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Article

Timothy Verdon

[monte sacro; sacro monte; It.: ‘holy mountain’]

Term for a hillside or mountain site where numerous Christian shrines dramatize aspects of a single religious theme in an itinerary designed to lead pilgrims to a spiritual and topographical peak. Each of a series of chapels built along woodland paths ascending to a main church and monastery houses sculpture and painting illustrating successive episodes in the life of Christ or a saint: usually tableaux of life-size, pigmented figures of startling realism, arranged against illusionistic painted backgrounds. The cumulative effect of this kinaesthetic experience is to involve the believer physically and emotionally in the unfolding drama of sacred history.

The first sacromonte was planned and begun between 1486 and the early 1500s at Varallo (see Varallo, Sacro Monte and, in the Valsesia in north-western Italy, by Fra Bernardino Caimi (fl c. 1472–99). Caimi, a Milanese Franciscan of the Minorite Observance, had served his Order as diplomat and administrator in the Holy Land, with responsibility for the sites of Jesus’ earthly life venerated by pilgrims: the Grotto of the Nativity at Bethlehem, the Upper Room, Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem etc. Convinced of the value of direct experience of these holy places (...

Article

Leslie Ross

Writings, often of a legendary nature, intended to honour the saints. These have inspired copious literary and artistic productions since the Early Christian period, when churches, shrines and martyria dedicated to saints became popular sites of pilgrimage. Although little evidence survives for the decoration of these monuments, it is clear that early picture cycles existed, depicting the honoured saints and/or episodes from their lives: S Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome appears to have contained a 5th-century fresco cycle with hagiographic scenes; episodes from the Passions of SS Peter and Paul appear on Early Christian sarcophagi and images of saints and apostles are found in catacomb paintings. Also from this period are the first lists of saints, a form of commemoration that developed into the manuscript type known as the Martyrology (an abbreviated listing of saints in order of their feast days). The writing of saintly ‘biography’, or hagiography, provided more information about the commemorated saint, whether apostle, martyr, confessor, virgin or hermit. This could take the form of a ...

Article

Santos  

James Cordova and Claire Farago

Term that refers to handmade paintings and sculptures of Christian holy figures, crafted by artists from the Hispanic and Lusophone Americas. The term first came into widespread use in early 20th-century New Mexico among English-speaking art collectors to convey a sense of cultural authenticity. Throughout the Americas, the term imagenes occurs most frequently in Spanish historical documents. Santos are usually painted on wood panels (retablos) or carved and painted in the round (bultos). Reredos, or altarpieces, often combine multiple retablos and bultos within a multi-level architectural framework.

European Christian imagery was circulated widely through the Spanish viceroyalties in the form of paintings, sculptures, and prints, the majority of which were produced in metropolitan centres such as Mexico City, Antigua, Lima, and Puebla, where European- and American-born artists established guilds and workshops. These became important sources upon which local artists elsewhere based their own traditions of religious image-making using locally available materials such as buffalo hides, vegetal dyes, mineral pigments, and yucca fibres, commonly employed by native artists long before European contact....

Article

Katrin Kogman-Appel

Illuminated manuscript of the Passover liturgy to be recited during the seder ceremony at the eve of the Passover holiday, also containing a series of liturgical poems to be read during the Passover week (Sarajevo, N. Mus of Bosnia and Herzegovina.), possibly made in Aragon, c. 1335. Its particularly rich decoration combines French-style marginal scroll decoration with a cycle of full-page miniatures showing biblical history. The latter opens with a visual rendering of the Creation, a theme rarely shown in Jewish art, and follows the story of the Israelites up to the passage through the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.

Like other Sephardic biblical picture cycles, the one in the Sarajevo Haggadah is indebted to Christian pictorial sources, especially of French origin, adapted to suit a Jewish patronage and readership. Jewish biblical exegesis plays a crucial role in the transmission of Christian iconographic formulae to a Jewish idiom. The Creation sequence, for example, reflects Nahmanides’ views of the Creation from Nothing opposing allegorical views about the eternal world held by rationalist philosophers. Likewise midrashic interpretation is dominant in the Sarajevo cycle, where midrashic elements were added to what were really Christian iconographic models....

