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Article

Catherine Oakes, Doug Adams and Iris Kockelbergh

Cross with a figure of the crucified Christ. Throughout its history, the form of the Crucifix varied widely in size, material and function, ranging from a small, portable object of private devotion to a monumental work, usually for liturgical use. This article focuses on the larger Crucifixes, both painted and sculpted, predominantly for ecclesiastical use.

Catherine Oakes

Christ’s Crucifixion was not depicted in the first centuries of Christianity; the earliest surviving examples are Italian and date from the 5th century ad. The Crucifix as an independent art form developed somewhat later. Although chiefly a Western phenomenon, its iconography was closely related to that of the Crucifixion in Byzantine art. Christ was initially shown as if he were alive, with his head and body erect and eyes wide open. There is evidence that in some early Crucifixions he was shown naked; however, while this may be more accurate historically, from the 5th century he was almost invariably shown wearing either an ankle-length tunic (...

Article

Cruet  

Small bottle with a stopper, used for oil, vinegar and other condiments. Its earliest use was ecclesiastical, for wine, oil and water; some medieval examples survive (see Reliquary, §II, 1). Cruets were used domestically from the late 17th century, from which time they were made of glass imported from Italy, often with silver or silver-plated mounts. Cruets were grouped together on a stand in a frame or rack, sometimes with a central vertical handle and supporting feet. The number of bottles could vary from two to six or more, and they were often combined with ...

Article

Lawrence Nees

Carolingian Psalter (192×120mm; Vienna, Österreich. Nbib., Cod. 1861) made in the late 8th century. This remarkable illuminated Psalter has two poetic dedications, from Dagulf, the scribe who wrote it, to Charlemagne, and from Charlemagne to Hadrian (Pope Adrian I (reg 772–95)). It is the earliest royal gift to a pope to survive, although apparently it was never delivered. Adrian’s sudden death in 795 is probably the reason the book never arrived in Rome, and is one of the reasons it is likely to have been written in that year. Some scholars have thought that it was written as much as a decade earlier and the dedication poems added later, but this seems on the whole unlikely. It contains all of the Psalms, and the associated Old Testament canticles, and, as prefaces, an unusual and long series of Creeds and other texts. The two ivory panels that formed part of the manuscript’s original covers survive separately (Paris, Louvre; ...

Article

Katrin Kogman-Appel

Hebrew Bible (Jerusalem, National.. Library of Israel., MS. Heb 4°790, and a single page in Toledo, El Transito Synagogue and Sephardic Museum), copied c. 1260, perhaps in Toledo by Menachem ben Abraham ibn Malikh for Isaac bar Abraham Hadad, both members of known and documented Toledan families. At some later stage further decorations were added, apparently in Burgos. The Damascus Keter is an outstanding exemplar out of approximately 120 decorated Bibles from Iberia and belongs to a group of three very similar codices from the middle of the 13th century, produced in Toledo. It thus represents a rich tradition of Jewish art flourishing between the 13th and the 15th centuries. These Bibles were used either by scholars for private study, or for biblical readings during synagogue services.

Typical of numerous Bibles from the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula, the decoration consists of numerous carpet pages executed in Micrography and enriched by painted embellishments. This is a technique typically used in Hebrew decorated books and harks back to Middle Eastern manuscripts of the 10th century. Apart from the carpet pages, the Damascus ...

Article

M. Heinlen

Essentially a papal letter concerning a matter of canonical discipline. Throughout the Middle Ages numerous collections of decretals were compiled, which served as the basis of ecclesiastical administration and canon law; in the 12th century they began to be extensively illustrated. Between the 12th and 15th centuries illustrated canon law manuscripts, primarily comprising decretals, were made and used throughout western Europe, with major centres of production located in such university cities as Paris and Bologna. These books, along with civil law manuscripts, are numerically the most important type of non-liturgical manuscript illustrated in the medieval period, and a wide range of stylistic developments is represented in the hundreds of extant examples.

