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The Memory of the Bishop in Medieval Cathedrals

Ceremonies and Visualizations

Edited By Gerardo Boto Varela, Isabel Escandell and Esther Lozano Lopez

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Introduction: Visual and Narrative Memorials of Medieval Bishops (Gerardo Boto / Isabel Escandell / Esther Lozano)


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Introduction: Visual and Narrative Memorials of Medieval Bishops

The medieval cathedral was the principal centre around which gravitated the personal ambitions of the bishops, chapter dignitaries and canons. Each of these individuals and groups tried to leave a record of their personal or collective initiatives so that the passage of time should not erase them from memory.1 The prelates’ presence in their cathedrals during their lifetimes is continued by their respective tombs, which make up for the absence of the deceased.2 However, these magnificent monuments were not only the final resting place for their mortal remains, but also evidence of their ambition and the chance to leave a visible record in stone of the cadavers concealed within them. From the second half of the 12th century, funerary effigies became effective resources for fixing in the minds of successive generations the spectacle of a petrified and therefore contained and suspended death. This period witnessed the beginning of attempts to idealize the image of the deceased (saint, king, bishop or noble), which in turn led visual mechanisms that played an essential role in idealizing the memories of the individuals concerned. ← 3 | 4 →

These sepulchral monuments and other artistic accomplishments occurred in the context of complex ritual and visual programmes and accrued further meaning under the melismatic chanting of the canons during mass to commemorate both the living and the dead. The singular tombs were the principal...

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