More medieval body parts!

First, a bit of levity:

Some thoughts to get the conversation started: 1. Why were relics so important in the Middle Ages? 2. Were contact relics as effective as body parts? 3. What is the relationship between the container and the contents in body-part reliquaries and does it shift over time? 4. Have you ever seen a relic? If so, what was the context and what was the effect of this experience?

The vierge ouvrante is one of the most interesting categories of sculpture produced in the Middle Ages. 1. Why does the author stress the importance of both the haptic and optic dimensions of the worshiper’s experience of this sculpture? 2. In what way is the Virgin the door for Christ and for the saved through his sacrifice? 3. What are the theological implications of lodging the whole Trinity within the Virgin’s womb? 4. In the narrative interiors of the vierge ouvrante, what subject matter was found and how was it disposed? 5. What are some of the differences in types of sculpture north and south of the Pyrenees? 6. What is the symbolic meaning of the doors that open the womb of the Virgin and how does the statue’s capacity to move affect the viewer’s experience? 7. What is the paradox embodied by the vierge ouvrante? What occurs in her corporeal erasure?


2 responses

  1. Hey Medieval Friends!

    Here are some questions for the article tomorrow on body part reliquaries:

    1. “Despite the term ‘speaking reliquary’ favored by German art historians, then, an arm or head reliquary is not so much an expression of what is within as a restoration – even a redemption – of the body part” (page 4)

    This sentence is a bit confusing. I understand that once the body part loses the flesh, it now just bone and dust. The reliquary perhaps restores what the bone and the dust once were. Where I am confused: what about the idea of redemption? Is that restoration and redemption (as in redeeming what once was) the same thing? And what does it mean when the question states: “despite the term”?

    2. What are medieval notions of “likeness” ? (second paragraph, second column, p 4)
    Is it about man being made in the image of God, and thus man has greater capacity for spiritual progress through the relics (which are body parts of saints who are, in multiple ways, very near to God)

    3. Is there an intersection between the sacred/spiritual and the secular in the works of the contemporary artists? Is the expression of fragmentation in this contemporary art another form of the spiritual (is the artist invoking something of a spiritual nature) or does the art have a more secular function, or both? What should be our reaction? Is there indeed a correlation between the reliquaries of the past and the contemporary art with its fragmentation?

    Look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!!


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