pilgrimages & the cult of relics
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DESCRIPTIONHow pilgrimages and the cult of relics changed the architecture of cathedrals. Santiago de Compostela: the Romanesque sculpture of the Gloria Portico. Slide 3 can be used as the answer key of a gap fill activity.
Pilgrimages and the Cult of Relics San6ago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. ca 1100 AD
The End of the World Y2K. The Rapture. 2012. For over a decade, specula6on about the end of the world has run rampant—all in conjunc6on with the arrival of the new millennium. The same was true for our religious European counterparts who, prior to the year 1000, believed the Second Coming of Christ was imminent, and the end was nigh. When the apocalypse failed to materialize in 1000, it was decided that the correct year must be 1033, a thousand years from the death of Jesus Christ, but then that year also passed without any cataclysmic event. Just how extreme the millennial panic was, remains debated. It is certain that from the year 950 onwards, there was a significant increase in building ac6vity, par6cularly of religious structures. There were many reasons for this construc6on boom beside millennial panic, and the building of monumental religious structures con6nued even as fears of the end of 6me faded. Not surprisingly, this period also witnessed a surge in the popularity of the religious pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey to a sacred place. These are acts of piety and may have been undertaken in gra6tude for the fact that doomsday had not arrived, and to ensure salva6on, whenever the end did come. The Way of St James For the average European in the 12th Century, a pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Jerusalem was out of the ques6on—travel to the Middle East was too far, too dangerous and too expensive. San6ago de Compostela in Spain offered a much more convenient op6on. To this day, hundreds of thousands of faithful travel the “Way of Saint James” to the Spanish city of San6ago de Compostela. They go on foot across Europe to a holy shrine where bones, believed to belong to Saint James, were unearthed. The Cathedral of San6ago de Compostela now stands on this site. The pious of the Middle Ages wanted to pay homage to holy relics, and pilgrimage churches sprang up along the route to Spain. Pilgrims commonly walked barefoot and wore a scalloped shell, the symbol of Saint James (the shell's grooves symbolize the many roads of the pilgrimage). In France alone there were four main routes toward Spain. Le Puy, Arles, Paris and Vézelay are the ci6es on these roads and each contains a church that was an important pilgrimage site in its own right. Why make a Pilgrimage? A pilgrimage to San6ago de Compostela was an expression of Chris6an devo6on and it was believed that it could purify the soul and perhaps even produce miraculous healing benefits. A criminal could travel the "Way of Saint James" as an act penance. For the everyday person, a pilgrimage was also one of the only opportuni6es to travel and see some of the world. It was a chance to meet people, perhaps even those outside one's own class. The purpose of pilgrimage may not have been en6rely devo6onal. The Cult of the Relic Pilgrimage churches can be seen in part as popular des6na6ons, a spiritual tourism of sorts for medieval travellers. Guidebooks, badges and various souvenirs were sold. Pilgrims, though traveling light, would spend money in the towns that possessed important sacred relics. The cult of relic was at its peek during the Romanesque period (c. 1000 -‐ 1200 C.E.). Relics are religious objects generally connected to a saint, or some other venerated person. A relic might be a body part, a saint's finger, a cloth worn by the Virgin Mary, or a piece of the True Cross. Relics are oden housed in a protec6ve container called a reliquary. Reliquaries are oden quite opulent and can be encrusted with precious metals and gemstones given by the faithful. An example is the Reliquary of Saint Foy, located at Conques abbey on the pilgrimage route. It is said to hold a piece of the child martyr’s skull. A large pilgrimage church might be home to one major relic, and dozens of lesser-‐known relics. Because of their sacred and economic value, every church wanted an important relic and a black market boomed with fake and stolen goods.
How did pilgrimages & the cult of relics change the architecture of churches? Pilgrimage churches were constructed with some special features to make them par6cularly accessible to visitors. The goal was to get large numbers of people to the relics and out again without disturbing the Mass in the centre of the church. A large portal that could accommodate the pious throngs was a prerequisite. Generally, these portals would also have an elaborate sculptural program, oden portraying the Second Coming—a good way to remind the weary pilgrim why they made the trip! A pilgrimage church generally consisted of a double aisle on either side of the nave. In this way, the visitor could move easily around the outer edges of the church un6l reaching the smaller apsidioles or radiaEng chapels. These are small rooms generally located off the back of the church behind the altar where relics were oden displayed. The faithful would move from chapel to chapel venera6ng each relic in turn.
