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Article

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....

Article

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; ...

Article

Gordon Campbell

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

Nigel J. Morgan

Golden branches of roses, some embellished with jewels, symbolizing Christ’s love and Passion, given on rare occasions to persons and places specially favoured by the Pope for services to the Church. Most popes have given no more than four or five during their pontificate and some none at all. The earliest documented example is that granted to Fulk IV Rechin, Count of Anjou (reg 1067–1109), at Angers by Pope Urban II (reg 1088–99) at the time of the First Crusade in 1096. The origin of the custom is unknown, but by the 13th century a special liturgical rite of the blessing of the golden rose had been established. Usually the gifts were to individuals, but on rare occasions since the 14th century they have been given to churches, shrines of the Virgin or even cities. Roses were usually given to persons of the highest rank and, up to the 14th century, exclusively to men, but in ...

Article

Kinga Szczepkowska-Naliwajek, John N. Lupia and Helen Loveday

Receptacle for the preservation of relics, principally the physical remains (Lat. reliquiae) of a holy person or an object of particular veneration. The practice is most prevalent in Christianity (see Cult of relics) (although it has been rejected by Protestant denominations) and Buddhism (see §II below).

Kinga Szczepkowska-Naliwajek

The belief that the destiny of the world and the existence of humanity were in the hands of God and depended on the protection and intercession of the Virgin and the saints was responsible for the development of the cult of saints and their relics. This practice of relic veneration was first documented in the second half of the 2nd century AD and its sources can be traced to Late Antiquity. In the 4th century a number of relics were miraculously discovered, the most precious of which were those that recalled the life, passion, and death of Christ. From this time, the cult and the exaltation of relics in Christian culture became important, in that they became indispensable in the rites and liturgy of the Church. At the outset the Eucharist took place before an altar placed directly over the tombs of the martyrs or an altar under which were buried relics placed in special receptacles known as reliquaries. Later, the relics in their reliquaries were set directly on the altar. Until the 9th century the Western Church rarely allowed the tombs of martyrs to be opened in order to extract the ...

Article

John Williams

Spanish silver reliquary (813×330×445 mm; León, Mus.–Bib. Real Colegiata S Isidoro) made for the relics of St Isidore, which arrived from Seville in December of 1063 as a result of King Ferdinand I’s subjection of the Muslim city. They were placed in a wooden chest covered with silver gilt and lined with silk fabrics of Islamic origin and deposited in the Treasury of S Isidoro, León. No previous Hispanic shrine of comparable size, technique, or iconography is known. In 1808 this shrine and one from the 12th century that had enclosed it were damaged during the Napoleonic occupation of S Isidoro; the reliquary was restored in 1847.

Around the sides are five repoussée panels illustrating, in a disrupted order stemming from the restoration, episodes from the Book of Genesis, three of them with their original inscriptions: the Creation of Adam (hic format[ur] ada[m] et inspirat[ur] a d[e]o); the Temptation of Adam...

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

Michael Ellul

Maltese family of bronze-founders. Originally from Haute Provence, they arrived in Malta in 1530 with the Order of St John of the Knights Hospitaller. Between 1700 and 1798 the family was responsible for the Order’s foundry in Valletta. The first family member recorded working in Malta was Francesco Trigance (i) (c. 1660–1737), who was involved in the casting of the fine bronze statue of Grand Master Antonio Manuel de Vilhena (1734) near The Mall in Floriana. The best-known foundry operators were Francesco Trigance (ii) and his brother Gioacchino Trigance (b 1746), grandsons of Francesco (i). Francesco (ii) worked in Turin, where he produced a bronze cannon, signed and dated 1769 (now in Great Siege Square, Valletta). The Trigance brothers also cast a number of church bells and made a medal-cutting machine for the Order’s mint. When Napoleon expelled the Order from Malta in 1798...

Article

Michael Ellul

Maltese family of silversmiths, architects and designers. The first recorded family member is Carlo Troisi (fl 1697–1736), followed by Andrea Troisi (fl 1750), Pietro Paolo Troisi (?1700–50) and Massimiliano Troisi (fl 1794). A silver sugar bowl (1775–97; London, Mus. Order St John) is attributed to Aloisio Troisi, probably a member of the same family. During the 17th and 18th centuries various members of the Troisi family filled the post of Master of the Mint of the Order of St John of the Knights Hospitaller. The Mint was established in Valletta, Malta, in 1566. The best-known Troisi silversmith is Pietro Paolo, who was also an architect. His best work is the Altar of Repose, which he designed for Mdina Cathedral, and which was constructed by the Maltese painter Francesco Vincenzo Zahra in 1750. It is a magnificent Baroque scenographic creation in wood executed in a masterful ...