The earliest illustrations in decretal manuscripts are Trees of Consanguinity and Affinity. These full-page schemata depict degrees of familial relationships in order to demonstrate the legal implications of marriage bonds. The Tree of Consanguinity shows a man standing with outstretched arms before a tree containing the Table of Consanguinity; the affinities were similarly depicted but also included a woman. These illustrations first appeared in manuscripts of the ...

Article

Objects and images used for protection, intercession, and as votive offerings. They were believed to guard against evil, the hostility of enemies, bad health, the plague, the temptation to sin, and the wrath of God, and were often given to a church, cult image, or shrine as a thank-offering for preservation from such adversities. Much of this type of imagery is of low artistic quality, but its value is to be found in the understanding of its function and its iconography. This article is concerned with the Western Christian tradition; for other traditions see under the relevant geographical and cultural headings.

Some types of popular imagery were clearly inspired by superstition and magic, for example the erotic symbols that often occur in ecclesiastical art, above all in Romanesque sculpture. Popular themes such as phallic motifs, the display of the anus or genitals, particularly the female genitals, were undoubtedly rooted in some primitive tradition of the apotropaic power of such images. Other symbols in the sculpture of corbels, bosses, capitals, bench-ends, and choir-stalls, some of which persist in Gothic art, may not be erotic but may have an origin in folklore and pagan beliefs. Cult statues and icons of the Virgin and the saints are also essentially ‘popular’ images and may in some cases have perpetuated pagan and folklore imagery. Images of the ‘Black Virgin’, often considered indicative of some primitive devotion, can probably be explained in terms of the respect for an old image that could not be touched. Cleaning or restoration of the faces of such images was not allowed because many of them were supposed to have originated miraculously....

Article

Carol M. Schuler

Works in various graphic media used principally for the veneration of religious figures or events.

The use of prints for devotional purposes dates as far back as the history of printmaking in the West. The oldest extant woodcuts (early 15th century; see Woodcut, §II, 2) commonly portray popular saints as well as Christ and the Virgin. Sold and possibly also manufactured by monks at pilgrimage shrines, these simple depictions of venerated holy figures provided relatively inexpensive, portable devotional objects for the faithful. Not treasured for their intrinsic artistic value, the few known works have survived by accident, having been pasted into manuscript or book covers or on to box lids. Many lost woodcuts decorated home shrines or modest chapels; others were pasted over fireplaces or on to walls and doors. Prints depicting guardian saints also functioned as amulets to ward off disease and death; many were sewn into articles of clothing....

Article

Diptych  

Nigel J. Morgan

Two wood, ivory, or metal panels of equal size, usually hinged together so that they can be folded, and closed with some form of clasp. There are usually images on the inside surfaces of the panels and sometimes also on the outer sides. The panels are most commonly vertical rectangles; Gothic examples often have gables, while those from the 15th century may be round-headed.

The diptych as a work of art seems to have originated in Late Antique ivory-carving as a luxury form of writing tablet. These ivories have carved images on the exterior faces, while a sunken field inside could be filled with wax for writing on with a stylus. Such objects commonly functioned as gifts from the imperial consuls at the beginning of their term of office. They were carved with an image of either the consul or the ruling emperor, seated or standing in an attitude of authority and sometimes presiding over such activities as wild beast fights. These ...

Article

Dossal  

Article

V. Sekules

Temporary structure set up in church to simulate the place of Christ’s burial for a symbolic enactment of the Entombment and Resurrection. The Tomb of Christ and the later sacrament house, although also concerned with the bodily presence of Christ, belong to a separate tradition (see below). Special rites for Easter in which some kind of Easter sepulchre played a part are found in some 400 texts from medieval Europe. The earliest description is in the 10th-century English Regularis Concordia, according to which a cross wrapped in a linen shroud was placed in the sepulchre on Good Friday and guarded there until Easter Sunday by two or three brethren singing psalms continuously. The cross was removed from the sepulchre by the sacristan before Matins on Easter Sunday. During the service one of the brethren sat quietly by the sepulchre to represent the Angel of the Resurrection, while three others represented the Marys who found the sepulchre empty and announced the Resurrection. In this instance the sepulchre was described as a veil stretched in the form of a circle set beside the vacant part of the altar. This type of Easter sepulchre, a kind of tent, appears in the 12th-century wall paintings in the chancel at ...