Article

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

Early Christian carved stone Sarcophagus (Rome, Vatican, Mus. Stor. A. Tesoro S Pietro) of Roman city prefect Junius Bassus who, according to an inscription on the sarcophagus, was ‘neofitus’ (newly baptized) at his death in 359. It was originally placed near the tomb of St Peter and discovered in 1597.

This double-register, columnar sarcophagus of white marble (2.4×1.4×1.0 m) is carved with ten intercolumnar façade scenes of biblical characters in the ‘fine style’ and five spandrel scenes of biblical characters personified by lambs, with shallowly carved double-register harvest and season scenes on the two ends. The now-fragmented lid contains the remains of a verse inscription and two scenes, the most complete of which represents a funerary meal. Thus the Junius Bassus sarcophagus, one of only two extant double-register columnar Early Christian sarcophagi, presents a distinctive combination of carving styles and both Christian and Roman iconography.

The façade scenes on the upper register (under a level entablature) are: ...

Article

Peter Springer

[Ger.: ‘disc cross’]

Form of cross characterized by its association with the disc, circle, or wheel. A cross combined with a circle was an ancient symbol of sun worship and as such has been found in Bronze Age rock carvings. It was appropriated by Christians, who identified the sun with Christ, and Christ’s halo was often represented as a cross combined with a circle. Ringed monumental high crosses, which were common in Ireland and Britain from the 8th century ad (see Cross §II 1.), may have served as direct models for a group of wooden Scheibenkreuze of c. 1200 at St Maria zur Höhe in Soest, Westphalia. A monumental example (c. 1210), reconstructed by Deus as a triumphal cross, is a masterpiece among, and a prototype for, a group of related disc crosses located mainly in Gotland. A separate group, possibly representing an intermediate stage in the development of the ...

Article

David Alan Robertson

[Ger.: ‘carved altarpiece’]

Type of altarpiece produced primarily in Germany, Austria, and the Tyrol during the second half of the 15th century and the first two decades of the 16th. Related terms include Flügelaltar or Flügelretabel (both Ger.: ‘winged altarpiece’) and Wandelaltar (Ger.: ‘transforming’ or ‘changeable altarpiece’). Placed on both the high altar and side altars, and carved of native woods (mainly limewood and pine), Schnitzaltäre consist of four essential sections: a central shrine (Ger. Schrein; Lat. and Ger. Corpus) containing sculpture rests on a smaller shrine commonly referred to by the Italian term predella (Ger. Sarg); movable pairs of shutters or wings (Ger. Flügel), bearing either paintings or relief carvings on both front and back, are attached to the shrine and to the predella; and the shrine is always crowned with an architecture-like superstructure (Ger. Auszug) consisting of carved tracery and sculpture niches. Most examples are profusely coloured and gilded. The altarpiece in the Klosterkirche of ...

Article

Elaine DeBenedictis

[Lat.: ‘school of singers’]

Term applied to nave chancels in medieval Roman churches on the basis of a supposed association with the eponymous body of papal chanters brought to renown by Pope Gregory I (reg 590–604). This association originates in the misinterpretation of a 16th-century description of S Clemente by Ugonio and was current by the 18th century. Although there is no evidence for the term being used in a topographical sense in the Middle Ages, it is nevertheless possible to trace the changing function and form of nave chancels from the Early Christian period to the 16th century (see Rome, §V, 17(iii)(d)).

The only extant source for the liturgical practice of Early Christian Rome is the Ordo Romanus, vol. 1, which comprises the rubrics for a 7th-century papal stational mass. The text refers to a presbyterium, which can probably be identified with the rectangular nave enclosure in front of the altar. During a stational mass the enclosure served as the locus of the clergy and probably of the papal choir; it may also have been used for offertory and communion rites. The precise function or functions of the presbyterium in the rites of non-stational liturgies remain uncertain. Although the liturgical disposition of Roman churches changed in the 9th century, this did not affect most presbyteries, which were simply re-decorated, thus retaining their earlier size, shape, and location. The ...

Article

John Thomas, Katrina Kavan and John N. Lupia

Barrier for the subdivision of a church into areas of differing function and liturgical significance.

