Relics, Reliquaries and the Visual Culture of Group Sanctity in Late Medieval Europe
VI. Golden Visions: Altarpieces with Relics
The miracle of the singing heads of Esrom on Christmas Eve emphati- cally illustrates the corporate nature of this cult of the undecim milium virginum, as they sing as one choir. The massing of relics and the strategic use of figural reliquaries fashioned a cultic display that brought this to life within the space of the church. Frequently, the arrangement of reliquary figures and relics was intended to engage the viewer, involving her/him in a dynamic spatial (and even temporal) interaction with the saints, as we have seen in the Church of the Eleven Thousand Virgins in Cologne. Another conceptually similar approach is illustrated by two important altarpieces in and near Cologne that utilize relics and reliquary figures in the creation of a dynamic sacral environment in which the audience is both situated and actively involved. As in the church of the Eleven Thousand Virgins in Cologne, religious women (and men) are invited to follow the model of the Holy Virgins and literally join their sacred company. The first is the so-called Clarenaltar – the altarpiece fashioned for the high altar of the church of the Poor-Clares of Sankt Clara am Römerturm in Cologne. The second is the Marienstatt Altarpiece, made for the high altar of the Cistercian abbey of Marienstatt. These two central examples of the fourteenth-century development of relic altars in the Rhineland reveal how relics, and their attendant reliquary figures, were able to stress liturgical and super-liturgical ideas in a demonstrable manner.1 They also reveal 1 There...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.