Article

Ex-voto  

Lenz Kriss-Rettenbeck

[Lat.: ‘by reason of a vow’]. Term for a panel painting, usually small, or, more rarely, a statue, donated as a token of remembrance, entreaty or thanks by individual believers or communities and hung at sites of pilgrimage or holy places. In the Latin and Greek churches certain written formulae—ex voto or its equivalent, hyper euchēs—recur repeatedly on votive panels, on votive gifts of every kind and in entries in books of miracles. (Other wordings, often reduced to initials, include Votum feci, gratiam accepi in Italy and Spain and Milagre que fez in Portugal.)

Although stereotyped ex-voto expressions and formulations occur in all the languages of the Catholic world, there are also statements that the donor has ‘placed his trust’ in a certain saint or miraculous image or at a particular miraculous site; that he has ‘taken refuge’; that he has appealed to a saint ‘in full confidence’. This offering and public presentation (...

Article

Robert G. Calkins

Long scrolls, usually of parchment, containing the music and words of the liturgical chant for the Easter Vigil. Named after the opening word of the chant announcing Easter, ‘Exultet iam angelica turba coelorum …’, these rolls were used during the ceremony of the blessing and lighting of the Easter Candle, which symbolizes both the Pillar of Fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness and the Resurrection of Christ, the Light of the World, on Easter Day. This liturgy, derived from the Pontifical, is attributed to Bishop Landolfo I of Benevento (reg 957–82) and became widespread among the churches in southern Italy dominated by Montecassino Abbey. As a result, such scrolls were prevalent in the Benevento and around Montecassino from the 10th to the 13th centuries (see Montecassino, §2, (i)).

Although they served a liturgical function, these scrolls were primarily ceremonial display pieces. Decorated with large elaborate interlace initials in the Beneventan style, they also contain miniatures painted in a Byzantinizing style. The miniatures were often painted upside down in relation to the text, so that when the scrolls were draped over the pulpit and the deacon intoned the words of the chant, the congregation could see the succession of illustrations right side up (e.g. Bari, Mus. Dioc., Cod. 1)....

Article

Gordon Campbell

Article

Altarpiece §2 with movable wings.

Flügelaltäre des späten Mittelalters: Die Beiträge des Internationalen Colloquiums ‘Forschung zum Flügelaltar des Späten Mittelalters’ veranstaltet vom 1. bis 3. Oktober 1990 in Münnerstadt in Unterfranken C. Benedum: ‘Altarschmuck des 12. Jhs und der Flügelaltar im Bezugsfeld von Goldschmiedekunst und Architektur’, Das Münster, 56/2 (Feb 2003), pp. 120–26...

Article

Font  

John Thomas, Marina Falla Castelfranchi, Marchita Bradford Mauck and Iris Kockelbergh

[Lat. fons: ‘spring’]

Object in which, or by which, baptism, the Christian rite of initiation, is practised. Evolving modes of liturgical practice, most notably the adoption of infant baptism (see §3 below), resulted in widely varying physical forms and positioning within the church.

John Thomas

According to Christian belief, John the Baptist baptized people in the River Jordan, washing them clean of sin. Jesus, however, told his followers that they must be reborn through baptism: ‘except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). Christian baptism is thus a ritual dying and rebirth as a new person, entering the tomb of death (or the womb, for the second time) and being resurrected to a new life, sharing in the experiences of Christ, who himself suffered death but was reborn. The font, therefore, is an item of liturgical furniture, but it is also a physical symbol, embodying the ideas of death and rebirth. Some of the earliest fonts that have been identified were shaped like a coffin or tomb; others, being circular, approximated more to the womb. The numbers six and eight are found in early baptismal architecture, in the shape of either the font or the ...