Groin vault: a structure formed by the intersec7on of two barrel vaults
Thick Walls, Small Windows Romanesque churches were dark. This was in large part because of the use of stone barrel-‐vault construc6on. This aesthe6cally-‐pleasing system provided excellent acous6cs for the church service and also reduced fire danger. However, a barrel vault exerts con6nuous lateral thrust (outward pressure) all along the walls that support the vault. This meant the outer walls of the church had to be extra thick. It also meant that windows had to be small and few. When builders dared to pierce walls with addi6onal or larger windows they risked structural failure. Churches did collapse. (Later, the masons of the Gothic period replaced the barrel vault with the groin vault which carries weight down to its four corners, concentra6ng the pressure of the vaul6ng, and allowing for much larger windows.)
The thrust of a barrel (tunnel) vault
SanEago de Compostela Cathedral is a cathedral in Galicia, Spain. The cathedral is the believed burial-‐place of Saint James the Greater, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. It is the des6na6on of the Way of St. James (Camino de San6ago), a major historical pilgrimage route since the Early Middle Ages. Pilgrimages to San6ago de Compostela began as early as the 9th century, and by the 11th century, was drawing pilgrims from England. The building is a Romanesque structure -‐ with later Gothic and Baroque addi6ons. There is a statue of St. James at the altar, and his relics lie beneath the cathedral's high altar in a silver coffer; they can be viewed from the crypt. In the cathedral's Capilla del Relicario (Chapel of the Reliquary) is a gold crucifix, dated 874, containing a piece of the true Cross.
San6ago de Compostela: floor plan 1. portal 2. tower 3. nave 4. aisle 5. crossing
6. transept 7. choir 8. apse 9. radia6ng chapels 10. ambulatory
1. Tympanum usually depicts Last Judgement scene (Christ is symmetrically central, oden in an oval, mandorla shape, flanked by the 4 Evangelists and the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse)
2. Trumeau, reserved for Christ, the Virgin or important Saints 3. Jamb figures, usually Saints and Apostles 4. Capitals are decorated with vegeta6on or Biblical narra6ves
Sculpture is a simple narra7ve aimed at educa7ng illiterate believers. Naturalism is less important than than the liturgical narra7ve depicted.
Entrance to the cathedral is through the PórEco de la Gloria, carved in 1188 by Maestro Mateo. Originally the exterior west door, it now stands just inside, behind the newer Baroque (Obradoiro) facade. The shads, tympana and archivolts of the three doorways are a mass of sculpture depic6ng the Last Judgment.
On either side of the portal are Prophets of the Old Testament, including Daniel, who seems to be smiling. The arches over the side doors represent Purgatory and the Last Judgment, with Christ in glory presiding in the centre. He is flanked by the Four Evangelists and surrounded by the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse playing medieval musical instruments. Below the Christ figure on the central column is a statue of St. James and, at the bopom, a self-‐portrait of Maestro Mateo. Since the Middle Ages it has been the custom of pilgrims to pray with their fingers pressed into the roots of the Tree of Jesse below Saint James, and five deep indenta6ons have been worn into the marble as a result. Finally, pilgrims touch foreheads with Mateo for wisdom.
Sources and extra (op6onal) reading: hpp://www.catedraldesan6ago.es/ing/webcatedral.html hpp://www.cntraveller.com/photos/photo-‐galleries/worth-‐the-‐walk/alter (CondeNast Traveller) hpp://www.learn.columbia.edu/treasuresoreaven/shrines/ (Columbia Uni) hpp://www.sacred-‐des6na6ons.com/spain/san6ago-‐cathedral hpp://www.bri6shmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibi6ons/treasures_of_heaven.aspx hpp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_San6ago_de_Compostela (exterior & interior) hpp://www.guardian.co.uk/commen6sfree/2011/jun/30/relics-‐pilgrims-‐medieval-‐cult-‐martyrs (ar6cle in the Guardian) hpp://uk.ask.com/wiki/Regional_characteris6cs_of_Romanesque_architecture (Ask Jeeves) hpp://www.spainisculture.com/en/des6nos_principales/san6ago_de_compostela.html hpp://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen_dedalus/2297208171/ (Reliquary chapel)