John Thomas

The division of churches into several zones by screens (as well as steps and different paving) is associated with the increasing tendency in the Middle Ages to understand churches in terms of the Temple of Jerusalem, with its separate courts and areas and their ascending holiness (see Jerusalem, §II, 1, (ii)). The sanctuary thus became the equivalent of the Holy of Holies. The separation and ritual protection of these zones were effected by the various screens (as well as by ciboria and hangings); the iconostasis of the Eastern Church is perhaps the ultimate development of this, since it totally divides the church into the secular part and the ‘heavenly realm’. Icons (images of the intermediaries between the two) are placed on the outside of the structure (see §2).

The types and functions of screens in Western churches are very wide-ranging. They may separate spaces, activities, functions, and groups of people, and they may form a demarcation between spaces and areas that differ in their liturgical significance (...

Article

Sedilia  

[Lat.: ‘seats’]

Fixed stone seats reserved for the clergy on the south side of the choir of a church. Usually recessed and surmounted with canopies, they were in use in England by the 12th century and are rarely found in other European countries.

F. Bond: The chancel of English churches; the altar, reredos, lenten veil, communion table, altar rails, houseling cloth, piscina, credence, sedilia, aumbry, sacrament house, Easter sepulchre, squint, etc....

Article

Robert G. Calkins

Book containing the forms of worship used in religious services. In the Christian religion, services are of two principal types, the sacrificial rite of the Mass in which Communion is celebrated, and the Divine Office, a cycle of daily devotions to be observed eight times during the day. The Sacramentary or Missal contains the text of the Mass, the Breviary the text of the Divine Office. Similarly, the Gradual is the choir-book for the Mass, the Antiphonal for the Divine Office (see Choir-book). Other books were developed to assist in the performance of the Mass. In the early Middle Ages, Gospel books for reading the lessons from the Gospels were produced as separate volumes. By the 7th century ad it was customary to read specific passages or pericopes for particular feast days. Since the lessons did not follow the Gospel order, it became necessary to prepare a Gospel List or Capitulary to indicate their proper sequence throughout the liturgical year. Related to this practice was the use of canon tables to correlate the reappearance of similar passages in the four Gospels in tabular form (...

Article

Nigel J. Morgan, John N. Lupia, Sheila S. Blair, Jonathan M. Bloom, Hana Knížková, Henrik H. Sørensen, Sian E. Jay, John Villiers and H. Stanley Loten

In its broadest sense, a shrine is any structure or place where worship or devotions are offered to a deity, spirit, or sanctified person. It may take many forms: a simple pile of stones, as in Tibet and Central Asia; an altar to family ancestors, as in East Asia; a cave or natural rock formation, as in Pre-Columbian America; a jewelled reliquary; or a vast pilgrimage church in Europe. In reference to the ancient world, the term ‘shrine’ is often used as an alternative to chapel, temple, or sanctuary (see Sanctuary, §1), and many served as places of pilgrimage (see Temple, §I; Egypt, ancient, §VIII, 2, (i), (a); Greece, ancient, §III, 1; Rome, ancient, §III, 1; and Jewish art, §II, 1, (i)). For African shrines see Africa, §VI, 1, (iii), (a). See also Pacific Islands, §II, 1.

In Europe, a Christian shrine can be a reliquary (...

Article

Article

Siddur  

Edward van Voolen

[Heb.: ‘order’]

The term commonly refers to the book containing the order of the regular Jewish prayer service for weekdays and the Sabbath, in contrast to the Machzor, which includes the liturgy for the yearly festival cycle. Codified from the 9th century ad onwards, the siddur and machzor were originally one unit, the distinction in terminology and content dating from the High Middle Ages. After the invention of the printed book, small-format siddurim were printed for individual use. The text itself was rarely, if ever, illustrated. The earliest title pages, printed in Italy c. 1500 (e.g. Soncino and Naples), have decorative woodcut borders, in imitation of similarly decorated Hebrew manuscripts from Portugal. A gateway, influenced by contemporary Renaissance and Baroque architectural prints, became the most popular form of Hebrew title page, including those of siddurim. Sometimes biblical heroes, such as Moses and Aaron, or biblical scenes are depicted on the title page as well, referring in general terms to the content of the book. A siddur with Yiddish explanations meant for women (Amsterdam, ...