Article

Gordon Campbell

(fl 1518–66).

Sicilian goldsmith. His early work is Gothic, notably a magnificent processional monstrance with Gothic spires (1536–8; Enna, Mus. Alessi) and a reliquary of S Agata (1532; Palermo Cathedral). From the 1540s he adopted a Renaissance style, as exemplified by a crozier (Palermo, Gal. Reg. Sicilia) and a reliquary of S Cristina (Palermo Cathedral)....

Article

Gisant  

Article

Katrin Kogman-Appel

Richly illuminated manuscript of the Passover liturgy together with a series of liturgical poems to be read during the Passover week (London, BL, Add. MS. 27210), possibly made in Barcelona, c. 1320. This text was to be recited during the seder ceremony at the eve of the Passover holiday. Like most medieval Haggadot (see Haggadah), the Golden Haggadah has no colophon, and its scribe and patrons are unknown. It contains both marginal decorations and a series of full-page miniatures preceding the text and displaying a fully fledged cycle of biblical illustrations following the books of Genesis and Exodus from the Creation of Man to the Crossing of the Red Sea. Stylistically both types of decoration are indebted to early 14th-century Catalan Gothic art.

Similarly, the imagery of the biblical picture cycle also draws on Christian Old Testament iconography and reflects a familiarity with Christian art. The artists and patrons of the Golden Haggadah adopted Christian pictorial sources in a complex process of adaptation and modification, translating the Christian models into a Jewish visual language meaningful in its messages to the Jewish readership. Avoiding themes and iconographic features of a particular Christological concern, the imagery also reflects a close affinity with the traditions of late antique Bible interpretation (Midrash). This points to a specific circle of scholars active in Iberia during the 13th and early 14th centuries as being responsible for the imagery of the cycle. The use of traditional midrashic Bible exegesis is typical for Sephardic Rabbis of anti-rationalist standing, who opposed earlier philosophical trends and followed, rather, scholarly trends common among the Tosafists of northern France. It has also been observed that some images adopt a more specific anti-Christian stance and address polemical issues....

Article

Don Denny

Book containing the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The illustration of these manuscripts was an important art form during the early medieval period in western Europe and at all times in the history of the Eastern Church. The oldest extant decorated Gospel books are of the 6th century ad and show considerable diversity in their illustrations. They suggest that the inclusion of New Testament narrative cycles was a widespread practice at that period, although the cycles might be arranged according to quite varied formats. For example, the Rossano Gospels (Rossano, Mus. Dioc.), written in Greek, include some ten narrative illustrations and seem originally to have contained four portraits of the Evangelists (see Author portrait) and ornamented canon tables (see Canon table); the latter two features came, in the following centuries, to be the most consistently repeated features of Gospel book design. In the ...

Article

Gabrielle Sed-Rajna

[Heb.: ‘story’]

Hebrew text recited during the Passover celebrations. The Haggadah (pl. Haggadot) consists of a compendium of blessings, prayers, biblical passages, homiletic commentaries, and psalms, and is read during the Seder ceremony on the first night (in the Diaspora, first and second night) of Passover. The actions performed during the Seder, such as the eating of matzah (unleavened bread) and maror (bitter herbs), and the drinking of four glasses of wine, are integrated into a banquet or family meal.

The Haggadah was probably first compiled in the 7th or 8th century AD and canonized in the 9th–10th centuries. Most manuscript copies date from the Middle Ages, between the 13th and 15th centuries. It was produced in a small format for family use and was frequently decorated and even illustrated. The 14th and 15th centuries were the golden age of the illuminated Haggadah, the period when the production of illuminated Hebrew manuscripts flourished in Europe (...