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Brian Spencer

Brian Spencer

Emblem, usually made of metal, on sale at pilgrimage sites to celebrate the saint or devotional object venerated there. The badges were usually worn in the hat, attached by pins or stitching rings that were cast in one piece with them. Their use flourished in the Middle Ages in Europe, particularly in the 14th and 15th centuries, but declined after the Reformation of the mid-16th century. In Catholic countries, however, the production of medallions for pilgrims continued at some shrines thereafter, in a few instances until the present day. Despite their fragility, several thousand medieval badges have been excavated or recovered from riverbeds across the whole of Europe since the early 19th century. These still represent only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of souvenirs that were sold at some shrines every year. In 1466, for example, 130,000 badges were sold in a fortnight at the Swiss monastery of ...

Article

Rosary  

Nigel J. Morgan

In the Roman Catholic Church, the devotion to the 15 Mysteries, the prayers of which are often counted on a string of beads, also referred to as a rosary. The name may derive from the fact that the beads are sometimes carved with roses. The form of the devotional prayers became standardized in the 15th century and is still used in the late 20th century. It consists of meditations on 15 episodes in the life of Christ and the Virgin, comprising three cycles, or chaplets: the Joyful Mysteries (the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Presentation in the Temple and the Finding of the Christ Child in the Temple), the Sorrowful Mysteries (the Agony in the Garden, the Flagellation, the Crowning with Thorns, the Road to Calvary and the Crucifixion), and the Glorious Mysteries (the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Ghost, the Assumption of the Virgin and the Coronation of the Virgin). The devotion begins with the recitation of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, three Hail Marys and the ...

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

Nigel J. Morgan and Pauline Johnstone

Garments and items used by the clergy.

Nigel J. Morgan

The form of ecclesiastical vestments in the Early Christian period and during the Middle Ages is known largely from works of art rather than extant objects. Textiles are susceptible to decay with time, and although a number of vestments survive from the 14th and 15th centuries, few survive from the earlier centuries, when vestment forms were developing. Visual information is provided by mosaics, wall, panel and manuscript paintings, ivories, illuminated manuscripts and above all from tomb sculpture and sepulchral brasses.

Such evidence is abundant from the 6th century, but from the earliest years of the development of vesture for the rituals of the church it is largely lacking. It can generally be concluded, however, that most Christian vestments were derived from late Roman secular dress. It is unlikely that the ritual garments of the Jewish levitical priesthood had much influence on this early development, although this cannot be completely excluded. In the Middle Ages, when it was of importance to explain the symbolic function of vestments, writers frequently linked the Christian vestments with those described in the Old Testament for Aaron and the priests of the Old Law. Such medieval interpretations have clouded the issue as to whether any aspect of Christian vesture did originate in Jewish forms....