Article

Situla  

Pippin Michelli

Bucket-shaped vessel, often used in a Christian context to contain holy water. Late Antique examples include two fine glass situlae in the treasury of S Marco, Venice: one, probably dating from the 4th century ad and made in Rome or Alexandria of purple glass, bears deeply carved Dionysiac figures; the other, perhaps of 6th- or 7th-century date, is decorated with hunting scenes. The most elaborate surviving situlae, however, are Ottonian. Made from a single piece of ivory and lavishly carved, these four examples range in height from 145 mm to 185 mm (Milan, Tesoro Duomo; Aachen, Domschatzkam.; London, V&A; New York, Cloisters). They are difficult to date precisely on grounds of style, inscription, or iconography, although they can be associated with Ottonian imperial circles.

The Milan Situla (showing the Virgin and Child and the Evangelists under an arcade) may be the earliest of the four. Its style and detail are closely comparable with a plaque (Milan, Castello Sforzesco) and the two are probably contemporary. The plaque shows Otto II, Theophano, and their infant son adoring Christ. Its inscription, ...

Article

Anne-Françoise Leurquin

Manual for religious and moral instruction commissioned by Philip III, King of France (reg 1270–85), from his confessor, the Dominican Frère Laurent. The work was finished in 1279–80 and was a literary success. Over 100 manuscript copies have survived, with printed editions appearing in the 15th century, and translations were made into English, Castilian, Catalan, Italian, Dutch and Occitan.

Although the presentation copy is lost, 7 manuscripts have a complete cycle of 15 full-page images and another 20 have selected images. The scenes include representations of the Ten Commandments, the Credo, the Pater noster, the Apocalyptic beast, the Last Judgement and personifications of the virtues and vices paired with moralizing scenes taken mainly from the Old Testament. The images, like the text, are extremely didactic. Nearly all the fully illuminated manuscripts were made for the royal entourage at the turn of the 14th century, often by exceptional artists. Two books were made for the royal family in ...

Article

In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....

Article

William M. Voelkle

Portable altar–reliquary (New York, Morgan Lib.), made c. 1156 for the Stavelot Abbey in the Ardennes, Belgium and decorated with both Mosan and Byzantine enamels (see fig.). The reliquary is named after the Benedictine abbey headed by Wibald of Stavelot, its enlightened abbot from 1130 to 1158. It is the first of a series of Mosan reliquary triptychs containing portions of the True Cross. Of these, only the Stavelot Triptych contains scenes from the life of Constantine and the legend of the finding of the True Cross by Empress Helena, his mother. Although two commissions by Wibald are documented (the St Remaclus Retable, destroyed during the French Revolution, and the Head Reliquary of Pope Alexander of 1145; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.), the Stavelot Triptych is not. Wibald may have been given both the cross relic and the two small Byzantine enamel triptychs displayed on the centre panel of the Stavelot Triptych during his diplomatic mission (...

Article

Stupa  

E. Errington, Howard A. Wilson, John Villiers, Henrik H. Sørensen, Erberto F. Lo Bue, Young-Ho Chung and Ken Brown

[Skt stūpa; Pkt thūbha; Pali thūpa; Eng. tope]

Dome-shaped mound, often containing sacred relics. It became the primary cult monument of Buddhist and also Jaina monastic establishments in India. The stupa retained its importance as Buddhism spread across Asia, and a variety of stupa types evolved.

The stupa’s origin is almost certainly the tumulus or funerary mound. According to the Mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra (an early account of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni), the funeral cult due to a Buddha is the same as for a great king: a tumulus should be constructed for the cremated remains at a crossroads and honoured with parasols and other symbols of veneration. Inscriptions of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (reg c. 269–232 bc) attest that the cult of the stupa was already in existence in India by the 3rd century bc (see Buddhism, §III, 1). They mention not only erecting new stupas, but also repairing and enlarging existing monuments in honour of Shakyamuni and of previous Buddhas....

Article

[Lat.: ‘tent’]

Place of worship other than a temple or church. The term was used for the demountable tent put up by the Israelites in the wilderness, as described in the book of Exodus. In modern times it is sometimes applied to temporary structures erected by dissenting religious groups (e.g. the Baptists and other nonconformists)....