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Les reliquaires mosans et l’exaltation des fonctions dévotionnelles et eucharistiques de l’autel

Abstract : A large part of the objects produced by Mosan goldsmiths were intended to decorate altars and to glorify its various functions, to begin with the celebration of the Eucharist and the cult of the relics. This article purports to show how the images developed on altarpieces, reliquaries of the True Cross and shrines belonging to this corpus evoke at the same time these two functions. The presence of the relics was reminded by several scenes of transitus, whereas the fate of the soul separated from its body was the object of an utterly original representation on the altarpiece of Stavelot where saint Remacle is welcomed in a celestial paradise different from the celestial kingdom. And in an exceptional way, the designers meant that the relics were intended to be recomposed by representing the resurrection of the saints at the time of the Last Judgment on the triptych of Sainte-Croix of Liege and on two of the four panels which flanked the shrine of saint Servais in Maastricht. If these themes remain exceptional, it’s quite different for the hieratic representations of the saint which occupy systematically one of the two ends of the Mosan shrines and it’s the same for the Rhenish examples. The comparison with statues containing relics suggests that these images were especially intended to serve as support of worship. These hagiographic themes coexist with images interpretable in an Eucharistic perspective, like Christ in bust and the cross or the Crucifixion which are regularly combined in the reliquaries of the True Cross. The examination of liturgical texts, the books of the officiating priest and the decoration of the altars show that these images evoking the glorious Christ and the suffering Christ refer to the roles of sacrificer and victim whom he fills simultaneously at the time of the consecration. On Mosan reliquaries, this meaning is attested by a remarkable series of visual indications: an altar decorated with candelabra, angels intoning the Sanctus or transferring the oblates to the celestial altar, the paradigms of the Old Testament stemming from the prayer Supra quae, the Church exposing a chalice and angels holding a censer or a candlestick. This interpretation can be also applied to the altarpiece of Stavelot where an allegory embodying Operatio carries an object comparable to a pyx which refers maybe to the oblates brought at the time of the offertory, since Amalaire of Metz compared them with the good works. Thus these decorations skillfully combined themes corresponding to the two main functions of the altar, and some programs as that of Stavelot maybe mean that the intercession of the saints is achieved by means of the Eucharistic sacrifice and the charity practiced at the time of the offertory.
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Submitted on : Friday, November 22, 2019 - 3:07:55 PM
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Marcello Angheben. Les reliquaires mosans et l’exaltation des fonctions dévotionnelles et eucharistiques de l’autel. Codex Aquilarensis, 2016, 32, pp.171-208. ⟨halshs-02376306⟩

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