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Article

Fibula  

Niamh Whitfield

[Lat.: ‘brooch’]

Metal dress-pin that not only was used as a clothes’ fastener, but also acted as a sign of an individual’s allegiance, wealth, and status (see fig.). Brooches are common finds in pre-Christian graves of the Germanic peoples and Vikings, enabling inferences to be drawn about their uses, the garments to which they were attached, and migration patterns. For the later Middle Ages, comparable information can be gleaned not only from the objects but also figural representations, wills, and inventories.

Many brooches from the early Middle Ages descend from Roman fibulae of different types. These include the penannular brooches from Ireland and Britain, fastened by a pin slotted through a gap in a ring; disc-brooches, fastened by a pin on the back, and worn especially by Germanic women; and the various elongated Germanic bow brooches, which seem to be adaptations of the cross-bow fibulae worn by Roman officials in Late Antiquity (...

Article

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

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....