., WM XXIa 36) and the Eadui Psalter (London, BL, Arundel MS. 155). The script in the Bury Gospels has not been attributed to these particular scribes, but the style of the remaining ornamental work is similar to others in this group. It is likely that the book was produced at Canterbury for export, either to Bury St Edmunds or some other house, perhaps commissioned by King Canute (reg 1016–35) and Queen Emma (d 1052). The manuscript was at Bury St Edmunds by the end of the 11th century, as shown by added material related to that house copied by a Bury scribe (fols 137...


Bury St Edmunds Bible  

Nigel J. Morgan

Manuscript (514×353 mm; Cambridge, Corpus Christi Coll., MS. 2) identified with a Bible recorded in the Gesta sacristarum of Bury St Edmunds Abbey. It is described as having been commissioned by the Sacrist, Hervey, in the time of his brother, Prior Talbot (c. 1125–38), and illuminated by Master Hugo. From this information a date of c. 1135 has been suggested for its production. Full-page painted miniatures (see Romanesque, §IV, 2, (vi)) survive at the beginning of six of the biblical books, and there are also historiated initials. These are painted in strong colours dominated by reds, blues, greens, and purple. Although this palette is in some ways similar to that of the St Albans style evident in the Life and Miracles of St Edmund (New York, Morgan Lib., MS. M. 736), a manuscript produced at Bury a few years earlier and probably painted by the artist of the St Albans Psalter (...